Mt. Iwaki (岩木山)

Mt. Iwaki is a pointy peak towering over Hirosaki city in Aomori Prefecture. The summit affords outstanding panoramic views, and sports two free mountain huts.

The hike: From the parking lot, head up the trail to the left of the chairlift station (yes, you can take a ski lift practically to the top!). You should reach the summit ridge in about 40 minutes or so. Turn left and descend through a rocky area to an emergency hut. You can stay here for free, but the hut on the top is more spacious and offers much better views. You’ll see a small lake just below you, as well as a trail descending down off the mountain towards Iwaki shrine (岩木山神社). If you’re staying on the mountain, you’ll need to descend about 20 minutes in order to fill up your water bottles, since there’s no water on the mountain (you could also just bring 3 or 4 liters from the parking lot and save yourself some time/energy). Anyway, it should take about a half an hour to reach the true summit of Mt. Iwaki. There’s an awful lot of boulder scrambling, which feel a bit like climbing in the Alps. If the weather is good, then you’ll have one of the best panoramic views in the Tohoku region. I climbed in August and had the entire summit to myself, so I decided to stay in the hut on top. If the weather is clear then you can see all the way to Hokkaido in the north, the sea of Japan to the west, Hirosaki and Aomori cities to the east, and the endless layering of the Shirakami mountains to the south and southwest. If you’re not staying the night, then head back to the first emergency hut, and consider descending 1500 vertical meters to Iwaki shrine or just head back to the parking lot.

When to go: This hike can be done from Golden Week to early November. A winter ascent is risky due to the avalanche danger near the summit. Be prepared for a lot of snow if you go before the rainy season.

Access: From Hirosaki station (弘前駅), take a bus bound for Iwakisan-hachigome (岩木山八合目) and get off at the last stop. The bus departs from bus stop #6, but I’m not sure of the frequency of the direct buses, so it might be faster to take a bus to Dake-onsen (嶽温泉) and change to a shuttle bus. The tourist information center just inside Hirosaki station is excellent, so they’ll be able to give you the exact schedule in English. Click here for the shuttle bus schedule. You can also try your luck at hitching. I didn’t arrive at Dake Onsen until 4:15pm, and I was able to hitch just before the toll road closed at 4:30pm. Click here for the bus from Hirosaki station to Dake-Onsen.

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ~400m).

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4 Comments on “Mt. Iwaki (岩木山)”

  1. Luke Winn Says:

    Generally speaking, you have described only the first phase of the popular descent route to Dake Onsen here. The two main ascent routes are from Iwaki shrine in Hyakuzawa village (the main ascent route), and Ooishi shrine on the NE side of the mountain (private transport needed). Usually, day hikers will get off the bus at Iwaki shrine – climb to the summit – descend to Dake Onsen (following the full length of the trail that you described in part, no shuttle buses), and then take the return bus back to Hirosaki. These two routes offer much richer scenery and are much more suitable for people who are looking for a good day’s hiking. There are no buses, roads or any other interferences on these two main hiking trails. But be prepared for some tough hiking and scrambling.

    There’s nothing wrong with taking the bus to the top, but as you said it, your climb began at 4.30pm, whereas most day hikers will be at the trail head at 8am. Hikers who take the bus to hachigome will spend much of the rest of the day with nothing to do!

    • wes Says:


      Thanks for the update. My schedule was quite tight when I went there, so it’s nice to hear about alternative approaches.

      I agree about trying to avoid the crowds (and the roads) as much as possible. I’d like to check out that Dake Onsen route the next time I’m up in Aomori. I’ll be at Shirakami-sanchi next month, but not sure if I’ll have time to re-climb Iwaki.


  2. Darrell Says:

    Here is a recent trip report (July 2014) describing the traditional ascent route starting at Iwaki Shrine and descending to Dake Onsen. Be warned that the route starting from Iwaki shrine basically follows a sawa mountain stream and an extensive snow field all the way to the summit ridge. It is definitely not for beginners.

    At the shrine, go to the left to find the trailhead. Follow the trail and you’ll cross one road, an orchard, then finally the ski resort. Find the small gravel trail veering left from the ski resort and you’ll find a small junction. Take a left and within 5 seconds you’ll see the actual starting point of the hike. From the shrine, it may take 1.5 to 2 hours to reach the first emergency hut. Just behind the hut, you’ll find an endless supply of water as this is where the river and snow hiking starts. The trail follows the river and you’ll have to jump rocks until you reach the beginning of the snowfield. I’m uncertain if the snowfield exists year round, but it seems most of it was there in early July, and it was huge. There are tape markings along the side of the snowfield on branches, so you’ll just have to climb the field all the way to the ridge. I was completely not prepared for this, so I didn’t bring any crampons. I had to kick-step all the way to the top, and it’s quite steep. Be careful not to slip or you’re sliding a long way down or might even fall through a thin point in the snow. I spend an hour on the snowfield climbing without crampons and wondering if I had lost the trail. You’ll eventually reach the end of the mountain stream and you’ll soon see the emergency hut in the rocky saddle below the summit. The rest, just follow Wes’ original guideline. The map says 5.5 km from the shrine to the summit. I did it in about 4.5 hours, due to the river crossings and snow.

    The descent down to Dake Onsen is very easy and pleasant. I was able to trail run from the summit to Dake Onsen in just 1 hour and 20 minutes! From the summit, the trail does intersect the parking lot and road where the chair lift is. Just walk to the left behind the chair lift and you’ll see the trailhead signpost.

    It seems that the most popular ascent/descent route these days is from Dake Onsen. While waiting for the bus back to Hirosaki, I saw hordes of people starting their climb from there, while I was the only person starting from the Shrine on a Saturday. It seems to be well-known that the Shrine route is long and arduous, while the Dake Onsen route is easy and could be climbed and descended within 5 hours.

    Here is an updated bus link for both the Shrine and Dake Onsen.

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