Incheon ⟷ Seoul
Incheon ⟷ Seoul
Here you are. The city of Incheon (인천) along the Yellow Sea. The Ara West Sea Lock 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 in the sea air. Look around. There are lots to see.
Ara West Sea Lock
Where are you exactly? 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, you’ll come to a wide, square-shaped gulp of water held calm by a weir. 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 and adjust them to either the Ara Waterway or Yellow Sea’s water level.
Gyeongin Ara Passenger Terminal and Tower
Let’s continue our static pan around the area. Glance to your left. You’ll spot two impressive buildings connected by a swooped awning.
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, most importantly, a Bicycle Certification Center. More on that below.
This building provides access to the Ara Observation Tower (아라타워). This twenty-four store tower gives views of the surrounding area. While the tower is free, the cafe and restaurant charges for their steak dishes and sunset sights.
Jeongseojin Square and Sunset Bell
Let’s keep scanning across the horizon. On your left, on the corner of the near block, you’ll 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 it descends through the Sunset Bell’s bell-shaped hole. As you’d expect, lovers visit the area for 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.
Look in front of you. A Start Gate arching over the bike path reads “서울 (Seoul) 21 km” and “부산 (Busan) 633 km.”
The K-water logo is plastered on the bottom corner of the Start Gate. Who are they?
K-water is a public/private corporation that manages Korea’s water resources. Working with local and federal agencies, K-water built and maintains much of Korea’s cycling infrastructure.
Yellow Sea and Yeongjong Island
The sea gets its name from the gusts of wind that swipe sand from China’s Gobi desert and sprinkle the yellow silt over the waves.
The Yellow Sea? It’s more than a sea. When the tide recedes, it becomes the world’s largest tidal mudflats. This endless expanse may look like bland, brown goop. However, it facilitates an awe-inspiring display of endurance and perseverance.
Every spring and fall the muddy expanse becomes one of the major stops 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 (West) Sea, what do these max-out creatures do? They land. Then they eat. They shove their beaks into the sticky, soft mud and root around for the worms, mollusks, and shrimp wriggling just underneath.
During migratory season, waves birds pause for a few days and gorge their shrunken organs. They double their body weight, preparing from the next 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) leg of their journey up to the thawing tundras of Siberia or 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 dried dark, dank dredges of the Yellow (West) Sea mudflats. Or a red-crowned crane resting before continuing its annual migration marathon.
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, also known as certification centers.
Inside each phone booth sits a stamp to mark your bike passport. You’ll win awards for filling up your passport with stamps.
Head back to the red phone booth near the start line. Step inside. Turn your 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 (86) more checkpoints to go!
Cross the Start Line
Okay. Everything settled? Let’s get down to business. Start your cycle tracker app. Double check your water bottles. Tie down any loose bits. Let’s hit the bike path.
Push off passed the Starting Line and under the gate.
Oh no! A hundred meters down the road, the bike path dead ends.
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 and onto the path with an overhead garden tunnel.
The park spits you into a grid of warehouses. Wide, industrial roads.
Keep to the official bike path. Stick to the well defined two lane bike path carved into the pedestrian sidewalk. It loops around the outer perimeter of warehouses and dead ends on the Ara Waterway.
Turn left at the third street light. Follow the road down a right bend, then hop onto a brick alley marked with a 7-Eleven. This will pop you back onto the Ara Waterway.
If you take the official bike path, when you reach the Ara Waterway, stop! The main path continues to the right, eastward towards Seoul. But before you continue, head left.
Two hundred meters back towards the start line you’ll come upon a square lake: the gaping mouth of the Ara West Sea Lock. On the concrete shores sit a bike rest area with vending machines, bathrooms, and a terrific photo op.
(If you took the alternative path up the main industrial drag, the brick alley will lead you directly to this site.)
