The Most Beautiful Hiking Destinations In Japan

The Most Beautiful Hiking Destinations In JapanTraditional culture or modern cities – what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking about Japan? Probably not hiking, right? The thing is Japan is a volcanic archipelago and more than 70% of the country is covered by mountains. While the mountains hold important cultural and religious significance, they also provide many adventures for outdoor enthusiasts.

Japan provides numerous amazing hiking opportunities, In fact, the country has developed a wonderful hiking culture and is very welcoming with tourists who want to join in the fun. Whether you prefer easy day trips from the main cities or multi-day treks through the national parks, Japan trails are perfect. Below you can find a list of the best hiking destinations across Japan with their respective difficulty levels but before we list the trails, let’s see what the difficulty levels actually mean.

Difficulty Levels For Trails In Japan

Easy Trails

Easy difficulty trails can be casual day hikes. These trails are usually situated close to local accommodations and are easily accessible by public transport. The trails are well-traveled, well-marked, and they don’t require special equipment. Some of them are actually easy enough for hiking with children.

Medium Trails

These trails may include steep sections, long sections or both. Not suitable for young children, these trails are doable by adults with average athletic ability. While hiking boots are recommended, they are not mandatory.

Difficult Trails

These trails are long and strenuous. To complete them, you should have at least basic navigational skills. For difficult trails, you need maps and proper equipment and preparation. Hiking boots are mandatory but other equipment may be necessary depending on the season.

Best Hiking Trails In Japan By Region

Around Tokyo

Mount Takao Trail

Difficulty Level: easy to medium

Season: year-round but best during Fall and Spring

Situated less than an hour from the center of Tokyo, Mount Takao consists of various trails that lead up to the mountain. The mountain is the closest nature spot to Tokyo and can be crowded, especially during weekends. The main trail is paved and, on your way to the top, you’ll pass the Yakuoin Temple grounds. The summit offers beautiful views of the city and mount Fiji.

Mount Mitake

Where: around Tokyo

Difficulty Level: easy to medium

Season: year-round but best during Fall and Spring

Another popular hiking destination close to Tokyo, Mount Mitake is located in the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. To reach it, it will take you approximately 2 hours if you leave from Tokyo. There are many trails visitors can hike and, aside from the unspoiled nature, people can stumble upon waterfalls and shrines.

Kanagawa Prefecture

Kamakura

Difficulty: easy

Season: year-round but best in Spring and Fall

Kamakura is yet another great destination for those who are looking for hiking trails close to Tokyo. The network of hiking trails can actually be used as an alternative walk between the city’s sights. The trails are hidden above Tokyo’s famous temples and shrines, in the forested hills. The trails are of easy difficulty but they can be slippery after rain.

Hakone

Difficulty: easy to medium

Season: Spring, Summer, and Fall but best in Fall

Hakone is not far away from Tokyo either. The popular hot spring resort is located only 100 kilometers from the city in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Along the various hiking trails, you can see sections of Old Tokaido and beautiful views of the surrounding region.

Yamanashi and Shizuoka Prefectures

Mount Fuji

Difficulty Level: difficult

Season: summer

Mount Fuji is not only the most famous mountain in Japan but also the tallest so, naturally, it is climbed by many people every year, especially during hiking season (July and August). However, some of the trails are also accessible during September. Outside the hiking season, the ascend is actually dangerous. Since Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan, the hiking trails are quite difficult. But, for those who want to explore a short walk, there a few casual hikes available. Kofuji and Hoeizan are the most popular casual hikes on Mount Fuji.

Around Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Difficulty: easy

Season: year-round

Fushimi Inari Shrine is a Shinto shrine situated south of Kyoto. The shrine has many vermillion torii gates. These gates form tunnels that go along the network of trails and lead up to the top of the mountain behind. The mountain is considered sacred. The trails are not difficult and the hiking experience will also teach you about the cultural and religious traditions.

Kurama

Difficulty: medium

Season: year-round

Situated in the mountains of northern Kyoto, Kurama is a rural town that can be reached in less than an hour from Kyoto Center. The small town is best known for the Kurama-dera Temple. The hike from the town to the temple takes approximately 40 minutes. Hikers can visit the temple and then continue their hike over the mountain to the neighboring valley where they can stop in Kibune.

Daigoji Temple

Difficulty: medium

Season: year-round

Another important temple close to Kyoto that can be reached by hiking is Daigoji. The main temple complex is situated at the base of the mountain but the actual temple grounds are near the summit. To reach the original temple grounds, hikers have to follow a steep trail through the forest.

