Mt. Oku-hotaka (奥穂高岳)

Mt. Oku-hotaka is the 3rd highest peak in Japan and one of the most exhilarating climbs in the Kita Alps. The views are phenomenal on the rare occasions when the cloud isn’t in.

The hike: From the Kamikochi bus terminal, follow the paved path and signs towards the famous Kabba-bashi bridge. Cross over the bridge and head past all of the hotels. The path is well-marked, with plenty of wooden planks to keep people from trampling the flora. You’ll reach a trail junction in about 10 minutes, so head left for the long climb up dakesawa (岳沢). The path follows the beautiful gully for about 2-1/2 hours before reaching Dakesawa Hut (岳沢ヒュッテ). This hut was badly damaged in an avalanche in 2006 and is closed, but snacks and drinks are sold to hikers during the main hiking season (July to October). There are no plans to re-open this hut again. After leaving the hut, the path curves towards the right and gets quite steep, with lots and lots of switchbacks. It’s really tough going if you’ve got a heavy pack, so take your time and stay hydrated with lots of fluids. There are several places with chains and ladders along the way, so take extra care during wet weather. It should take about 3 hours or so to reach the trail junction just below the peak of Mae-hotaka. Drop your pack for the short climb to the summit. The views from Mae-hotaka are make the tough hike worth it, as you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the entire ridge line, all the way out to Mt. Yari. The summit of Oku-hotaka will also be staring right at you. Drop back down to the junction and follow the signs to Oku-hotaka. It should take about 90 minutes or so of relatively easy hiking (well, at least easier than what you’ve been through) to reach the top. Smile and congratulate yourself for scaling one of the toughest peaks in the Alps. Don’t break open that beer just yet though, as the most dangerous part awaits. There’s a trail branching off to the left towards Nishi-hotaka, but you’ll want to go right, following the paint marks to Hotaka-dake hut (穂高岳山荘). It’s a relatively short distance, but full of chains and ladders. The final descent is vertigo-inducing, as you’ve got a long set of ladders to climb down just above the hut roof. Once you reach the hut you can finally breathe a sigh of relief, and either find a place to pitch your tent or check into the hut. Be warned that the campground is very small and exposed. If you don’t have a tent built to withstand gale force winds then consider staying inside in comfort. The next day climb up past the hut to the top of Mt. Karasawa (涸沢岳), where the views all the way out to Mt. Fuji are stunning in nice weather. The ridge line between here and Kita-hotaka is very dangerous, with vertical drops . If you weren’t comfortable with the previous descent from Oku-hotaka to Hotaka-dake hut then do not attempt this route, as a fair number of people fall to their deaths every year. Retrace your steps to the hut and turn left to descend down into the Karasawa col. It should take about 90 minutes to reach Karasawa hut (唐沢小屋), where there’s a massive campground with room for hundreds of tents. This is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Japan, and rightfully so, as the views up towards the rocky Hotaka ridge line in the autumn are breathtakingly beautiful. From Karasawa, turn left at the next 2 junctions and follow the signs to Yokoo-sansou (横尾山荘). Most people reach the hut in about 2 hours and the path is wonderful, following a beautiful river tributary before crossing a bridge to the junction. Once you arrive at Yokoo hut, you can either turn left for the long climb to Mt. Yari, or head right towards Kamikochi. Either way, you’ve got a 13km hike awaiting you.

When to go: This hike can be done from early May to early November. The earlier you go, the more snow there will be, so bring an ice axe, ropes, and full crampons if climbing before the rainy season or anytime in late fall. A winter hike is also possible, but only for those with ice climbing experience.

Access: From either Takayama (高山) or Matusmoto (松本) stations, take a bus bound for Kamikochi (上高地). Click here for the Alpico Group bus schedule. There are also direct night buses from Tokyo and Osaka, depending on the season. Check your nearest travel agency for details.

Live web cam: Click here.

Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change 1685m).

