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Hiking Baikryun Mountain

A 5.4 km loop perfect for Hiltonites

Hiking Baikryun Mountain

A 5.4 km loop perfect for Hiltonites

Baikryun Mountain is a small mountain on a nice little 5.4 km loop trail that’s perfect for hiking or running. About two-thirds of the trail is in the forested park with peek-a-boo views in every direction, and most of the remaining third runs along the creek parallel to Yeonhui-ro. You can pick up the trail from almost any section, but it’s perfectly suited for guests at the Grand Hilton and nearby residents.

The trail is marked with this a symbol throughout the route. The urban sections typically have decals on the sidewalk, while the forest sections have small wood signs attached to trees along the route.

You have to watch closely for these markers. In the urban sections they typically are on the ground, and sometimes so worn you could easily miss them. In the forest, they are green and typically mounted on trees or part of the trail signs. Finding them is a part of the fun.

I’ve described the route in a clockwise direction, beginning at driveway for the Grand Hilton.

Cross Yeonhui-ro and take the ramp down to the path along the creek. Watch for the trail symbols on the ground, and occasionally on a post.

You’ll follow this beyond the waterfall. As the trail begins to pass under Yeonhui-ro, you’ll cross the bike lanes and double back up a wood ramp to the street level.

Head toward Yeonhui-ro and turn right (north), then turn left at the first crosswalk, then cross Moraenae-ro and turn left.

At the first four-way traffic light, turn right on Baengnyeonsa-gil and head up the hill. Note that this is one of the well-worn markers and it’s easy to miss.

The trail markers will keep you on the right side of the street for the first 100 meters or so, then cross to the left. This hill is steep.

Once you pass the elementary school, the grade gets a little easier. When you reach the bend in the road (there’s a tennis club on your left), you’ll cross back over the road to the park entrance. This is where the steep ascent really starts. You’ll climb 412 relentless steps to the top of the mountain ridge.

Or Jacobs Ladder

Once you reach the ridge, the worst of the climbing is behind you. There’s still more to come, but it’s in shorter spurts. The trail bears north along the ridge, rising and falling like a rollercoaster. You’ll see that you often have a choice between steps or dirt trail; they ultimately end up at the same place.

Typical Rest Shelter

At the 3 km mark you’ll come across what I’m told is a private outdoor gym, complete with barbells, weight plates and machines. These aren’t the typical public workout machines you see throughout the parks, but much more elaborate. It’s an outdoor gym with a sweeping view that stretches to the Han River!

Continuing along the trail a bit further you’ll see one last set of steps leading to an observatory. It’s worth the small detour to check out the views, especially on a clear day.

Take the steps back down to the trail, and continue along the ridgeline. From here out, there are only very small climbs; it’s mostly downhill.

Continue along the ridge, watching carefully for the Green Forest Trail symbol. You’ll see apartment buildings very near the top of the ridge on your right, and come across the ridge top trail access. Often during the day there’s a vendor set up providing tea and snacks.

50 meters further and you can take a short detour to the rocks on the left towards the Eco Bridge. This bridge crosses Tong-illo and allows wildlife to travel between the open spaces. Soak in the views of Bukhansan National Park, then return to the ridge trail and continue on.

View of Bukhansan NP in the Distance

There are a few unmarked side trails that you can ignore. Stick to the ridge and you’ll be golden.

Winding Through the Pines

At 4.3 km you’ll reach a junction that is easy to miss. The Green Forest Trail symbol heads straight, but the more obvious trail bends to your left towards Yeonhui-ro. This can be a worthwhile detour, as it heads to a wooden observatory platform with great views toward Seoul Tower.

Back on the trail, you will finally reach a junction where you begin a steep descent down rough-hewn steps. These eventually give way to wooden steps, and soon you reach Yeonhui-ro.

Turn right and head about 500 meters south to reach the Hilton and close the loop.

