Mount Yakedake – Hiking an Active Volcano

Hiking toward Mount Yake's gas plumes.

Hiking toward Mount Yake’s gas plumes.

This last weekend, I enjoyed a hike to the top of an active volcano on the edge of Matsumoto’s mountain region. Mount Yakedake (Yakedake = Burning Mountain) can be most easily accessed from one of two approaches; Kamikochi, which can be reached by bus, and Nakanoyu, which can be reached by car, taxi, or bus, though the trailhead might be hard to find from the Nakanoyu bus stop.

I was lucky enough to catch a ride in my friend’s car so we took the Nakanoyu approach. To find the trailhead, drive up the road a few minutes past Nakanoyu Onsen Ryokan. You’ll know when you find it because there will be other cars parked on the side of the road. Although we left Matsumoto before 5:00 in the morning, we grabbed the last parking spot immediately in front of the trailhead. At the trailhead, you’ll also likely find warning signs explaining the current dangers of the volcano.

Sign explaining the volcanic activity on the mountain just a week earlier.

Sign explaining the volcanic activity on the mountain just a week earlier.

The start of the hike reminded me of hiking back home in Seattle. The mountainous trail, greenery everywhere, the tall trees, and the light rain made me feel comfortable and confident. You’ll find moss-covered logs with new plants sprouting out of them, tangle roots holding pools of water, and bursts of color amongst the sea of green.

Plants growing out of a dying tree.

Plants growing out of a dying tree.

 

Orange fungus growing on a dying tree.

Orange fungus growing on a dying tree.

 

Don't eat strange berries unless you know what you're doing.

Don’t eat strange berries unless you know what you’re doing.

 

Purple Flowers growing in a clearing.

Purple flowers growing in a clearing.

 

These wooden paths keep you out of the mud... some of the time.

These wooden paths keep you out of the mud… some of the time.

 

Be careful of the puddles collecting in the tree roots!

Be careful of the puddles collecting in the tree roots!

Even with the rain and the clouds obstructing the view, it was a beautiful and enchanting hike.

Now and then, the rain slowed and we could see farther up the mountain.

Now and then, the rain slowed and we could see farther up the mountain.

 

Eventually, we made it above the rain.

Eventually, we made it above the rain.

After a couple of hours of hiking, the clouds finally disbursed and we enjoyed the full view Mt. Yakedake had to offer. Looking up, we could see the poisonous gases billowing from vents in the rock. A fast hiker could make it from the trailhead to the top in around 2~3 hours. My hiking buddy and I took our time and finally reached the peak in around 4 hours.

The hiking trail goes past vents spewing poisonous gases. Don't get too close!

The hiking trail goes past vents spewing poisonous gases. Don’t get too close!

 

The trail follows a catwalk toward the gas vents.

The trail follows a catwalk toward the gas vents.

We rested, ate, and took photos at the peak. The weather occasionally offered us some amazing photo opportunities. From the top, you can look down on the large gas vents, a beautiful lake in the center of the volcano’s crater, and the many surrounding mountains and valleys. The constant plumes of gases rising into the air nearby reminds you of the many warnings to be cautious of any activity that feels out of place. All the signs tell you to evacuate immediately if there is any activity you feel is unsafe or abnormal. Apparently, the billowing gas plumes are normal!

We finally reached the top of Mount Yake!

We finally reached the top of Mount Yakedake!

 

Great view of the the vents from above.

Great view of the the vents from above. Can you spot the tiny hiker?

 

A cloudy view of the crater's lake from the peak.

A cloudy view of the crater’s lake from the peak.

 

Great views of the valleys bellow.

Great views of the valleys below.

 

I wasn't brave enough to climb on these precarious rocks.

I wasn’t brave enough to climb on these precarious rocks.

 

There are plenty of great photo opportunities without taking risks.

There are plenty of great photo opportunities without taking risks.

We stayed at the peak for over an hour before heading back down. I noticed steaming vents on the actual trail where we climbed down to the walking path. I recommend not breathing the gases coming from these small vents!

Be careful of the little gas vents on the final climb to the peak!

Be careful of the little gas vents on the final climb to the peak!

The skies had cleared up considerably for our hike down the mountain. We took a small break on a rock to rest and take photos. Lucky for us, this rock was a butterfly magnet! They landed all over our stuff – and on us!

Great views from Butterfly Rock.

Great views from Butterfly Rock.

 

Butterflied were on our bags.

Butterflies landed on our bags.

 

Butterflies even landed on us!

Butterflies even landed on us!

There were plenty of other bugs and animals to spot during the hike. I saw spiders, flies, grasshoppers, birds, and even a snake!

A dragonfly on a branch.

A dragonfly on a branch.

 

Crickets on a moss-covered rock.

Crickets on a moss-covered rock.

 

Fly on a green blade.

Fly on a green blade.

 

A harmless snake winding down the trail.

A harmless snake winding down the trail.

Although this is a relatively simple hike, it is steep. My unconditioned knees were aching on the way down, even with having worn knee braces the entire hike. Yet, I still felt refreshed and satisfied when we reached the car.

We finally made it back to the car!

We finally made it back to the car!

The beauty and power of Mount Yakedake is a memory that will stay with me for a long time. Don’t “blow” your chance to visit this magnificent active volcano! Go check it out!

Beautiful view of the path ahead when you hike Mount Yake.

Beautiful view of the path ahead when you hike Mount Yakedake.


You can see my videos on Matsumoto (and more!) on my Discovery Makes Knowledge Youtube channel!

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