Home » Hiking in South Korea: Busan’s Geumjeongsan Mountain

Hiking in South Korea: Busan’s Geumjeongsan Mountain

Geumjeongsan Mountain

Geumjeongsanseong Fortress snaked into the distance as I stood on Geumjeongsan Mountain’s summit.

The view was astonishing. The fortress walls weaved between granite peaks then disappeared against the Busan backdrop.

I briefly closed my eyes and tried to picture the Three Kingdoms era, when the Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla dynasties fought each other.

But my daydream was short-lived. I was pushed aside a mob of shouting hikers all fighting to get a photo at the mountaintop. And no nostalgia-infused fool was going to stop them.

Geumjeongsan Mountain

Geumjeongsan Mountain is Busan’s finest. Home to thick forests, graceful rock formations and clear springs, it’s the best hike I did in South Korea.

I began at beautiful Beomeosa Temple. The temple was built 1,300 years ago, but like so much of Korea’s heritage, it was destroyed during the Japanese invasion of 1592. The rebuilt temple is like a peaceful island, with the forest pushing in from all sides.

Beomeosa Temple

Beomeosa Temple

After Beomeosa Temple I started up the mountain. The autumn air was chilly, but at least the foliage looked great. The red leaves glowed vividly against the pale blue sky.

Geumjeongsan Mountain

Red autumn leaves

Red autumn leaves

The climb was not challenging, although the summit’s approach was steep. The government had kindly built steps to make the ascent easier. Call me naive, but I’ve never seen a spiral staircase on a mountaintop.

Geumjeongsan Mountain summit

The consequence was that the summit was hopelessly crowded. There are calmer subways at rush hour. An endless queue formed for photos by the altitude marker. Disgusted by the scrum, I did what nobody else seemed to be doing and just enjoyed the view.

South Korean hikers

Busan was in the distance, the large metropolis that sits by the Sea of Japan. The city wrapped itself around the coast and jumped from cove to cove. It’s connected by all manner of engineering feats, the pinnacle which is the spectacular Diamond Bridge (Gwangan Bridge).

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Geumjeongsan Mountain

Much closer and a lot more low-tech was an equally engrossing sight: Geumjeongsanseong Fortress. I ditched the hordes and started moving downhill.

Geumjeongsanseong Fortress

Geumjeongsanseong Fortress was built (perhaps unsurprisingly) as a defence against the Japanese. At 17 kilometres long, it’s massive, although only 4 kilometres from the original fortress survives today.

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Geumjeongsanseong Fortress

Geumjeongsanseong Fortress 금정산성

The restored sections are fantastic, equipped with watchtowers and working gates. The walls vary in height, from 1.5 to 3 metres tall. Banners run along them, flapping in the breeze that constantly buffets the area.

Geumjeongsanseong Fortress

Lots of rock was needed for construction, and Geumjeongsan Mountain has it in droves. I’d say that Geumjeongsan’s tors were even more impressive than the fortress. The granite formations jutted from the mountainside like alien sculptures, slowly weathering before my eyes.

Geumjeongsan Mountain

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Walking along these behemoths provided dramatic views on the descent. I had to catch my breath a few times as I peered over the edge at the drop below.

Geumjeongsan Mountain

South Korean hikers

Sadly, this my final day in South Korea. I wasn’t happy to go, but I was pleased to be leaving on such a memorable note.

Want to hike in other places after Geumjeongsan Mountain? Check out the links below for some inspiration

Hiking in South Korea: Gyeongju’s Namsan Mountain

Hiking in South Korea: Climbing Mt Bukhansan

5 comments

  1. Darla says:

    I will have an upcoming trip to Busan this October, I want to hike to Geumjeongsan Mountain and Beimeosa Temple. Could you please tell me how did you guys hike there? If you booked a group tour going there, or did you hire a tour guide? Or commuting from the city of Busan going there if perfectly fine to do by myself? Thank you in advance!:)

    • youmustroam says:

      Hi Darla. It is super easy to do on your own with public transport. I can’t remember the exact bus number, but I took one from the city centre. It stopped near the mountain and then I transferred to another bus which took us up the mountain to the temple. From the temple we started the hike. There is no need to pay for a tour or a guide, the trail is well marked and you can just follow the crowds 🙂

  2. Shiyuan says:

    Hello! I am going Busan in January and I am wondering if the weather will be too cold for hiking Geumjeongsan mountain? And also is the hike challenging? Appreciate your reply, thank you!

    • youmustroam says:

      Hi Shiyuan

      The hike isn’t challenging, however I cannot comment on what it would be like to do in January. I did it in October when the weather was fine. I imagine in January it will be very cold, maybe even freezing.

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