Hokkaido

Shiretoko

Difficulty: easy to difficult

Season: Spring, Summer, and Fall

Shiretoko is one of Japan’ most beautiful national parks. Situated in eastern Hokkaido, some of the furthest reaches of the unspoiled park can only be reached by multi-day trekking tours that are high in difficulty. However, you can also see them if you embark on a sightseeing boat or you can choose easier hikes around the park. The easy trails are not short on beauty and you can reach the Furepe Waterfall or the mesmerizing Five Lakes.

Akan National Park

Difficulty: medium to difficult

Season: Summer

Akan National Park is the second national park situated in eastern Hokkaido. The park is known for its three scenic lakes and the wonderful natural scenery. Lake Mashu, one of the three lakes in the park is actually considered one of the most beautiful lakes in Japan. In the park, there are trails that lead to all three lakes. The ascent to Mount Meakan, the mountain around Lake Akan is on the more difficult side. Same for the ascent towards Mount Oakan. The trail that leads to Lake Mashu is a medium difficulty one.

Daisetsuzan

Difficulty: medium to difficult

Season: July to September

Daisetsuzan is the third national park in Hokkaido we’re going to talk about. The park is actually the largest national park in Hokkaido and it’s usually the first place in the country where you can see Fall colors. There are different types of treks in the park varying from easy ones to difficult ones. The easy ones are day hike trails you can easily explore, while the difficult ones can take days or even a week to complete.

Tochigi Prefecture

Nikko

Difficulty: easy to medium

Season: Spring, Summer, and Fall but best in Fall

Nikko is a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers visitors many natural wonders such as lakes, waterfalls, and mountains. Many of the outdoor attractions are connected by the hiking trails. The most popular trail goes from Ryuzu Waterfall to Yumoto Onsen and passes through Senjogahara Marsh.

Yamagata Prefecture

Dewa Sanzan

Difficulty: medium to difficult

Season: Summer and Fall

Dewa Sanzan consists of three sacred mountains situated in the remote prefecture of Yamagata. Each of the mountains has a shrine close to the peak and all of the peaks are a place of worship for pilgrims. Visitors are welcomed to join the pilgrims on their climb towards the shrines. The traditional trails are steep are not appropriate for those who cannot handle at least a medium difficulty trail.

Yamagata And Miyagi Prefectures

Mount Zao

Difficulty: medium

Season: Summer and Fall

The volcanic mountain range situated at the border of the Yamagata Prefecture and Miyagi Prefecture is not short on hiking opportunities. The mountain trails offer spectacular views of the Okama Crater during hiking season.

Miyagi, Aomori, and Iwate Prefectures

Sanriku Coast

Difficulty: easy to medium

Season: Spring, Summer, and Fall

The Sanriku Coast stretches across Miyagi, Aomori, and Iwate Prefectures and it is actually the coast that was badly hit by the tsunami in 2011. After the tsunami, the coastal hiking trails were combined into the Michinoku Coastal Trail. The trail is 700 kilometers long and connects Aomori with Fukushima prefectures.

Aomori Prefecture

Mount Hakkoda

Difficulty: easy to difficult

Season: Summer and Fall but best in Fall

The Mount Hakkoda lies between Aomori City and Lake Towada and it’s one of the first spots in Tohoku region that is covered in Fall colors. To reach one of the mountain’s summits, you can take a ropeway and from there you can follow one of the hiking trails that branch out towards other mountain peaks or follow the trail that leads back to the base of the mountain.

Aomori And Akita Prefectures

Shirakami Sanchi

Difficulty: easy to difficult

Season: Summer and Fall

The extensive mountain range of Shirakami Sanchi stretches between Aomori and Akita Prefectures. This mountain range is one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan and has more than a few trails that lead to wonderful outdoor attractions such as lakes, waterfalls, and mountain peaks. The most popular hike is the trail that leads to Anmom Falls, a set of three beautiful waterfalls.

Akita And Iwate Prefectures

Hachimantai

Difficulty: easy to difficult

Season: Summer and Fall

Located in the northern Tohoku Region, along the volcanic mountains, Hachimantai is famous for its Fall colors and for the rustic hot springs. In addition to these beautiful attractions, Hachimantai offers visitors several hiking opportunities for all difficulty levels. The most popular trails are the trail that leads to Hachimantai and the one that leads to Mount Akita-Komagatake.

Around Osaka

Minoo Park

Difficulty: easy

Season: year-round but best in Fall

Situated north from the urban sprawl of the city of Osaka, Minoo Park is the closest spot to the city for nature views. It can be reached in approximately 30 minutes from the city center and it is particularly spectacular during Fall when the leaves of the trees change colors. Minoo Park is actually the best place in the Kansai Region for seeing Fall colors in a natural setting. Fall foliage is beautiful at temples and gardens as well but nothing compares to the untouched nature.

