One of the most strikingly beautiful mountains in the world, hiking Japan’s Mount Fuji is an adventure that will create memories that will last a lifetime. The mountain is 3776 meters tall, and a hike even part of the way up the mountain offers expansive views and an experience that is perfect for even novice hikers and families. Japan has declared July and August the official climbing season for Mount Fuji, and anyone who does not have a lot of experience with this type of mountain hike should consider going during this season, when the mountain’s mild weather and lack of snow make it easy to enjoy the trip. Access to the mountain’s trails is available via public transportation, and there are scenic mountain huts to stop at.
Hiking Mount Fuji isn’t just a popular tourist attraction, there are also many people from Japan who enjoy the trek and hike the mountain on a regular basis. The busiest week for climbers is in mid-August, known as Obon Week, when so many climbers visit the area that they often form lines at some mountain passages. Those who want to avoid large crowds should avoid this week, but the people who climb Mount Fuji are part of the experience that you wouldn’t want to miss. Hiking Mount Fuji with hundreds of others creates a sense of being part of a unique experience that will become almost as memorable as the trip up the mountain itself.
If you’re a fan of Mount Fuji and planning a trip to Japan, I recommend getting the Lonely Planet Japan Travel Guide. For those who choose to hike Mount Fuji during the off season, be sure that you truly understand what the trip involves before you start. Some of the mountain huts that dot the trails are open a majority of the year, but it can be difficult to find public transportation to the mountain during the off-season. Mount Fuji is generally free of snow from late June to the end of October, but the weather on the mountain can be unpredictable at best during the winter season and strong winds can make climbing tricky even for experienced mountaineers. Only those hikers with significant experiencing and the right equipment should attempt the hike during snowy and cold periods.
There are ten different stations on Mount Fuji, with the first one at the base of the mountain and the tenth at the peak. The first five stations include paved roads that are easily accessed by even casual hikers, and there are four separate “fifth stations” on different parts of the mountain. The most popular trail is called the Yoshida Trail, and takes between five and seven hours to hike, with the return trip taking about four hours. There are many mountain huts along the trail, and there are different trails for ascent and descent, giving hikers a different view.
The sunrise takes place on this side of the mountain, making early-morning hikes particularly rewarding. The Subashiri Trail takes between five and eight hours to climb, and the return trip is about four hours. The Subashiri Trail connects to the Yoshida Trail at the eighth station. The Gotemba trail takes about nine hours to ascend, and five hours to descend, and is one of the longest trails on the mountain, ideal for hikers who want a slower and less steep ascent. The Fujinomiya Trail is on the southern side of the mountain, and takes about eight hours to ascend and five hours to descend.
In general, the ascent to the summit of Mount Fuji is not considered difficult, with the most challenging areas being those with steep, rocky terrain that is best navigated by experienced hikers or those with an appropriate understanding of the terrain. Since hiking Mount Fuji means that you will be going up more than three thousand meters in altitude, the air does get thin and makes breathing difficult for those who are not athletic or used to higher elevations. Proper preparation and planning make hiking Mount Fuji a good experience for families, couples, groups, and even singles who want to experience one of Japan’s natural wonders.
Photo of the tour group and 3250 m check point: flickr.com/photos/imgdive
Picture of Mount Fuji descent: flickr.com/photos/edenandjosh