Bike Incheon to Seoul

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Start the Cross-Country Bike Route in Incheon, Seoul’s Sister City.

Here you are. Incheon Metropolitan City (인천광역시) along the Yellow Sea. The Ara West Sea Lock clogs the end of the Gyeongin Ara Waterway behind you. This is the start (or end) of your Cross-Country Bike Path.

Place your front tire on the marble Start Line embedded in the bike path. It reads “Start 0 Meters / End 630,000 Meters.” That’s a long way to go.

Before you set off. Take a moment. Breath the sea air. Look around.

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Cross-Country Start Line on the Ara Bike Path in Incheon, South Korea.

Ara West Sea Lock

0 km (Ara Bike Path (South Side))
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Where am I? The Ara West Sea Lock. It’s the entry and exit point from the Yellow Sea into the Ara Waterway.

Where is it? Behind you. At the end of an access road (road view), you’ll come to a wide, square-shaped gulp of water held calm by a sea lock. This is the point where the Ara Waterway spills into the Yellow Sea.

Behind the square plot of water sits a fin-shaped control tower hangs. Below the tower, two rectangle locks. These water gates accept ships, then raise and lower them to the water level of the Ara Waterway or Yellow Sea.

Ara Waterway’s Eight Views

The city of Incheon designated eight scenic views (수향8경) along the Ara Waterway. West to East, beginning from the Ara West Sea Lock, they run:

What are they? We’ll explore more in depth below.

Can you read Korean? Click here for a detailed map of the Ara Waterway written in Hangul.

Gyeongin Ara Passenger Terminal and Tower

Ara Passenger Terminal and Ara Tower in Incheon, South Korea.
The Ara Passenger Terminal and Ara Observation Tower (아라타워) hang above the start of the Ara Bicycle Path.

Let’s continue to pan around the area. Glance to your left (road view). A swooped awning connects two metal knit buildings.

The nearest is the Gyeongin Ara Passenger Terminal (경인아라뱃길여객터미널). You can’t miss it. Its white rising beams resemble a ship’s sail. This is the 2nd View of the Ara Waterway’s eight scenic views.

Here visitors buy tickets to an amphibious bus that cruises up and down the Ara Waterway. Depending on weather, the bus operates every thirty minutes to an hour, 9:30 AM to 6 PM.

Just behind the terminal, sharing the same block, you’ll find the Gyeongin Port Integration Operation Center (경인항 통합운영센터), open 9 AM to 6 PM.

This general services building operates a convenience store, small museum, and a Bicycle Certification Center. More on that below.

Its lobby also provides access to the Ara Observation Tower (아라타워), a twenty-four-story tall lookout deck offering city and sea vistas.

While the tower is free, the cafe and restaurant charges for their steak dishes and sunset sights.

Jeongseojin Square and Sunset Bell

From the starting line, let’s keep scanning the horizon.

Glance left. On the corner of the near block, discover a house-sized white pebble with a bell-shaped hole cut through the middle. That’s the Sunset Bell (노을종).

Forged from Yellow Sea stone, every evening the sun triggers a multimedia show of light and music as the heavenly sky ball descends through the bell-shaped hole. As you’d expect, this spot brings lovers and proposals. 

The Sunset Bell is just one feature of Jeongseojin Square (정서진광장). Behind the sculpture, surrounded by a recreational pond, sits Arabit Island (아라빛섬). In summer, patrons cross a wooden bridge above paddle boats. Two towering windmills above cast silent, swooping shadows.

Start Gate

Starting gate of the Cross-Country Bike Route in Incheon, South Korea.
The Start Gate marks the beginning of the Ara Bike Path and Cross-Country Route.

Look in front of you (road view). A Start Gate arching over the bike path reads “서울 (Seoul) 21 km” and “부산 (Busan) 633 km.”

In the bottom corner, K-water plastered their logo. This public/private corporation manages Korea’s water resources. Working with local and federal agencies, they also built and maintain much of Korea’s cycling infrastructure.