I’ve been using this route as part of my daily training routine. It’s a rigorous workout that you can complete in under one hour if you run portions of it.

Do you have a favorite local trail? Share in the comments.

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Healthy, fresh food, thoughtfully prepared


Healthy, fresh food, thoughtfully prepared

Is there anything more delightful than walking into a restaurant you’ve never heard of, and having a wonderful experience? No online reviews. No mentions from a friend. Just a happy coincidence that turned out well. That was our experience on a Saturday afternoon in Hannam-dong when we visited ROOT for lunch.

We had worked up an appetite listening to music at Stradeum, but didn’t know the area. We saw a number of restaurants, and rather than rely on our phones,  we decided to wander a bit and see what we found.

On the block behind Stradeum (towards the Leeum Samsung museum) we spied the second-story eatery. The weather was pleasant, and their french doors were open to the balcony. We glanced at the menu and headed in.

Joan ordered brown-rice vegetarian sushi, while I got the avocado toast with bacon. Everything was beautifully prepared and tasted delicious. The food reminded us of some of our favorite restaurants in Los Angeles.

ROOT is closed on Sundays (good for them!) but we highly recommend it as a lunch break before or after visiting one of the museums in Hannam-dong. Check out their Instagram feed for more mouth-watering photos.


741-19 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, 2F, Seoul, South Korea


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Stradeum: Adventures in Music

A gallery for listening to live and recorded music

Stradeum: Adventures in Music

A gallery for listening to live and recorded music

Stradeum is one of those places that sounds a bit odd until you experience it. It is essentially a gallery for experiencing music — both live and recorded. In the age of iTunes and Spotify, going to a place to listen to music sounds a bit quaint at first. After going? I admit I really enjoyed it, and I’ll gladly return.

We first learned of Stradeum from the New York Times, and thought it might make a fun diversion on a Saturday morning. It’s a short walk from Itaewon and just around the corner from the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Hannam-dong, so we headed off.

The building is fairly narrow and easy to miss. The entrance looked utilitarian — no windows and minimalist signage. We entered, paid our 10kw and received a brochure and an overview of Stradeum.

You begin on Level 1 in a room called the Sound Gallery. Around the room are a series of Astell&Kern portable music systems and headphones, with curated lists of music from different time periods. The sound quality is amazing, and you could easily get lost in here for a few hours of musical exploration. The menus on the players are in Korean, so figuring out how to navigate between playlists, albums and artists took a little trial and error.


Stradeum Sound Gallery

My personal favorite? They had an amazing list of 1970’s era progressive rock.

A Passion Play

Downstairs on Level B are the Sound Alcove and Music Rooms I & II. The alcove has little cubbies and books about music (in Korean). Very laid-back.

The two music rooms are for audience listening. One room is devoted to classical and jazz; the other to rock and pop genres.  A music “curator” creates a playlist, and the music is experienced at live performance volume levels.

Levels 2 and 3 hold Stradeum Studio, where live performances are held. This space can seat up to 100 people, and is used for curated playback, a recording studio, and for live performances on a regular basis.

Level 4 has the Rooftop Lounge, where you can use your admission ticket for a free tea or coffee. There is an indoor lounge and a rooftop patio that’s a perfect finish, especially when the weather is nice.

And afterwards, walk around the block for lunch at ROOT.

Joan’s already planning to go back to Stradeum.


251, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu,
Seoul, Korea


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Hiking Baegundae Mountain

Bukhansan National Park's version of Half Dome

Hiking Baegundae Mountain

Bukhansan National Park's version of Half Dome

I am known by some back in Southern California as the SoCal Hiker. So as soon as I knew we were moving to Seoul I was researching hikes. Apparently, I have a thing for peaks, because Baegundae Mountain was calling out to me.

Bukhansan National Park is considered the “lungs” of Seoul. It’s a huge natural space within easy distance from 25 million Seoulites, and they make good use of it — hiking, backpacking and climbing it’s many trails and peaks. Baegundae is the tallest of those peaks. At 836.5 meters high (about 2744 feet) it’s modest by comparison to the mountains in California, but most of the trailheads in Bukhansan start out near sea-level.