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27 Comments on “Mt. Oku-hotaka (奥穂高岳)”

  1. Jakob Says:


    we’re planning to hike to hotaka on wednesday and thursday stying in the hut overnight. We saw the forcast for a typhoon coming up from the south. We think the best way for the hike would be go up via daka-sawa and to come back though kara-sawa (seems easier). Do you also think this is the best bet? What is your guess about the situation on thursday? It seems that on wednesday the situation should still be fine. Except for the rain…

    • wesu Says:


      Your plan seems ok, but make sure you are well-prepared. All of this rain can very easily turn to snow or ice at higher elevations. While you’ll won’t have too much trouble getting up to Oku-hotaka from the Dake-sawa side, the short descent to Hotaka hut is steep and dangerous even in fine weather conditions. There are plenty of chains and ladders, but if they are frozen then you’ll need rope, and ice axe, and crampons.

      I’m not trying to scare you, but just be careful. Also, make sure you get a very early start, as it’s getting dark quite early now. It took me nearly 12 hours to do the dake-sawa route (from Kamikochi to Hotaka hut)

      A safer alternative would be to hike into Karasawa and stay in the hut there. Then you could climb Oku-hotaka as an up-and-back approach. Karasawa is a much more popular route, so you can discuss weather and trail conditions with the staff or other hikers. If you go up dake-sawa then you may very well find the entire trail to yourself, since the hut at dake-sawa has been destroyed.

      Be careful of the typhoon and be safe!


  2. Jakob Says:

    Hi Wes,
    thanks again for your tips. In the end we made it a day-hike to yakedake. From kamikochi we first climbed the ridge in direction of Nishi-Hotaka to arrive at the hut there, then we followed the ridge to the small huts before Yakedake. We did not have enough time to climb yakedake, but did go up a few hundred meters and saw some sulfer-rich steam vents. Only the last hour or so when hiking back to kamikochi it started raining, so we had a very good day hike.


  3. Grant Says:

    Hey, guys! Thanks for the information in the thread! I climbed Sugoroku last weekend with friends and got some great views of Yari and Hotaka…great enough views to ditch the slow friends and head for Hotaka via Kamikochi and Dakesawa Hut, as described above this weekend. I expect to camp at the Hotaka-dake Hut Saturday night, but am curious about my options for the next day due to time constraints. Given your experiences and assuming good weather:

    1. How many hours from Hotaka-dake Hut to Karasawa’s summit?
    2. How many hours from Karasawa to Kita-Hotaka summit?
    3. From your info, it appears that the Karasawa Hut is about 90 minutes from Kitahotaka’s summit, is this correct?

    Thanks for the info and happy hiking!

    • wesu Says:

      hey Grant. Cheers for the comment. Here are the answers to your questions:

      1) The summit of Karasawa is only about 15 minutes from Hotaka-dake hut. It’s very close. As soon as you reach the summit, however, the path gets ridiculously steep and challenging. You’ll find a chain dangling down the northeast face, a near vertical drop that’ll be a death trap if there’s any hidden ice in the crags.

      2) From the summit of Mt. Karasawa to Kita-hotaka it takes 2 hours and a bit in fine weather. Much longer in the clouds/rain/snow.

      3) Yes, Karasawa hut is about a 90-minute descent from the summit of Kita-hotaka if there isn’t any snow or ice.

      If the weather is looking questionable tomorrow (the forecast calls for cloud and a 40% chance of precipitation then you might want to play it safe and hike into Karasawa directly instead of going via Dakesawa.

      I hope this helps


  4. Emily Says:


    I am looking at doing a 1 or 2 day hike from Kamikochi this weekend (Nov 13-14th) but know the lodges are closed. Is there a hike you would recommend? We want something relatively strenuous and have snow experience though do not have equipment other than crampons.


    • wes Says:

      At this time of year I’d recommend climbing Mt. Yake, which should be relatively free of snow until reaching the rocky summit area. There’s a long ladder you’ll have to climb if heading from the Kamikochi side, but the crampons should help if there’s any ice lying around.

      Another option would be to climb up to the huge col and campground at Karasawa. You’ll be right at the base of Oku-hotaka, but shouldn’t attempt this climb without an ice axe.

      Go to Yake if you want the views, but head to Karasawa if you want the winter alpine scenery.

      The weather looks good for Saturday, but watch out for snow on Sunday.

