Mt. Bandai (磐梯山）
Mt. Bandai is an active volcano located on the shores of Lake Inawashiro in Fukushima Prefecture. The views are splendid, the rock formations colorful, and the volcanic scenery picturesque.
The hike: From the bottom of the lifts, follow the tozan michi (登山道) signs toward Mt. Bandai. Initally, the trail will climb on the left-hand side of the ski resort. There aren’t any switchbacks here. You’ll basically be hiking through the grassy ski fields. After about an hour of steep slogging, you’ll reach the ridge line, which turns to the right. It’s rocky at first, but it will flatten out as you approach the top of Mt. Akahani (赤埴山). There’s a short spur trail to the summit on the right-hand side. Head up here for a break if you’d like, or continue to the majestically splendid Numanotaira (沼ノ平) for a more scenic rest. This flat area features some beautiful marshes, alpine flowers, and stinky sulfurous gases. It should take about a half hour of easy hiking to reach the ridge line of Mt. Bandai. This is where the real hike begins, as the peak becomes very rocky. Follow the paint marks carefully if the cloud is in, because the drops to the right are huge. Eventually you’ll reach a series of 2 mountain huts, 2 water sources, and a trail junction. Take a break here, fill up your bottles, and prepare for the final ascent, which will take about 20 minutes or so. The views from the rocky summit are superb if the weather co-operates. Head back down to the junction and either head back the same way you came, all the way back to Inawashiro station, or take the trail to the left for a shorter, alternative way off the mountain.
When to go: This hike can be done between late April and early November. Although not impossible, a winter ascent is only for the really advanced climbers willing to deal with the frequent avalanches, because this peak gets a ton of snow in the winter. Click here for a report of a hiker who scaled during Golden Week to get an idea of the amount of snow.
Access: From Koriyama station (郡山駅), take a train on the JR Banetsu-sai Line (JR磐越西線) to Inawashiro station (猪苗代駅). From there, it’s a 1 hour walk to the trailhead at Inawashiro Ski Resort. (猪苗代スキー場) Alternatively, you can take a taxi for around 2000 yen that takes about 15 minutes.
Live web cam: Click here
Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~1200m)