Mt. Hiuchi (火打山)
Mt. Hiuchi is a stunningly beautiful conical peak surrounded by lush greenery and scenic alpine marshlands. The wildflowers in summer bring the crowds and the fall foliage is splendid.
The hike: From the bus stop, follow the parked cars to the trailhead, which is marked by a small shelter. The first hour of the hike is relatively flat, following a river. You’ll reach a bridge crossing the “black gully” (黒沢), where the real hike begins. The entire trail is divided into 9 different stages, which you can find signposts conveniently marking the divisions. You’ll gain close to 300 meters of altitude in next to no time, thanks to the “12 turns” (十二曲り). From the top of these switchbacks, it’s another 90 minutes of steep climbing to reach Fujimidaira (富士見平). The trail splits in two at this point. You could take the trail on the right to go to Mt. Myoko, but continue on the left fork for another 45 minutes to reach Kouyaike Hut (高谷池ヒュッテ), an amazing place to stay and contemplate life. Click here for the hut web site. From the hut, it should take about 90 minutes or so to reach the summit of Mt. Hiuchi. You’ll climb through some wonderful marshlands before hitting the steep ridgeline. I’m told the views are outstanding, but it was pouring rain when I went. Click here to see some wonderful pictures of someone who climbed on a perfect day! After taking lots of photos on the summit, either head back the same way you came, or traverse over to Mt. Myoko.
When to go: This hike can be done between late April and mid-November. The peak is popular with skiers during Golden Week, and the snow usually stays around until early August! The road to the trailhead is closed in the winter, but you could try traversing via Mt. Myoko if the weather is good and you’ve got the proper equipment and training.
Access: From Nagano station (長野駅), take a local train on the JR Shinetsu Line (JR信越線) and get off at Myoko-kogen station (妙高高原駅). From there, take a bus to Sasagamine (笹ケ峰). The bus takes about 50 minutes and it not very frequent. You could take a taxi to the trailhead from the station for about 5500 yen.
Live web cam: Click here
Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~1100m)