  5. Hello Wes,
    Thanks so much for all these informations. We r planning to go to Kamikochi hiking for 2-3 days next week. But my wifi has a bit acrophobia, I guess she can’t do any of hotaka dake. Do u think to go to Yariga dake from yarisawa will be easier? (And the same way back) thank u very much

    • wes Says:


      Yes, going to Yari via Yarisawa will be much safer than doing Okuhotaka. The final climb up to Mt. Yari has a lot of chains and ladders, but you can make it all the way to the mountain hut very easily without any chains or ladders. Your wife could stay at the hut and watch you climb the peak or you could head away from Mt. Yari and climb Minami-dake without too much problem. There are good views from Yari hut (you can see Mt. Fuji too if the weather is good), so even if you don’t climb to the summit, it’s still a fun hike.

      Here’s the blog for Yari hut (it’s written in Japanese but they have good photos and they update it every day)


      • Thank you very much Wes. It’s a shame we didn’t take ur advice and went to hotakadake instead from karasawa, and it scared my wife a lot, at the end we made to the hut, and went down the next day. But she admitted its a thrilling experience, I hope someday she can do the full trail with me. Thanks a lot again!

  6. Jude Thomas Says:

    Hi Wes,

    We are traveling to Japan in July 2013 (next month!) and we have planned all of our hikes throughout Japan except in this region. We will be arriving in Kamikochi on a Thursday evening and departing the following Saturday, so we are ideally hoping to do an extensive day hike. We’re fit and accustomed to altitude, but not familiar with the region and so far I can’t figure out our best options for a great day hike on Friday. We’d be ready to start at sunrise and hike until sunset, for sure. Can you recommend a route, ideally one that involves summit(s)? There are so many options in the region, but few described as day hikes.

    Many, many thanks!


    • wes Says:


      The only day hike in Kamikochi is to the summit of Mt. Yake. It’ll take about 8 hours round trip. It’s a great mountain with hissing volcanic steam vents and a picturesque crater lake. However, be prepared that July is the rainy season in Japan, so be prepared for really wet weather.

      None of the taller alpine peaks are possible as a day hike. The distance and vertical elevation gain are too great (unless you’re super fit and can do trail running). Just to give you an idea, Kamikochi is 1500 meters above sea level, which means you’ve got a 1500 meter vertical elevation gain over really rugged terrain. That, combined with the altitude, means that the going will be slow.

      You can, however, hike up to Dakesawa hut, which will put you right around the treeline. From there, you could do an hour or so hike into the alpine terrain above the hut. It usually takes 2 hours of steep hiking to reach the hut. The next peak above the hut is Mt. Mae-hotaka, which takes 6 hours ONE WAY from the hut.

      Let me know if you have any more questions.


    • Filippo Says:

      I just come back from a very nice hike did yesterday (Saturday June 8th 2013) from Kamikochi (上高地) to Nishi-Hotakadake (西穂高岳, 2909mt), which makes it a 1400 mts hike. Ii was nice and I can recommend it.
      I was in Takayama (高山) but you can of course leave from Kamikochi: instead of the usual start at Kabba-bashi, go back one bus stop to the Imperial Tokyo hotel. From there, follow the signs to Nishi-Hotakadake (in kanjii’s only), pass a small cabin where you write your name and start climbing. It is very well signed, often staired and you should be at the Nishi-Hota-Sansou (西穂山荘 at roughly 2300mts) in two and a half hours or so – the guide says 3h50 but it is way too much. Yesterday it was full of snow and I sweared for not having rampoons but by July it might be away. From Nishi-Hota-Sansou, it is a 1h45 to 2hrs hike to the top of Nishi-Hota-dake at 2909. If you google the Mount name, some sites refer to the place where the hut is, but it is incorrect. The last leg from an intermediate 2701 pick marked “Piramida” (ピラミダ) to the top is a bit funny, with some chains, but nothing hard. Oddly enough, there was no snow up there, I guess because it gets much more sun than the wood down before the hut. From the top, you should get a wondeful view on the rest of the Hota-Dake, but yesterday it was a bit foggy.
      Coming down, you first trace back to Nishi-Hota-Sansou. From there, you can even take a 45mins almost flat leg to a cable (新穂高ローペウェイ which brings you down to the small village of 新穂高温泉, Shin-Hotaka-Dake-Onsen; or you do the follow your way back to Kamikochi. I took the first option, and from down the cable took a Nohi bus (only one per hour) to Hiraiu-Onsen bus terminal (平湯温泉) where buses leave either to Kamikochi or to Takayama.
      I was alone all my way up to the hut, then met some people – most of those climbing the Nishi-Hotakadake use the cable also for coming up, but I liked my hike a lot. If you buy Map 37 of Shōbunsha you have everything on it, although there are only kanjii.


