Mt. Eboshi (烏帽子岳)
Mt. Eboshi, or Shinto priest hat peak, is a knobby mountain perched on the northern shores of Lake Haruna in central Gunma Prefecture. The steep hike is filled with pristine forests, wild bamboo grass, and enticing views of the lake directly below.
The hike: From the bus stop, walk on the paved road (with the lake on your left), turning left to cross the bridge, and you’ll see a signpost reading 烏帽子岳登山口 about a hundred meters on your right. Follow the trail through the forest for a couple of minutes and you’ll come to a small Inari shrine adorned with hundreds of tiny ceramic fox statues. Just in front of the shrine you’ll see a dirt forest road. Turn right on the road and you’ll find a sign that reads 烏帽子山登山道入口. Turn left at the sign and follow the well-worn path for about 30 minutes as it climbs towards the ridge. The last 50 meters of the climb are along a series of wooden steps, but all-in-all it’s not too steep of a climb. When you reach the ridge, you’ll find a junction. If you turn left, there’s an alternate peak called 鬢櫛山, which is a steep 30-minute climb to the summit. Ignore this for now and turn right, passing through the red torii gate flanked by two stone fox statues. The route immediately steepens, with lots of stairs and a roped handrail to aid in the ascent. Be particularly careful in wet conditions, especially on the descent. After about 20 minutes, you’ll reach a giant rock formation with a shrine torii gate in front. This is where the mountain god resides. The path becomes a bit unclear at this point, but turn left when you reach this rock and you should see the trail climb steeply around the stone, with ropes tied to the trees for assistance. After this, the trail flattens out as you reach the summit plateau, which is overgrown with bamboo grass. In about 5 minutes you will reach the summit of Mt. Eboshi, which is covered in trees and doesn’t offer any views. If you continue walking on the plateau, and descent for a couple of minutes towards the lake side of the peak, you will reach a small clearing with a small cliff, which has fantastic views of the lake and the mountains of Chichibu. This is the best place to take a break. Once satisfied, retrace your steps back to the junction and consider climbing the other peak (鬢櫛山) before descending back down to the lake on the trail you came from. One option would be to do what we did: climb this peak in the morning, and follow it up with an afternoon ascent of neighboring Haruna-fuji.
When to go: This hike can be done year round, but you’ll need some 6-point crampons if hiking in January or February. Winter is the best time to see the mountains of Niigata Prefecture covered with snow, as the lack of foliage improves visibility from the forest-covered summit and the clear air means Mt. Fuji will likely be visible on the horizon.
Access: From Tokyo, take a train to Shibukawa (渋川), and transfer to a bus bound for either Ikaho hot spring (伊香保温泉) or Ikaho-Harunaguchi (伊香保榛名口) and get off at Ikaho Bus Terminal. From here, you can catch a bus bound for Haruna-ko Onsen Yuusuge (榛名湖温泉ゆうすげ), the start of the hike. The buses are poorly-timed, so double-check both schedules before you set off, or consider breaking up the trip by staying at the hot spring. Click here for the bus from Shibukawa, and here for the bus that runs between Lake Haruna and Ikaho hot spring. Alternatively, if you’re staying in the area for a few days, then you can simply just stay at the Kokumin-shukusha (recommended), or the more expensive Hotel Yuusuge, which is more convenient for the hike. Either place will pick you up from the bus stop if you’ve taken the bus from Takasaki (see Mt. Kamon hike for a description of that bus route). From the Kokumin-shukusha, you’ll need to walk clockwise around 1/4 of the lake to reach the trailhead.
Map: Click here
Live web cam: Click here
Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~360 meters)
Distance: 3km (2 to 3 hours)