Hiking is often one of the best ways to explore autumn (or fall, whatever you want to call it…) in and around Tokyo. Annamarie Sasagawa finds at Mitsumine and Mt. Kintoki that, while some hiking trails are well known, there are many more worth checking out, and they aren’t too far away!

Ah, autumn. Tokyo’s cool breezes, falling leaves, and bright sunshine are enough to tempt anyone out to the great outdoors.

And thanks to the city’s train system, the great outdoors is rarely more than an hour or two away by express train. Whether you’re new to Japan or just new to hiking around Tokyo, we want to share some of the lesser-known hiking spots around this great city. Here are two options to get you started:

Mt Kintoki

If views of snow-capped Mt Fuji followed by a soak in the Hakone hot springs are what you’re after, Mt. Kintoki delivers.

It’s about two hours up and 90 minutes down this 1200 meter mountain located in the village of Sengokuhara in Hakone.

The easiest way to access the trailhead is to take an Odakyu highway bus from Shinjuku to Kintoki-tozanguchi bus stop (2 hours, 1850 yen one-way or 3330 return; reservations recommended: Odakyu Bus 03-3427-3160). Before you hop back on the bus, though, take a hot spring bath in one of the inns in Sengokuhara.

The friendly staff at the Fuji Hakone Guesthouse, a ten minute walk from the trailhead down Route 75, will provide info on all the local hot springs and restaurants.

Both these trails are well-marked and well-maintained and there is even mobile reception for most of the Mt Kintoki hike and some of the Mitsumine pilgrim trail. As always, though, bring a compass, whistle, flashlight or headlamp, jacket, and extra snacks whenever you head for the hills.

Mitsumine Shrine Pilgrim Trail

Saitama, lovely though it can be, is not a place most Tokyoites associate with cedar forests and chirping birds.

The old pilgrim trail that leads to Mitsumine Shrine, however, in the western edge of Saitama, is a gorgeous autumn day hike.

To access the trail, take the Seibu Ikebukuro Red Arrow express train from Ikebukuro to Seibu Chichibu station (78 mins, 1370yen), then follow signs to Ohanabatake Station on the Chichibu Railways line.

Ride that train to the final stop (Mitsumine-guchi, 22 mins, 470 yen), then catch a bus or take a taxi to Oh-wa bus stop (12 mins, 300 yen by bus; about 2000 yen by taxi). Look for the trailhead near the ruins of an old cable car, and start climbing!

It’ll take about three hours to reach Mitsumine Shrine, from which you’ll have gorgeous views of the mountains of Chichibi-Tama-Kai National Park.

You can catch a bus from the shrine back to Seibu Chichibu station (900 yen, 90 minutes) but check the schedule: the last bus is usually at 4:45pm (Seibu Kanko Bus, tel: 0494-22-1635).

Watch this space for more hiking recommendations. Happy trails!

Text by Annamarie Sasagawa

Image : Bunny Bissoux