Hyonosen (氷ノ山)

Last updated: Oct. 15, 2017

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.

 

This post is currently undergoing editing to reflect current trail conditions. Please bear with us.

The hike: From the bus stop, walk a short way up the road and turn left on a small paved forest road marked for 氷ノ山登山口. Don’t descend to the parking lot or cross over to the ski lifts. I made that mistake and got a little lost on my first trip there. 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 passes through a park and campground before dropping down to a river bed. Follow the tape marks and cross the river to the base of the climb. After passing by a triangular distance marker (山頂まで4.5km) you will soon reach a junction for Nunotaki (布滝). Drop your pack here and head right to the wooden bridge overlooking the 65-meter high falls. Retreat back to the main trail and head up the steep slope towards the ridge. There is soon a white sign that reads 28曲り- this is the beginning of a series of 28 switchbacks that gain around 200 vertical meters of altitude. Along the route, you’ll pass by a buddhist statue overlooking Fudotaki (不動滝) which is difficult to see through the thick foliage. You’ll also climb higher above Nunotaki (布滝) and can get a glimpse back down to where you came. The other interesting sight on the route is the ‘connected tree’ (蓮樹), a series of 7 different trees all growing out of the stump of a larger tree. It’s on your right and the different trees are labeled with numbers 1 through 7. After about 20 minutes of climbing, the trail will start to ease and you’ll see a white sign pointing towards Jizōdō (地蔵堂) and a green sign that tells you the 28 turns have finished (曲がり坂終わり). It’s a short, flat walk to the blue corrugated-metal shack of Jizōdō, which houses a very old jizō statue inside. Take a break here if needed to prepare for the big climb ahead. The trail continues through a cedar forest before dropping down to a small stream. Fixed ladder have been installed to help with the steep drop and ascent. In winter and spring this river crossing can be dangerous, so bring ropes to help cross the snow-filled crevice in the snow season. Climb the ladder and continue traversing through the forest. On your left you’ll pass by the ruins of an old temple (木地屋跡) but there isn’t much to see here apart from the signpost. The path steepens and veers towards the right through a beautiful hardwood forest, past a sign indicating a 3.0km distance to the summit (山頂まで3.0km). From here, it’s a steep climb through an expansive forest of healthy beech trees as the views start to open up across the valley. After about 10 minutes you’ll reach a water source called Hienomizu (ひえの水), a fresh water stream providing drinking water. Fill up if necessary and continue climbing towards the ridge. Soon you’ll reach a viewpoint across the valley towards Tōrōiwa (とうろう岩). The rock formation in across the valley on your left, but it’s nearly impossible to see through the thick foliage. The next landmark is another water source named Guhōnomizu (弘法の水) and shortly after that you’ll see the green 2.5km signpost. Continue straight, past a white signpost pointing towards the ridge (氷ノ山越え). Just before reaching the ridge you’ll pass by one final water source (一口水) and a series of wooden log steps for the final climb to the junction. At the ridge you’ll find trilingual signposts (In Japanese, English, and Korean) marked for the summit. With so many signposts and large crowds of hikers, it’s pretty much impossible to get lost in the green season. Winter, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. Anyway, there’s an emergency hut and 4-way junction at the ridge along with a couple of benches which make for good places to rest. You can see the summit further along the ridge towards the west, marked by the triangular roof of the emergency hut. Turn left once you’ve reached the junction and follow the broad ridge lined with bamboo grass and large beech trees. You’ll soon see a brown signpost for the Hyonogoe Course with a number (5/10) marked below. These signposts are situated along the ridge, with 10/10 on the summit of the peak itself. They’re good to use to mark your progress. The hiking map says it’ll take 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach the summit, but you can do it in about 45 minutes if you’re fit. Along the route you’ll occasionally see brown posts wrapped with yellow tape reading 119 on them. These are markers for helicopter rescue. If you do find yourself in trouble, walk to the nearest marker and supply the numbered code on the signpost when you call emergency services. The mountain does have its fair share of accidents, mostly due to elderly people who underestimate their abilities and stamina. If you’re