The hilltop Geumjeong Fortress complex includes around 20km of hiking trails and offers spectacular views of Busan, South Korea. This walk is an half or full day excursion from Busan with starting points accessed by subway and gondola.
Situation and history
Geumjeong Fortress is the largest mountain fortress in South Korea and was built in 1703 by King Sukjong in response to previous Japanese and Manchu invasions. The gates and 17km of walls have been mostly restored after destruction during the Japanese occupation (1910-45). The fortified area is immense and not particularly fertile thus it has fallen into disrepair several times throughout history.
A network of hiking trails covers the entire wall complex as well as the mountain peak. It is possible to complete a section of the walk as a return journey or to complete a linear route using public transport for access.
Half day return from Beomeosa temple (approx 10km)
Start at the Beomeosa temple access point and follow the river course uphill. The path is rocky and ascends relatively steadily through deciduous forest until reaching a plateau at the north gate. There are ample spots to picnic here. An extra 30min detour takes you to the summit of Geumjeong (805m) which has stunning views of Busan.
Full day from gondola to Bemosa temple (approx 20km)
Start by accessing the trail from the gondola at the south gate and hike along the wall to the north gate. At the north gate you have the option to ascent Geumjeong summit or simply descend via the north gate to the Bemosa temple.
Planning your trip
Allow at least 4hours for the return trip or a full day for the 20km linear route.
Starting elevation: 305m
Summit elevation: 805m
Total ascent: 500m
Trail distance: 10km return trip or 20km for linear route
Average gradient: Moderate
Easy to moderate
Most locals are bedecked in the latest outdoor gear, complete with hiking poles and even portable stereos. Sneakers with good grip would suffice however boots would be a better option. Sunscreen, water and a packable jacket would be useful.
Access to and from the hike
The trail heads are accessible by bus or gondola from subway line 1 in the north of Busan. Busan itself is situated on the south coast of South Korea.
To access the north gate:
Beomeosa Station (Busan subway line 1) Exit 5 or 7
Walk along Silli1-gil street to open air bus terminal and take bus 90. The bus takes you to Bemosa temple and the trail head for access to the north gate.
To access the south gate:
Oncheonjang Station (Busan subway line 1) Exit3
Cross the street and go to the opposite side of the block to take a bus 203. The bus takes you to the south gate, East gate, or the forest village.
Navigation & Facilities
The track is well trodden and clearly signed at key junctions such as the gates (in Korean & English). There is water available at the picnic area at the north gate. There are vendors selling snacks around the Bemosa temple complex.The track is well trodden and clearly signed at key junctions such as the gates (in Korean & English). There is water available at the picnic area at the North Gate. There are snacks available for sale around the Bemosa temple complex.
The walk is within the city limits and not isolated, ask others for assistance in an emergency or head towards the nearest road.
We hopped on the subway early on a brisk winter Sunday morning. As we travelled north we were joined by mobs of locals in brightly coloured hiking gear, complete with Leiki poles and sitting mats.
All the ‘hikers’ exited the subway at the same stop and we followed the mob to the nearby bus terminal. A short bus ride took us to the Beomeosa temple and an access point to the Geumjeong Fortress trails. The Beomeosa temple complex consisted of one main worship hall, a small museum and several more ancient smaller shrines. On a Sunday it was very much alive in action with worshippers in all buildings.
We found the trailhead in a watercourse just above the temple homestay building. We followed a river course uphill, past a spot where some locals had made a shrine on the stream complete with a fresh pig head offering. According to folklore at the top of the mountain there is a well with golden coloured water that never dries up. Apparently gold coloured fish used to live there, hence Beomeosa temple is named after this fish from heaven.
Being winter the trees were devoid of leaves and the whole forest was grey and quiet. After a bit of a slog we arrived at the north gate with picnic areas complete with locals sipping flasks of noodles. An extra 30min ascent took us to the summit of Geumjeong (805m) with stunning views across Busan (and the elusive golden well). The area was crawling with locals in the latest hiking gear. Many hikers had portable stereos attached to their packs so they could listen to Korean pop music while ambling through the countryside. Whilst the crowds prevented us from properly enjoying the wilderness it was great to see so many people enjoying the great outdoors.
The decent was quick and easy, if a little slippery in the dust.