Yellow Sea and Yeongjong Island

Just to your right, you’ll find the Yellow Sea (황해; West Sea), the first of eight views — scenic spots or landmarks — along the Ara Waterway.

If you arrive at low tide, you’ll spot a swath of muddy underbelly and turtle shell islands.

The sea gets its name from the winds that swipe sand from China’s Gobi Desert and sprinkle the yellow silt over the waves.

Across the Yellow Sea, Yeongjong Bridge (영종대교) hops to Yeongjong Island (영종도) where Incheon International Airport, Korea’s busiest, buzzes.ad

The Yellow Sea Birds

The Yellow Sea. More than a sea. When water recedes, it becomes the world’s largest tidal mudflats. It may look like an endless expanse of bland, brown goop. But it teams with life, facilitating an awe-inspiring display of endurance and perseverance.

Come spring and fall, this muddy underbelly becomes a major stop for migratory birds on the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. Tens of millions of birds fly non-stop as much as 9,600 kilometers (6,000 miles), from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

Once they reach the Yellow Sea, what do these max-out creatures do? They land. Then eat, shoving their beaks into the sticky mud, rooting around for the worms, mollusks, and shrimp wriggling just underneath. 

During the migratory season, waves of birds pause for a few days and gorge their shrunken organs. They double their body weight to prepare for the next 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) leg of their journey up to the thawing tundras of Siberia and Alaska.

From the starting point, near the of the Ara West Sea Lock, if you catch a low tide you might spot a spoon-billed sandpiper grabbing a tiny crab from the dark, dank dredges of the Yellow Sea mudflats. Or a red-crowned crane resting before continuing its annual migration marathon.

A picture of a bike and the Ara West Sea Lock Certification Center
Along the Yellow Sea in Incheon, the Ara West Sea Lock Certification Center is the first checkpoint booth on the Cross-Country Route.

Ara West Sea Lock Certification Center

One last sight to point out (road view) before you hit the path. The most important sight. A little red phone booth just on your right. The Ara West Sea Lock Certification Center.

Certification Center? If you don’t already know, Korea adorns their thousand-plus kilometer network of bike paths with red phone booths (a.k.a., “certification centers”)

Inside each booth sits a stamp to mark your Bike Passport. Fill up your passport and win awards.

Get Certified

Inside the Ara West Sea Lock Certification Center in Incheon, South Korea.
Find a stamp to stamp your bike passport inside the Ara West Sea Lock Certification Center.

How does it work? Visit the Gyeongin Port Integration Operation Center (경인항 통합운영센터) between 9:30 AM and 5:30 PM and buy a Bike Passport.

Head back to the red booth near the start line. Step inside. Turn your Bike Passport to page 13 and find an empty dot labeled “아라서해갑문 인증센터” (Ara West Sea Lock). Dab the stamp on the ink pad and press down on your passport. Only eight-six more stamps to go!

아라서해갑문
인증센터
0 km (0 mi) from start
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Ara West Sea Lock certification center checkpoint stamp for Korea's Bicycle Certification system.

Cross the Start Line

Ink dry? Then let’s get down to business.

Start your cycle tracker app. Double check your water bottles. Tie down the loose bits. Let’s hit the bike path. 

Push past the Starting Line and under the gate.

Oh no! A hundred meters down the road, the bike path dead ends.

A bicycle only road sign in Korea.
Follow the Blue Lines & Signs

Look down! See a blue line on your path? Good.

Blue lines not only mark protected bike paths. They designated which country, coastal, and farmer roads allow cyclists.

Keep an eye out for blue bike signs, too. They sit at every intersection. On them, a bike icon and arrow will point you in the right direction.

Glance up at the blue sign at the end of the path. Its arrow points leftward across the access road. Hop over the street (road view) and onto the path with an overhead garden tunnel.

The path will take you by Arabit Island (아라빛섬) and under a pair of sweeping windmills.

Industry City

The park spits you into a grid of warehouses (road view); wide, industrial roads.

To stick to the official bike path, ride along the bike lanes carved into the pedestrian sidewalk. It loops around the outer perimeter of this warehouse district (directions) and dead ends on the Ara Waterway canal.

