Bike Path Overview
Three Rivers, Three Bike Paths
Let’s take apart their names.
- “Buk” (북) means “north”
- “Nam” (남) means “south”
- “Gang” (강) means “river”
So Buk + Han + Gang (북 + 한 + 강) translates to “North Han River.”
And Nam + Han + Gang (남 + 한 + 강) translates to “South Han River.”
These two waterways converge east of Seoul to create the Han River (Han + Gang; 한 + 강). It stretches for 138 kilometers through Seoul and western Gyeonggi Province before spilling into the Yellow Sea.
Hangang (Seoul) Bicycle Path
Namhangang Bicycle Path
The Namhangang Bicycle Path picks up where the Hangang (Seoul) Bike Path leaves off. It crosses Yangpyeong Dumulmeori (양평 두물머리), where the North and South Han Rivers converge, then continues along the South Han River, carrying riders through Gyeonggi Province and into Chungju City.
Bukhangang Bicycle Path
The Bukhangang Bicycle Path follows the North Han River (Bukhangang). It starts in Chuncheon City (춘천시) and ends seventy kilometers later at Yangpyeong Dumulmeori (양평 두물머리), where the North and South Han Rivers converge.
Bukhangang Bicycle Path is not a part of the Cross-Country Route. It connects only with the Namhangang Bike Path at its southern end.
The Unified Hangang Bicycle Path
Let’s simplify. In most contexts, I’ll clump the Hangang (Seoul) Bicycle Path and Namhangang Bicycle Path into one, referring to them as the Hangang Bicycle Path. Both connect and follow the Cross-Country Route.
The Bukhangang Bicycle Path isn’t a part of the Hangang Bike Path. Though unique and verdant, the path is a one-off, seventy-kilometer detour.
Lost in Translation
All those consonant-dense bike path names are just a case of overzealous transcription.
- Hangang Bike Path — “Han River Bike Path”
- Nakdonggang Bike Path — “Nakdong River Bike Path”
- Yeongsangang Bike Path — “Yeongsan River Bike Path”
Unless it’s an official title, I’ll translate every Korean word into English. No phoneticizing.
The Hangang Bike Path — Hangang (Seoul) and Namhangang — runs 192 kilometers. It starts from the Ara Hangang Lock Certification Center on the western border of Seoul and ends at the Chungju Dam Certification Center in Chungju City.
The cycling journey passes through the heart of Seoul, then travels below the tree-smattered hillsides along South Han River.
Hangang (Seoul) Bike Path
The Hangang (Seoul) Bike Path flows along both the North and South Sides of Han River in the middle of Korea’s capital. Each side offers over 50 kilometers of bike path, passing back-to-back riverside parks.
Bike Seoul’s North Side
Bike Seoul’s South Side
The South Side bike path meanders for a breezy 53.6 kilometers, passing through seven Hangang Parks on the south banks of the Han River.
Representing the main Cross-Country Route, you only need to grab the South Side’s two certification center stamps to complete the Hangang and Cross-Country Certifications. If you travel along the North Side, cross over and grab the Yeouido stamp.
Namhangang Bike Path
The Namhangang Bike Path starts at Paldang Bridge, where the Hangang (Seoul) Bike Path ends. It travels 132 kilometers through Gyeonggi and North Chungcheong Province, concluding at the Chungju Dam Certification Center.
Along the way, it rides on a converted railway, passes three metal-molded weirs, and picturesque river islands.
Bike Seoul to Yeoju
The route from Seoul to Yeoju travels over a decommissioned railroad bridge, by repurposed train station, and through eight old rail tunnels. It also crosses two of three South Han weirs, whose designs reflect the local culture.
In Yeoju City, find the tomb of King Sejong, Korea’s most revered ancient leader.
Bike Yeoju to Chungju
The route from Yeoju to Chungju sinks deeper into the countryside. Climb a few inland hills after passing the last Han River Weir. Then sail by bird sanctuaries, river islands, until you reach Chungju, the center of the Korean Peninsula.
From downtown Chungju, you have a choice:
The Hangang Bike Path doesn’t feature the fearful mountains of the Saejae Bike Path or spiky surprises of the East Coast Route. But you will find a handful of humorless hills.
Let’s map out the most notable.
Amsa & Mieumnaru Passes
Near the end of the Hangang Bike Path in Seoul rise a pair of passes, each straddling the same section of the Han on either.