Behind Seoul and Busan, the city of Incheon (인천) is the third most populous city in Korea, holding over three million residents. The city sits on the northwestern corner of South Korea, 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). Many of Incheon’s residents commute to Seoul via the Airport Express (AREX) or Subway Line 1, which extended across both cities.
The Main Stretch
Let’s continue east along the bicycle path, towards Seoul. The eighty meter wide Ara Waterway passes on our left.
Stop at a pier rest area. Glance across the water. Notice the bike path on the opposite side.
While the official bike path crawls along the southern bit of the canal, there is an equally impressive stretch of path just across the water, with its own unique landmarks and highlights.
So, which side should you choose? Depends.
Want speed? Stick to the southern path. You won’t need to cross any bridges. And both the start and end points lie on this bottom bit.
Want to check out all the highlights? Keep reading. We’ll tune you in to the landmarks and crossing points.
Speaking of crossing, as you glide down the red bike path, notice the Cheongun Bridge (청운교) overhead. It’s the first of fourteen (or sixteen) bridges that hop the canal. Seven of the bridges offer pedestrian access.
Want to cross to the north now? You’ll need to loop back into warehouse city to find the Cheongun Bridge’s on-ramp.
Don’t do that! Better bridges lie down the road. They have elevators directly from the bike path to the bridge roadways. No detours.
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
Have the time? Cross to the north side of the canal and check out Dream Park (드림파크 야생화단지) and golf course (드림파크컨트리클럽). What’s dreamy about them? They used to be landfills. Now they’re clusters of green.
Sicheon South Side
Let’s start on the south side.
Under the Sicheon Bridge (시천교) rests the enormous Cycling Cloud Man statue. Near the bridge’s pillar, you’ll find one of five bicycle rental stations. Down the path, a waterside amphitheater and stage hosts seasonal festivals.
If you’re riding in the warmer months, pop-up tents hawk bike parts. Park goers meander around miniature Dutch-inspired windmills, relax on swings. Venders sling snacks and drinks.
Sicheon North Side
Head up the elevator attached to the Sicheon Bridge and cross to the north.
Need to visit a bathroom? Urban planners dropped facilities on both sides of the canal. In fact, they placed public restrooms and more by most of the Ara Waterway’s bridges.
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.
Pick a side (north or south) and continue on the bike path towards Seoul.
Along either side of the canal, embankments rise and squeeze the pedestrian and cycling paths together.
Before you pass under Moksang Bridge’s arches, stop! Look up! A circular platform extends outwards from the northern embankment. Is that a UFO?
It’s the Ara Observatory (아라마루), a forty-five meter high, glass bottom walkway.
Glass bottom? You read right! Every day of the year, from 9 AM to 10 PM, brave souls can venture into the circular platform and gaze past their feet into the Ara Waterway.
Yeah, but how much? It’s free. Want to spend some coin? Visit the cafe and restaurant just behind the observatory.
Soaking the northern bike path, Ara Falls is a 150 meters wide, 50 meter tall man-made waterfall. Builders modeled it off of Inwang Jesaekdo (인왕제색도), a Joseon Dynasty era painting, a.k.a. “After the Rain at Mount Inwang.
Beware, the waterfall doesn’t pour down 24/7. Depending on weather conditions, expect to catch an hour of waterfall every two hours between April and November.
- Waterfall Hours: 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 3:00 PM, and 5:00 PM.
Stairs ascending either side of the waterfall allow sightseers to get close and grab selfies. Once at the top, hop over to the Ara Observatory, cafe and restaurant.
On the south side of the canal? Stop at the pier rest area. It’s the best photo op spot.
Keep riding! We’re halfway to Seoul.
What’s inside these series of glass tubes? An elevator and stairs.
Like the Sicheon Waterside, urban planners dropped bathrooms, bike rental huts, and more facilities on either side of Gyeyang Bridge.
Suhyangwon comprises a courtyard with large and small traditional pavilions, three gates, and tile topped walls. Designers modeled the site after a royal Joseon Dynasty era courtyard.
