Hiking Distance: 29km
Time: 2-3 Days
Elevation Change: ➚3500m ➘1650m
➚ 3500m ➘ 1650m
Huts & Campgrounds
Mt. Utsugi is possibly the best kept secret of the Alps, the main trail starts in the beautiful town of Komagane and takes you up over 2000 meters to reach the peak. There are nice mountain huts to sleep in and the views are absolutely incredible. The landscape of Mt. Utsugi looks very unique with its huge granite boulders surrounded by lush greenery, and they're heaps of fun to climb. The second day is spent hiking a tremendous ridgeline to reach the Komagatake Ropeway and the dramatic peaks around Mt. Kiso-Koma, you can either sleep here for one more night or catch the ropeway back down the mountain. This is the first hike I've published with a 5/5 difficulty rating - completing both of these trails in 2 days is quite challenging and requires a high level of fitness, however, you can make it easier by breaking it up into a 3 day hike. Don't worry too much about the difficulty, in summer you have plenty of daylight hours to pace yourself.
Car - If you're using a car, you can park directly at the trailhead at this parking lot, you'll also shave off 30 mins of hiking from the bus stop. There is no parking fee and you could park there for a couple of nights. You'll need to catch a bus back to your car after the hike.
Train + Bus - If going by public transport then you'll need to reach Komagane station, from there you'll need to catch a bus bound for the ropeway and get off at stop K11 or K12, the bus will take about 10 mins and departs every half hour. Here's a link for the bus timetable.
Kyoto and Osaka: The cheapest option from Kyoto and Osaka is the highway bus, which costs ¥5900 and takes 6 hours 40 mins (+ 1:40 from Osaka) to arrive at Okaya Station, you can make reservations here. The train from Okaya to Komagane takes 1 hour 20 mins and costs ¥770.
Tokyo: The best option for Tokyo is a direct bus from Shinjuku, it only costs ¥3700 and takes 4 hours to arrive at Komagane, you can make reservations here.
Trailhead: Google Maps
Komagane to Mt. Utsugi & the Utsugi Shelter Hut
Time: 6-7 hrs
Elevation change: ➚ 2200m gain ➘ 450m loss
From the K11 or K12 bus stop you will walk along the road for about 5 mins according to the map until you reach the forest and the start of the hike, from here it will be another 20 mins until you reach the parking lot and the Mt.Utsugi trailhead, do not follow the road, instead head up the steep trail behind the toilet. From here the trail is well marked and easy to follow. You will gradually ascend through the forest for around 2 hours until you reach the Ikeyama-goya shelter hut with a fresh water station, this is your last chance to refill water for free.
After another hour of forest hiking you will reach a ridgeline called Ohjigoku, marked by a caution sign. From here you will enjoy a steep section of ladders and chains then after about 1.5 hours you'll reach a fork - make sure you turn right at this fork, the right side contains all the fun stone formations and beautiful views, eventually leading to a mountain hut called Komaho Hutte. The Komaho Hutte is ¥4500 per night and reservation is made via email. At the Komaho hut there is another intersection with a trail leading down into the valley toward the Utsugi Shelter Hut, if you prefer to stay here it's only ¥1000 per night and no reservation is required, it's very nice, although it will add an extra 30 mins onto your hike for both days.
The summit of Utsugi is only 5 mins from the Komaho hut, so enjoy the sunset from the peak and get an early night for the next day.
Mt. Utsugi to Komagatake Ropeway via Hinokio Shelter Hut
Time: 9-10 hrs
Elevation change: ➚ 1300m gain ➘ 1200m loss
You have a very exciting day ahead, there will be lots of rock climbing and incredible views. You will need a minimum of 3 litres of water to reach Komagatake in summer, you can bring less if you want to fill up along the way. You can buy water at the beginning or make a 45 minute detour for free water towards the end. Make sure you have enough calories and coffee, today is a big day.
From the shelter hut it will take about 40 minutes to reach the peak of Utsugi and then another hour down the ridgeline to reach the Kisodono mountain hut where you can buy water if you need - your next option for water is about 4 hours away at the Hinokio mountain shelter. The hiking between Kisodono and Hinokio is a lot of fun, it's hard work but the variety of the terrain and the views will keep you happy.
If you need to fill up water at Hinokio, you will have to hike down 20 mins and go past the shelter hut to find a small water source coming from the ground. After reaching Hinokio it will take another 3 hours to reach the Komagatake mountains and the intersection to head down to the ropeway.
Take note of the time and your energy levels once you reach this point, as this intersection is quite important. I assumed by the map that I could easily traverse to the mountain huts and the Kisokoma peak from here, but the jagged Hokendake peak is no ordinary rock climbing trail. It is an exposed section of rock with steep cliffs on either side, even with rock climbing experience I wasn't comfortable attempting this with my heavy backpack. You can hike up for 10 mins if you want to take a look and decide.
The detour around Hokendake via the Ropeway will take 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the next mountain hut if you plan on staying another night, which I highly recommend as this place is incredible for sunset and sunrise. If you plan on heading down, note that the cable car departs every 30 mins and the final departure is at 5pm. So if you have enough time, you could also summit Kisokoma and then catch the final cable car down, this would take about 2-3 hours. And you can also end your day with the nice Hayataro onsen in town.
The jagged Hokendake peak
Weather and Seasons
Summer and autumn, from late June to October, are the best times for this hike. There is likely to be snow hanging around until June. The autumn leaves will be colourful from mid-September to mid-October.