Hiking Distance: 8.6km
Time: 3 hours
Elevation change: ➚260m ➘320m
Jingo-ji and Mt. Takao
➚ 260m ➘ 320m
Takao is a small mountain village in northwest Kyoto famous for its stunning autumn leaves, beautiful river, and the impressive Jingo-ji temple. Jingo-ji and Takao have some of the best autumn leaves in Kyoto, the temple is about 1200 years old with incredible architecture and features small clay discs (Kawarake) that you throw off the mountain to rid yourself of bad karma. The area also has two other notable temples, which you can explore if you have extra time on your hands, although Jingo-ji is the most impressive of the three. The hike is most commonly done by catching a bus to Takao and then hiking to Hozukyo station, but it can also be done as an out-and-back hike from Hozukyo station. Whichever way you choose, the Takao to Hozukyo trail is the best autumn hike within the Kyoto area.
The hike itself is quite easy and suitable for all skill levels. Plan extra time for exploring the temple and especially for having lunch, the restaurants in this area are very beautiful with delicious food catering to all budgets, from high end dining on the river, to udon noodles on the mountain surrounded by maple leaves.
Although autumn is the most popular time to visit, it's also amazing during summer, with lush green trees and some small swimming holes along the river.
The bus to Takao takes 50 mins from Kyoto station and costs ¥230.
The train to/from Hozukyo takes 22 minutes and costs ¥240.
Once you get off the bus head down toward the river where you'll find a nice bridge and some restaurants. Head up the steps to get to Jingo-ji, it will only take about 5 minutes and on the way you'll pass some lovely udon restaurants surrounded by maple leaves. Jingo-ji is easy to navigate, after you've finished exploring and throwing your karma off the mountain head back down and turn right to start walking past the shops and down the river.
The path follows the river and after about 30 mins you'll climb a hillside that takes you up to a road. This is where you can choose a detour to visit the Kiyotaki waterfall, this would add another hour onto your trip - but I don't recommend it as the main trail is much nicer. Continue down the road and you'll soon reach a nice little area called Kiyotaki, there is a bus stop here if you wish to head back earlier, the bus will take you to Arashiyama.
Keep following the river and after some time you'll reach a path that brings you back up to the road with a nice bridge and a tunnel. You'll cross this bridge and head through the tunnel, cars use this road so be mindful and stay on the left. When you exit the tunnel, there is a nice viewpoint on the left so check that out before continuing up the road. After walking on this road for 20-30 mins you'll finally reach Hozukyo station with regular trains heading towards Kyoto.
Weather and Seasons
Jingo-ji can be hiked year round. Summer is lush and green, and the autumn is full of colour, with the leaves reaching their peak around mid-November.