Mt. Kumotori is the highest peak in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, and part of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. The views out to Mt. Fuji aren’t half bad either.
The hike: Mitsumine shrine is one of the most beautiful mountain shrines in Japan, and it also happens to have its own hot spring bath (did anyone mention doing this hike in reverse?!). The trail towards Mt. Kumotori starts from the parking lot, and it’s very clearly marked. You’ll be on the ridge the entire day, so just keep following the signs. Your first target will be Kirimo-ga-mine (霧藻ケ峰), which has fine views out to Mt. Asama. Continue on the ridge, passing up and over Mt. Shiraiwa (白岩山). You’ll pass by Shiraiwa hut (白岩小屋), which makes for a good place to stay if you’ve gotten a late start or if the weather is bad. It should take another 90 minutes or so to reach Mt. Kumotori, passing by the old, rotting Kumotori hut before reaching the newer, luxurious one. If you’re hiking in the winter you’ll appreciate the kotatsu tables in the tatami rooms. It costs 7500 yen with 2 meals or 5000 yen without meals. Click here for the hut web site. If you’re short of money and would like a free place to stay, continue another 10 minutes and stay at the emergency hut on the summit. It’s in good shape, but you’ll need a sleeping bag and food. There’s a water source at Kumotori hut, but nothing between Mitsumine shrine and the hut, so bring plenty of water for the first day. If the weather is good, then you’ll have a stunning view out to Mt. Fuji for most of the hike to Okutama. You’ve actually got 2 options from the summit. You can descend via Mt. Nanatsuishi (七ツ石山) by taking a left at the emergency hut, or take the trail behind the hut to descend to Sanjo-no-yu (三条の湯), a hut with its own hot spring. If you take this alternative route, then you’ll have to walk on a forest road for about 2-1/2 hours before reaching route 411. Either way, you’re in for a 4 to 6 hour hike before making it back to civilization. Okutama has a great hot spring bath called Moeginoyu (もえぎの湯). Click here for the website.
When to go: Because Kumotori Hut (雲取山荘) is open year round, this hike can be done any time of the year. Bring crampons if hiking before April. I did this hike in March and there was about 1 meter of snow on the summit.
Access: From Ikebukuro (池袋) station in Tokyo, take a train on the Seibu line to Chichibu station (秩父駅). From there, take a bus bound for Mitsumine Shrine (三峰神社) and get off at the terminus. Click here for the bus schedule. Please note that the Mitsumine Ropeway has ceased operation, so you can either get off at the Owa (大輪) bus stop and hike on the trail next to the gondola, or start your hike from the shrine. The hike ends at Okutama (奥多摩), where you can easily take a train back to Tokyo.
Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ~500m). It’s a 4 out of 5 if you do this hike in reverse, as you’ve got a 1400m vertical climb.