Mt. Nasu (那須岳）
Mt. Nasu is an active volcano located on the border of Tochigi and Fukushima Prefectures. Popular with families and school trips, the mountain features picturesque scenery and a hut with its own hot spring!
The hike: From the parking lot you can either shell out your hard-earned money to take the gondola up to the top, or use the very easy, well-maintained path. I knew you’d opt for hiking! Hike up the paved road for a few minutes, and the trail will branch off to the left. The trail is easy to follow, and when I went I passed an entire elementary school class of 80 kids along the way! The trail really is more like a road for the initial climb. After about 40 minutes or so, you’ll hit the ridge line, and an emergency hut will be conveniently awaiting you. The hut is there in case Nasu decides to blow its nose on your journey, and staying in the hut is officially prohibited (you’re better off going to the hot spring hut anyway.) When you get to the hut, hang a left toward Mt. Chausu (茶臼岳). There are plenty of paint marks, so it’s nearly impossible to get lost, and after about 20 minutes the trail will meet up with the one from the gondola. This trail can become extremely crowded during weekends, so take a quick walk around the crater rim before descending back to the emergency hut. Once you’re back here, instead of going back down the mountain, head away from all of the crowds toward Mt. Asahi (朝日岳). It’s quite rocky in this section, so be careful of ice if you’re here in the winter. You should be sitting on top of Mt. Asahi in about 40 minutes or so, with an incredible view overlooking the crater of Mt. Chausu. Mt. Asahi is just a short spur from the main trail, so once on top head back down to the main trail. From this point, head yet further away from Mt. Chausu and the crowds. Your target is the official high point of the mountain, called Mt. Sanbonyari (三本槍岳). It should take about an hour or so from Mt. Asahi to reach the high point. Along the way, you’ll first find a trail branching off to the left, and then another one toward the right. Ignore both of these. As long as you follow the signposts to Sanbonyari then you’ll be ok. About halfway there, you’ll pass through a beautiful marsh area with some small lakes. Once you make it to the high point, break out your lunch an enjoy the scenery. Only the most hardcore hikers make it to this point, and it’ll be a pleasant change from the chaos at Mt. Chausu. From the high point, you have to retrace your footsteps all the way back to the parking lot! So much for a loop trail. However, if you’d like to check out the hot spring hut, then hang a right just before coming back to Mt. Asahi. I’ve never actually done this trail, but my friend insists the detour is worth it. Unfortunately , you’ll have to stay in the hut in order to use the hot spring. Check out this web site (in Japanese) for more info.
When to go: This hike can be done year round, but be prepared for a bit of snow in the winter. The hot spring hut is open from April to December.
Access: From Ueno station in Tokyo, take either a Shinkansen bound for Koriyama or a local train and get off at Kuroiso station (黒磯駅). The local train takes almost 3 hours, but costs less than 3000 yen. If you take the Shinkansen, you’ll need to get off at Nasushiobara (那須塩原駅) and change to a local train to Kuroiso. From Kuroiso, take a bus bound for Nasudake-sanroku (那須岳山麓) and get off there. The bus takes about an hour. Click here for the schedule.
Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change 537m)