  7. Jude Says:

    Yake it is, and it sounds like it will be great. Thank you very much for the thoughtful (and quick!) reply. My wife and I actually are trail runners. This summer we have done day hikes in the Western U.S. exceeding 20 miles with greater than 5,000 feet of elevation gain, to summits at altitudes of +/- 12,000 feet. Having said that, this will be our first hike in Japan after our arrival, so Yake should be a good match, considering our likely jet-lagged state. The details that you describe make it sound like it will be more than worthwhile. July can’t come soon enough! Thanks again for this and all of the other useful information that you have provided on these pages.


    • wes Says:

      good to hear June. You’ll really enjoy Mt. Yake. If you still have energy, you could continue along the ridge towards Mt. Nishi-hotaka. When you hit the main junction just past the small hut on Mt. Yake, instead of turning left to reach Mt. Yake, you turn right and ascend via the forest covered ridge. Just below Nishi-hotaka hut you’ll see a trail to your left that will take you back to Kamikochi. Again, a lot will depend on the weather and how you’re dealing with the jetlag. Yake is challenging enough and offers great views and spendid volcanic scenery. Enjoy

  8. Max Says:

    Hi Wes,

    thank you for the great website with all this valuable information!

    A friend and me are thinking about climbing mount Hotaka at 1.-2. November. We want to go from Kamikochi to the Karasawa Hut, stay there, and then climb Oku-Hotaka and, depending on the weather conditions, return on the same way or cross Mae-Hotaka and retun to Kamikochi via Dake-sawa.
    As our luggage is limited, we probably can only bring crampons and a short rope for emergencies.

    An alternative would be to do the tour the other way round, and start going up through the Dake-sawa, staying in the (seemingly newly re-opened) Dake-sawa hut (

    As it will be so late in the season, I also thought about doing mount Yari instead of Hotaka (and staying at Yarisawa lodge for the night).

    I would be very interested on your opinion on my ideas!

    Thank you very much,

    • wes Says:


      Thanks for the comment and for checking out the site.

      I just checked out my calendar and I hope you realize that November 1-2 is a public holiday, which means Kamikochi will be flooded with hikers. The 1st will be ok, but the crowds will converge on November 2 to the 4th. If you’re Kamikochi on the 2nd then you’ll have no problems, but if you’re staying until that Monday then it could become quite an adventure trying to get on a bus.

      As far as routes go, I think a lot of it will depend on the snow depth at that time. The first snows usually fall around mid-October, but don’t start accumulating until the end of October or so. (It varies year by year. I remember there was already over a meter of snow on the ridge one insanely early start about 7 years ago or so). The “safer” route would be up Yarisawa to the summit of Mt. Yari. Mt. Oku-hotaka can some tricky sections that can be tough in the ice/snow (not impossible, but there’s no margin of error if you should slip).

      Karasawa is a tent city on the weekends. If you’ve never been there then it might be worth checking out a “true Japan experience” with tons of hikers wearing fashionable gear.

      The route from Dakesawa to Oku-hotaka is long and laborious, so it would be much easier to descend via that route. I would say to plan two different routes (Oku-hotaka and Yari) and then decide when you get to Kamikochi that morning (camp sites don’t have to be reserved).

      Here’s a blog report about an early November ascent of Yari (it’s in Japanese but it has good pictures)

      I hope that helps


      • Max Says:

        Hi Wes,

        Thank you for the information! In fact, I didn’t know that November 1 is a public holiday in Japan, too. It is a public holiday in Germany, but probably for completely different reasons :-)

        We will try to flee Kamikochi at November 2, which is hopefully before everybody else will leave.

        Thank you for the link, the photos on that website look very promising!

        Also, we intend to sleep inside the mountain huts and not in a tent. Do you know if we need to reserve the places (and meals) or can we just show up there?

