5 Hiking Spots Around Tokyo To Catch Stunning Views Of Fall Foliage

Trekking along these trails and under a brilliant canopy of koyo colors

By Erika van 't Veld
September 26, 2019
Lifestyle, Seasonal Trends

Escape the concrete jungle and crowded parks in the city and immerse yourself in mother nature’s greatest gift to Japan: the chameleon-like transformation of earthy greens to hues of fiery reds, bright oranges, and sunny yellows.

In Japan, koyo is the incredible phenomenon of leaves changing colors from spring greens to warm autumn tones. It’s a seasonal experience that rivals the beauty of exquisite sakura blossoms in the spring, and brings locals and tourists alike outside to enjoy all that nature has to offer. Here are five hiking spots where you can get out of the city, step into the surrounding nature, and get a firsthand look at one of Japan’s most miraculous seasonal wonders.


1. Mt. Takao Region


Mt. Takao region koyo hiking spots

One of the most popular hiking spots outside of Tokyo—and also one of the best koyo spots—is Mt. Takao. Thanks to a cable car and ropeway, the summit of the mountain is easily accessible. One exciting seasonal event held around here is the Takao-san Fall Colors Festival which happens during the entire month of November. It also brings a full crowd of tourists but is definitely worth checking out if you’re hiking around.

If you’re not a fan of the massive crowds, you can still enjoy Mt. Takao’s autumnal colors by hiking the Takao-Jinba Trail, which starts at the Mt. Takao summit. You’ll first pass by a viewpoint called Momijidai (もみじ台), literally translating to “Fall Colors Platform” where you’ll be able to see the cone of Mt. Fuji on clear days. Continue on the trail and you’ll be taken over three mountain tops: Mt. Shiroyama, Mt. Kagenobu, and Mt. Jinba, each with a rest area and incredible views of the famous Mt. Fuji.

Less avid hikers can walk three kilometers through the Inariyama Trail or Biwa Waterfall Trail, where you can also get scenic views of Mt.Takao’s splendid fall colors.

When to go: Mid-November through early December
Trail lengths and times:

  • Mt. Takao (Omotesando) Trail: 3.8 km | 100 mins up
  • Takao-Jinba Trail: 15.3 km | 5.5 hours
  • Inariyama Trail: 3.1 km | 100 mins up
  • Biwa Waterfall Trail: 3.3 km | 100 mins up

2. Mt. Mitake Region


 

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Mt. Mitake is a sacred mountain that is slightly more difficult to reach from Tokyo than Mt. Takao is. The area is a part of a national park that is famous for the wide Tama River which serves as a dividing line between Tokyo and Kanagawa. At the base of Mt. Mitake is the Mitake Gorge, which is lined with beautiful autumn colors during the koyo season.

Mt. Mitake summit is also highly accessible with a cable car and ropeway, but you also have the option to take the five-kilometer hiking trail on foot. The trail follows a narrow car-accessible road, which was formerly a pilgrimage trail used by visitors who summit Mt. Mitake to pray at the Musashi Mitake Shrine, then stay overnight at a temple lodging. The entire summit is covered in warm autumn hues which creates an impressive backdrop to the vermilion torii gates and shrines.

That’s not all you get with Mt. Mitake; you can discover two additional hiking trails that lead to nearby mountain summits: Mt. Odake and Mt. Hinode.

When to go: Mid to late November
Trail lengths and times:

  • Mt. Mitake Trail: 5 km | 2 hours one way
  • Trail leading to Mt. Odake: 4 km | 2 hours one way
  • Trail leading to Mt. Hinode: 2.5 km | 1 hour one way

3. Ohtama Walking Trails


 

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The Ohtama Walking Trail runs alongside the same Tama River as Mt. Mitake, but this hike lies between the two towns of Kori and Okutama. The trail can be divided into three shorter hikes so you can ease into one short hike or challenge yourself with all three. Because of its prime location next to the river, it boasts gorgeous scenery of the Japanese fall foliage with several famous viewpoints including the Hatonosu Valley and Hikawa Gorge. Here, old-fashioned bridges cross over deep ravines, with red and orange trees lining each side.

The standard Ohtama Walking Trail starts at Kori station and ends at Okutama. You can count on spectacular viewpoints of the Hatonosu Valley, the Kazuma Ravine, and Hikawa Gorge where the cerulean river cuts deep through the green and red valley. Because the JR Ome Line runs along the opposite side of the river, you can even make a shorter or longer DIY hike!

When to go: Mid to late November
Trail length and time: 8.3 km | About 3 hours


4. Kameyama Lake Autumn Hiking Trails


Kameyama Lake

Photo from official Kameyama Tourism website.

Kameyama Lake is located smack-dab in the middle of the Chiba peninsula next to Tokyo. The lake is a common spot for locals to go fishing, boating, or to relax in the natural hot springs. During the koyo season, the entire rim of trees encircling Kameyama Lake becomes visually vibrant with spiced autumn colors, making this a booming spot for visitors. If the incredible multicolored views weren’t enough, the Kameyama Autumn Festival takes place from Nov. 1 to Dec. 9, which, among other festivities, spotlights the many hiking courses in the area.

There are eight “Autumn Hiking” trails that criss-cross around the surrounding forest. One of the most popular hikes is one that loops around Kameyama Lake, passes over the Kameyama Dam next to a nearly-floating torii gate, where you can catch the fleeting fall colors above and your head and the reflections under your feet.

When to go: Late November through mid-December

Trail lengths and times:

  • Kameyama Kohan Trail: 4.8 km | 1 hour
  • Takihara Seseragi Trail: 10.4 km | 3 hours
  • Orikisawa Trail: 7 km | 2 hours 10 mins
  • Mt. Mitsuishi Enmusubi Trail: 9.7 km | 3.5 hours
  • Momino Tsugano Mine Trail: 7 km | 2.5 hours
  • Sasagawa Lake Fureai Trail: 3.5 km | 1 hour
  • Shimizu Keiyru Hiroba Trail: 4 km | 1 hour 10 mins
  • Shichirigawa Keiryu Trail: 10.5 km | 3 hours

5. Todoroki Ravine Park


 

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Todoroki Ravine Park is more of a walking course than a hike, but it’s only 20 minutes from central Tokyo so it’s also the perfect (and quick) escape. The trails artfully wind through a small valley carved by the Yazawa River. With lots of benches and open spaces around, this park is the perfect place for families with kiddos of any age to enjoy a picnic or stroll along the river while gazing up at the fall scenery.

You won’t have to stress about being too far away from human comforts and amenities here either—there are plenty of facilities including public restrooms and convenience stores located just outside of the park. And it’s not just hiking here; explore the Todoroki Fudōson shrine, traditional Japanese garden, or even take part in a tea ceremony at the nearby Setsugetsuka teahouse.

When to go: late November through early December
Trail length and time: 1.2 km | 20 minutes