A Weekday Hike Along the Seoul Fortress Wall
For my first hike back after giving birth, I’d say the Seoul Fortress Wall was a good choice. Not only is it ideal in the winter and the summer due to the upkeep it receives because of its location just behind the Blue House, or the president’s abode, but there are also guards every 500 meters or so which means should anything happen, help is certainly not far away.
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The 2.2 kilometer course from Malbawi Information Center passes by Sukjeongmun Gate, Baegakmaru rest area with a good view of the city below and wraps around to Changuimun Information Center at the end. I like going this direction because it sort of starts at an easier incline and ends with the very steep steps down. If you’d rather though, start with the steep steps and then take the more gradual trip down by going the other direction. The whole route took this a bit out of the hiking mode mama and her un-hiking inclined friend just under two hours.
King Taejo founded the Joseon Dynasty in Gaeseong in 1392 but shortly after decided to move the capital to present-day Seoul, then called Hanyang. One of the first things to be constructed after the royal palaces and the ancestral shrine at Jongmyo was the wall along the ridges of Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan and Inwangsan. Four main gates and four smaller gates were built along the wall and Sukjeongmun is the most northern gate of them. To learn more about these gates, check out my post The Complete Guide: The 8 Gates of The Seoul Fortress Wall.
While the oldest parts of the wall that are still standing were built in 1396 under King Taejo’s rule, the newest parts that were rebuilt and repaired after being destroyed were built in 1422 under King Sejong’s rule or in 1704 during King Sukjong’s reign. It’s easy to spot the differences as the oldest parts were built with misshapen stones about brick-sized while the newest parts have rectangular standard sized blocks.
This part of the path had been closed to visitors for 38 years after an assassination attempt on the then president by North Koreans but was opened once again in 2006. In order to keep an even tighter reign on visitors, everyone is asked to sign in and receive an ID badge with an assigned number to be worn while following the trail. Each person fills out a piece of paper with their passport number for foreigners, or their resident number for nationals, name and address and then inside workers collect the paper and look at passports and IDs and input the information into a computer before handing over a numbered badge. It’s easy and doesn’t cost a thing, just be sure to bring all proper identification along or you will be denied entry.
If you’re headed to Seoul, don’t miss these beautiful views. Stay in the Bukchon Hanok Village for a rustic traditional experience in a Hanok house. Or, stay downtown in the heart of the action at Royal Hotel Seoul or at Hotel SkyPark Kingstown Dongdaemun.
Seoul Fortress Wall
From Malbawi to Changuimun: Anguk Station, exit 2. Just outside the exit there is a bus stop, hop on bus #2 and get off at Sungkyunkwang Rear Gate and then head up.
From Changuimun to Malbawi: Gyeongbukgung Station, exit 3. Catch green buses 7212, 1020, 7022 to Jahamun Pass and walk up to the information center.
Admission: Free, but bring a passport, or a Korean resident ID card.
Days: Open everyday except Mondays. If Monday is a holiday, then it’s closed Tuesdays.
Hours: March – October 9AM – 4PM; November – February 10AM – 3PM (Takes 1-2 hours to walk between the security checkpoints. No bathrooms or water stations are along this trail, so come prepared. There are bathrooms and water available at the security checkpoints though.)