- Total Climb: a 42-meter ascent over 605 meters with a 6.9% average incline.
- Total Climb: 40 meters uphill across 875 meters for a 4.6% average incline.
Throngs of cyclists with differing skill levels and risk tolerances cram onto these narrow bike paths. This creates a dangerous combo. Keep your safety senses keen.
The South Han Passes
Like Seoul’s bike path, the South Han River runs flat. However, a few riverside mountains force the route inland and up steep accents.
- Total climb: a 75-meter rise over 980 meters with a 7.7% average incline.
Total climb: 52 meters up across 1.3 kilometers with a 4% average incline.
Bike Path Types
Worried about riding on roads beset by careening cars? Don’t fear. Over 90% of the Hangang Bike Path traverses bike-only lanes. Countryside, however, the route hops onto bucolic roads for short stretches.
The Seoul City Paths
Much like the Ara Bicycle Path, “leisure” best describes Seoul’s bike paths. No vehicle roads. No shared pedestrian walkways. Just an uninterrupted cycling path that tracks the Han River’s flat course.
Don’t minimize your safety protocols. Perilous people await.
In the sunny months, Seoul’s parks swell with families, waddling young ones, canoodling couples, and shaved cyclists approaching highway speeds.
When in popular areas like Yeouido and Ttukseom, expect awareness-disabled park goers step into bike lanes. Predict cyclists checking their phones mid-pedal. And, kids? Not even the next century’s supercomputers could calculate their feral movements.
The Namhangang Paths
Most of the route along the Namhangang (South Han River) follows protected bike lanes. However, the farther outside of Seoul, the more you’ll encounter country roads.
Farmers & Fishers
Think building a recreational bike path in the sparsely populated countryside is a waste of tax dollars? Well, local governments agree.
A good portion of the Namhangang Bike Path follows bike-only roads. However, municipalities often co opt the path to allow farmers and locals access to farm fields and the river.
Don’t show surprise when you find yourself:
- playing chicken with a chugging tractor.
- swerving around mud clumps dropped from fist-wide treads.
- dodging a fisherman’s SUV sneaking closer to his favored fishing spot.
As we explored while learning about elevation, waterside mountains force the Namhangang Bike Path onto vehicle-dwelling pavement.
Here are four of the Namhangang’s longest country-lane stretches:
- 2.8 kilometers before Gaegun Leports Park (directions).
- 5.1 kilometers after Gangcheon Island (directions).
- 11 kilometers before and after Binae Island (directions).
- 4.1 kilometers near downtown Chungju (directions).
While each of these detours holds an incline or two, the rural roads keep a low-anxiety lifestyle. Little traffic. Minimal bother.
Together, the Hangang and Namhangang Bicycle Paths hold ten (10) certification centers.
You don’t need stamps from the Bukhangang Bicycle Path for the Cross-Country certification.
In Seoul, the Ttukseom Observatory Complex and Gwangnaru Bicycle Park Certification Centers lie across the river from one another. Grab one and the other automatically counts towards the Hangang and Cross-Country certifications.
An Extra Stamp
Under the Bukhanggang Railroad Bridge in Namyangju City, you’ll find the Balgeun Gwangjang Certification Center. This red booth is the first on the Bukhangang Bicycle Path. It’s not a stamp for either the Hangang Path.
The Han River
For most of its length, the Han River (한강) flows as North and South waterways, both starting from the eastern flanks of the peninsula. Near Seoul, they converge and forge a wide path through the center of the capital.
The Han is only the fourth longest on the peninsula (2nd in South Korea). But this ancient waterway represents history and power for North and South Koreans.
The Han River spends 375 kilometers of its total 513-kilometer length as two rivers:
At Yangpyeong Dumulmeori on the eastern edge of Seoul, the two rivers combine and flow 138 kilometers through the mega-city and Gyeonggi Province until it spills into the Yellow (West) Sea (황해) along the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).
It was once believed that whoever controlled the Han controlled the peninsula. Why?
- Like the Nile, the river produced and sustained fertile soil and bountiful farmland.
- Its 320 kilometers (200 miles) of navigable waterway connected Korea’s heartland with the Yellow Sea and trade with China and Japan.
- The Han River rests in the center of the peninsula, making it an ancient highway that moved product, troops, and tax collectors.
The Hangang Bike Path not only covers Seoul, Korea’s most highlighted plagued cities, it extends down the South Han River, past architecturally spiced weirs, river islands, and marshy parks.
