Mt. Adatara (安達太良山）
Warning: This mountain lies about 60km from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Climbing this mountain may increase your exposure to high levels of radiation. Please climb at your own risk.
Mt. Adatara is an active volcano located across the valley from Mt. Bandai and is just a stone’s throw from Fukushima city. Beautiful rock formations and a lovely hut to boot.
The hike: From the ski resort parking lot, head toward the right hand group of buildings and start walking up the far right ski slope. The trail will branch off to the right and follow the ski resort for a short time before reaching a forest road. The trail crosses the road several times before heading up to a ridge and flattening out somewhat. All of this should take about 45 minutes or so. Continue following the gentle trail for another 15 or 20 minutes until you come to a junction. If you head left you follow a different ridge, but instead continue straight ahead for another half hour and you’ll come to the Kurogane Hut (くろがね小屋）This hut is open all year round and is an amazing place to stay in the winter. Plus, it has a hot spring bath! If you’re only coming for a day trip then take a quick break at the hut before starting the real climb to the summit. From the hut, the trail starts climbing rather steeply through rugged volcanic tundra. It should take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to reach the summit. If the fog is in then keep an eye out for all of the paint marks on the rocks. Whiteout conditions in winter can be quite dangerous, so go with a group and bring bamboo poles to mark your path. The rocky summit offers spectacular views of the surrounding scenery: Mt. Bandai directly in front of you, Mt. Iide to the northeast, and Mt. Azuma, which is connected to this mountain by a long trail. (It could make for an interesting trek). Anyway, enjoy your lunch with hoards of other hikers who probably came up from the ski gondola on the other side of the mountain. If the weather is good and you’ve got time, you can hike to Mt. Tetsuzan, the true high point of the volcano, and there is a free emergency hut just beyond the summit of Tetsuzan. From the summit, follow the signs to Mt. Yakushi （薬師岳）and the ski resort. This side of the mountain is much easier (and more popular) than the route mentioned here, but makes for a nice look hike. You should reach the top of the ski resort in about 45 minutes from the top. If you’re too tired, then take the gondola down, but otherwise follow the path down back to the parking lot. In winter, you can glissade down the slopes in record time. This hike can also be done in reverse, and you could also use the gondola to cut out 400m of elevation gain.
When to go: This hike can be done year round, but be prepared for meters of snow in the winter (bring snowshoes or crampons). The fall colors in mid to late September bring the crowds.
Access: From Fukushima station, take a local JR train and get off at Nihonmatsu (二本松) station. From there take a bus to Adatara Kogen Ski Resort. Be sure to check the bus schedule (call 0243-23-0123 in Japanese), as some buses only go part of the way to Dake Onsen. It’s a quick 20 minute taxi ride or possible hitch from the Onsen, or you could shell out about 5000 yen for a taxi ride from Nihonmatsu all the way to the trailhead. It also appears that there is a shuttle bus from Koriyama station as well, but service has been suspended because of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Click here for more information.
Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change: 760m)