Hakusan, appropriately translated as ‘White Peak’, is an impressive edifice towering over Ishikawa Prefecture. The summit features unique volcanic strata, as well as wonderful crater lakes. The panoramic views of the Japan Alps aren’t half bad either.
The hike: From the bus stop, you’ve got 2 options. Either take the track to the right, called Sabou Shindou (砂防新道) or the trail to your left, called Kankou Shindou (観光新道). One or the other may be closed when you go, so take whichever is open. I’ll describe the hike using Kankou Shindou. Fill up your water bottles at the resthouse, because it’s a long, long way to the top. The first 90 minutes of the trail is pretty straight forward, and you’ll cross over a forest road several times. You’ll reach a junction called Bettouzaka-bunki (別当坂分岐). Ignore the trail coming in from the left, and continue towards the right. The trail keeps climbing up and up, on a seemingly endless array of switchbacks. The views down into the valley will also pretty impressive. You’ll reach an emergency hut in about 2-1/2 hours, and the trail will start to become a little easier after this point. In another 40 minutes or so, you’ll reach another trail junction, where the Sabou trail comes in from the right. From here to the summit, it’s just one trail, and you’ve only got 100 vertical meters or so to Murodo hut, which should take about a half hour to reach. The hut is open from May 1st to October 15th, but only serves meals from July to October. Consider staying here if you’re up for the weekend, as the sunsets are spectacular. There’s no campground here, but if you continue an hour south you can camp at Nanryu hut. Anyway, it should take about 40 minutes from Murodo to the top of Hakusan. If the weather is good then you’ll have outstanding panoramic views. You can do a loop hike from the top back to Murodo, passing by several picturesque volcanic lakes. The loop takes about an hour to complete. From the summit, you can either head south to complete a traverse of the Hakusan range (via Bessan), or return the way you came. I did the full traverse, but don’t recommend it as you end up in the middle of nowhere and have to walk on a forest road for quite a while to get back to civilization. Of course, I had lousy weather the entire trip, so my feelings would most likely be different if I had more co-operative weather.
When to go: This hike can be done during July, August, and September, when the buses to Bettoudeai are running. If you’ve got your own transport, then you can definitely go much earlier than this. The road to the trailhead doesn’t open until the end of May, but that doesn’t stop hoards of climbers from hiking along the closed road to the trailhead, and continuing from there. Click here to see the conditions during Golden Week!
Access: From Kanazawa (金沢) station, turn right out of the ticket gates and go out the East gate. You’ll see a bus rotary on your left. Walk out to bus stop #1 and take a bus bound for Bettoudeai (別当出合). There seem to be fewer and fewer buses every year. For 2015, there are buses on June 30, July 1, July 4 & 5, August 13, 14, 15 & 16, and on weekends only between August 22 and October 12. Click here for the bus schedule.
Map: Click here
Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 1452m).