Hiking Distance: 9.2km
Time: 6-8 hours
Elevation gain: 1210m
Huts & Campgrounds
Mt Nantai is a magnificent volcano in Nikko national park and one of Japan's "Top 100 famous mountains". It is a relatively short but steep climb that first begins in the forest, then transitions into large boulders and rocks, and ends with rich volcanic gravel. The views at the top are amazing, and it also holds a small UNESCO listed shrine.
Car, or Train & Bus
The town of Nikko is a good base for entering the national park, there is an efficient bus system that runs from the town, and a direct train from Tokyo that takes two hours. The bus from Nikko to the main park area takes about 45 mins to 1 hour depending on traffic. From there you will find another bus that will take you to the shrine where the trailhead begins, this takes about 10 mins. There is limited parking at the shrine.
For public transport I recommend getting the Nikko all area pass (4,520 yen), available from the TOBU Info Center in Asakusa, it includes a 20 percent discount on limited express train tickets, and unlimited bus rides inside the park. If taking the cheaper local trains or driving, you can just buy a bus pass from the tourist info centre at Nikko station (2,650 yen) which gives you unlimited rides into the national park.
Tokyo: Nikko station is 2 hours from Asakusa in Tokyo and the train costs ¥2,860. Or you can catch the local trains with 1 or 2 connections and save about ¥1000 for an extra half hour of travel time. You can also catch local trains from Shinjuku for about ¥2000.
Trail head: Google Maps
Note: During autumn (Sep/Oct) and long weekends, traffic can become very congested, sometimes doubling the travel time by both car and bus.
The trail head starts at the Futarasan Chugushi Shrine and you will need to pay 500 yen (may have increased to 1000) to enter as the mountain is considered part of the shrine. The trail begins in a nice forest which meanders it's way up the mountain, after about 20 minutes you will reach a road, keep an eye out for a small trail on the left which bypasses the first section of the road. The road doesn't last long and soon you will be back in the forest, the trail gets steeper from here.
The trail is well marked so you won't need a details description, after about 2 hours you will reach a rocky section with large boulders which are fun to climb over, and eventually you will reach red volcanic rocks and scree which marks the final stretch to the summit.
Weather and Seasons
The hiking season is from May to October, and snow can hang around until May and begin falling again in October. Summer weather is beautiful, and Autumn will be the busiest time of year.
Hiking Distance: 9 km
Time: 6-7 hrs
Elevation gain: 1210m