For so many people, autumn is one of the most magical times. The skies become clear and blue, the air is more crisp, and the leaves turn into vivid shades of orange, yellow, red, and brown. Thanks to the drop in temperature, autumn is also a popular time for hiking.
You may find that some of these areas are close to your Village House apartment, or if not, you may be able to get to one of these using public transport. If not, we encourage you to look for hiking destinations close to your apartment, as there will likely be a beautiful spot nearby where you can take in the beauty of the trees and their leaves turning into different colors.
1. Nikko National Park (Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture)
One of Japan’s first national parks, Nikko National Park was opened in 1934.
The autumn season lasts a long time in Nikko National Park due to the varying temperatures at different heights. Some spots are full of autumnal foliage at the start of October, and other areas are best later in the season up until the end of November.
The park is famous for its historical Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples, Nikko Tosho-gu and Rinno-ji, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the other stunning areas for hiking around Nikko National Park include Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Falls, Yumoto Onsen, Ryuzu Falls, and Shoyoen Garden, among many others.
2. Onuma Quasi National Park (Kameda, Hokkaido Prefecture)
Hokkaido is where the first autumn colors appear each year in Japan. So, if you’re looking to see the autumn colors at the start of the season, Hokkaido is the place to go! With stunning maple and birch forests around Onuma and Konuma lakes, the Onuma Quasi National Park is a great destination for hiking in early autumn.
The vibrant autumn leaves are reflected on the surface of the lake, creating a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors. For a leisurely stroll, a walk around Lake Onuma will take around 1 hour and 30 minutes. Make sure to pass over some of the eighteen bridges that pass over some of the small islands at Lake Onuma. Mount Komagatake, an active volcano, is one of the most impressive sights of Onuma Quasi National Park.
3. Kamikochi (Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture)
This idyllic area is a favorite spot for domestic and international hikers. The stunning Valley of Kamikochi is surrounded by the Japanese Alps, so walkers have a variety of interesting routes to take up into the mountains.
Part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park, in the autumn months, Kamikochi is saturated with color. These colors are usually at their most vibrant in mid-October. The blues of the rivers, ponds, and sky contrast beautifully with the bright warm colors of the autumn foliage.
One of the most popular routes for a day trip taking in the autumn foliage is walking the trails from Taisho Pond to Myojin Bridge, along the Azusa River.
If you’re looking for a challenging adventure; the active volcano of Mount Yakedake, as well as mountains including Hishihotakadake, Okuhotakadake, and Maehatakadake have hiking routes. However, the climbs to these peaks are only recommended between mid-June and mid-September.
4. Togakushi (Nagano Prefecture)
It may come as no surprise that Nagano Prefecture has multiple world-class destinations for autumn leaves since it is one of Japan’s most popular spots for hiking, as well as one of the most beautiful nature destinations in the country.
Part of the Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park, Togakushi is just outside Nagano City. There are various Shinto shrines in Togakushi, and a famous pilgrimage called the Togakushi Kodo. There are plenty of trails along the pilgrimage taking you between different shrines. These are suitable for a variety of fitness levels.
Kagami-Ike is a beautiful spot for taking in the autumn colors, as well as the Togakushi Forest Botanical Garden.
Mount Togakushi itself is a challenging climb, at 1904 meters high and with a highly challenging ridge line. Only experienced mountaineers hike the ascent of Mount Togakushi, and it is recommended to arrange a local guide.
5. Mount Tsurumi (Beppu, Oita Prefecture)
Standing 1375 meters high and overlooking the city of Beppu and its hot springs, you can find the stunning Mount Tsurumi.
There are various walking paths around Mount Tsurumi, suitable for a range of abilities; and for those looking for a more leisurely trip to the summit of Mount Tsurumi, there is a ropeway. The summit is only a 15-minute walk from the upper ropeway station.
The walk up to Mount Tsurumi begins at the lower ropeway station and roughly takes 2 hours to reach the summit. Many adventurous visitors choose to walk up to the summit and then take the ropeway down.
The autumn foliage begins at the summit, usually in early October, and slowly, over five or six weeks, descends to the bottom of the mountain.
We hope you get a chance to visit one of our favorite spots for hiking among the autumn foliage. Since a lot of these spots are in cooler mountainous areas, the colors will likely turn earlier than in more temperate areas. If you miss them, please don’t worry as you may be able to catch the autumn colors further down the West of Japan where the climate is much warmer. Happy autumn!