Hiking in Korea: Natural High vs Fashion Heavy

Last Updated on August 23, 2017 by Christine Kaaloa

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I love experiencing natural highs! Dancing in a disco completely losing yourself in the sound, absorbing a powerful meditation of either silence or chant, connecting to your breath as you perform a juicy downwards dog or just plain exploring a new place on foot… I need this kind of rewarding past time where I can listen to the uncluttered spaces of my heartbeat and come home to myself.

In Korea, my new high is hiking! Fortunately, one of my new travel BFFs Chance is an experienced hiker, so we’ve exercised the opportunity to try out some cool hiking spots: Jirisan, Taejongdae, Gatbawi and recently, Mt. Halla (well almost).

What do I love about hiking? My foot feels like it connects with the earth’s heartbeat in a solid thump and I feel a special power in this direct connection with nature. I can focus on the sound of my footsteps, the birds, the wind or the trees leaves… everything has a soothing effect. So what if I still haven’t mastered the balance between watching the ground and my steps, so that I can enjoy looking at the surrounding sights, as well? With time, it’s something I’ll eventually be able to do! I hope…

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Korean hiking fashion: 50’s fit and dressed to sparkle

They say Korea is 75% all mountain. Hitting the mountain trails for a good hike is one of Korea’s major weekend leisure activities. These hikes aren’t for the weak or wimpy, however. Many trails are actually intense hikes up a steep, steep mountain and will have someone like me huffing and puffing within the first 15 minutes. But, you’d be surprised by the age, fitness and stamina of many Korean hikers; well into their 50’s, many still hold spry form and ballerina flexibility!  The video clip below is my pocket camera discovery of a Healthy Korea. This was shot on my first mountain trail hike (in winter) during my EPIK orientation in Incheon.

The Hiker’s Catwalk in Korea: Northface vs Redface.

I’ve shot the ultra-glam designer runway shows of NY Fashion Week, but watching Koreans roaming weekend mountain trails is like watching the catwalk take to new heights! Living here, you’ll notice two things– a) when Koreans are going hiking and b) that they take it very seriously. Whether it’s taking a stroll up a mountain, over a molehill or on a walking path, Koreans dress as if hiking were an Olympic sport! Walking sticks, hiking boots, visors, sports shirts, backpack and black pants– the weekend Korean hiker is an artillery of fashion. As for me, I’m just glad I picked up some knockoff North Face pants in Vietnam, so at least the bottom half of me fits in… not that it really matters. Here’s some of the hiking apparel and gadgetry you’ll see on hiking paths:

– brightly colored long-sleeved nylon sports tops
– sports jacket
– black pants
– hiking boots
– athletic gloves
– backpack
– walking poles
-big rimmed ajumma sequins visors
-sports caps
-water bottle or metal thermos
– metal cup
– tent or picnic mat
-neck kerchief or scarf
– towel

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Crazy Korea, Expat Life, Korea, Outdoor Adventures


  • […] hard to hike in korea and not feel sorely underdressed for the event. koreans take their hiking incredibly seriously. there are dozens of hiking brands in korea that i’ve never even heard of (lafuma, colon […]

  • Haha! In Cancun we’re not nearly as fashion conscious (what with the crazy heat and everything)

    Are there lots of people on the trails? Or do the hikers dress up for the birds and bears?

  • nice site you’ve got here. linked to you from brian in jeollanam-do. i’ve been hiking & biking round korea for years now and i’m still amazed by the level of investment people put in their clothing and gear regardless of the activity. guys decked out in 1mil. won of spandex & accessories stare at me in disbelief when i ride by in old ripped shorts, sleeveless t-shirt and chaco’s. the countryside is beautiful here and my time in the mts. keeps me sane. if you’ve not done it already, put kaya-san on your list of mts. to hike. not far from taegu and a wonderful approach.

    • @Patrick: Glad you dropped by! I’ve heard briefly about Kaya-san but not much. I’ll look into it- I appreciate the tip! It’s kinda crazy, the lengths that Koreans go into donning professional gear. Your scenario reminds me of a funny Rocketship comic I wanted to link to (but only now just found) about Korean hikers and feeling “under-dressed” as a westerner. I guess we’re kinda the dharma bums of hikers, we westerners are…

  • It was just a few months past this day, when nostalgia whacked my head into going hiking up my favorite trail- the Aiea Triangular Loop. It seemed it would be an easy stroll, as I remembered it in my “puka pants” days. But believe me when I tell you, 3/4 of the way I thought I had to call 911.

    • @Papa: Oh no Dad, I’m glad you didn’t have to call 911! Though I think you and Mom should start a regular exercise routine so that the next time you visit me here, you can handle the walking…. tee hee.

  • […] Hiking in Korea: Natural High meets Fashion Heavy […]

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