Cross-Country Routes icon.

Cross-Country Route

Ride the length of Korea, from Incheon to Busan.

The Cross-Country Route follows a series of cycling paths and picturesque country roads from South Korea’s northwest to the southeast tip of the peninsula.

Four separate certification bike paths create the route, each strung together to form a continuous path.

The Stats

Start
Incheon City
(인천시)
← 633 km →
34 hours
End
Busan City
(부산시)
Checkpoints Logo
Checkpoints (29)
Bus Icon
Bus Terminals
Link button to Kakao Maps directions.
Directions
Link button to Kakao Maps Highlights.
Highlights

Cycle a short stretch from the Yellow Sea, down a canal, and onto the edge of Seoul.

Cycle a short stretch from the Yellow Sea, down a canal, and onto the edge of Seoul.

Ride the Han and South Han Rivers through Seoul, into tunnels, over weirs, and by river isles.

Ascend two mountain passes near an ancient highway in the middle of Korea.

Ascend two mountain passes in Korea’s middle near an ancient highway.

Ascend two mountain passes near an ancient highway in the middle of Korea.

Track the Nakdong River by architectural wonders, ancient academies, and bird sanctuaries.

Track the Nakdong River by architectural wonders, ancient academies, and bird sanctuaries.

Overview

The Ara Bicycle Path starts near the Yellow Sea in Incheon City. It rides east for a quick 21 kilometers and ends on the Han River in Seoul.

The Han River (Hangang) Bike Path continues the Cross-Country Route. It flies through the capital’s core, offering glimpses at iconic highlights.

After leaving the mega-city, travel the pastoral South Han River. Ride old rail bridges and tunnels, by watergates, and past river islands filled with migrating birds.

In the middle of Korea, the Saejae Bike Path takes over the Cross-Country Route. It ascends two mountain passes near the highest point of an ancient highway. Discover waterfalls, hot springs, and high-angle views along the way.

Dive onto the Nakdong River (Nakdonggang) Bike Path, the last leg of the Cross-Country tour. Wind south down the Nakdong River, the nation’s longest. Zig past eight weirs. Zag around Daegu City. And climb spiky hills overlooking ancient Confucian academies and hanok villages.

The Cross-Country Route ends near where the Nakdong River spills into the Korea Strait in Busan City on the southwest corner of the peninsula.

The Four Rivers Restoration Project

Throughout Korean history, the country’s rivers had a bad temper. They flooded. They dried up. They swept away riverside folk.

So in the 1980s, the government hatched a plan to control the Han, Korea’s most notorious river. They built dams (Paldang Dam) and weirs (Jamsil Bridge) to control its flow. Then workers dredged the riverbed to prevent sudden changes in its course after floods.

The taming of the Han spurred exponential development in Seoul. So the government extended the program to the South Han, Nakdong, Geum, and Yeongsan Rivers.

Enter the Four Rivers Restoration Project (4대강 정비 사업). From July 2009 to October 2011, several government agencies (Ministry of Land, K-water) spent ₩22 trillion ($18 billion) to:

  • Construct fifteen weirs (water gates) and four dams along these four rivers.
  • Dredge 5.2 billion square meters of riverbed.
  • Establish hydrophilic zones to absorb flood waters and create wildlife havens.
  • Install riverside parks and recreation areas.

The effect? Tamer rivers. Secured water resources in a changing climate. And, according to environmentalists, decimated wetlands.

Bike Paths

The Four Rivers Project’s planners added one more project to the to-do-list.

They built and bridged existing bike paths, creating 1,728 kilometers of cycling route along the Han, Nakdong, Geum, and Yeongsan Rivers. Hence, the Four Rivers Bicycle Certification.

(Both River Guide (K-water) and Bicycle Happy Sharing (Ministry of Interior and Safety) operate Korea’s Bicycle Certification System. While River Guide focuses on rivers, both share important duties.

(For example, you can buy Bike Passports, certification medals, and more from the River Guide website. Bicycle Happy Sharing maintains the Bike Passport app.)

Dams & Weirs

Here is a list of dams and weirs on Korea’s certification cycling paths:

Ara Bicycle Path

The Ara Bicycle Path (아라 자전거길; map) begins (or ends) the Cross-Country Route. Just 21 kilometers long, this route is the shortest and flattest of all Korea’s certification bike paths.

Begin at the Ara West Sea Lock, which transfers boats between the Ara Gyeongin Canal and Yellow Sea (황해; “West Sea”; map) in Incheon City (인천시; map).

Travel east along the canal, passing waterside parks, a cruise terminal, and an artificial waterfall.

The Ara Bike Path finishes at the Ara Hangang Lock, the opposite end of the Ara Canal. It passes boats between the canal and Han River in Seoul (서울특별시; map).

Read More

Below, find all the resources you need to bike the Ara Bike Path.

Hangang Bicycle Path

The Hangang Bicycle Path, or “Han River” Bike Path, traverses both the Han (한강; map) and South Han Rivers (남한강; map). At 192 kilometers long, it’s the second longest and second leg of the Cross-Country Route.

Korea’s bike path certification system officially breaks the Hangang Bicycle Path in two:

  1. Hangang Bicycle Path (Seoul) (한강 자전거길 (서울구간); map)
  2. Namhangang Bicycle Path (남한강 자전거길; map)

The Hangang Bike Path (Seoul) begins where the Ara Bike Path ends. It straddles both the Han River’s north and south banks through Seoul, offering access to the city’s highlights, including the National Assembly, Namsan Mountain and Tower, Lotte Tower, and Banpo Fountain Bridge.

