Do you want to see stunning fall colors through mountain hiking? Japan is a land of mountains; the communities settled in the mountainous regions throughout the country have developed distinctive cultural traditions. When you embark on a trip to different mountainous areas all over Japan you can experience them thoroughly. One of the best things about Japanese mountains is that each mountain has its own personality. Their shapes and heights are not alike. Also their surrounding landscapes vary from each other depending on the changing seasons. And most importantly, not all of them are ideal to hike in a particular period of time. Before you start your trip you need to know what mountain is perfect to hike in which season for the enjoyment of a natural setting.
Today I have brought to you 10 great Japanese mountains that you could hike in autumn to see impressive fall foliage. I believe that a trip to these mountains would offer you abundant nature beauty and Japanese tradition to experience. In fall, the mountains slopes & valleys of those areas are packed with vivid colors. There, you can catch all the live actions of endless beautiful autumn scenery while walking through the designated hiking trails. Keep in mind that there is a tremendous hiking opportunity in Japan which in fact could be a trouble maker for you. I have come across various well known mountain hiking trails in the country. And it is a very tough job to select only the 10! I can’t promise that I could give you much pleasure sharing this post with you but one thing I could promise you that mountain hiking in Japan would be an unforgettable experience for you.
1) Kuju Mountains
Kuju Mountains are located along the Yamanami Highway in Oita Prefecture on the island of Kyushu, and it is real treasure of Aso-Kuju National Park. It consists of several mountains, and among them Mount Kuju is the most impressive one that offers you to see striking fall colors in the fall. The best time to see fall foliage in Kuju Mountains is late-October.
Mt. Kuju is said to be the second highest peak (1786 meters) of the national park while on the other hand, the highest peak in this area is the Mt. Nakadake (1791 meters). There are several hiking trails to climb up the mountains. Though two main trailheads are quite popular there, they are known as Makinoto Pass, and Chojabaru Visitor Center. These are located along the Yamanami Highway.
If you start your hike from the Makinoto Pass then it would be a lot easier reaching to the summit of Mt. Kuju. On the way to the peak, vivid colored slopes of the mountain are pretty amazing to observe. It is extremely cold in autumn in the Kuju mountain range, so when you hike there make sure that your attire must suit to this weather condition.
In autumn, views of frosted grasses and some branches of the trees is a typical scene and it is the sign of the extreme cold weather in the area. I took the Makinoto Pass trail and I was not in a hurry so I tried my best to experience everything I have passed by till I descended through southern slopes. It took me almost five hours to get the job done successfully. In order to see beautiful, unforgettable autumn mountain scenery in Oita Prefecture you must take a long walk through the trails in the Kuju Mountains. In addition, you should visit two places there, Kurokawa Onsen and Kuju Flower Park, located at the foot of Kuju Mountain’s southern slopes.
2) Mount Norikura
The Northern Japan Alps is a place of scenic beauty where visitors love doing outdoor fun activities such as hiking, trekking, cycling and so on. It is a mountain range, comprise a number of major peaks. Mount Norikura, one of the major peaks, is located in the southern part of Northern Alps along the border between Nagano and Gifu Prefectures. It comprises several mountains’ peaks of which Kengamine (3,026 meters) is the highest peak. The slopes of the Mount Norikura and its surrounding areas impressive autumn foliage can be seen in early-October.
Climbing up the highest peak of Mt. Norikura is relatively easy as you are offered to take a bus from Norikura Kogen up to the Norikura Bus Terminal (Tatami-daira), located at 2700 meters above sea level. The entire bus journey through the winding road is exclusively unforgettable. Instead of taking a bus you can take a taxi and it would be very costly, though it is up to you! From there you walk through the gravel hiking trail and approach to the peak. The surrounding views from the summit are incredible, words can’t describe them!
3) Mount Gozaisho
What is the tallest mountain in the Suzuka Mountain range? That’s Mount Oike (1,247 meters) and unfortunately I am not going to explain it here rather I would like to say something about the Mount Gozaisho (1,212 meters), the second tallest mountain in the Suzuka Mountain Range. It is a part of the Suzuka Quasi-National Park, located between Shiga prefecture and Mie prefecture.
