Mt. Kamon (掃部ヶ岳)

Mt. Kamon is the highest peak of the Lake Haruna area and a challenging hike with scenic views of Mt. Asama and the mountains surrounding the Kanto Plain.

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The hike: When you arrive at the lake, it is important to get your bearings first. Directly across the lake is Haruna-fuji, the conical volcano which looks like a miniature version of Mt. Fuji. To the left of that peak, you’ll see a pointy knob called Mt. Eboshi. If you continue in a counterclockwise fashion around the lake, you’ll see a large gaudy hotel with an orange roof, and another hotel behind with a  green roof. Directly behind those buildings lies your target peak of Mt. Kamon. Walk along the main road past the souvenir shops towards the orange-roofed hotel. Just beyond the hotel, the main road forks. Don’t take the right fork towards the lake. Instead, continue on the left fork which leads to the entrance of Haruna Agatsumaso (the hotel with the green roof). You’ll find the trailhead directly past the sloped driveway entrance to the hotel. There’s a white sign on the white railing that says 掃部ヶ岳登山口。Walk up the concrete ramp and enter the forest. The path is really easy to find, meandering through the forest for about 10 minutes until reaching the ridge line. Here you’ll find a junction. Turn right here and climb for 5-minutes until reaching a rock formation called Suzuri Iwa (硯岩). The cliffs here afford jaw-dropping views of the lake below. Even though it’s still early in the hike, a break here is highly recommended to soak up the scenery. If you’re staying at Agatsumaso (also highly recommended), then you can easily hike up here to watch the sunrise before eating breakfast. After checking out the views, retrace your steps back to the junction and continue on the ridge towards your target peak. The route is covered with wooden logs built as steps to help aid your climb. It feels a bit more like a stair climb than a hike in parts, and after 30 minutes or so you’ll reach the top of the stairs which marks the beginning  of the summit plateau. This is distinguished by a signpost that says 掃部ヶ岳 0.2km. Remember this landmark on your descent, as it marks the junction of an alternative way off the mountain. Anyway, from here the trail becomes a series of ups-and-downs for the next 10 minutes until you reach the summit of Mt. Kamon. Take a well-deserved break here and admire the views. On a clear day you can see the skyscrapers of Tokyo, as well as all of the mountains of Chichibu, Mt. Myogi, and even the top of Mt. Fuji. Mt. Asama is also visible if you stand on the rocks on the top. Through the trees behind you, you should be able to spot Mt. Kusatsu-shirane, Mt. Naeba, and Mt. Tanigawa. In the winter it will be one continuous string of brilliant snow-capped peaks. Once you’ve had enough of the views, retrace your steps back to the start of the stairs and the 0.2km signpost. There’s also another option to continue along the ridge for a couple of hours to Mt. Sumon (杏ヶ岳), but beware that the trail is incredibly overgrown and difficult to navigate. Once back at the junction, you’ll see a faint trail leading down the other side of the mountain (just to the right of the signpost). Although the path is overgrown, it is somewhat easy to follow if you just keep your eyes out for the tape on the trees. You’ll find yourself swimming through waist-deep bamboo grass most of the way. About halfway down, the grass mysteriously ends at a rock formation. If you look to the right you’ll see some ropes which will be of some assistance to getting you past this tricky section. After this, the trail enters thick bamboo grass once again until reaching a steep forested area with a lot of fallen foliage. Continue descending through the woods, being careful not to slip on the volcanic mud if there’s been any precipitation recently. The path will eventually spit you out in a small park, with a small amphitheater and a monument to an old folk song written about Lake Haruna. From here the park connects with the main road, and you can retrace your steps back to the bus stop.

When to go: This hike can be done year round, but you’ll need some 6-point crampons if hiking in January or February. Winter is the best time to see the mountains of Niigata Prefecture covered with snow, as the lack of foliage improves visibility from the forest-covered summit and the clear air means Mt. Fuji will likely be visible on the horizon.

Access: From Takasaki station, take a bus bound for Harunako (榛名湖) and get off at the final stop. The bus leaves from bus stop #2 of the west exit of the station. Go out the ticket gates, turn right (past the tourist information center). Once outside, walk across the pedestrian bridge and down the stairs to bus stop #2. Buses depart hourly for the 90-minute journey to the lake, stopping halfway at the Gunma bus garage for a 10-minute toilet break. Click here for the bus schedule.

Map: Click here

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~400 meters)

Distance: 2.5km (2 to 3 hours)

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