Mt. Ena (恵那山）
Mt. Ena is a long, round, hump-shaped peak located on the border of Nagano and Gifu Prefectures. It’s easily accessible from Nagoya city, and the views along the way are outstanding.
The hike: From the small parking lot at Misakatouge (神坂峠), there are two trails, but you want to take the one towards Oobanyama (大判山). It should take you about 90 minutes to reach this peak, which has excellent panoramic views of the Minami and Chuo Alps, as well as Mt. Ondake. You can also see Mt. Ena in front of you. From the peak, the trail curves toward the right and goes down! You’ll lose about 100m of altitude before the trail flattens out and follows the contour of the mountain. The trail will start climbing again, and won’t let up until the summit ridge. It should take about 2 hours or so to reach the Ena ridgeline, as the final climb is quite steep and rough going if there’s any snow or ice. Once you reach the ridge, the trail will veer off to the left and become very flat and easy. In about 20 minutes or so, you’ll come to a mountain hut named Enasan-sanchou-goya (恵那山山頂小屋). The area is heavily wooded, but if you climb the rock behind the hut you’ll be rewarded with terrific views of the Minami Alps and Mt. Fuji. The true summit is another 10 minutes or so past the hut, and there’s a small shrine at the top, but no view. The hut itself is unmanned and free to stay in, but there’s no water source so bring plenty of water with you if you’re planning an overnight stay. In fact, there are no water sources at all on this hike (not even at the trailhead), so stock up at the train station before setting out. After resting at the top, head back the way you came.
When to go: This mountain gets its fair share of snow in the winter, and I’ve got the feeling that the forest road to the trailhead isn’t plowed, which means a winter assault may be difficult. The snow should melt sometime in March though. I did this hike in October and it snowed!
Access: From Nagoya station. Take the JR Limited Express “Shinano” train bound for Nagano and get off at Nakatsugawa station (中津川駅). If you’d like to save money, then take a local train. From the station, there is NO bus service to the trailhead. You’ve either got to take a taxi (that’ll cost around 7000 yen) or try your luck hitching. The trail starts at Misakatouge (神坂峠). I was lucky enough to go with a friend who had a car. If you’ve got a few days off, you could try walking to the trailhead and camping there, before starting your hike the following day.
Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change 622m)