Mt. Gozaisho is one of the most popular autumn leaves viewing spot in Japan. You have to admire its fantastic nature beauty, especially the autumn color and winter scenery. To be honest with you, no matter what mood you are in there is an area to suit it.
Here, visitors are offered to experience the Gozaisho Ropeway that connects the top of the mountain to the Yunoyama Hot Springs. The view from the gondola is just breathtaking and charming at the same time. Anyone wishes to see it is autumn colors should pay a visit in late-October.
At the time, slopes of the mountain are transformed into a natural arena of shimmering colors. Whether you hike up to the mountain through the designated trail or take the ropeway, make sure you experience everything it offers.
4) Mount Zao
Whether you are looking for great hot spring bath, outdoor winter activity, snow monsters, picturesque mountain scenery, autumn leaves, or hiking adventure, you will find them all in Mount Zao. Though, to be amazed by the winter beauty of the snow monsters and have fun with the outdoor winter sports you must come here in winter. On the other hand, stunning fall foliage display on the slopes of the Mt. Zao can only be seen in autumn while experiencing hot spring bath can be possible all year round. Whatever you think of this destination, it is a charm place that could blow your mind right away.
It is located on the border between Yamagata prefecture and Miyagi prefecture in the Tohoku region. A volcanic mountain range like this won’t just make you feel proud of it by hiking through the trails rather you will find nature wonders there such as the Okama Crater – a crater with lake.
Want to see shimmering colors of fall vistas in the area? Then take the Zao Ropeway from the Zao Onsen and enjoy the scenic beauty. The fall colors along the ropeway look amazingly awesome. Again, just like Mt. Tanigawa, you don’t need to be a mountaineer to enjoy the autumn leaves there, just rely on the ropeway and it will show you the utmost fall colors up from there. For a perfect view of fall colors, prefer coming here in mid-October. Please learn more about Mount Zao here.
5) Hakkoda Mountains
Hakkoda Mountains is one of the top tourist spots in Aomori prefecture. It is a volcanic mountain range, located between Aomori city and Lake Towada. The Hakkoda Ropeway makes it easier to hike in the mountains and explore the surrounding hidden nature beauty. Please note that the highest peak in the Hakkoda mountain range is the Mount Odake (1585 meters). Each and every corner of the mountain range offers picturesque sceneries that look more attractive in the fall.
When you get in the cable car, you hardly could wait to see the deciduous trees from there. The mountains uppermost slopes are particularity provide very striking colors. Seriously, you will be amazed! And views of the surrounding colored mountains slopes would be just enough to make you satisfied. You don’t need to hike up there to find the perfect spot to see fall foliage, just take the ropeway, that’s it! In addition, if you are willing to hike then do it by walking through the trails and discover the lower area of Kenashitai. Please pay a visit to this site in mid-October and then mind your own business viewing the colors everywhere.
6) Mount Tanigawa
Mount Tanigawa (Tanigawa-dake) lies on the border of Gunma and Niigata prefectures in northern Minakami town. This is one of the most beautiful mountains in Japan whose highest elevation is 1977 meters. It is a very rugged mountain with rugged trails to walk through. Here, ascending the mountain is much easier than descending it.
Watch your every step as sometimes it could be pretty tough to decent the mountain from the peak. It is a four seasons hiking destination though extreme winter condition may not let you hike it properly. Though, the Tenjindaira ski resort in Mt. Tanigawa attracts thousands of visitors as it produces tons of powdery snow in the winter months.
One of the great advantages of visiting it in autumn is that you don’t need to climb up to the mountain peak to enjoy the fall colors. You can do it just reaching to the Tanigawadake Ropeway station. Take one of the cable cars and it will take you all the way to the upper ropeway station. However, the entire ropeway journey would offer you some of the best mountain sceneries you have ever seen in your life where the slopes of the mountain ablaze with vibrant colors.
If you wish to reach to the highest elevation then start your hike from there. It will take more than 2.5 hours hike to the summit. Though, it depends on your walking speed. In mid-October, the view of the surrounding hillsides and valleys from the top of the mountain is exclusively stunning.
