8 Scenic Routes for Mount Takao to Enjoy the Fall Foliage
Mount Takao is a mountain located in Hachioji-shi, Tokyo which has been designated 3 Michelin stars. Being located 50 km from the city, it is easily accessible. If you want to leave the busy city to enjoy a quick getaway into nature, it is the perfect place. The natural scenery is known to be beautiful all year around, but particularly so this time of year for the amazing colors of the fall foliage. It is a popular hiking area attracting a lot of visitors. In fact since I was there just a few days ago, I would like to guide you through the different trails and highlights of the area.
How to Get There
Getting there is easy. You just take one train from Shinjuku on the Keio Line and right to the Takaosan-guchi Station. It doesn’t even take an hour!
8 Different Trails
Once you reach Mount Takao, there are a total of 8 different routes to and around the mountain summit as well as a route that takes you from Mount Takao to a different Mount Jimba. I have also listed the distances and rough time estimates for reference.
1. Route #1 (Marked in Red)
There is an observatory and some souvenir shops on the way. You can also use the “lift” and cable car up to the observatory. Getting there using these methods are of course easier, but sometimes there can be quite a long wait.
Once you go passed the observatory, the next highlight of this route is the Yakuo-in temple. To get to the temple, you must take the road that forks into onna-zaka (woman hill), and otoko-zaka (man hill).
The onna-zaka is an easier climb; the otoko-zaka is an upward climb of 108 steps. There is specific meaning behind the number of steps being 108. It is said that humans have 108 world desires or afflictions and these 108 desires are what interferes in the Buddhist training. Taking 108 steps of stairs and arriving at the temple is perhaps symbolic of overcoming the 108 worldly desires by the time you come face to face with the temple.
2. Route #2 (Marked in Yellow)
30 minutes around
This is a route that circles around the observatory. There are many souvenir shops and there is also a little monkey zoo.
3. Route #3 (Marked in Lavender)
This is a route where you can enjoy the forest scenery of Mount Takao. It is an easier climb than Route #1, and less foot traffic. Because there are less people, you can take your time to enjoy the natural surroundings.
4. Route #4 (Marked in Sky Blue)
50 mins to climb up
40 mins to climb down
The highlight of this route is a suspension bridge. This is also a relatively easier trail compared to Route #1.
5. Route #5 (Marked in Pink)
6. Route #6 (Marked in Green)
90 mins to climb up
70 mins to climb down
This is a route where you can see the Biwadaki waterfall. Most of the other routes up to the summit are paved roads. However, this route has areas where you walk along water, so I would recommend you wear trekking shoes to prevent slipping. Also, this route does not have any shops on the way up to the summit so better take enough water and some snacks. Since there are some areas on the trail that do not get much sun, perhaps summer time, more so than fall, would be a better time to enjoy this trail.
7. Inariyama Route (Marked in Mustard Color)
This is the most strenuous course out of the routes that go to the summit. It is also considered the route with the most beautiful scenery. Along the trail, there is a little look-out area where you can see all the way to the heart of the city, and you can see the high-rise buildings of Tokyo.
I used this trail to go down the mountain. Since there are a lot of steps, it may be a tough climb up.
8. From Mount Takao Summit to Mount Jimba
5 1/2 hours
This is a relatively long trail that goes from the summit of Mount Takao to Mount Jimba. If you are going in the fall, you want to be sure you are heading down the mountain by around early afternoon. This means you want to start climbing from Takaosan-guchi station no later than 9AM.
Other than the 7th and 8th routes, none of these trails are too difficult. All you will need is about half a day to explore the area. As for your clothing and shoes, of course it’s better to be prepared, but I actually went in sneakers (and no special hiking gear) and it was fine. If you are climbing up #7, Inariyama Route or the route #8, then it would probably be better to have proper hiking shoes and attire.
Depending on the trail, some may not have many shops or even if there are shops or restaurants, it can be a very crowded time of year with a long wait. I would recommend you pack your own lunch.
If you want to try the onsen (hot spring bath) after your climb, there is an onsen facility that is connected to the Takaosan-guchi station! It is very convenient and as it just opened this October, it is very new and clean.
Mount Takao Cuisine
The tororo-soba is a dish that is famous in the area. Tororo is grated Yamaimo (yam), and it is known to be very nutritious. The tororo-soba is this tororo poured over soba noodles. A type of yam called the “jinenjo” is particular to this area.
Fall foliage has generally been seen around early November in Mount Takao. However, because the winter has not gotten so cold yet this year, the leaves were still just starting to change color! Beautiful scenery, relaxing onsen, yummy tororo-soba… all you need is one day to enjoy all these things. I definitely recommend you to visit the area before it starts to get too cold for winter!