While the below list picks out a few notable sights, many more landmarks and natural wonders populate the path.
Let’s take the Hangang Bike Path tour.
Yeouido, or Yeoui Island, is an 8.4 square kilometer (3.2 sq mi) patch of land on the southern banks of the Han River in Seoul. Known as “Seoul’s Manhattan” and “Korean Wall Street,” this island from humble beginnings now holds Korea’s main congressional building and dozens of gleaming skyscrapers.
The River Parks of Seoul
- Gangseo Hangang Park
- Yanghwa Hangang Park
- Yeouido Hangang Park
- Banpo Hangang Park
- Jamwon Hangang Park
- Jamsil Hangang Park
- Gwangnaru Hangang Park
And because the Han River passes through the middle of Seoul, the bike paths slither near the capital’s major landmarks.
Views of the Namhangang
Outside of Korea’s capital, the bike path hops onto the Namhangang, or South Han River Bicycle Path, and sails into the middle of Korea.
- 1st View — Yangpyeong Dumulmeori (양평 두물머리)
- 2nd View — The silver grass near the town of Yangpyeong (양평 억새림)
- 3rd View — Ipo Weir (이포보)
- 4th View — Yeoju Weir (여주보)
- 5th View — Gangcheon Weir (강천보)
- 6th View — Gangcheon Island (강천섬)
- 7th View — Neungam-ri Island in Chungju (충주 능암리섬)
- 8th View — Tangeumdae Park (탄금대)
Gangcheon, Binae, & Neungam Village Islands
Near the bottom of the Hangang Bike Path lie three notable islands in the South Han River: Gangcheon, Binae, and Neungam Village Islands. This trio hosts eco-tourist staples like walking trails, silver-haired grass, and migratory bird sanctuaries.
How To Get There
You have four options to transport you and your bike onto the bike path.
Ten commuter trains integrate into the Seoul Subway System and pass into the capital’s satellite cities. Like subways, most allow full-size bikes aboard on weekends and holidays.
Subways and trains are best for getting around Seoul on the weekends. Intercity buses, however, let riders access southern parts of the Hangang Bike Path (a.k.a. Namhangang).
Year-round, they travel to every city and county along the South Han River. Just buy a ticket, nestle your bike in the intercity bus’s underbelly, and hop aboard.
Districts on the Han
Below find a complete list of cities, counties, and provinces on the Han River. You can also find links the bike path breakdowns.
Seoul Special City (서울특별시; Seoul-si) is the gravitational center of Korea. Like London is to the U.K., Paris is to France, everything flows to and from the megacity. It:
- is the capital of South Korea.
- claims the headquarters of most Korean corporations.
- houses the biggest K-Pop labels.
- boasts the most awe-inspiring cultural relics.
Gyeonggi Province (경기도) is the most populous province in Korea. Why? The name says it all, translating to “the area around the capital.” But the province not only surrounds Seoul City (서울특별시; Seoul-si), the largest city. It also cuddles up to Incheon (인천시), Korea’s third largest metropolis.
Hanam City (하남시; Hanam-si) is satellite cities of Seoul (서울특별시; Seoul-si). First established in 1989, the city closely ties itself to the capital, borrowing many resources, including a subway (Line 5; 5호선) and commuter train (Gyeongui–Jungang Line; 경의·중앙선).
Yangpyeong County (양평군) sits on the South Han River (남한강; Namhangang) near the middle-north of South Korea. Its borders touch the bottom of Hanam City (하남시) in the north and the top of Yeoju City (여주시) in the south.
Yeoju City (여주시) lies on the southeastern edge of of Gyeonggi Province (경기도; Gyeonggi-do). South Korea recognizes Yeoju for two things.
- Its farmlands were some of the first to cultivate rice on the Korean peninsula.
- And the city birthed and holds the tombs for some of Korea’s most important leaders.
North Chungcheong Province (충청북도) sits in the center of South Korea. It is the only landlocked province in the country.
The province’s name comes from its two historically important cities, Chungju (충주시) and Cheongju (청주시). Chungju + Cheongju = ChungCheong.
Chungju City (충주시; Chungju-si) sits near the middle of South Korea in North Chungcheong Province (충청북도; Chungcheongbuk-do).
Just east of the city, you’ll find Chungju Lake. This body of water transforms the Donggang River (동강강) into the South Han River (남한강; Namhangang). This makes Chungju City the first or last stop on the Hangang Bicycle Path.