Kisen Alps (紀泉アルプス)

The Kisen Alps are a series of rolling peaks located on the Osaka-Wakayama prefectural border. Despite their close proximity to the big city, the mountains are relatively unspoiled and completely natural, without a single cedar tree in sight.

The hike: Go through the unmanned ticket gates, and turn right on the small paved road in front of the station. Turn right at the next street, where you’ll cross a small river and the railroad tracks. Follow the signs to Kisen Alps (記泉アルプス), turning left at the sign, and then right up a small dirt road. This road eventually becomes the trailhead, as you pass through a very funky entrance gate. The path climbs rather steeply at first, paralleling a large expressway. The traffic noise is pretty loud, but you’ll soon leave that all behind and enter a magical wonderland of beautiful flora. I have no idea why this area was spared of the post-war deforestation, but I’m so happy it was. As you hike, imagine how beautiful this country must’ve been hundreds of years ago, when every single forest looked just like this! Keep your eyes out for snakes and wild boar, as there are quite a few in this area. After about 30 minutes of climbing, you’ll reach the ridgeline and a trail junction. Head to the right for about 20 meters to reach a wonderful clearing with excellent views of Kansai airport and Osaka bay. Take some photos and head back to the junction. The trail follows the entire mountain ridge, and your target is the high point called Unzenbou (雲仙峰). There’s a considerable amount of up and down between here and the top, but it’s not too difficult. There are lots of places to take breaks and enjoy the outstanding scenery. You should reach the peak in about 2 hours or so. Just below the top, you’ll come across a 3-way junction with beautiful bilingual signposts. Yep, you’ve officially entered Wakayama prefecture, where they seem to have more money in their budget for trail maintenance. Continue on to the top of Unzenbou. There’s not much of a view from here, so after taking a break continue down the other side. In about 10 minutes, you’ll come across yet another trail junction, with magnificent views of Wakayama city and the Pacific Ocean. Turn left at the junction and you’ll reach a well-maintained public park with lots of benches and a gazebo. This is a great place for a picnic or a nap on a pleasant day. From here, trails split off in all directions, and you’ve got lots of options. I’d recommend following the signs to Kii station (紀伊駅). It should take about 90 minutes or so from the park to the station, and there are lots of different trails you have to take, so follow the signs carefully. Just before the trail dumps you out on a road, you’ll pass through a bamboo forest that is downright spooky at dusk. From Kii station, you can catch a JR train back to Tennoji.

When to go: This hike can be done year round, but I’ve been told that autumn is the best time to see the virgin forests in all their glory. The mountains do get some snow in the winter, but it usually melts relatively quickly.

Access: From Tennoji station (天王時駅) take a train on the JR Wakayama line and get off at Yamanakadani (山中渓駅). An express train should take about 45 minutes or so. Please note that this is an unmanned station (hint, hint).

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ~200m)

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8 Comments on “Kisen Alps (紀泉アルプス)”

  1. Laura-the-Explora Says:

    Love this hike! It’s a great one to do year round… and no concrete or crowds.

  2. Laura-the-Explora Says:

    Wes, we just rehiked the Kisen Alps. This time, at the first fancy Wakayama signpost juncture, we followed the route to the dam. It’s not a very well maintained trail (which may be the reason we only encountered one other hiker) but it offered a quiet alternative to the traditional route. There is a beautiful spot by the lake to take a break and we were able to follow some of the other trails back to a JR station. It was a great 4 hour hike! Thanks for the detailed instructions!

  3. Erik Says:

    Just did this hike today. I only encountered one other hiker and he was on his way out. Great hike, easy to access from Yamanakadani station. Thanks for the posting. Erik

  4. eva Says:

    Hi there, great blog. I’m visiting Japan in January and I was wondering if this is a hike that can be done as a day trip from Osaka? Or what would be your most recommended day hike from Osaka in January?Greetings from Hong Kong!

    • wes Says:

      Yes Eva, you can do this as a day hike from Osaka. Just make sure you get an early start, since the sun usually sets at 4:30pm. There’s a bit of snow up there at the moment, but it should melt once it warms up this weekend.

  5. Rachel Says:

    Thank you so much for your website. We had a great time at the kisen alps today. Didn’t see a snake or boar BUT I do swear we saw a lot of bear shit on the trail. Do you know of many bears are in wakayama?
    Really, this website is great for kansai hiking, thank you!

  6. sally koala Says:

    we did this hike mid sept 2013, it was lovely. so many mushrooms. and great foliage. i was glad to be with some japanese people though because the signage on the 2nd half was a bit unclear. we also accidentally went down some black stairs to a dead end (an electricity pylon) and had to come back up, which sucked. dont go down black stairs!
    my husband’s photos of the trail is on his blog at http://www.wesmile.info/wordpress/
    x

  7. TUJ Trevor Says:

    Thanks for the great site Wes. I commute on this road by bicycle everyday, but haven’t had the chance to enjoy the hills until recently. Your guide made it easy.


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