fit and can avoid twisting an ankle on the exposed tree roots, then you should be ok. Carry a headlamp and emergency bivouac gear just in case you’re caught out after dark, however. It’s a long hike and the daylight hours in the autumn are shorter. Anyway, continue along the ridge, ignoring the junction on your left for a long steep climb to a false summit. Here, you’ll see the summit plateau directly in front of you, with a large rock formation between you and the summit. Drop down and along the narrow ridge to this rock outcrop named Koshiki-iwa (こしき岩). The trail skirts the rock formation on your left and that is the recommended path of travel. There is an unmarked route up and over the rock, but it is not used very much. It is terribly exposed and absolutely treacherous in wet weather. You can, however, climb about halfway up to a ledge which offers great views of the forest below. If you climb over the rock, you can follow a faint path that leads to the main trail again. My advice would be to just ignore the rock and stick to the main trail, which climbs via a series of long switchbacks and wooden stairs, to the summit of Hyonosen, the highest mountain in Hyogo Prefecture and only 200 meters lower than Daisen. The panoramic views are spectacular in clear weather, and if you climb the ladder on the side of the emergency hut, you can get even better views above the bamboo grass. After a well-deserved break, head down the trail to the right of the hut which leads to Higashi-one (東尾根) and Shindai Hyutte (神大ヒュッテ). The trail drops steeply off the eastern face of the mountain through an area of tall bamboo grass. Watch your footing if the trail is muddy, as it can get quite slippery. You’ll soon reach a junction on your right for Koseinuma (古生沼). It’s a short spur trail to a marsh hemmed on all sides by a tall deer-proof fence. It really isn’t worth the detour unless you like looking at grass. A little further down, there’s another junction on your left for Mitarashi-no-ike (みたらしの池). This trail dead ends after just a few meters and I couldn’t figure out where the pond lies. Better to ignore this one and just continue down the well-worn trail. Wooden planks line the trail through an area of giant cedar trees marked as Kosenbonsugi (古千本杉), the 100 old cedar trees. There are a few dozen giant cedar trees lining the trail and it’s a pleasant change from the bamboo grass that lies further ahead. After about 10 minutes of steep descending, you’ll reach a red-roofed hut and junction. This is the mountain hut for Kobe University and it’s closed to regular hikers. The porch out front makes for a great place to take a break. There’s a 3-way junction here. Turn left and follow the trail marked Higashi-one (東尾根). The route follows the ridge before detouring past a couple of water sources and a large rock formation (人面岩) until dropping along a beautiful ridge of large beech trees. The scenery reminds me of parts of Hokkaido, as you would expect a large bear to jump out at any minute and surprise. But don’t fear – you probably won’t encounter one, so just relax and enjoy the scenery. It’s a long traverse of about 40 minutes before the ridge narrows through an area of Dōdan-tsutsuji (ドウダンツツジ) trees and their beautiful white bell-shaped flowers. The path traverses the contours of the ridge with a cedar forest on your left. You’ll soon reach an unmarked junction with trails to the left and straight ahead along the ridge. You can take either but most people head to the left to avoid the short climb up and over the hump in front of you. A few minutes past this section you’ll reach the small shelter 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!). Turn left at the junction just behind the hut, taking the trail marked for 親水公園. The path drops steeply through a cedar forest and ends up at a paved forest road. Turn left and follow this road all the way back to the bus stop. There is a shortcut trail down to the bus stop once you reach the main buildings of the ski resort. There is a path that cuts down through the ski lifts, but it may be overgrown depending on the season. At any rate, it’s a tough loop of about 6 to 7 hours to complete this beautiful hike. Since access by public transport is inconvenient, you may want to drive or to break up the hike by staying overnight in one of the emergency huts or in an inn near the trailhead.

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. The fall colors reach their peak in mid-October, making it one of the best times to visit.

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 10:40am, 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. Click here for the bus schedule.

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 930m)

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