Our route was a west-to-east traverse of the park with a short side trip up Baegundae.

There are a number of entrance points to Bukhansan National Park. We came in from the west side, and I was blown away by the number of outdoor retailers with shops just outside the park. I have never in all my life seen so many backpacking, hiking, camping and climbing gear shops in one place. Deuter, Merrill, Arc’teryx, The North Face, Fjallraven, LaFuma and literally dozens of other companies were there — each with their own, dedicated store. It was fascinating.

In addition to the retail stores, there are restaurants and street vendors with plenty of options for lunch to-go or after your hike. Entrance to the park is free, though there is a small charge if you use the parking lot (about $3US).

The first two kilometers were up a paved road. Not too exciting, although forested and dotted with gates and temples.

From the 2 kilometer mark, the trail began in earnest, climbing relentlessly along a shady valley beside a creek. No switchbacks, just up, up and up, often with stonework steps.

The trails are well-signed, usually in both Korean and English. When we finally reached the mountain saddle, we discovered an ancient gate that dates back centuries.

A mountain-top gate in Bukhansan

Here’s where we took the spur trail up to the summit. It’s short, but steep. In fact, steep enough that you’ll need to use the steel cables to climb up it — Half Dome-style.

The top is tiered and hikers spread out over any available space to take a lunch break before hiking back down. You can drag your mouse over these 360-degree images to view up, down and all around.


Directly across from Baegundae is another, slightly lower dome that had technical rock climbers all over it. Look closely and you’ll see one in the photo below.

As we was getting ready to head back down, a cat strolled by. Not a mountain lion, but a domestic kitty. It struck us as odd. No one had brought it up, it just wandered up to the highest peak in Bukhansan.

A short distance down the east side of the ridge we came to a wilderness rest area with soda, candy and ice cream. No roads yet–they have to carry all the supplies in–but there is electricity. And the mystery of the mountain-climbing cat was solved with the discovery of a litter box at the rest area.

We emerged on the other side of the mountain at a busy parking lot, where we picked up a taxi for the ride home.

I’ll go back and hike Baegundae Mountain again. It will be great to see the view as the seasons change — with autumn color or wintery snow.

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How did we get here?

A few years ago, we had never dreamed of living in Seoul.

How did we get here?

A few years ago, we had never dreamed of living in Seoul.

Just a year ago if you asked me if I’d ever considered living in Korea, my answer would be a definitive no. It’s not that I had anything against the idea. It’s just that I’d never really given it much thought at all.

We’ve always wanted to live overseas, but always imagined doing so in Europe. It felt easier and definitely more familiar.

Last October, we visited Korea for the first time, touring with some colleagues from Joan’s school (which not incidentally had roughly a 30% Korean student population). We wined and dined through cosmopolitan Seoul and hiked and explored laid-back Jeju Island. And the unknown became the known.

Joan was offered a contract as director of admission at a fantastic international school in Seoul. My work as an outdoor adventure writer can be done anywhere with a decent Internet connection — and South Korea has the fastest average broadband speeds in the world.

A plan was hatched, the offer accepted and soon we were packing and moving 5,972 miles — er, 9,611 kilometers (still getting used to that) from Los Angeles to Seoul. We landed on July 2nd, and started work on July 4th (no, it’s not a holiday in Korea).

Itaewon alley

We are Seoul Travelers

Yes, we are travelers, but we’re not tourists. This is our home. We are on a journey of discovery, and we (along with other travelers) hope to share those discoveries with you.

For fellow travelers, whether living in Seoul or just passing through, we hope you find that some of our discoveries become yours as well.

For our friends and family around the world, this will give you a glimpse into our world, and strengthen our connections.

Whatever brings you here, we hope we can give you a reason to smile.

Jeff & Joan