Mt. Nosaka (野坂岳)
Mt. Nosaka is a bulbous peak sitting on the edge of Tsuruga city in Fukui Prefecture. The panoramic views on a rare clear-weather day are some of the best in the entire region.
The hike: From Awano station, go out of the unmanned ticket gate and turn left, following the signs for 少年自然の家. Take a left at the first paved road you see. The road crosses under the train tracks and winds its way up towards the campground and youth center. The road passes by a few parking spaces and random buildings before head past some A-frame bungalows with colorful roofs. You can find the trailhead marked by the sign 野坂岳登山口 around a bend in the road just above the bungalows. The first part of the trail follows a dirt road through a rather boring cedar plantation. After a few minutes of climbing you’ll see a beat-up wooden sign reading 野坂岳山頂約２時間２０分 (2 hours and 20 minutes to the summit). The route crosses a small stream two times before arriving at a small jizo statue just before the final crossing, which is marked by a metal staircase on the other side of the creek. This is your last place to get water on the entire trail, so fill up if you’re feeling thirsty. Cross the stream and climb the staircase, following the switchbacks as they wind up towards the ridge. The views towards Tsuruga city will open up behind you the higher you go. Just before you reach the ridge you’ll see a small path that leads off to the right for Gyoja rock (行者岩). The signpost and path will be buried under snow in the winter, and there are better views from the summit anyway, so feel free to skip the lookout point if you’re short on time or if visibility is bad. After a few more switchbacks you’ll reach the start of the ridge at Ichi-no-dake (一ノ岳). There’s a small jizo statue here and the views of Tsuruga city and Hakusan on a clear day make it a great place to take a quick break before the final push towards the summit. From here, the going gets a lot easier, as it’s only about 200 vertical meters to the summit. You can see the next two peaks off to your left that you will traverse up and over on your way to the summit. The trail blazes through a wonderful forest of beech trees up to the top of Ni-no-dake (二ノ岳). From here the route drops to a saddle before climbing rather steeply on the other side to the summit of San-no-dake (三ノ岳), where you can see the roof of the emergency hut at the top of the next rise. Drop down to the final saddle for the last push towards the peak. The top is just a few meters past the hut and in good weather the unobstructed panoramic views are incredible, as you can see not only Hakusan, but also most of the peaks of Gifu Prefecture and even some of the Japan Alps if the weather is really clear. You can also see Mt. Ibuki and the Hira Mountains surrounding Lake Biwa. If the winds are strong or the weather is bad you can take refuge in the small hut, which doubles as a mountain shrine. There’s room for about a dozen people or so and a good place to meet the locals who climb this peak nearly every day. After adequate rest, simply retrace your steps all the way back to Awano station, or try making a new friend who might offer you a free ride to Tsuruga station, which will make getting back to Kansai a bit faster.
When to go: This hike can easily be done between late March and early December, when the trail is clear of snow. If you’ve got crampons and/or snowshoes, then a winter ascent is possible as well. The locals climb the peak year round and keep very detailed blogs documenting current conditions. Be warned that the peak is a magnet for clouds and bad weather, so make sure you check the local forecasts before setting out to ensure an enjoyable hike.
Access: From Osaka or Kyoto stations, take the JR Limited Express Thunderbird train bound for either Kanazawa, Toyama, or Niigata and get off at Tsuruga (敦賀) station. Change to a local train on the Obama line bound for Higashi-Maizuru (東舞鶴) and get off at Awano (粟野) station (just 2 stops from Tsuruga.) If you want to save a bit of money, then instead of the Limited Express train, you can take a Shin-kaisoku train as far as Omi-shiotsu and change to a local train for Tsuruga, but it’ll take 2-1/2 hours from Osaka one-way and you’ll need to double check the train times on the Obama line to ensure a smooth connection, as the Higashi-maizuru trains only run once an hour at most.
Map: Click here
Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~850 meters)
Distance: 11km (4 to 6 hours)