The early summer hiking season has begun! After anticipating mountaintop snow melt for the last month it was finally time to take advantage of the break between rainy days.
Mt. Ontake is the second highest volcano in Japan (3,067m) It is regarded as a very spiritual mountain. Pilgrims make the climb every year. For those of us who are just avid hikers, the various shrines along the trail serve as a great place to take a rest and take in the view.
My friend and I set off on the trail at 8:30am and got back to the parking lot around 2:30pm- a perfect hike to start the summer.
The view from the trail is breath-taking- the Kiso Valley, the Alps, the alpine and volcanic landscape, and Mt. Ontake itself. But don’t breath too deeply- near the top the smell of sulfur is unavoidable. Go explore the amazingly turquoise blue lake (still mostly covered with ice), the trail behind the shrine that goes along a crater ridge, or hunker down for a nice lunch. This is when you need your warm clothes!
There was still a bit of snow on some parts of the trail but I was fine in my normal hiking boots. My struggle up the snowy patches was rewarded by being able to slide down on my return trip.
After the hike, my friend and I decided to do a bit more exploring. On the road down Mt. Ontake, there are a couple places to pull over and admire waterfalls. If you have the energy, I highly recommend stopping to take a quick look. Or head straight to a hot spring and relax your weary bones.
Mt. Ontake is about 2.5 hours by car from Matsumoto. The drive itself is nice and relatively simple. Take Route 19 from Matsumoto and pass through Kisofukushima Town. Keep your eyes open for signs (in English) for the Ontake Ropeway and Ski Resort. The parking lot for the hike is just above the ski resort.