This post’s primary goal is to help make hiking easier, more predictable and accessible to people who are currently living in Korea. BUT, if you’re living in Korea and would like some help on how to navigate to points of interest (temples, movie theater, banks, other attractions) then this information below can certainly still apply to you!
Naver Maps is a website that was introduced to me upon coming to Korea. Long story short, it’s the equivalent of Google Maps. You’re able to get directions, search for restaurants or banks, etc. Furthermore, it shows extremely detailed information about all available hiking trails on every single mountain, which is obviously really, really handy.
Here in this post, I’d like to explain the methods I’ve been using to 1) locate good hiking trails and 2) get there efficiently via public transportation (city bus). I reside in Yeosu with my wife, however, these methods can be applied to any city in South Korea. I will break this post up into two sections. One for using Naver Maps on a PC and another for using Naver Maps on a smartphone.
Using Naver Maps on a PC
1. Open Naver Maps on the internet (http://map.naver.com/). Upon opening, it will begin with a map of your location (I am not a computer wizard, but I’m assuming it uses the IP address of your computer to establish your location). Next, you can minimize the large tab on the left side by clicking the arrow I have circle in red in this picture:
2. You’re then looking at something like this: (don’t worry, I know it’s all in Korean… I’ll explain).
3. The next part is up to YOU! Where do you live? Where would you like to hike in Korea? Interested to learn about the geography in your region? Find where there’s some mountains with trails? Are you going to an island and want to know if there’s a hiking trail? This Step #3 is simply to encourage you to explore on Naver Maps like you would on Google Maps. Zoom out, zoom in, scroll, scan, and explore. Don’t worry about clicking anything or typing anything in Korean unless you’re comfortable.
Did you find a mountain that interests you? Good. I have zoomed in here on Gubongsan Mountain in Yeosu. It’s a nice 366m peak right in Yeosu that offers great views of the cities (here’s the Gubongsan blog post I did back in May… I’ve since hiked it 3-4 more times).
Gubongsan is in the huge red circle below. Do you see all those green lines? Those are the hiking trails!!
4. Next, examine the trails and figure out the route you’d like to hike. Find a good starting point. Do you want to do an out-and-back route, or a loop? Sidenote: If you own a car like we do (see post about that here) it allows you some more flexibility with starting points. But, if you don’t own a car, NO WORRIES! You can look at every bus stop near the mountain to help you determine a good starting/ending point for your hike.
To show the bus stops as pictured below, first click the bus icon on the top left. Then be sure the first option remains checked (blue). Be sure you’re zoomed in close enough with street details so you’ll see the bus stops. The little blue icons are the bus stops. This will help you plan your hiking expedition.
5. Examine the bus information in closer detail. Now that you see the possible bus stops, click on one bus stop icon near the trailhead or where you’d like to start. When you click on a bus stop, a little window will pop up. This shows you the buses that stop at this specific location you clicked. For my example here at Gubongsan Mountain, buses #333 and #777 stop near one trailhead of interest.
6. Great… so where do the buses go? Click on the bus # in that little window and the entire bus route will appear. You may need to zoom out to see the entire route. This is probably the most confusing part: You need to study the maps of your city to get familiar with where you live, where your job is located, and the bus #’s that can drop you off near your house. This is also where you will have to be crafty, but I’d recommend that you click on several bus stops around the perimeter of the mountain to help determine the easiest way of getting there. Take some time to study the map, find a bus route for your pick up/drop off. Here’s bus #777 route after I zoomed out a bit, notice lots of information on the top left of the bus-stop tab:
7. You can also estimate the time spent, or further plan your hike. Naver Maps is really cool in that it provides an extremely detailed trail maps of every mountain that’s worth hiking. When you zoom in closer to the trail of a particular mountain, you can see distances and estimated time each way (up or down the mountain) for each particular segment. This makes it easy to calculate your distance and to estimate your approximate duration for hiking. Furthermore, often there are beautiful temples tucked away into the mountains, and these are clearly visible on the Naver Map, so you can also plan to stop. Koreans love permament exercise equipment near mountains, and these have a little bar-bell icon. Lastly, potable water stops and locations where they’ve built stairs for the trail are also visible on the Naver Map. Zooming into Gubongsan Mountain once again, all these features in bold come into view.
That’s it! Hopefully that was somewhat quick and painless. The more time you spend looking at Naver Maps and familiarizing yourself with your city, the outlying mountains, the bus routes, and trail maps, the better you will be at navigating yourself towards a mountain for some awesome hiking! It took a few weeks to ‘master’ the buses, but after clicking around a bit, believe me when I say that you will eventually get the hang of it. Back in June, Elicia and I found beautiful Horangsan Mountain by using the buses after work. It was there we caught this sunset… without Naver Maps we probably would have just headed home and watched TV instead of getting out there and exploring things on our own!
Using Naver Maps on a Smartphone
If you followed along how to use Naver Maps on a PC, using the NaverMap app on a smartphone will be a breeze! Here’s a quick run down:
1. Download NaverMap app, it is free.
2. Open the app. Similar to the PC version, when you open the app, it will automatically show your location. On this screen you can zoom in and out to search for mountains or hiking trails that interest you.
Note that all the features we saw on the hiking trail on the PC are also visible in the mobile app version:
3. To search for buses, slide the bottom left icon (주변) to the right as pictured below. It will turn blue, and the side bar will appear on the left like this:
4. Click the top icon to have the bus stops appear. Note: If it comes up with an error message in Korean, it’s because you’re zoomed in too far or because there are no stops there. Zoom out a bit and try again. Once you have the right scale and you click the bus icon, several stops should appear like this:
5. Now that you have bus stops shown in the map, click a little bus stop icon where you’re interested in stopping. When you do that, a little black rectangular box will appear. Click that box to show the bus #’s that stop at this particular site. Here’s a picture:
6. After clicking that black rectangular box, a list of bus #’s will appear. These are the buses that stop there. After clicking the same bus stop near Gubongsan Mountain in Yeosu, here’s what it looks like:
7. Now you can select a bus # as pictured above. When you click on the bus #, the route will appear, along with a list of all the stops it makes along its route. Bus #777 in the above example comes up with this:
As mentioned above, you may need to spend some time and exert some creativity (while practicing patience) to get the hang of this mapping service. It has been a great addition to our lives so far here in Korea because it’s enabled us to be self-reliant (with our smartphones) to find mountains, be comfortable with the maps, and even learn the city buses. I’d highly encourage you to visit Naver Maps on a PC or download the app today and begin using it to help with your hiking in Korea!
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let me know if the comments below. I’m here to help you, so you may also share the joy of hiking that Elicia and I have found here in Korea. Continue to Klimb Korean Mountains!