Atop concrete pillars, the larger pavilion rests near the canal’s waters. Remove your shoes and climb the pavilion’s stairs. Take a break. Drink water. Grab pics.
Duri Ecological Park
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.
The canal’s planners established during the construction. During heavy flooding, the spongy marsh morphs into a buffer, trapping excess floodwater.
During the dry season, walkers stroll the raised boardwalks over the spongy, flower bedazzled wetland.
We’re on the home stretch! The Ara Waterway bends northeast.
If you’re cruising the south side, near the end of Duri Eco Park, notice a fork in the road.
The left fork continues along the waterway and under a bridge. The right path hops up the embankment onto the same bridge.
If you continue left along the water, you’ll leave the Ara Bicycle Path and slip onto the Gulpo Stream (굴포천). A few minutes down the path your wheels will churn gritty paths amidst tractors and farmland.
Descending back to water level, peep the Sculpture Park (아라뱃길뱃길조각공원) carved in the sliver between the bike path and embankment.
Ara Gimpo Passenger Terminal
The Ara Gimpo Terminal (김포터미널) signals the end of the Ara Waterway. The terminal takes up both sides of the canal. It includes:
- Ara Gimpo Passenger Terminal (아라김포여객터미널) — north side
- Ara Marina (김포마리나) — north side
- A shipping container terminal (김포터미널) — south side
If you took the southern bike path, you’ll run smack into fields of shipping containers and warehouses.
Like the Ara Waterway’s opening stage, the bike path weaves along sidewalks in an industrial outpost.
Follow the blue signs to the main industrial road. The bike path follows the left (northern) sidewalk. At the top of the road, the bike path wraps around a turn. Then, it breaks off onto a bicycle-only path.
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.
If you stick to the north path past Suhyangwon (수향원), don’t worry about forks in the path or industrial bits. You have a (relative) straight shot to Ara Waterway’s 7th View, The Ara Gimpo Passenger Terminal (아라 김포여객터미널).
The Hyundai Cruise employs a sixty-six meter long, four deck tall ship to whisk passengers down the Ara Waterway to the Sicheon Riverside (시천가람터). For a few won more, grab lunch or dinner or watch a live show. Night cruises offer a fireworks show.
If you have time to sightsee, bike down the water’s edge behind near the passenger terminal. You’ll come upon the Ara Marina (김포마리나). Everything from sailboats to speed boats to paddle boarders bob around its docks.
After landing on the south side of the canal, cruise down the sidewalk path until you spot the 170-degree turn onto a bicycle-only path.
A gaggle of blue signs mark the turn. This is also where the north and south Ara Waterway bike paths converge.
Ara Hangang Lock
Follow the bicycle path as it curls around and under Jeonho Bridge (전호교). Once past, you crossed the veil into Seoul’s city limits.
Ara Hangang Control Tower & Lock
Follow the bike path up the embankment, towards the Ara Hangang Lock (아라한강갑문) control tower. It stands above the Ara Hangang Lock.
Like the Ara West Sea Lock, this tower either lifts or lowers ships to the Ara Waterway and Han River’s water levels.
Unlike the western lock, there is only one gate. It accommodates mostly cruise ships. Container ships unload their cargo back at the Gimpo terminal and loop back out to the Yellow Sea.
Below you, the canal gulps. The Haengju Bridge (행주대교) spans the waters in the distance. On the riverbank below hangs the Han River Park Gangeo (한강공강서원), one of a series of twelve parks that line the Han River in Seoul.
Stop! Before you conclude your Ara Waterway Bicycle Path journey, glance to your right.
The Ara Hangang Lock Certification Center (아라한강갑문인증센터) sits atop the embankment, tucked into the corner of the rest area.
Pull out your bike passport. Turn to page 13. Step inside the red booth and claim your stamp.
Finished? Took all your pics? Hydrated? Refueled? Climb aboard your bike and roll down the other side of the embankment.