Alternate Path

Want a quicker route (directions)? When exiting the opening park, turn left (road view). Ride by warehouses and take the first right (road view) onto the industrial city’s main drag.

Turn left at the third street intersection (road view). Follow the road down a right bend, then hop left into a brick alley (road view). You’ll pop onto the Ara Waterway.

Square Lake

Bike in front of the Ara West Sea Lock on the Ara Bike Path.
The Ara Waterway connects the Han River with the Yellow Sea and absorbs flood waters.

The Ara Waterway connects the Han River with the Yellow Sea and absorbs flood waters.

Took the official bike path through the warehouse district? Stop when you reach the Ara Waterway. Though the main path continues right towards Seoul, head left.

Two hundred meters back down the Ara Waterway, come to a square lake (road view). This is the gaping mouth of the Ara West Sea Lock. On its concrete lips sit a bike rest area with vending machines, bathrooms, and a photo op.

Took the alternative path? No detour needed. The route flings you onto the square lake.

The City of Incheon

Behind Seoul and Busan, the city of Incheon (인천) is the third most populous city in Korea. With over three million residents, the city sits on the northwestern corner of the nation, with the Yellow Sea to its west and Seoul to its east.

Incheon is a part of the Seoul Capital Area (수도권), which includes Gyeonggi Province (경기도). However, Incheon holds its own unique history.

Guarding the gateway to Korea’s longtime capital, Incheon was the site of multiple foreign skirmishes, holds the country’s most famed Chinatowns, and the nation’s first smart city.

The Main Stretch

A biker on the Ara Bike Path in Incheon, South Korea.
The main stretch of bike path along the Ara Waterway runs flat, lies on both sides, and is littered with things to see.

The main stretch of bike path along the Ara Waterway runs flat, lies on both sides, and is littered with things to see.

From the Square Lake, continue east along the bicycle path towards Seoul.

After a few minutes of chugging along, stop by one of the rest area piers hanging over the water (road view). Glance across eighty-meter-wide Ara Waterway. Notice the bike path on the opposite side.

While the official Ara Bicycle Path runs along the canal’s south side, another bike road mirrors it on the north side. It boasts a separate suite of highlights.

Which side should you choose? Depends.

No time? Stick to the south side path. You won’t need to cross any bridges. And both the start and end points lie on this bottom bit.

Want to visit all Ara’s highlights? You’ll need to cross to the north side path. Keep reading and we’ll let you know when and how to cross.

Fourteen Bridges

A cyclists crossing a bridge on the Ara Bike Path.
The Baekseok Bridge (백석대교), along with the Sicheon and Gyeyang Bridges, provide elevator access directly from the bike path that helps riders quickly cross sides of the Ara Waterway.

The Baekseok Bridge (백석대교), along with the Sicheon and Gyeyang Bridges, provide elevator access directly from the bike path that helps riders quickly cross sides of the Ara Waterway.

Speaking of crossing, check the flying road on the horizon. Cheongun Bridge (청운교) is the first of fourteen bridges that hop the canal. Seven of the bridges offer pedestrian access.

Want to cross this canal spanner? You’ll need to venture back into warehouse city and find an on-ramp.

Don’t do that! Better bridges lie down the road. Ones with elevators and bike path access. No detours.

Ara Waterway Bridges

Here are the seven bridges along the Ara Waterway with pedestrian access. Notice the three bridges with elevator access.

  • Cheongun Bridge (청운교) — 3 km from start — long detour
  • Baekseok Bridge (백석대교) — 7 km from start — elevator access
  • Sicheon Bridge (시천교) — 8 km from start — elevator access
  • Moksang Bridge (목상교) — 11 km from start — short detour
  • Gyeyang Bridge (계양대교) — 13.5 km from start — elevator access
  • Hana Bridge (하나교) — 18.5 km from start — detour to stairs
  • Jeonho Bridge (전호교) — 20.5 km from start — direct access from bike path

Pedal under Cheongun Bridge. Four kilometers down the road, another overpass approaches: Baekseok Bridge (백석대교). It has an elevator sitting on the bike path.

