Where to hike in the winter? Part II Tokyo & Saitama Prefectures

Next up is a list of low-altitude snow-free winter hikes in the areas to the West of Tokyo, mostly in the foothills of the Okutama and Chichibu mountains. Saitama especially has a multitude of short hikes that are suitable for the short cold winter days and this list is by no means complete.

Mt Takao 高尾山, Tokyo Prefecture

No need to introduce Mt Takao 599m – if you haven’t climbed it, head there first. You can go up one of the several direct routes, or one of the longer hikes circling North or South around the top of Mt Takao. The adventurous can continue West from the summit to Mt Kagenobu and even Mt Jimba (be prepared for some snow in that case).

PROS: Lots of trails to choose from, station to station hiking,  lots of temples to check out

CONS: Crowds (especially school children), path erosion, somewhat cliche

Ome hills hiking trail 青梅丘陵 ハイキングコース, Tokyo Prefecture

These unassuming hills on the Eastern fringes of the Okutama moutain range follow the Ome line between Ome 青梅 and Ikusabata 軍畑 stations, climbing gradually to the highest point, Mt Raiden 雷電 at 494 meters. Since most of the trail is in the forest it can be a bit boring but it does make for a great workout and it is good for trail running if that is your thing (just make sure to give priority to the hikers!).  There is a trail to the South of Ome station that would enable one to do a loop but I haven’t tried it yet.

PROS: Station to station hiking, well-worn and relatively easy trail to follow, Karakai castle ruins on the way (just the foundations though)

CONS: Lots of ups and downs, few views (although it’s possible to see the tip of Mt Fuji at one point), sometimes used by trail runners

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View North towards Hanno and Okumusashi

Mt Hiwada 日和田山, Saitama Prefecture

Mt Hiwada 305m can be reached on foot from Koma station 高麗 on the Seibu Ikebukuro line (a couple of stops afte Hanno) and belongs to the Okumusashi area 奥武蔵 which is a kind of prelude to the Chichibu area 秩父. There are several paths going up and down and a small shrine on the top. It’s possible to follow the trail beyond the summit which leads to other minor peaks and a lake. My recommendation is to head to Mt Monomi 物見山 and then back the same way

PROS: Station to station hiking, good views of the Kanto plain and Mt Fuji from the top, length can be adjusted

CONS: Some road walking from the station, hike is on the short side unless one extends to Mt Monomi, Hiwada part can be a little crowded

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Mt Fuji from the shrine near the top of Mt Hiwada

Yugate ユガテ and Mt Ogami 越上山, Saitama Prefecture

Yugate 290m, less than an hour from higashi agano station 東吾野, consists of 2-3 houses and some fields in the Okumusashi hills. There are a couple of benches and it makes a nice spot to stop for a break. Continuing further along a relatively wide and flat path, one eventually reaches Mt Ogami, 566m high. The return is done by heading down the opposite side to the Kuroyama bus stop 黒山 (to Ogose station 越生).

PROS: Easy path to hike, good picnic spot at Yugate, waterfall near Kuroyama

CONS: Some road walking, few views

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Yugate in the spring

The 5 peaks of Kamanosawa 釜の沢五峰, Saitama Prefecture

This is a hike that I have discovered recently in the low hills that cross the wide valley containing Chichibu city, close to Ogano village  小鹿野. The highest point is 590 meters but lying quite a bit inland, a little snow is always a possibility (it was totally snow-free when I did it it January). There are some steep rocky bits (with chains to assist you) so it isn’t recommended for beginners. The views of the surrounding Chichibu mountains are fantastic and there is an interesting rock formation on the way called kamegadake 亀ヶ岳.

PROS: few people, some “exciting bits”, lots of panoramic views

CONS: bus required both ways, somewhat far from Tokyo, caution required along various steep drops along the way

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Kamegadake

The Nagatoro Alps 長瀞アルプス, Saitama Prefecture

Another “Alps”, this time West of Nagatoro station 長瀞 on the Chichibu line, the highest point being Mt Hodo 357m. There is a ropeway, a small zoo and flower gardens (including cherry blossoms). The start point is actually the next stop, Nogami station 野上 but one can also start the hike further North as the there is a path that follows the ridge as it curves to the east following the railway line all the way to Mt Kanetsukido 鐘撞堂山 (incidentally a Kanto hundred famous mountain).

