Day 5: Seoul Express Bus to Seoraksan National Park

This was the day I looked forward to the most during my whole trip in South Korea. It was the day I traveled to Sokcho 속초 (束草) for a two day hike in Seoraksan National Park 설악산 (雪嶽山) to see the changing red autumn leaves. Some of the trails at Seoraksan are notoriously difficult, but I was super excited. I mean, how can you not be excited about a place that looks like this:

Seoraksan Mountains. Image from Visit Korea

There are a few things to consider before visiting Seoraksan National Park, such as what to bring, when is the best time to go, what the hiking course maps look like, etc. I'll go over some of these points in this post, but the majority of these details will be covered in a separate post here.

Here is a general outline of my activities for the day:

Day 5 Activities:
  1. Seoul Express Bus to Sokcho City
  2. Local Sokcho bus to Seoraksan National Park
  3. Check into Seoraksan Tourist Hotel 설악산관광호텔
  4. Seoraksan hiking:
Now prepare yourself for an onslaught of photographs (with accompanying commentary, of course)!

* * *

I went to bed early the day before because I knew I had to wake up at the break of dawn to catch an 6:30 AM bus to Sokcho from Seoul. My plan was to spend 2 days hiking in Seoraksan, but I didn't want to go on a weekend so I could avoid the swarm of ajushis and ajummas. It would be ideal to visit on a weekday instead, but because I only had a certain number of vacation days left, I decided to make the best of my situation and arrive early on a Sunday. That way I would have half of a Sunday, a full day Monday, and an early Tuesday morning to explore Seoraksan before returning to Seoul and flying home the following day.

From my hotel in Myeongdong, I took a taxi to the Seoul Express Bus Terminal 서울고속버스터미날. I'm glad I asked for a cab the night before because I would have had trouble finding one at those wee hours. The ride itself took around 30 minutes and that left me an hour to buy my bus ticket, navigate the terminal, and find my actual bus. I'm sorry that I don't have any pictures to post of the bus terminal. It was too early in the morning and I hadn't found my bearings yet.

The bus ticket to Sokcho (one way) cost around 25,000 won. There were different bus grades and different bus companies. I purchased an "excellent" grade ticket for a bus company named Dongbu. I'm not really sure what the difference is between all the grades, but my seat didn't look any different from the other seats on the bus. *Shrug* You can also purchase a return ticket, but I decided to wait to buy one on my way back because I wasn't sure what time I'd be ready to leave the mountains. 

I managed to eat a bowl of udon before the bus departed. The driver didn't speak any English, but it didn't really matter. I put away my luggage, found my assigned seat, and just crashed. We stopped for a 15 minute restroom/snack break in the middle, but I pretty much spent the whole ride sleeping. I missed out on some really beautiful scenery, but luckily I woke up just in time to snap a picture of the East Sea as we neared Sokcho. 

View of the East Sea from the Express Bus to Sokcho

After 3 hours, I finally arrived at the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal 속초고속버스터미널. It's really small, but relatively easy to identify because of this castle-like building behind it.

Sokcho Express Bus Terminal (the building in white)

Things around the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal

Things around the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal

I knew I had to take local Sokcho bus number 7 or 7-1 to get to Seoraksan National Park, but I had no idea where the local bus stop was located. The bus driver ignored my questions and just left me standing there. There was supposed to be a tourist information booth near the bus terminal, but it was empty at the time I arrived.

Sokcho Bus Terminal Tourist Information Booth
Fortunately, the ticket workers at the terminal pointed out where I should go. This was the one time during my trip in Korea that I really wished I knew how to speak some Korean!

Anyway, after you arrive at the bus terminal, cross the street (you must cross the street so you will be taking the bus that goes to the direction of Seoraksan) and walk down towards your right. You'll see this local bus stop for bus number 7 and 7-1:

Sokcho local bus to Seoraksan National Park

Bus 7 came within a few minutes, but it was so packed, I decided to wait for the next one. Fifteen minutes later, bus 7-1 arrived. Both of these buses will take you to Seoraksan National Park, so you don't have to worry about taking one or another. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, but at 1000 won per person, the local bus fare to Seoraksan is much cheaper. Here is the bus schedule for the local Sokcho buses in case you want a time reference:

Sokcho local bus schedule times

Sokcho local bus schedule times

The local bus ride itself took 30 minutes. It mostly took that long because as we entered Seoraksan National Park, the road narrowed and there was a ton of traffic as cars tried to make their way in and out of the parking lots.

Again, knowing more Korean would have come in handy because everything on the bus was in Korea and it didn't help that I wasn't sure when I was supposed to get off. 

Sokcho Bus 7-1 Route

I booked a room at Seoraksan Tourist Hotel (detailed review and pictures of the hotel here) because it was the only hotel inside Seoraksan National Park. I figured I would be too tired to take a bus back to my hotel after a day of hiking, so having a hotel inside the park would be much easier on my legs. 

As the bus passed by some of the other hotels, such as The Hotel Sorak Park and The Kensington Stars Hotel, I started to get worried that maybe I missed my stop. But a nice woman on the bus told me to follow her lead when she got off the bus to get to my hotel. It was extremely kind of her, but in the end, I really didn't have to follow her because you basically get off the bus at its last stop, when everyone else who wants to go to Seoraksan gets off.