Have the time? Cross to the north side of the canal and check out Dream Park (드림파크) and its golf course (드림파크CC).

What’s so dreamy about them? They used to be landfills. Now they’re clusters of green.

Sicheon Waterside

8 km (Ara Bike Path)
38%

Keep churning down the Ara Waterway.

One kilometer from Baekseok Bridge, fly by a 119 rescue building and seafood complex and stumble upon Sicheon Waterside (시천가람터), the Ara Waterway’s 3rd View.

A cyclists cross the Cloud Bicycle Man Statue on the Ara Bike Path.
Find the enormous Cycling Cloud Man statue spinning away under the bridge along the Sicheon Riverside.

Sicheon South Side

Let’s start on the south side.

Under Sicheon Bridge (시천교; road view) perches the enormous Cycling Cloud Man statue and one of five bicycle rental stations.

If you’re riding in warmer months, in the courtyard expansive, pop-up tents hawk bike parts. Families meander around miniature Dutch-inspired windmills (road view). Couples relax on swings for two. And a nearby waterside amphitheater (road view) hosts seasonal festivals.

Sicheon North Side

Head up the elevator and onto the Sicheon Bridge’s deck. Cross to the north.

Thirsty? Visit Cafe Ara. It’s just under the bridge. It’ll give you the energy to walk around Sicheon Park (시천가람터), whose horticultural features snake inland along Sincheon Bridge’s offramp.

Need to visit a bathroom? Park planners placed public restrooms on both sides of the Ara Waterway, notably under the canals’ bridges.

Bicycle Rental

There are five places to rent bikes along the Ara Waterway. These rental shops offer hourly rental of cruiser or hybrid bikes, starting at ₩4,000 per hour.

Now pick a side — north or south — and continue east towards Seoul.

Along either side of the canal, grass fields recede. Embankments rise and pinch the walking and cycling paths close.

Up ahead, Moksang Bridge (목상교; road view) spans earthen ridges above. After a short detour inland, it allows cyclists and pedestrians to cross.

The Ara Observation Platform and Ara Falls on the Ara Bike Path.
The Ara Observatory (아라마루) hangs above the bike path on the north side of the Ara Waterway. Just down the road, Ara Falls (아라폭포) spills.

Ara Observatory

Before you pass under Moksang Bridge’s arches, look up towards the north side embankment. Atop, a circular platform extends outwards. Is that a UFO? 

It’s the Ara Observatory (아라마루전망대), a forty-five meter high, glass bottom walkway.

Every day of the year, from 9 AM to 10 PM, brave souls venture onto the circular platform and gaze past their feet into the Ara Waterway.

How much? Free.

Want to spend some won (₩)? Visit the cafe and restaurant (road view) near the platform.

Ara Falls

11 km (Ara Bike Path (North Side))
52%
Ara Falls along the Ara Waterway in Incheon, South Korea.
Want to witness the awe of Ara Falls? Depending on the weather, come back at 11 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM, or 5 PM. They open the spigot for an our.

What’s that sound? A roar. Crashing water.

Between the observatory and Moksang bridge, discover Ara Falls (아라폭포), the Ara Waterway’s 4th View.

Soaking the north side bike path, the people-engineered waterfall spans 150 meters in width, 50 meter in height. Builders modeled it off of Inwang Jesaekdo (인왕제색도), a Joseon Dynasty era painting also known as “After the Rain at Mount Inwang.”

These pumped falls don’t gush 24/7. Depending on weather, workers open Ara Falls’ spigot between April and November.

Ara Waterfall Hours
  • 11:30 ~ 12:30
  • 13:30 ~ 14:30
  • 15:30 ~ 16:30
  • 17:00 ~ 18:00
  • 18:30 ~ 19:30 (Sat, Sun)

Stairs ascending either side of the waterfall allow sightseers to grab water speckled selfies. On top of the falls, it’s a hop to the Ara Observatory. 

Did you pick the South Side route? Don’t fret. Though you can’t climb the waterfall’s rocky walls, your distance provides the best photo op. Stop by a pier clinging to the south bank (road view), sip some water, and grab a wide shot of the white splashing Ara Falls.