Tohoku Region

Oirase Stream

Difficulty: easy

Season: Spring, Summer, and Fall but best in Fall

Located in Towada, Oirase Stream runs along a deep gorge that is covered in lavish vegetation. An easy nature trail follows the picturesque stream for more than ten kilometers. This hiking destination is particularly beautiful during Fall when the lush green vegetation on the water changes to Fall colors.

Mount Shirane

Difficulty: easy to medium

Season: Summer and Fall

Mount Shirane is a popular touristic destination in the Gunma Prefecture. The volcanic mountain sits above Kusatsu Onsen and the network of trails lead from the top of the mountain down to the town below. Along the way, tourists can stop to admire craters, waterfalls, lakes, and mountain peaks. If some of the trails are too difficult for you, you can use the ropeway to bypass them.

Mount Tanigawa

Difficulty: medium to difficult

Season: Summer and Fall

Mount Tanigawa is situated south of Minakami and is a popular hot spring and outdoor sports destination. The majestic mountain is a popular itself. Many experienced hikers come here to explore the challenging ridge trail that connects Gunma Prefecture with Niigata Prefecture. Once you’ve done hiking, you can explore other outdoor activities such as bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, and mountain biking in Minakami.

Mount Nasudake

Difficulty: easy to difficult

Season: Spring, Summer, and Fall

An active volcano of the Tochigi Prefecture, Mount Nasudake is a popular hiking destination that offers diverse hiking experiences. Aside from the hiking trails, there are many pedestrian suspension bridges visitors can conquer. The least experienced hikers can take the ropeway to avoid some of the difficult trails or they can check out the Heisei no Mori – a forested park with a lot of history.

Nara Prefecture

Yamanobe-no-michi Trail

Difficulty: easy

Season: year-round

The Yamanobe-no-michi Trail is one of the oldest roads in Japan and offers a pleasant hiking experience through rural landscapes. The ancient road connects multiple shrines and temples but also other sightseeing landmarks in Nara Prefecture.

Mount Yoshino

Difficulty: easy

Season: year-round but best in Spring

The wooded temple ton of Mount Yoshino is one of Japan’s most famous sakura spots. No less than 30,000 cherry trees cover the mountainside so the view from late March to mid-April is spectacular. To best enjoy the blossomed cherry trees, tourists can walk along the small network of trails around the mountain. For those who prefer more difficult trails, the trail from Kinpusenji Temple to Mount Omine is a good alternative to the small trails.

Fukushima Prefecture

Mount Bandai

Difficulty: easy to difficult

Season: Summer and Fall

Located in the west part of Fukushima Prefecture, Mount Bandai boasts many different trails. The easy ones are around Urabandai while the more difficult ones include a climb to the summit of the mountain and the majestic crater and climbs to Mount Azuma, a nearby mountain. In addition to hiking, mount Bandai offers the possibility for other outdoor activities such as boating. The mountain is a popular shy destination during Winter months.

Gunma, Fukushima, Niigata and Tochigi Prefectures

Oze National Park

Difficulty: medium to difficult

Season: Summer and Fall

Oze National Park is situated on the border area of four prefectures: Gunma, Fukushima, Niigata, and Tochigi. The large marshland that reaches 1400 meters is reachable by the hiking trails that descend from the surrounding mountains. The marshland itself can be explored thanks to a network of elevated boardwalks.

Nagano Prefecture

Kamikochi

Difficulty: easy to difficult

Season: Spring, Summer, and Fall

The Northern Japan Alps are home to the popular outdoor resort, Kamikochi. The region offers some of the spectacular mountain views in the entire country and it consists of a beautiful valley surrounded by tall mountains, which can only mean that the hiking trails expose visitors to a mesmerizing scenery.

Norikura

Difficulty: easy to difficult

Season: Summer and Fall

Mount Norikura is also part of the Northern Japan Alps. The mountain is actually the southernmost peak of the Northern Japan Alps and it reaches 3026 meters. Despite being tall, the peak is actually easy to climb due to the buses that go almost all the way to the summit. Those who prefer to stick to hiking alone can definitely follow the trails.

Kiso Valley

Difficulty: medium

Season: year-round, except after heavy snow

We’re moving from the Northern Japan Alps to the Central Japan Alps to explore the Kiso Valley. During the Edo period, the Nakasendo was one of the most important connective roads between Kyoto with Edo. Today, tourists can hike along some of the former sections of the road and can explore other popular hikes such as the section that connects Magome with Tsumago.

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Author: Adrian Cruce

I just love to travel, write about travel and so much more! :D Hope you enjoy my articles and Travel Tips. Feel free to comment below and get in touch with me on Google Plus and on Twitter!

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