The Best Day Hikes Near
Kyoto & 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 day hikes accessible by public transport. This list is in no particular order as each hike offers something different, but it's worth noting that these hikes have been carefully selected because for many people, not all hikes are worth their time and effort. So read on, for this is not a generic top ten list! There are a lot of mountains in Kansai, so we'll update this page if new contenders are found, this list is showcasing our favourite Kansai hikes after exploring the region for many years.
Weather & Seasons
Generally speaking, the best seasons for hiking are mid-spring, summer and autumn. These seasons offer the best scenery as the forests are full of life, with vibrant green landscapes during summer and colourful mountainsides during autumn. Winter can offer some beautiful snowy hiking, but often requires extra gear and knowledge.
The Best Winter Hikes
For easy snowy hikes, Kurama and Mt. Hiei can offer some of the most beautiful scenery with very little effort, anyone can do these hikes. Fresh snow makes the trails and temples look absolutely amazing, due to their modest, easy terrain they're perfect for snowy days without any special gear required, and Mt. Hiei has a nice cable car that looks gorgeous on a snowy day. If you're experienced and want something more technical, the Omine and Bunagatake hikes will have the most snow, so require extra care and planning.
The Best Spring Hikes
Hands down the best spring hike is Yoshinoyama if it's during the peak cherry blossom period, which usually occurs in the first week of April. Timing is key, so keep an eye on the cherry blossom forecast and try to be spontaneous with your planning. The main paths get very busy, but there are plenty of side trails among the cherry blossom forests to escape the crowds. Other hikes ideal for spring are low elevation trails such as Umanose, Jingo-ji, and Daimon-ji.
The Best Summer Hikes
Summer is notoriously humid and hot in Japan, but some hikes can be great for warm days. Yatsubuchi no Taki, Mt. Omine, the Konze Alps, and Jingo-ji all feature nice clean rivers where you can swim after or during your hike.
The Best Autumn Hikes
Autumn is often considered the best season for hiking in Japan due to the mild temperatures and colourful autumn leaves. The best hikes for autumn colours are the Jingo-ji trail and Yatsubuchi no Taki.
The 10 best day hikes near Kyoto & Osaka
↠ Mt. Omine
↠ Mt. Hiei
Autumn colours along the Jingo-ji trail
Kyoto and Osaka are very popular destinations, so the best accommodation can often be booked out months in advance. Book early to avoid high prices and ensure you get a nice location.
The best prices are usually found on booking.com
Mt. Omine is a sacred mountain in Nara prefecture and can be accessed by Dorogawa onsen. Mt. Omine is somewhat controversial for having UNESCO Work Heritage status as it also maintains an 800-year-old ban on women, due to religious tradition. However, there are other beautiful trails in the same town and the surrounding mountains offer equally impressive views. The name of the peak is Sanjogatake and it can be completed in a day, there is also the option of a larger loop trail if you have enough time. 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.
Yoshinoyama is a mountain town in the south of Nara prefecture, the mountain is famous for its cherry blossoms (sakura), featuring thousands of cherry trees, hiking trails, and temples. Hiking here during the peak cherry blossom period is an incredible experience unlike anything else in the world. It does gets very crowded during this time, but there are many trails that detour into the forest so it's quite easy to escape the crowds and explore the mountain. The summer is also beautiful as the vibrant and lush green landscape provides an adventurous atmosphere among the many temples and shrines. The town is also quite beautiful, filled with charming shops, ryokans, and restaurants.
The hiking here can be as easy or as difficult as you like, if you stick to the normal paths and only go to the main viewpoint, then you could finish in 4 hours.
➚ 400m - 700m
➚ ➘ 400m
The Konze Alps are a small group of rocky mountains in Shiga prefecture. The loop trail which takes you over these mountains is an easy day hike that offers a variety of terrain, beautiful views, and a nice waterfall. The terrain is unique and features large sandstone formations that are perfect for climbing and scrambling. The sandstone serves as a beautiful contrast with the lush green fauna that covers most of the area, and there is also a campground at the trailhead in case you want to spend the night. During summer you'll find people swimming in the river and camping along the river banks. It's a super fun hike that stays somewhat under the radar for expats, but it's quite popular with locals so the weekends can sometimes be busy.