Just outside Seoul, meet the Namhangang Bicycle Path. It tracks the South Han River (Namhangang; 남한강) through Gyeonggi and into North Chungcheong Province in center of the peninsula.

This route travels a retired section of the Gyeongui-Jungang Line using retrofitted bridges and tunnels. In Yeoju, tour a royal tomb, watergates, and river islands.

The Namhangang Bike Path ends at the Chungju Dam Certification Center above downtown Chungju.

(Riding for the Cross-Country Certification? You don’t need the Chungju Dam stamp. It sits at the end of a 16-kilometer detour. From the Binaeseom Certification Center, head directly to the Chungju Tangeumdae Certification Center, the first on the Saejae Bike Path.)

Read More

Below, find pages with useful info about the Hangang Bike Path.

Saejae Bicycle Path

The Saejae Bicycle Path (새재 자전거길; map) forms the third section of the Cross-Country Route. Though short (100 km), it presents the greatest challenge among Korea’s certification paths.

Begin in Chungju City, near the center of the peninsula. Ascend the Sojo Mountain Pass (소조령; map), then the Ihwa Mountain Pass (이화령; map). They sport 139 and 305-meter climbs.

Sail past mountain towns with hot springs, holy sites, waterfalls, and magnificent high-angle lookout spots

The Saejae Bike Path gets its name from the Mungyeong Saejae Pass. Now a provincial park with fortress gates, it was the highest point on the Great Yeongnam Road, which connected Seoul to Busan during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 ~ 1897). The name “Saejae” (새재) loosely translates to “a mountain pass so high, even birds have a hard time crossing it.”

Saejae Bike Path ends on the Nakdong River at Sangju Sangpung Bridge Certification Center on the edge of Sangju City.

Read More

Below, find pages with useful info, tips, and ride-throughs for the Saejae Bike Path.

Nakdonggang Bicycle Path

Korea’s longest cycling road (324 km), the Nakdonggang Bicycle Path (낙동강 자전거길; map) follows South Korea’s longest river, the Nakdong River (낙동강; map).

The Nakdonggang Bike Path doesn’t begin where the Saejae Bike Path ends. It starts 70 kilometers east of the Cross-Country Route.

The Nakdonggang Bike Path follows the winding Nakdong by a smorgasbord of historic, natural, and aesthetic sites. A handful of spiky hills offer panoramas of the coursing waterway.

Among the course’s many highlights, find eight Four Rivers Project weirs. Designed to reflect local history and culture, these watergates tamed the flood-prone Nakdong River.

The Nakdonggang Bike Path and Cross-Country Route end near where the Nakdong River spills into the Korea Strait (남해; “South Sea”; map). Cross the finish line on Eulsukdo Island (을숙도; map), a river isle in Busan City (부산시; map), Korea’s second largest city.

Read More

Find all the resources you need to bike the Ara Bike Path below.

Bike Path Types

Other than the Saejae Bicycle Path, most of the Cross-Country Route rides on protected cycle paths.

  • 70% Bike Path
  • 20% Country Road
  • 10% Farm Road

Peak season, beware of paths in and around Seoul and Busan. Folks of all ages and skill levels crowd the cycling roads. Mixed with dawdling couples and feral young ones, you’ll often find traffic jams and raging cyclists. Keep calm and forgive.

Outside the metropolises, cycle traffic thins out. Stay alert and keep your lane, however. Make way for cyclists on a speedrun.

Worried about vehicle roads? The Cross-Country Route travels a handful of them. However, long ago, modern, mountain-boring highways siphoned off long-distance travelers. Occasional bongo trucks and sightseeing SUVs haunt the pavement, though.

While much of the bike path travels through municipal riverside parks, some of the route’s linking sections use farmer access roads. Tractors with wide tread often drop mud clumps in the bike lanes.

Time & Distance

The Cross-Country Route is long (633 km; 393 mi) and climbs the tallest peak (539 m; 1768 ft) among all Korea’s certification paths.

Strong cyclists averaging over 20 km/h (12 mph) over ten hours could complete the course in three to four days.

For a sightseeing pace, ride 12 km/h (8 mph) and budget six to eight days. That’s plenty of time for breezy breaks, long lunches, and memory cards full of photos.

Depending on your goals, your total distance will vary. Several bike paths run along opposite sides of the same waterway. (Seoul’s North and South Sides. Changnyeong to Busan.)

And two detours travel to far-flung certification centers (Chungju Dam & Andong Dam). Together, they add up to 86 kilometers of extra pavement. However, you don’t need these stamps for the Cross-Country Certification.

Remember, bus terminals line the route. Use them to jump on and off the bike paths. Conquer the country bit-by-bit.

How to Get There

Coming from overseas? Lucky you. The Cross-Country Route’s start and finish lines perch within kilometers of Korea’s first and third largest airports: Incheon International and Gimhae International.

Starting domestically? Again, fortune favors you. The route’s opening and closing cities, Incheon and Busan, come equipped with subways. So do Seoul and Daegu. With a few exceptions, their lines allow cyclists and full-size bikes aboard on weekends and holidays.

Conquering the bike paths bit-by-bit? Golden spoons galore! Intercity buses, which allow bikes in their undercarriages, bless every city along the route. In fact, the city-to-city guides start and end in urban centers equipped with motels, restaurants, and intercity bus terminals.