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Difficulty: 5/5

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Hiking Distance: 35km 

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Time: 3 - 4 Days

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Elevation change: ➚2600m   ➘2600m

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Prefecture: Nagano

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The  Yarigatake  to  Mt. Hotaka  Circuit

大キレット

Elevation: 3190m

Prefecture

Nagano

Distance

35 km

Elevation Change

➚ 2600m    ➘ 2600m

Time

3 - 4 Days

Difficulty

5/5

Accomodation

Huts & Campgrounds

Overview

The Yarigatake to Mt. Hotaka circuit is the most revered hike in Japan. It covers both the 3rd and 5th highest mountains in Japan while also including a notorious ridgeline known as the daikiretto.

 

The daikiretto is a steep and technical ridgeline that requires rock climbing on a narrow section of rock with dangerous drops on each side. Most of the rock climbing is assisted with chains and bolts, but the risk is quite high in some places and people have died here before. However, as scary as it sounds, no rock climbing gear is required and its a popular trail - people of all ages complete it without problems, including the elderly. You will need to be okay with rock climbing on exposed terrain, so prior experience with heights is recommended, and good weather conditions are absolutely essential.

Completed over 3-4 days, the loop starts in Kamikochi (or Shinhotaka) with the first day spent hiking up to Yarigatake and sleeping at the Yarigatake mountain hut. The second day is spent hiking along the daikiretto, and then most people choose to stay at the large Hotaka-dake mountain hut. However, this is not the best option. The views at the Kita-Hotaka mountain hut are profoundly superior, looking out over the daikiretto and Yarigatake. The Kita-Hotaka mountain hut is also more charming, with beautiful rooms and a warm cozy atmosphere.

The 3rd and final day includes a 4 hour hike across to Mt. Hotaka which also involves a lot of risky rock climbing similar to the daikiretto, and then a final 5 hour decent back to Kamikochi. You can make this hike easier by extending it to 4 days if you stay at another mountain hut.

Access

Car: If using a car you'll also need to catch a bus from Sawando Parking Area (Closer to Matsumoto) or the Hirayu Parking Area, the bus will take about 30 minutes from the parking lot.

Direct Bus: There is a direct bus from Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo. You can view all the details and make reservations here. The price ranges from ¥10,000 to ¥13,000.

Cheapest Option: For Kyoto and Osaka, there is a direct bus to the Shinhotaka ropeway which can also be used to access the mountains in Kamikochi. You can make reservations here, it's only ¥7500.

Train + Bus: You can also come from Matsumoto Station or from Gifu prefecture's Takayama Station. The official Kamikochi website provides a detailed overview of all the travel times and options.

Note: Kamikochi is closed from 15th Nov to the end of April

Trail Description

Day 1

Kamikochi to Yarigatake via the Nishidake ridge

GPS Hiking Map: outdooractive.com

Time: 8-10 hrs

Distance: 20km

Elevation change: 1700m gain   ➘ 140m loss

From the bus stop at Kamikochi, you will have a nice leisurely walk along the river for 3 hours before the elevation starts to increase. About 4 hours from the bus stop you'll reach an intersection, the trail straight ahead continues up the valley, the trail to your right heads up to the ridgline. Ironically, the most popular trail up the valley is very boring and monotonous - you will spend hours on uninteresting switchbacks with no views and only save about 30 mins. By comparison, the ridgeline trail on the right is full of interesting features, a variety of terrain, and stunning views.

 

Once you reach the Yarigatake Mountain Hut, where you will spend the night, drop off your gear and hike another 20 minutes to catch the sunset from the peak.

Note: You can also start from Shinhotaka

Day 2

Yarigatake to Kita-Hotaka 

GPS Hiking Map: outdooractive.com

Time: 6 hrs

Distance: 6 km

Elevation change: 660m gain    620m loss

Wake up early and try to catch the sunrise from the peak of Yarigatake, then make your way across the ridgeline to Minamidake. Once you reach the Minamidake mountain hut the daikiretto begins, they serve a great ramen if you want to stop for lunch. The daikiretto itself will take about 3 hours, giving you plenty of time to check-in to the Kita-Hotaka hut and watch the sunset.

Maps

GPS map: Day 1  Day 2  Day 3

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The final climb up Yarigatake

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Day 3

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Descending down toward Kamikochi

Day 3

Kita-Hotaka to Oku-Hotaka and Kamikochi

GPS Hiking Map: outdooractive.com

Time: 9-10 hrs

Distance: 10 km

Elevation change:  410m gain    1910m loss

Today is a big day, over 9 hours of hiking and rock climbing as you ascend Oku-Hotaka and then make your way back to Kamikochi

After watching the sunrise from Kita-Hotaka, you will begin your journey to Japan's third highest mountain, Oku-Hotaka. It will take about 4 hours to get there and involves a lot of steep rock-climbing similar to the daikiretto. Once you reach Oku-Hotaka you will have sweeping 360° views, including a jagged ridgeline called the Gendarme. The Gendarme is considered the most technical and dangerous ridgeline in Japan, it connects Oku-Hotaka to the Shinhotaka Ropeway.

From Oku-Hotaka you'll follow an amazing trail to Mae-Hotaka, this will take nearly 2 hours. From here it will take nearly 4 hours to reach Kamikochi, so take note of the last bus departure time as you may need to camp one more night if you don't make it down in time. You can save 40 minutes if you skip the peak of Mae-Hotaka.

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Elevation Profile

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Day 1Kamikochi to Yarigatake Mountain Hut

daikiretto hiking map

Day 2Yarigatake to Kita-Hotaka

Day 3 Kita-Hotaka to Kamikochi

Mt Hotaka to Kamikochi

Weather  and  Seasons

Summer and autumn, from June to October, are the best times for this hike. There is likely to be snow hanging around until June. The autumn leaves will be colourful from mid-September to mid-October. Kamikochi is closed during winter, from November to April.

Useful links

Cautions

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Altitude

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Rock climbing

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Monkeys

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Bears (rare)

Gallery

© Copyright
yarigatake hike

Difficulty: 5/5

Hiking Distance: 35 km 

Time: 3-4 days

Elevation gain: 2600m

Prefecture: Nagano

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