We all woke up early today (not content with going to Mass yesterday) to hike what I call The Circuit of Seongbuk-dong. Seongbuk-dong, the neighborhood where we live, is essentially a small valley, bounded on the north by the Bugak Skyway winding its way along the ridge, on the south & west by the City Wall, and open in the east to the center of Seoul.
The Circuit of Seongbuk-dong is basically to cut across the east end of the valley, follow the city wall north & east until you get to the stairs to the Bugak Palgakjeong up on the Bugak Skyway, and then follow the Skyway east until you get back to your starting point. I estimate it (using gmap-pedometer.com) at 7.5 km, cutting down from the Skyway past our house & then as directly as you can to Seongbuk-ro. But you could easily stretch that to 9 km depending on how you come down from the Skyway.
Stage 1: We left at 7:40am, and walked down our street until we got to the pedestrian cut-throughs through little alleys down to the 7-Eleven. Across Seongbuk-ro, and we’re at the bottom of the City Wall where Hyehwa-ro cuts through.
Stage 2: There are a lot of stairs, but also a lot of level bits, so it’s not so bad, except that the stone steps are very high, and often not very deep. So hard on your thighs and careful where you put your feet.
Stage 3: From there, the city wall climbs up to the top of the ridge where the road to the back entrance of SKK University & to Samcheong-dong cuts through, and you can cross from the inside of the wall to the outside and Samcheong Park.
You stay close under the City Wall until the stairs up to the guard house at the restricted part of the wall (above the Blue House, the residence of the President of Korea). There, keep on straight.
The path — and I use the term loosely as it’s really a wooden walkway (see right). It’s all deep woods. The interesting thing, both there and higher up, is the variety of plant life. It’s not “a pine forest” or “an oak forest”… there is a wide variety of trees, bushes, vines, shrubs, etc. So it’s very pretty.
Stage 4: Around the time that the path takes you above the Samcheong Tunnel (from Seongbuk-dong to Samcheong-dong), you get a great view of Samcheonggak, an old palace (well, ok, only since 1972) where you can eat traditional meals & see traditional performances. For example, when I was there for lunch once, there was an extraordinary performance of mostly drumming with some acrobatics & plate spinning as well.
This is where the fun part begins: approximately 1 km of stairs, from the Samcheong Tunnel up to the Bugak Palgakjeong (on the Skyway). It’s a tough climb, but I’m happy to say not as tough for us as it would have been a year ago. There were a fair few people hiking (mostly up). We passed some resting on the occasional small rest platforms, but sadly, the folks actually climbing all passed us (well, not That Girl, just me & Aingeal).
Stage 5: The easy bit. The Palgakjeong is a great place to visit on a clear day for views over Seoul, and also has a couple of places to eat (which I’ve not tried). You can park there but it’s very popular so there can be queues to get into the parking lot (to the irritation of other drives on the two-lane Skyway!).
We didn’t go into the Palgakjeong, but just headed along the Skyway, which has a parallel hiking trail (generally a dirt trail, but if the dropoff is too steep, there will be a wooden walkway).
Eventually, we got back to places that I normally reach during my morning constitutional (5km on the Skyway: 2.5 out & the same to get home!). The Skyway follows the ridge, so it’s fairly level (by car); on foot, there are some stretches where you go up & down, but nothing like the climb a bit earlier! On the right there is a panorama of a large exercise area — in the morning, there are a lot of regulars who hike there, exercise, and then hike back home (I assume back home anyway). That Girl is modelling the “hang upside down by your feet” machine.