The best multi-day hikes near Kyoto and Osaka
Kyoto and Osaka are major destinations for expats, students, and travellers, but most of us don't own a car, so here's a list of the best overnight hikes accessible by public transport. There are a lot of mountains in Kansai, so I'll update this page if new discoveries are made, this list is based off my favourite hikes after living in Kyoto for two years. If you have any recommendations, send us a message.
The best overnight hikes near Kyoto & Osaka:
- The Kumano Kodo, The Nakahechi Trail, Nara
- Hyonosen, Hyogo
- Omine, Nara
- Hakkyo, Nara
The only hike on this list that you'll find easily from a normal google search is the Kumano Kodo. The Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo is an amazing experience with many attractions along the way. But, it gets very busy, and reservations for a guesthouse or campground often need to be made months in advance. The other hikes listed here are much quieter and less well known.
The Kumano Kodo trail is a famous and ancient pilgrimage route in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula, located south of Kyoto and Osaka. The trail is over 1000 years old and is said to have been used by all levels of society including Emperors and Warlords. The Nakahechi route is the most popular among pilgrims and features many beautiful shrines and temples, most notably the grand shrines called Kumano Hongu Taisha and the Kumano Nachi Taisha. It also features an ancient onsen town and many accomodation options in between the hiking trails, with regular busses connecting all the routes.
The entire Nakahechi route runs from Tanabe city and ends in Nachikatsuura, it take roughly 7 days, but this page will only focus on half of the route as that's the section I have done and where the photos are from. I'll refer you to the Kumano tourism website for more info on the other sections and also extra details for this itinerary.
Beginning at Yunomine onsen, you'll pass through the Kumano Hongu Taisha, and end at the Nachi grand shrine. It can be completed in 3-4 days or busses can be taken to shorten the trip further.
Note: Accomodation often needs to be booked more than 1 month in advance.
Bus: There is a direct bus to Tanabe/Shirahama from Kyoto/Osaka, it takes about 4 hours and costs 3500 yen one-way or 6300 yen return (has to be used within ten days). You can view all the details and make reservations here.
There is also an overnight bus from Tokyo, you can make reservations here.
Train: Trains take about three hours and cost around 6500 yen, the tickets are covered by the Japan Rail Pass and JR Kansai Wide Area Pass. It's best to use google maps for the train timetables.
Once you arrive: a seperate bus will take you to the various places along the Kumano Kodo, you can view more info here. The many busses may seem complicated but it becomes more simple once you arrive.
The sunrise from a viewpoint in Hongu
Hyonosen is 1,510m tall and the highest mountain in Hyogo prefecture. It's great for hiking year round but is especially beautiful during the autumn period and features a nice mountain hut that hikers can sleep in for free, as well as some lovely campgrounds around the area. There are a few hiking trails, but we will focus on the one that can be most easily accessed with public transport from Kyoto or Osaka. The hike is quite out of the way for most visitors of Japan, so you won't find large crowds or foreigners here.
Train & Bus
You just need to catch a train to Yoka Station. The bus to the trailhead departs from the station approximately once every hour and takes around 40-50 minutes to arrive at Hyonosen-Hachibuseguchi bus stop (氷ノ山鉢伏口).
Trail head: Google Maps link
Kyoto: Yoka station is 2 hours from Kyoto and the train costs ¥3800.
Osaka: Yoka station is 2 hours 20 minutes from Osaka and the train cost ¥4900.
Autumn leaves along the trail
Mt. Omine is a sacred mountain in Nara prefecture, accessed by the Dorogawa onsen town. Mt. Omine is somewhat controversial for having UNESCO Work Heritage status as it also maintains a 1300 year old ban on women. However, there's a neighbouring peak called Inamuragatake which is affectionately known as the ladies Mt. Omine. It's equally enjoyable with fun terrain and great views, the main difference is the religious history. The name of the peak is Sanjogatake, it can be completed as a day hike, but you can also camp at a very beautiful sacred campsite 1 hour beyond the peak for free, located here. And for the ladies, there is free camping next to a shelter hut near the peak of Inamura.
You can read more about the mountain's cultural history on Wikipedia. In regards to the ban on women, hopefully this will change in the future, I would recommend directing your complaints and protests to UNESCO as they will be a more effective avenue than arguing with the Shugendo priests who occupy the mountain.
Car - The trailhead is located in Dorogawa Onsen town, 2 hours from Osaka, you just need to reach this parking lot. If you don't want to walk for 30 mins along the river, there is another parking lot further up that will cost 1000 yen per day.
Train + Bus - You'll need to catch the 6am train to Shimoichi-guchi station, which is just under 2 hours from Kyoto and Osaka. From Shimoichi-guchi, catch an 8:20am bus to Dorogawa onsen. Make sure to plan your return carefully, as the last bus from Dorogawa is at 5:58pm. You can view the bus timetable here.
Carpark for the trailhead: Google Maps
Shimoichi-guchi Station: Google Maps
The trail on the way to the peak
Mt. Hakkyo is the highest mountain in Kansai and part of the Omine mountain range, accessible from Dorogawa onsen or Tenkawa. It features the Mt. Misen mountain hut for camping and has a variety of trail options. We'll cover two trails here, one is for the bus stop and the other is only accessible with a car. If you're taking the bus you will need to spend at least one night here due to the logistics of public transport. We've included other options but the main focus is on an amazing 3 day hike starting in Tenkawa and finishing in Dorogawa onsen.
One notable mention, the second night is spent camping on Sanjogatake, which is a religious mountain with an ancient custom of not allowing women to enter a specific area. But don't worry, there's an alternative trail for camping on the second day.
Kyoto & Osaka: Getting to the trailhead will take about 3 hours by either public transport or car, the total cost with trains and busses will about around ¥2500 one-way.
Car - If you're using a car, the most popular trail is from this parking lot. It's a somewhat shorter hike than the bus stop so it's perfect for a day trip, this trail also has more interesting terrain and nicer views. The parking fee is ¥1000.
If you want something a bit longer, you can start from the bus stop trailhead in Tenkawa.
Train + Bus/Taxi - If going by public transport, you'll need to reach Shimoichiguchi station, from there you'll need to catch a bus to Tenkawa-kawai bus stop, the bus will take about 1 hour and costs around ¥1100. Click here for the bus timetable.
Bus Trailhead: Google Maps
Carpark Trailhead: Google Maps
The trail on the second day