Gyeyang Bridge

Keep cruising down the Ara Bike Path! We’re halfway to Seoul.

A kilometer beyond Ara Falls you’ll roll upon Gyeyang Bridge (계양대교). The giant glass turrets extending down from the roadway make it a terrific crossing point.

What’s inside these series of glass tubes? An elevator and stairs. Both the Gyeyang Bridge’s North (road view) and South (road view) Sides present a pair of these turrets. Each lead to the bridge’s deck and across.

Like the Sicheon Waterside, urban planners dropped bathrooms, bike rental huts, and more facilities on Gyeyang Bridge.

On the north side, near a statue of a leaping fish, rests a stack of pastel colored shipping containers dubbed the Gyeyang Art Street (계양아트스트리트).

An overhead view of the Ara Bicycle Path and Gyeongin Ara Waterway from Baekseok Bridge.
There's a reason the Ara Bicycle Path is considered the easiest in Korea. It runs flat and straight next to the Gyeongin Ara Waterway in Incheon.

Suhyangwon

14 km (Ara Bike Path (North Side))
67%

Want Ara Waterway’s 5th View? Pedal two minutes down the northern bike path. Here you’ll discover Suhyangwon (수향원; road view).

The site’s large, Joseon Dynasty inspired pavilion rests atop concrete pillars over the canal’s waters. Scattered in the courtyard around, find a few smaller pavilions, three traditional gates, and tile topped walls.

Tire? Remove your shoes and climb the stairs up to the main pavilion. Plop on the benches. Drink. Grab pics. Wave at cyclists flying past.

Duri Ecological Park

15 km (Ara Bike Path (South Side))
71%
Duri Ecological Park along the Ara Bike Path in Incheon, South Korea.
Duri Ecological Park is the 6th scenic view along the Ara Waterway canal in Incheon.

Refreshed? Before leaving the pavilion, glance to your left. On the south side of the waterway. A marshy mass idles under a highway bridge. That’s Duri Ecological Park (두리생태공원), the Ara Waterway’s 6th View.

Engineers built the park while constructing the canal. More than just a dash of green along the bike path, during downpours Duri Eco Park’s spongy marsh soaks and traps floodwaters. 

In the dry season, walkers stroll the raised boardwalks over the flower bedazzled wetlands; players smack around in the handball court under Gyuryeon Bridge (귤현대교; impossible to cross), and families pitch tents beside their cars at an auto-camping site.

The Gulpo Stream Trap

Keep those legs churning as the Ara Waterway bends east. We’re on the home stretch!.

If you’re cruising the south side, near the end of Duri Eco Park, notice a fork in the road (road view).

  • Turn left to continue along the waterway and under Gulpo Stream Bridge.
  • Turn right and hop up the embankment onto the same bridge.

Turn left. That’s your first inclination. The unbroken lane markings. The waterside bike path. Makes sense.

It’s a trap! The left fork covertly slips onto Gulpo Stream (굴포천), which drains into the Ara Waterway.

A sculpture park along the Ara Bike Path in Incheon, South Korea.
Find many interesting installations along the Ara Waterway, like this sculpture park on the south side of the canal, just past Duri Eco Park.

A few mindless kilometers past Gulpo Stream Bridge (굴포천1교) and you’ll notice a grittier ride (road view), tractors chugging, and greenhouses galore. You’re off path!

So turn right (road view)!

Climb up the embankment and stop on top of Gulpo Stream Bridge. Break out your phone and take a pic of the Ara Waterway statue (road view).

Roll down the bridge and back to water level. Down the way, peep a sculpture park driven into a green lawn below the path side embankment.

Ara Gimpo Terminal

19 km (Ara Bike Path)
90%

The Ara Gimpo Terminal (김포터미널) signals the end of the Ara Waterway. Claiming both sides of the canal, this transportation nexus is a passenger terminal, leisure facility, and cargo terminal.

South Side

Took the south side route. You’ll run smack into fields of shipping containers and warehouses.

