Hyonosen is the highest mountain in Hyogo Prefecture, and the only peak in the Kansai area where you can see the Juhyou (樹氷) phenomenon in the winter. It’s also one of the toughest day hikes in the region.
The hike: From the bus stop, walk a short way up the road and turn left on a small paved forest road. Don’t descend to the parking lot or cross over to the ski lifts. I made that mistake and got a little lost. The forest road is pretty gentle, and after about 20 minutes you’ll reach the trailhead and campground. This place is called Fukusada-shisui-koen (福定親水公園). The trail starts behind the toilets (which are locked in the winter). The path starts off gentle, and then climbs rather steeply past 3 waterfalls. If there’s still snow on the ground then hopefully you can follow someone else’s footprints. Otherwise, it would be very easy to get lost without a GPS device. Anyway, after about 45 minutes, you’ll come to a small shack which houses some deities. This ‘shrine’ is called Jizodou (地蔵堂). The trail flattens out for a while from here, which is a nice break from the steep climbing. You’ll cross a stream, and then start climbing again. After another 30 minutes or so, you’ll find a water source, so fill up here and take a break. The trail keeps climbing up and up, but eventually you’ll reach the ridge line. You can see it coming, as the summit will come into view on the left and the trees will start to thin out. You’ll reach an emergency hut and trail junction at the ridge. Turn right to reach the summit of Mt. Akakura (赤倉山) or continue left toward the summit. You can stay at either this hut or the one of the summit. Before deciding, bear in mind that it’ll take about 90 minutes of slogging to reach the summit. The trail is well-marked and not too hard considering what you’ve just done. Just before the summit, you’ll reach a huge rock formation that needs to be traversed. It’s not too difficult in good weather, but pretty hairy if there’s any snow or ice, so proceed with caution, After this, it’s a nice stroll to the summit. The hut on top sleeps about 10 people and is free to stay in (but doesn’t have any water). The panoramic views are amazing if the weather is co-operating. After a well-deserved break, head down the trail to the right of the hut which leads to Higashione (東尾根). The trail drops quite steeply off the summit but it’s easy to see where you’re going. A trail junction will be reached after about 40 minutes of descending, but ignore the path to the right and continue left. You’ll descend down to a ridge line which will eventually lead to another emergency hut after about an hour. This hut is called the Higashione emergency hut (東尾根避難小屋). There is no water source at this hut, and you’re close to the ski lifts anyway, so there’s no reason to stay here (unless it’s an emergency of course!). The path drops steeply to the left of the hut, through a cedar forest and ends up at a campground and forest road in about 15 minutes. Follow this road all the way back to the bus stop, or cut through the ski runs if the grass isn’t too long to save some time.
When to go: This hike can be done all year if you’ve got the right experience and equipment for a winter ascent. The Juhyou (樹氷) in the winter are popular for experienced trekkers, but the hike is not easy. Expect snow all the way until Golden Week. I did this hike in early April and the entire trail was buried under 1.5m of snow.
Access: From Osaka station, take the JR Limited Express KitaKinki train and get off at Yoka station (八鹿駅). From there, take a bus bound for Hachibuse (鉢伏) and get off at Hyonosen-Hachibuseguchi (氷ノ山鉢伏口). The first train departs Osaka station at 8:13am, arriving at Yoka at 10:27am. The bus conveniently departs at 10:30am, arriving at the trailhead at 11:23am. If you’re a slow hiker then consider breaking this hike up and staying at one of the many emergency huts on the mountain.
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Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change 930m)