A view of snow-covered Ansan Jarak-gil in Seoul (Seodaemun District Office)
If anyone asks me for advice on Seoul’s most beautiful getaway, without hesitation I would pick Ansan Jarak-gil in the northwestern part of the city.
The 7-kilometer walkway encompasses the 300-meter-high mountain across several urban districts, and offers some of the most scenic views of nature and the city.
During late autumn, you can enjoy the last bits of the fall foliage, with canopies and leaves betraying tinges of red, scarlet and amber. Come winter and snow cloaks the woods, the mountain resembles a traditional ink wash landscape painting, where the trees are made of thin, virile brushstrokes.
As the wooden footpath is sloped gently throughout, walking around Ansan is easy. Some of it is covered in soft soil, while other parts are laden with rocky pebbles. The course is accessible to those on wheelchairs and strollers. On Ansan Jarak-gil, the air is redolent of damp, fresh verdure. The greenery is breathtaking, making you feel replenished from the inside out. Rustling tree leaves and branches titillate your senses.
The place, under the radar for people outside the neighborhood, is a blessing for Seoul, a crowded and congested capital of 10 million people.
A view of the Metasequoia Path on Ansan Jarak-gil in Seoul (Seodaemun District Office)
The Metasequoia Path -- the park’s highlight -- is strewn with metasequoia trees that shoot up straight into the sky. With rays of bright light penetrating through the woodland, the section smacks of some sepia-tinted forests in Scandinavian romance films. The circular rest area on the path has several tables for resting and rehydrating.
The rest of the park is replete with pines, nut pines and spruces, as well as chrysanthemums, lilies, astilbes and other wildflowers.
Ansan Jarak-gil can be reached from Dongnimmun Station, Muaekjae Station or Hongje Station. There are several access points along the trail, which takes two to three hours of walking to complete.
Several observatories, including the highest one on Ansan at 296 meters, provides a panoramic view of Seoul, a megalopolis of a sea of gray buildings and high-rises with islands of mountains. Landmarks such as Gyeongbokgung and Gwanghwamun, the Blue House, the Han River and the luminous 63 Building on Yeouido can be seen, alongside Seoul Fortress Wall, Bukhansan and Inwangsan, the latter of which is connected to the trail by an elevated bridge.
Among several attractions of the pathway are book cafes with benches, books and fountains. Those who want a change of scenery can visit Bongwonsa Temple, located south of the pathway on the hillside. A hermit sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city, one can find peace of mind there.
Those desiring other activities can visit Seodaemun Prison History Hall, Seodaemun Museum of Natural History, Hongjecheon Fall and Dongnimmun, which are all in the vicinity.
By Joel Lee (email@example.com)
Ansan Jarak-gil in summer (Seodaemun District Office)