Hiking Distance: 15km
Time: 7-8 hours
Elevation gain: 950m
Huts & Campgrounds
Mt. Omine is a sacred mountain in Nara prefecture, it can be accessed by Dorogawa onsen or Yoshinoyama. Mt. Omine is somewhat controversial for having UNESCO Work Heritage status as it also maintains a 1300 year old ban on women. 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 as a day hike. 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.
Note: there is an alternative trail for female hikers to enjoy, it's a neighbouring peak called Inamuragatake and affectionately known as the ladies Sanjogatake, it's equally enjoyable with fun terrain and great views, the main difference is the religious history. You can view the GPS map here, the two peaks also share the same trail leading to Dorogawa.
Car - The trailhead is located in Dorogawa Onsen town, 2 hours from Osaka, you just need to reach this parking lot. If you don't want to walk for 30 mins along the river, there is another parking lot further up that will cost 1000 yen per day.
Train + Bus - You'll need to catch the 6am train to Shimoichi-guchi station, which is just under 2 hours from Kyoto and Osaka. From Shimoichi-guchi, catch an 8:20am bus to Dorogawa onsen. Make sure to plan your return carefully, as the last bus from Dorogawa is at 5:58pm. You can view the bus timetable here.
Carpark for the trailhead: Google Maps
Shimoichi-guchi Station: Google Maps
Note: This description is for the clockwise loop which seems to be the most common, however, due to the terrain features the anti-clockwise loop would be much easier on the knees, and more fun if you prefer climbing.
Once you arrive at the bus stop or car park, you'll need to walk up the road towards Hahakodo shrine where you'll find a path on your left which leads to a walk alongside the river. This walk takes about 30 mins and eventually you'll arrive at the trailhead located here. The trail will now be clearly marked and easy to follow, it will take another 2 hours to reach the top of the ridgeline where you'll find some nice viewpoints to have lunch. Keep your eyes out for the three shugyo (tests of courage), each said to strengthen one's spiritual power. The first is the hanging rock called Kanekake Iwa. The second is a sheer cliff called Nishi no Nozoki. And the third, called Byodo Iwa, is a rock tower which is only available by special request. You can read more about the three shugyo on Wikipedia.
After admiring the views and the temple on Sanjogatake, you will encounter a steep descent and soon reach an intersection with another sign advising "no women allowed". If you're short on time you can save about an hour by turning right and heading down into the forest, this will take you along a nice river, eventually ending up on an old road that will take you back to the trailhead. However, if you head straight, you will continue along the ridgeline, passing by the trail to Inamura, and end up back in Dorogawa onsen.
Note: You can also camp overnight near the peaks of Sanjogatake and Inamura, the Sanjogatake campsite is about an hour beyond the peak and is sometimes used by Shugendo monks, and the Inamura campsite is about 45mins from the peak, featuring a mountain hut in case of bad weather.
Weather and Seasons
Late spring, summer, and early autumn are the best times for this hike. There is likely to be snow hanging around until March or April. The autumn leaves will be colourful in the second half of October.
Hiking Distance: 15 km
Time: 7-8 hrs
Elevation gain: 950m