Mt. Akita-Komagatake (秋田駒ヶ岳)
Mt. Akita-komagatake is the highest mountain in Akita Prefecture and easily one of the most picturesque. The views down towards Lake Towada are incredible on a clear day, and the wildflowers are some of the best in the Tohoku region.
The hike: From the bus stop, head past the entrance of the souvenir shop to the fountain that doubles as a water source. Fill up your bottles here, as there are no other reliable water sources on the hike. The trail starts to the right of the water. After 5 meters of walking, you’ll see a trail on your left, but ignore this and head straight. The path will curve off to the right, climbing a gentle spur towards the summit plateau. The path looks a bit like a volcanic forest road, with colorful lava rocks and an immense collection of wildflowers. After about 15 minutes of climbing, the mound-shaped peak of Mt. Oname (男女岳) will come into your view. The trail wraps around the northern flank of the peak before flattening out at a splendid volcanic lake. The reflections of the peak in the water are phenomenal when the weather is clear. At the far side of the lake is a mountain hut, so follow the wooden planks and drop your gear out front. This hut was locked when I climbed in August 2010, so I’m not sure whether you’re allowed to stay here or not. It should have taken anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes to reach this hut, depending on your speed. Follow the steps (and the crowds) up to the summit of Mt. Oname, the highest peak in Akita prefecture. The peak overlooks Lake Tazawa, as well as the distant peaks of Mt. Iwate and Mt. Chokai. After a few obligatory snaps, retrace your steps back to the hut and walk back along the lake as if you were going to descend back down to the parking lot. On the left side of the lake you’ll find a trail branching off to the left with a signpost for Odake (男岳). In 5 minutes, you’ll reach the ridge line. Turn right and start the steep, rocky climb towards the twin peak of Akita-koma. This climb is a lot more strenuous than the ascent of Mt. Oname, but the views down towards the grassy crater of Ko-dake are well worth the extra effort. After reaching the top, retrace your steps back to the saddle. Instead of turning left back down to the lake, keep climbing straight ahead on a path labeled on the maps as the “horse’s back” (馬の背). The narrow path lives up to its name, with steep drops on both sides and a panoramic view of lush, verdant peaks all around. It should take about 10 minutes of sweaty climbing to reach Yoko-dake (横岳). Turn left here and follow the ridge up and over the scree fields of Yakemori (焼森). If you’re tired, then there’s a trail on your left that leads down to the parking lot of Hachigome in about 40 minutes. Otherwise, start the long descent and even longer climb towards Mt. Yumori (湯森山). At the bottom of the descent there’s a small stream marked as a water source on the map. I’d recommend bringing a water filter in you’re planning on relying on this water. It should take about 40 minutes from the water source to reach the summit, where the views back towards Mt. Oname are entrancing. Here you’ll have to make a decision. If you want to continue all the way to Nyuto-dake and down to Nyuto Onsen, then you’ve still got 4 to 5 hours of long hiking in front of you. I recommend turning left here for the 20 minute stroll to the peak of Sasamori (笹森山), which has one of the best alpine grasslands in the entire area, filled with a wide assortment of wildflowers. From here it’s a 30 minute descent back to Hachigome. The trail drops steeply to a mountain stream and then climbs up towards the bus stop. All in all, it should take between 4 to 6 hours to complete the entire loop.
When to go: This hike can be done from early June to late October, when the buses to Hachigome are running. Please note that private cars are not allowed at the trailhead, so you’ll have to park at Arupa-Komakusa and take the bus along with everyone else. A winter ascent is also possible with the right gear and experience. Click here and here to see 2 different Japanese blogs.
Access: From Tazawako (田沢湖) station on the Akita Shinkansen, take a bus bound for Komagatake-Hachigome (駒ヶ岳八合目) and get off at the last stop. The bus takes about an hour and runs from June 1st to October 31st. Click here for the bus schedule. You can also take a bus bound for Nyuutou-Onsen (乳頭温泉) and change to the Hachigome bus at Arupa-Komakusa (アルパこまくさ) bus stop. Click here for the Onsen bus schedule.
Live web cam: Click here
Map: Click here
Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change 337m)