Hiking Distance: 9-15km
Time: 4-10 hrs
Elevation gain: 800-1300m
800 - 1300m
9 - 15 km
4 - 10 hrs
Huts & Campgrounds
Mt. Ishizuchi is the highest mountain on the island of Shikoku and also the highest mountain in west Japan at 1982m. Its peak is a picturesque formation of steep rocks on a sharp ridgeline, the only way to reach it is by climbing along the chains and ladders attached to the rock. If you are afraid of heights or don't have much experience then you might be overwhelmed with the desire to turn back due to the high level of exposure, with dangerous drops on each side of the ridgeline. There are 3 trail options for hiking to the peak, I will cover all 3 but the main focus will be on the longest trail which starts and finishes at Omogo Gorge. Whichever trail you choose, this hike is amazing - stunning views, exciting terrain, and a breathtaking environment.
Car: A car is the best option as it gives you a lot of flexibility and you simply need to reach the parking lot for the trail of your choice.
For the longest hike, you'll be parking here at Omogo Gorge.
For the ropeway trail, you'll be parking here.
And for the shortest hike, you'll be parking here at Tsuchiya Terrace.
Train & Bus - Ropeway trail: The ropeway trail, called the Omote Sando route, is the best option for a day hike using public transport. You'll need to catch a train to Iyo-Saijo station and then a 60min bus to the ropeway, the bus stop is right outside the station. Look for a bus that says "JR 伊予西条駅 → 石鎚ロープウェイ前" and don't hesitate to ask people for help. You need to get off at the Ishizuchiyama bus stop, or tell the driver you want to get off at the ropeway.
According to the Shikoku Diary these are the bus times: 7:47am, 8:43am, 10:27am, and 11:23am. Check out their website for more info. Also keep in mind that the final bus departing from the ropeway is at 5:20pm.
Bus to the ropeway: ¥1000 one-way.
Ropeway ticket: ¥1050 one-way.
Train & Bus - Omogo trail: Ideally suited for those spending 1-2 nights camping at Omogo Gorge, there are busses that run to the gorge from Matsuyama station with a transfer at Kuma Kogen town, for details on the bus times check out the Shikoku Diary website.
Note: Women cannot climb the mountain on July 1 because of a traditional mountain ceremony
4-5hrs – 9km – 500m elevation gain
The trail from Tsuchiya Terrace is the shortest trail to the peak, you can reach the final chains and ladders in under 2 hours. The Terrace is a cafe and hotel in case you get hungry or want to spend the night. Like all the trails to Ishizuchi, they are well marked and well maintained so you won't have much trouble with navigation.
6-7hrs – 9km – 970m elevation gain
The Ishizuchitozan Ropeway trail is a nice step up from the Terrace trail, the extra elevation feels rewarding and the mountain views along this ridgeline are amazing. This is the most popular trail and gets very busy on weekends during October/November as the autumn colours are very beautiful.
9-10hrs – 15km – 1300m elevation gain
The Omogo Gorge trail is the longest of the 3 trails for reaching the peak, but it also has the least amount of people and is an amazing place to camp so it's a great option for busy weekends. The trail starts in the gorge where you'll spend 30 mins walking along the river until you reach the main trail, marked with a sign, a torii gate, and some steep steps. Then you'll climb about 1200 meters through the forest, with a nice balance of steep sections and flat areas, featuring some small stream crossings plus steps and ladders. After about 4 hours you will reach the top and the final climb along chains and ladders to reach the peak.
Tsuchiya Terrace Trail
Tozan Ropeway Trail
Omogo Gorge Trail
Weather and Seasons
Summer and autumn are the best times for this hike. There is likely to be snow hanging around until April. The autumn leaves will reach their peak in the first week of October.
(Photos of the peak provided by Pedro García, check out his bakery nearby in Matsuyama and say hi)