Odai-ga-hara ranks up there with Utsukushi-ga-hara, Mt. Hachimantai and Kiri-ga-mine as the most accessible of the Hyakumeizan, as you can practically drive to the top. The views on a clear day are outstanding, but the entire place can be downright depressing when the cloud is in, which is more often than not.
The hike: This is a loop hike, so it can be done in either direction. From the enormous parking lot, follow the signs (and crowds) past the visitor’s center towards Hide-ga-take (日出ヶ岳), the true summit of Odai-ga-hara. It’s a mind-numbing 120m vertical ascent that can practically be done barefoot. The views are really nice on the rare occasion that it isn’t raining. From here, you could continue past the peak and descend into Osugi-dani (大杉谷), but I’m not sure if the trail has been re-opened yet (Editor’s note: It has been reopened). If the trail is open, then prepare yourself for one of the gnarliest, steepest drops in the Kansai area. If you’re just up for the day, then continue on the same trail for an easy 30-minute stroll over to Masaki-ga-hara (正木ヶ原). There are plenty of deer in this area, and the foliage and moss are wonderful. Soon after passing this area, a trail will come in from the right, but ignore it and follow the signs towards Daija-gura (大蛇嵓), an exposed rock formation with vertigo-inducing views of the valley below. This is the most famous (and popular) part of the hike, but only worth it on a clear day. Daija-gura is accessible via a dead-end spur trail branching off to the left. Retrace your steps back to the main trail and turn left for the 1 hour hike back to the parking lot. All together it’s a 9km hike, but because of the relative flatness of the mountain, it should only take about 2-1/2 hours to complete. Yet another peak where getting there will take much more time than the actual hike.
When to go: This hike can be done from late April to late November, when the bus to the summit is running. If you’re prepared for a long hike, then you can also do this during the winter, where you can avoid the crowds. Unfortunately you’ll need your own transport to get to the trailhead.
Access: From Abenobashi (阿倍野橋) station in Tennoji, take the Kintetsu Yoshino Line bound for Yoshino (吉野) and get off at Yamato-Kamiichi (大和上市) station. From there, change to a bus bound for Odai-ga-hara (大台ケ原) and get off at the last stop. The bus runs from late April to November 25th, and there are only 2 buses a day on weekends, and 1 bus a day on weekdays. Click here for the bus schedule.
Level of difficulty: 0 out of 5 (elevation change ~120m).