PROS: Station to station hiking, good views of Chichibu, hike can be lengthened or shortened

CONS: Crowds since the top is accessible via cable car, somewhat far from Tokyo, lots of the steps near the top of Mt Hodo

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Stairs leading up to the highest point of the Nagatoro Alps

Where to hike in the winter? Part I Shizuoka & Kanagawa Prefectures

Winter is in full-swing and for those who are averse to hiking in freezing temperatures or snowy conditions, it’s good to know a few low-altitude spots for hiking. So without further ado, here is a list of hikes that I have done during the winter months (December to March) starting with areas South of Tokyo:

Numazu Alps 沼津アルプス, Shizuoka prefecture

With the highest point being 392m and located right next to Suruga bay, it’s safe to say that snow on the Numazu Alps is a rare affair. However the name “Alps” is well-deserved as there are lots of ups and down, some of which are surprisingly steep (nothing technical though).

PROS: Shinkansen Access, Mt Fuji and sea views, hike can be shortened or lengthened

CONS: Transport cost, Crowds (especially closer to Numazu city), lots of ups and downs.

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Looking back at the highest point of the Numazu Alps, Mt Washizu

Mt Higane 日金山, Shizuoka Prefecture

Mt Higane starts at sea-level from Yugawara station and heads inland all the way up to 771m. The latter portions of the trail can have snow but this shouldn’t really be a concern since there are few steep sections. However caution is required when negotiating the icy steps when heading back down to Izuyugawara Onsen 伊豆湯河原温泉, a short bus ride from the station. There is a short cable car near the top of Mt Higane at Jukokkutoge 十国峠 at the bottom of which it is possible to catch a bus.

PROS: Nice Onsen at the end, great views of Mt Fuji,  photogenic stone buddhas

CONS: Start of the trail is not well signposted, some portions are on the road, some snow on the higher portions

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Miniature statues at Toukouji temple near Mt Higane

Mt Nango 南郷山, Mt Maku 幕山 and Mt Shiro 城山, Kanagawa Prefecture

This hike is described in this blog post

These 3 small mountains are located a little North of Mt Higane (described above) in the vicinity of Yugawara station 湯河原. The first 2 are best reached via a short bus ride but Mt Shiro is walkable from the station. They can be done separately or in combination. The highest point is Mt Nango at 610m but since they sit right on Sagami bay, snow is rare.

PROS: Multitude of paths, plum blossoms in February and March, good lunch / break spots at the top of Mt Maku (usually lots of people) and Mt Shiro (less people)

CONS: Crowded bus to the start of the trail during plum blossom season, trail up Mt Nango a little difficult to find, some road-walking when doing Mt Shiroyama

Mt Ogusu 大楠山, Kanagawa Prefecture

Mt Oogusu’s is known as the highest point of the Miura Peninsula 三浦半島 (due South of Yokohama) at 241m. It also happens to be a Kanto hundred famous mountain. So that’s already two good reasons to climb it!

PROS: Obersvation tower on the top, the lower part is along a river, can be done as a loop hike or a traverse from Kinugasa Station 衣笠 on the Yokosuka line

CONS: Not a full day hike (but possible to combine with other peaks on the peninsula), some road walking necessary, closeness to civilisation

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Maeda River promenade at the base of Mt Ogusu

Tenen Hiking Trail 天園ハイキングコース, Kanagawa Prefecture

Topping out at 159m, Mt Oohirayama is the highest point of this trail just East of Kamakura City, and is virtually guaranteed to be snow free throughout winter. The trail is well trodden and most parts are fairly easy making it suitable for beginners. The hike starts and finishes at different temples in the area, accessible from Kita-Kamakura and Kamakura stations.

PROS: Station to station hiking, possible to combine with sightseeing (temples and Daibutsu), views of Mt Fuji and the sea

CONS: Can get crowded, not a full-day hike, surrounded by residential areas

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View of Kamakura city and Sagami bay from near the top of Mt Ohira

Mt Zukkou 頭高山 and Mt Koubou 弘法山, Kanagawa Prefecture

Located right between Mt Oyama and the Shonan coast, these low hills make up the southern extremities of the Tanzawa mountain range. The highest point is Mt Zukkou at 303m and the entire trail is should be snow free throughout most of the winter.  The hike starts from Shibuzawa station and ends at Tsurumaki onsen station, both on the Odakyu line. The hike can be split in two at Hadano station.

PROS: Station to station hiking, panoramic views of the Tanzawa mountain range on Zukkou part of the hike, observation tower on the top of Mt Koubou

CONS: Some road walking at the start, poor signposting on the Zukkou side, crowds around Mt Koubou

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The Tanzawa mountain range – Mt Nabewari on the left, Mt Tono in the middle and Mt Oyama on the right