Kita-dake is the 2nd highest peak in Japan and has one of the best vantage points for viewing Mt. Fuji anywhere around.
The hike: From the huge parking lot at Hirogawara, walk a little back towards the main road and then turn left. You’ll see a pedestrian suspension bridge crossing the river, and this is where the trail starts. Cross the bridge and follow the path for about 20 minutes. You’ll come to a junction and you have 2 choices. Both trails lead to Kita-dake, but I recommend taking the one on the right towards Shiraneoike hut (白根御池小屋). It’ll take about 2-1/2 hours or moderate climbing to reach this hut. There’s a campground here, as well as a water source. Take a break here, because the real climb is about to start. Take the trail that goes past the campground, and begin your steep climb up to the ridge line. Most maps allocate 3 hours for reaching the ridge, but if you’re traveling light or in good shape then you can do it in half the time. Once you hit the ridge, turn left and hike for another half hour until reaching Kita-dake kata-no-koya (北岳肩ノ小屋). This hut is perched on a saddle just below the summit, and there’s a campground and water source here. You’re over 3000m now, so make sure you bring plenty of warm clothing even in the summer. I camped here in August and it definitely hovered around the freezing mark at night. The next day, rise early to watch the sunrise from the second highest peak in Japan. It should take about 45 minutes or so to reach the top. The views pretty much speak for themselves, and you can easily see why this mountain has become so popular for Japanese hikers. Continue down the other side of the rocky peak until reaching a junction. You can continue on to Ai-no-dake if you’d like, or you can take a left at the junction for an alternative route back to Hirogawara. Hike about 45 minutes and then take another left at the next junction. It should take about 2-1/2 hours to descend back to Hirogawara. I must admit that I’ve never done this trail, so I can’t attest to the condition/difficulty, but the maps say that snow remains until early August and that it’s quite rocky.
When to go: This hike can be done from around Golden Week to early November. The road to Hirogawara is closed in the winter, so it’ll be pretty difficult to get here unless you hike a long way to the trailhead. That being said, there are exceptions!
Access: From Kofu station (甲府駅), take a bus bound for Hirogawara (広河原). Click here for the bus schedule in Japanese.
Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change 1673m)