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).