Yatsu-ga-take, or ‘8 peaks’, is a volcanic mountain range nestled on the border of Nagano & Yamanashi prefectures. The area is teeming with hikers all year round, and is one of the premier winter climbing destinations in Japan.
The hike: From the bus stop, hike up the forest road for about an hour until you reach Minoto-sanso (美濃戸山荘). You can try hitching a ride if any cars come along the gravel road. The trailhead starts at the end of the forest road, and you’ve got two options. Take the right fork toward Gyoja Hut (行者小屋). It’ll take about 2 hours or so of hiking on a well-marked path to reach the busy hut. Drop your pack off here unless you plan on staying at the hut on top of Aka-dake (which doesn’t allow camping). Take the trail that goes behind the hut and follow the signs to Aka-dake (赤岳). Again, the trail is well-used and easy to follow. You should reach the rocky ridge line in about 90 minutes or so. Once you hit the ridge, turn right to reach Aka-dake. There are two huts along the way, one just a short distance from the summit. On a clear day the views are exhilirating, and you’ll probably be sharing the summit with dozens & dozens of other folk. Traverse over the summit and take a right at the first junction, toward Amida-dake (阿弥陀岳). The trail drops to a saddle, climbs briefly over Naka-dake (中岳), and drops again to another junction. Amida-dake will be directly in front of you. It’s about a 30-minute climb to the summit, if you’re feeling energetic. Otherwise, take a right to descend back down to Gyoja Hut. You can either camp or stay at the hut here, but I recommend hiking an extra 40 minutes on an easy trail over to Akadake-kosen (赤岳鉱泉). This is a much nicer area to pitch a tent. Plus, the hut has its own hot spring bath! The next day you can either head back to Minodoguchi via a trail that leads away from the hut, or you could do a different loop hike, taking in Yoko-dake (横岳) and Iou-dake (硫黄岳) before heading back to civilization.
When to go: This hike can be done year round if you’ve got an ice axe and crampons. Despite it’s easy access, the peak does claim its fair share of fatalities, so use caution when climbing up and around the rocky ridge line.
Access: From Chino station (茅野駅), take a bus bound for Minotoguchi (美濃戸口) and get off at the last stop. Click here for the bus schedule.
Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change ~1419m)