        Thanks again,

  9. Nicolas Says:

    Hi Wes,

    Thank you for all the information and your great website.

    I came in Japan one month ago, I’m used to do hikking in french Alps and I have one week free next week that I’ll be glad to spend in Japanese Alps.

    I would like to plan a 2 or 3 days hike because carying the food for longer could become a problem… I am not familiar with japanese huts, are they occupied? Is it possible to eat there? Is carrying a hamac an alternative to sleep in the forest?

    If you have any advice about potential trip within the area or any recommandation I will be glad.

    Thank you in advance.

  10. Sarah L Says:

    Thanks so much for this helpful guide in English! We hiked this route this weekend, and despite it taking us a bit longer on the descent, your guide was spot on! Thanks again, and we really appreciate your guidance!

  11. JP Says:

    This site is just so great! I’ve used your guides for a few trips into the mountains in the past few weeks, and I’ve found them to be great.
    I did a loop from Kamikochi to Hotaka via Daresawa, then descended straight to Karasawa hut, Yokoo and return to Kamikochi. The descent to Hotaka dake hut is, as you say, steep and its probably a good idea to rest a little after the climb. From the hut down to Karasawa hut I was a little shocked by the amount of steep snow (in mid-July) that I had to cross/descend upon. If I did the loop again I’d definitely be taking some mini crampons like microspikes. I was trying to move quickly but I was at snails pace while kicking steps across and down the snowfields in running shoes. This is a legit route!

  12. Jane Says:

    Could I do this hike alone or do I need a buddy?

    • wes Says:

      Are you an experienced hiker? It’s always a good idea to go with a friend if you can, but even if you go alone, it’s a really popular peak in the summer, so you’ll never really be alone

    • Hi Jane, planning to hike this end of july or alternatively 2ND week of August. Let me know if you would be interested to tag along

  13. Jake W. Says:

    Hey Wes, I just did this hike and wanted to give you an update and some impressions I had.

    First, the Dakesawa Hut has been rebuilt. There is a gorgeous, very new hut there with a nice raised deck with a fantastic view down the valley to Kamikochi.

    Second, I did this hike alone (just got back today), basically took your route, only started late Sunday because Nagano city’s first bus doesn’t even get to Kamikochi until 11:30, and had to camp overnight at Dakesawa. The next day, I did Mae and Oku, went down to Hotaka lodge, and from there went up Karasawa and then did the descent. You are right. It is hair raising. The initial near vertical chain is only the first in a series of sharp declines, including one spot where you have to shimmy down around a corner, and down pass a deep indention of the wall where footholds are a little too far away, and then directly onto the a ladder also going straight down onto a tiny ledge. Now, after this, I wanted to add for people thinking about doing it, things aren’t too much harder but basically here are some pointers for people wanting to do Kita-Hotaka.

    1. If anything about the first set of chains scares you, stop right there.
    2. If you are in good shape and make fast time, it will take you, at minimum, 2 1/2 hours to get there from Hotaka-sansou. There really isn’t any rushing or making up time in any part of this trail.
    3. After the steep descent down, it is a long series of gradually ascending peaks that finally concludes in Kita-Hotaka. But, the path along these is nearly always narrow and hanging off sharp drops, once I was literally standing at the top of a twenty foot drop with one hand holding the top of the ridge and my feet on 4 inches of protruding rock. It also requires some relatively simple technical rock climbing, and be prepared for several hours of intense mental concentration and some at times steep scampers.

    Lastly, if you want to get to Kita-Hotaka, you can also avoid all of this by going down to Karasawa lodge from Hotaka-sansou, and then climbing it from the valley floor, where its no harder harder than Maehotaka. The hard way is really hard’ the Japanese are serious when it comes to Kamikochi, its not like some areas where routes label “advanced” aren’t difficult at all.

    Kita-Hotaka is not a bad place to start an alternate route to Mt. Yari either, going along the apparently infamous and scary Dai-Kiretto ridge line for several hours to Minami-Dake, from which you can cross over to Yaridaira and then on to the mountain summit itself.

  14. Talia Says:

    Hey! I was wondering how far I could do this hike for just a day trip and no camping. I am planning on waking up very early to hike but have to catch a bus back around 4pm. Is it worth only doing a day hike?


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