Just under the Hana Bridge (하나교) the bike path veers right (road view). (Look for the blue sign!)

The next kilometer or two weaves along sidewalks in an industrial outpost, like the Ara Bike Path’s opening stages.

  • Follow the blue signs to the main industrial road (road view).
  • Crawl down the left (northern) sidewalk.
  • At the top of the road, the bike path wraps left (road view) then shoots onto a bicycle-only path (road view).

Hana Bridge Crossing

Want to avoid the industrial bit? Don’t want to miss the Ara Waterway’s 7th View? It’s not too late to cross north.

When you first turn into the industrial area, find a set of stairs extending (road view) from Hana Bridge (하나교). Climb them and cross north.

North Side

From Suhyangwon, did you stick to the north side?

Good. No forks. Just a straight shot to the Ara Waterway’s 7th View.

Pedal past Hana Bridge (하나교) and onto city sidewalks. Creep along the face of Hyundai Premium Outlet (현대아울렛). Turn right into the shopping mall’s cut-through road (road view).

Ara Gimpo Passenger Terminal

At the end of the cut-through sits Ara Gimpo Passenger Terminal (아라김포여객터미널). This glass building with sharp angles acts as the starting point for the Hyundai Cruise.

The water-bound excursion uses a sixty-six meter long, four deck tall ship to sail passengers down the Ara Waterway to the Sicheon Riverside. Some trips offer lunch or dinner and a show.

Ara Marina

Have a few minutes to spare? Bike behind the passenger terminal, along the water’s edge. Find the Ara Marina (김포마리나), which launches sailboats to speed boats to paddle boarders from its becalmed docks.

Finished admiring the nautical sights? Head north. Cycle around the marina’s rectangular inlet (directions) and over Jeonho Bridge (전호교), the last water-crosser along the Ara Waterway.

After landing on the south side of the canal, cruise down a sidewalk until you spot a 170-degree (road view).

This is where Ara’s north and south side bike roads converge.

Ara Hangang Lock

21 km (Ara Bike Path (South Side))
100%

Follow the bicycle path as it curls around and under Jeonho Bridge (전호교). Cross under the overpass and you’ve entered Seoul’s city limits.

Ara Hangang Control Tower & Lock

Ara Hangang Lock Certification Center on the Ara Bike Path.
The Ara Hangang Lock Certification Center marks the end of the Ara Bicycle Path. Take a rest and look out at the view of the Han River as it passes by Seoul.

The route climbs an embankment and slides past Ara Hangang Lock’s (아라한강갑문) control tower (road view).

Like its sister, the Ara West Sea Lock, this tower controls the water level of a chamber which lifts and lowers ships as they pass between the Ara Waterway and Han River.

The Hangang (한강; “Han River”) Lock, however, is small. The West Lock boasts two chambers and accepts container ships as they chug inland to Ara Gimpo Terminal. The Han River lock only holds a small chamber for cruise and leisure craft to pop on the Han for sightseeing fun.

Han River

Curl around the top of the embankment and grab your first view of the Han River (한강) from over a metal railing (road view). The sight of the ancient river’s current as it courses from deep in the nation’s heartland forms the Ara Waterway’s 8th and final view.

Pause and bask in the bike path’s ending. Below, the Ara canal gulps river water. Haengju Bridge (행주대교) stretches in the distance. And on the riverbank below hums Gangseo Hangang Park, the first of twelve Han River parks that will carry you through Seoul.

Don’t roll into Seoul just yet. Glance to your right. Tucked in the corner of a hairpin turn, find the Ara Hangang Lock Certification Center (아라한강갑문인증센터), the second and final checkpoint along the Ara Bike Path (road view).

Pull out your bike passport. Turn to page 13. Step inside the red booth and claim your stamp.

아라한강갑문
인증센터
21 km (13 mi) from start
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Ara Hangang Lock certification center checkpoint stamp for Korea's Bicycle Certification system.

Finished? Hydrated? Refueled? Climb aboard your bike and glide into Seoul (road view), continuing your Cross-Country Route on the Hangang Bicycle Path into Seoul.