Seoraksan National Park bus stop area

Getting off bus 7-1 at Seoraksan National Park

Getting off bus 7-1 to go to Seoraksan Tourist Hotel

Now that I was at the park, finding the hotel was a bit confusing because I didn't see it right away. But follow the masses and you'll end up heading in the right direction.

If you are staying at Seoraksan Tourist Hotel, after a few minutes of walking, you'll see this sign pointing you in the direction the hotel:

Sign to Seoraksan Tourist Hotel

Seoraksan Tourist Hotel sign

At the time, I assumed that I should walk over to the sign and follow the path alongside it, but that road was actually a road for cars instead of pedestrians! I didn't know any better, so I kept walking until a guy at a small ticket station stopped me. He kept telling me to go away, but all I knew was that the sign said to go this way to get to the hotel and that was the way I was going to go. It didn't help that he knew no English words besides "man" and "woman". My Korean was also so butchered, he had no idea what I was saying either. Finally, he gave in with a loud "Aishhhhhh," asked for 2500 won, handed me a park entrance ticket, and let me go my way.  

Walking to Seoraksan Tourist Hotel

After walking 10-15 minutes more along a hilly road, I finally arrived at Seoraksan Tourist Hotel. The hotel wasn't so great on the inside, but I would stay there again because it's so close and you only have to pay the park entrance fee once, regardless of how many times you visit the park.

Almost at Seoraksan Tourist Hotel

Seoraksan Tourist Hotel

I unpacked my things and was ready to hit the hiking trails. In hindsight, it really would have been better to walk to the hotel via the normal pedestrian route, because then you can pick up brochures and maps from the tourist information booth, as well as snap a picture with the infamous Seoraksan National Park bear statue.

This is what I would have seen had I walked the right way:

Seoraksan National Park entrance statue

Seoraksan National Park tourist booth and entrance gate

Seoraksan Tourist Hotel entrance

To walk that direction, just follow everyone else who's going to the park entrance. I strayed from the pack and took a small road to the hotel, so don't make the same mistake! If you don't go to the tourist information booth, make sure you at least ask your hotel front desk for a couple of Seoraksan course maps. There is nothing worse than getting lost inside a giant park.

I made sure to keep a copy of the map because I remember I had a hard time finding accurate Seoraksan hiking information online. Here is a scanned copy of the Seoraksan course map:

Seoraksan National Park hiking trails course map

You won't be able to hike on all the trails at once unless you are staying at Seoraksan for more than a few days. Some of the courses are short, but some take hours to complete, not factoring in the time it would take for you to walk back. Since it's also not safe to hike in the mountains when the sun sets, you only really have from around 6:30 am to 6:00 pm to hike, depending on the amount of sunlight during the day. If it starts to get dark early, it's probably a good idea to head back to your hotel. You don't want to slip on a wet rock or trip on a stick when it gets hard to see.

Because I only had 2 days here, I decided to go to Sinheungsa Temple 신흥사 (新興寺), Biseondae 비선대 (飛仙台), and Cheonbuldong Valley 천불동 계곡 (千佛洞溪谷) the first day and tackle Ulsanbawi Rock 울산바위 (蔚山岩)and Heundeulbawi Rock 흔들바위 (晃动岩), the most difficult trail, the next day.

Another popular trail leads to Gwongeumseong Fortress 권금성 (權金城). You can take a cable car to the top for 10,000 won, but a friend of mine warned me that this spot is always crowded and doesn't have any safety rails. I looked up pictures of it online and it didn't strike me as beautiful as other places in Seoraksan, so I decided to skip it. I could actually see the cable car from my hotel room window.

Gwongeumseong Fortress cable car in Seoraksan

Gwongeumseong Fortress cable car in Seoraksan

Whew, this post is getting a little long! I'll continue with detailed pictures of my first day at Seoraksan here.


  1. Hello. May I know how much does it cost for the Taxi ride from Myeongdong to the Terminal?

    1. Hi there, sorry for the super late reply. I actually do not know how much the taxi cost, as a friend offered me a lift to the Terminal.

  2. awesome details. thank you

  3. This is a fantastic guide! Thanks! All the info is available elsewhere, but only you are so detailed, with pictures of what we're supposed to be looking for.

  4. This is a fantastic guide! Thanks! All the info is available elsewhere, but only you are so detailed, with pictures of what we're supposed to be looking for.

    1. Yeah! Before I went to Seoraksan, I had a really hard time finding more detailed information about it. So after I went, I figured I post my experience to help others who are wanting to do the same thing.

  5. I know im just repeating what others have said but really, thank you for so much detail! Definately making me worry less about being an ignorant tourist, sounds like they're pretty used to it! Great tips on congested area's/days too. Thank you thank you thank you!!

    1. You're welcome! Hope you had a great trip!

    2. Not actually left yet, flying out in 1.5days...not that im counting. Should get to Seoraksan for Sept 6th. Im literally cutting and pasting your blog for where to go!

  6. Thanks so much for a very detailed blog on Seoraksan. I'm planning to visit South Korea again next year and this place is in my bucketlist. This is very helpful especially that I'll be traveling solo this time. Keep on blogging!:-)

    1. Thanks! Seoraksan is really beautiful and serene. Even if you've been to the most amazing mountains in the world, there's just something really calming and soothing about Mt. Seorak. Safe travels!

  7. Hi,

    Very informative post. For th return trip from sokcho to seoul, is it easy to get a bus back? Any potential shockers like last bus back to seoul 5pm or such?

  8. Thank you so much for the details. You are such a gem! ^^