7) Mount Mitoku
Mount Mitoku, the sacred mountain where there is a famous Buddhist temple called Sanbutsu-ji. The mountain is situated in Misasa town, Tottori prefecture. It is a 900 meters tall mountain that was formed from a volcanic eruption approximately 15 million years ago. Unlike Mount Zao or Mount Tanigawa, you have to hike all the way to top of the summit to see amazing fall colors. Apart from experiencing colored mountain slopes you can visit the most impressive architecture on the temple grounds called Nageire Hall. It is said that the hall was built in the Heian period. It is just unbelievable how this wooden structure was built into the face of a cliff. The hall is designated as a National Treasure of Japan.
The entire mountain is decorated with deep primeval forest. This is completely an ideal place to escape from a busy life. The road forest that leads you to the Nageire Hall is great to walk through and yes it is very steep. Have some rest on the way and drink water a lot to get rid of dehydration. As it is a sacred place you are suggested not to make too noise there and please follow the rules imposed by the temple’s authority. The best time to catch the best scene of fall foliage there is early-November.
8) Mount Kurikoma
If hiking is in your blood just like me then do it in autumn in Japan. Here is another mountain (Mount Kurikoma) waiting for you to hike. The volcanic mountain is lies on the border between Iwate, Miyagi, and Akita prefectures and blessed with beautiful nature consisting of impressive colored slopes in autumn, hell valley, lake, marshland, foot-bath, and attractive hiking trails.
From the Sukawa Onsen it is possible to reach the 1,627-meter summit of Mt. Kurikoma. The surrounding valleys and slopes of the mountain offer spectacular colors. In fact, autumn foliage on the Miyagi side of the mountain was pretty appealing. I experienced it when I hiked there, it was truly amazing. In addition, the trail that leads to the marshland is very impressive as the surrounding hillsides provide stunning fall colors. Please note that visitors there enjoy the autumn colors here in early-October.
9) Mount Kurodake
Hiking in Hokkaido is very challenging and adventurous. In general, you have to be well prepared to hike in different weather conditions. Mount Kurodake (1984 meters) is one of the top hiking destinations in Hokkaido and a very important highlight of Daisetsuzan National Park, gets amazingly beautiful with vivid colors in autumn season. Hiking through the designated trail up to the highest elevation of the Mount Kurodake could be a challenging task. On the way you will be passing some interesting rock formations, they are absolutely breathtaking. How cool is that!
To begin your hiking expedition there, first you need to get to Sounkyo Onsen (a famous hot spring resort in Hokkaido). From there you take the Kurodake Ropeway to reach to the upper station at the 5th station halfway up to the summit. In mid-October, the slope of the lower elevation becomes exceptionally wonderful to look at from the ropeway cable cars. On the other hand, the upper elevation slope usually gets bright and colorful in mid-September. Don’t be surprised if you see snows on the grounds as you keep hiking up to the upper elevation through the trail. Please note that, Mt. Kurodake is one of the earliest spots to see fall colors in Japan.
10) Mount Fuji: Kawaguchiko 5th Station
Here is the last one that I think you must visit in autumn. It is Kawaguchiko 5th Station or Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. It lies at the halfway point of the Yoshida Trail (one of the most popular trailhead to ascent the Mount Fuji). It is home to many Karamatsu (Japanese larch trees) where awesome fall colors can be seen just by doing a little bit hiking. When autumn rolls in, they dominate their regime on the rocky slopes above Mt. Fuji’s Kawaguchiko 5th Station.
Every year, their golden yellow color leaves reach their peak color around late-October. Hike up carefully through the trails and find a perfect photo shooting spots to capture the surrounding autumn foliage landscapes. Mt. Fuji is the most beautiful mountain in Japan, therefore if you miss visiting it in fall then surly you will miss out an important part of your entire Japan trip.
All these mountains are scattered in different regions across the country. Visiting these popular mountain hiking destinations would lead you to experience the hidden discoveries that I have not highlighted here and the lifestyle of the communities dwelling at the base of the mountains. Their distinctive cultural traditions and gorgeous surrounding nature have the ability to make your life inspiring. Thanks for reading.
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