The best hikes in Hakone 箱根で最高のハイキングコース
View of Mt Fuji from Komagatake
The start of the Hakone Kyukaido
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Tokaido Road
Credit: By Kabacchi on Flickr, CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/) https://www.flickr.com/photos/kabacchi/5659918567
Mythical paths and grandiose landscapes
Hakone is part of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park in Kanagawa Prefecture. Less than two hours by train from Tokyo, the place is popular for its onsen, its views of Mount Fuji and its magnificent landscapes. Discover its main hiking trails - whether you're an experienced hiker or not, you'll find something suitable. These hikes can be done in the spring, summer and fall, but fall is the best season, with its golden and red foliage and blue sky. Some of the trails are for experienced hikers with appropriate equipment only.
The Tokaido road: Hakone Kyukaido
The Tokaido road connected Kyoto to the city of Edo (the name of Tokyo until 1868). It was was used by all sorts of people such as pilgrims, monks, merchants and daimyo, who, under the reign of the Tokugawa shoguns, had to go once every two years to the capital. Today, many Japanese like to travel along this route, usually only one step at a time (about 32km). Hakone was an important step on this road. It was the last border post before the capital and this passage was feared for its difficulty and dangerousness.
Nowadays it is possible to have a glimpse of what the paths were by taking the Hakone Kyukaido, the old Tokaido road.
- Read more: The Hakone Kyukaido
The easiest and shortest route is the one that connects Hakone-Machi to Moto-Hakone (on the lakeside) via the buildings of the old reconstituted border post (Hakone Sekisho) and the "cedar paths", a paved path among cedar trees, some of which date from the Edo period (1603 - 1868). It only takes a half hour. You can continue walking along Lake Ashi to get to Hakone Shrine.
The bravest can walk from Hakone-Yumoto (where the train station is) to Moto-Hakone via the old district of Hatajuku. This path is very busy in autumn for its foliage. En route, it's possible to have a drink, just like the walkers of yesteryear, in the old tea house Amazake Chaya.
Owakudani, June 2015
Hakone Sekisho checkpoint
Credit: Jerome Laborde
West Bank of Ashi Lake (Ashinoko)
A trail of more than ten kilometers allows you to walk along Lake Ashi in the forest, far from the road. After crossing the Kojiri lock, you can walk along the west bank of Ashiniko, which includes two beautiful natural sandy beaches. About twenty minutes from the Kojiri lock, there is that of Fukara, which was used to irrigate the water in the region 350 years ago.
It's a pleasant walk but not always easy, with sometimes impressive ascents and descents.
There are splendid views of the opposite bank, including Komagatake and Hakone shrine. Here, nature is queen, and wild plants and birds decorate the promenade which stretches for 11.5km. It takes about 4 hours of walking.
Owakudani means "great bubbling valley". It's a volcanic valley with sulfuric emanations. Warning: the frequent emanation of toxic gases leads to frequent closure of the site and hiking trails that provide access. Please check the current status before leaving.
The 7.2 km course starts from Togendai cable car station, passes the Hakone Visitor Center (where you can find information on hiking trails and more) and continues to Owakudani. It's a fairly easy walk that can be done with family (in about 2.5 hours).
The Kamiyama and Komagatake Mountains
This is a hiking trail that will fascinate geology lovers, as it passes through an environment of volcanic eruptions. There is also abundant flora and forests. It leads from Owakudani to Mt. Kamiyama, the highest point of Hakone, and then to Komagatake Mountain. From there, there are magnificent views of Ashi Lake and, in good weather, of Mount Fuji. The descent of Komagatake Mountain is by cable car.
This path is not recommended for novices, it's recommended to bring climbing equipment and of course don't forget to bring water and some provisions. You can walk the 4.5 km in about 2.5 hours.
Mount Kintoki (1,212 meters above sea level) is linked to the legend of Kintaro, a hero of Japanese folklore, and its ascent is one of Hakone's most popular hiking routes. Once at the top, you'll have splendid views of Lake Ashi, Hakone Valley, Owakudani and Mount Fuji.
Several paths lead to the summit. The most popular is Kintoki Shrine, while the descent is through Otome Pass or Yagurasawa Pass. The more adventurous prefer to climb through the Yagurasawa Pass or Ashigara Pass.
At the top, in addition to the incredible view, two tea houses reward walkers for their efforts. The ascent can be done in around 2.5 hours (4.6 km). It's advisable to bring water and to have hiking equipment.