There are many great places to hike in Fukushima, especially in Aizu. The region’s mountains provide great hikes through natural surroundings ranging from easy walks to full on spirit crushing climbs. Here we are going to review a few of these spots, giving directions to each and a bit of information about the hike. We will give a 1-10 rating, 1 being a flat walk and 10 being a climb requiring ropes and tackle.
Standing at 2,105m, Mt. Iide is located in the Northwest corner of the ken, near Kitakata-shi. This is a full on hike and we would rate it an 8. Some parts of the hike seem near 60% incline and in some parts you would be best to use your hands for grips. There are a couple of routes up, but we will recommend one. Expect the climb to take at least five hours up and four down. About one hour from the peak there is a lodge that is open all year and staffed from July 1 to August 30. It is recommended that people climb during these dates. At other times of the year, snow and cold will most likely be too much.
To get there, take your local JR train towards Aizu and get off at Yamato (山都) station. From there, take a bus bound for Kawairi (川入) and get off at the last stop. There are only two buses a day. Click here for a bus schedule (in Japanese). By car you will need to make your way to Yamato-machi (north of Kitakata) and follow the signs for飯豊山 (Mount Iide).
Standing at 1819 meters, Mt. Bandai is a very popular mountain to climb in Fukushima-ken. Some call it the Fuji of Fukushima, although it is a bit of a stretch to find similarity. Located near the ski resort of ALTA Bandai, the mountain can be accessed from Bandai-machi or Inawashiro-shi. This is a moderate hike and we would rate it a 4. Some parts of the trail require some steep upwards hiking, but in very few places will you be using your hands to climb. Most of the climb is fair with the last 1/10 or so being steep. Routes are open from mid-May to mid-November.
To get there, make your way to Bandai-machi. From Bandai-machi take Route 64 north until you reach the Gold Line (which is a toll road). Take the Gold Line north. There will be a bus stop / parking area where you can start your hike on the left hand side of the road.
Mt. Azuma (nishi)
Standing at more than 1800 meters, this mountain can be found next to its smaller friend Azuma kofuji, a crater standing at 1700 meters. While the crater is easily accessible from the nearby roadway and park station, Azuma Nishi is a longer hike, taking about four hours to reach the summit and three hours down. Most of the trail is fair hiking, with some parts being steep. We would rate it a 5. The area is very interesting as there are fissures with sulfur clouds spewing from them and large marshy areas. Climbing is open from June 1 to September 30.
To get there, you need to get on the Skyline. You can access the Skyline from Route 115 near Inawashiro. It is a toll road so you will need to pay a fee. There is a visitor center along the roadway near the crater where a collection of eateries, facilities, a parking lot, and a stop for buses from Fukushima Station are located.
Standing at 1718 meters, Mt. Adatara is a short drive from Fukushima-shi. Located on the site of a ski-jo, in hiking season this mountain has a lift that will run you half way up the mountain. If that is not your style, then there are alternate routes without the lift. There are also numerous smaller mountains around Adatara that can be accessed along side trails, so be careful to keep going the right way! We would rate this climb a 3-4 considering you could get the lift and the rest of the climb has only a few occasions to use your hands in climbing. Climbing is open May 1 to mid-November.
If you’re using public transit, take a local JR train and get off at Nihonmatsu (二本松) station. From there take a bus to Adatara Kogen Ski Resort. By car, take Route 115 south from Fukushima-shi. At the Route 459 junction, turn onto Route 459. Follow 459 south until you can take a right onto Route 386. Follow 386 until you reach the parking lot at Adatara Ski Resort. To reach the trail from the ski resort parking lot, head towards the right hand group of buildings where there are trail maps.
Oze National Park
Located in the south of Fukushima at the corners of Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma, and Niigata Prefectures, this large park offers numerous hiking opportunities. It is impossible to give this park a rating as you can take hikes through meadows at a 1 or try hiking one of a couple of peaks that reach about a 5 with some difficult areas. This place is perfect for hiking with those who don’t like to hike. You can tackle the mountains while they have a stroll through the meadows and you can all meet up at a mountain café for lunch. The marshlands are mostly flat and boards have been placed to make walking more enjoyable. For the more adventurous, there are a few mountains including Mount Hiuchigadake, which towers at 2,356m. This climb is more suitable for fit and experienced climbers. Starting earlier is best as it can take up to four hours to climb up and back down this mountain. Because the weather at Oze is very changeable, wet weather gear is a must when hiking in the area. We highly recommend this park. Lower hiking is open as of mid-May and higher altitudes open in mid-June. The season ends mid-October and mid-November, respectively.
To get there by car, begin by making your way to Tajima in Minami-aizu. From there get on route 289 heading west. After about 23km, you will turn left onto Route 401 heading south. Follow Route 401 until it becomes Route 352. The entrance to the park is on Route 1 on the left hand side of the road. Follow signs for parking: driving in the park is prohibited.
There is some great hiking in and around Fukushima ken but always, always remember to be safe when hiking! Do not stray far from the path, be prepared for all weather, pack plenty of water, and try not to hike alone. Sometimes weather changes quickly and people lose their way. If a trail looks unsafe, it probably is. The mountains will be there next week when the weather is better, so exercise caution before all else! Most of all, enjoy Fukushima.