Surrounded by mountainous region, Kyoto boasts some brilliant hiking trails or gentle walks. While some are closer than others, there is a hike for almost everybody and all fitness levels. If you need an escape – or a moment of soul-searching or a rare chance to enjoy your own company – these are the trails you need to explore. Before you set off for Japan, read on to find out where you can find the best day hikes in Kyoto (updated 2020).
Travel to: Japan
Highlights: Monkey Park Iwatayama, Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple, Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple
Difficulty level: Most hikes in the area are leisurely and short
One of the most beautiful (and most Instagrammable) places in Japan is the Arashiyama Mountains. You can visit from Kyoto via bus, train, or taxi for the magnificent sights. There are many hikes or short walks you can enjoy, including the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove or you can hike to Nison-in Temple for a peaceful journey. Another option for visitors is to walk along the Hozu River from Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama and travel back via the Sagano Scenic Railway.
2. Mount Atago
Elevation: 924 m (3,031 ft)
Difficulty level: Challenging but accessible
One of Kyoto’s most stunning hikes takes you up to the top of Kyoto’s highest mountain. Mount Atago takes anywhere between 4-6 hours to ascend and descend depending on your level of fitness. Located in the north-west, it’s a popular hike in the area and one of the best day hikes in Kyoto.
As you make your way up to the top of Mount Atago, keep your eyes open for the abundant wildlife, including small deer along the path. More importantly, don’t be surprised if you see an influx of small children and babes along the trail. This is because it is believed that children who visit the shrine at a young age may be granted a lifetime of immunity and protection from fire.
The mountain is open year-round but it’s recommended you avoid climbing in the winter if you lack the proper equipment or experience for the snowy and icy conditions.
See Also: Hiking the Japanese Alps in Winter
3. Takao to Hozukyo Hike
Highlight: Jingo-ji Temple and various tea houses
Difficulty level: Moderate
Spanning a distance of approximately 11-kilometres that will take maybe 6 hours to complete, Takao to Hozukyo Hike is a superb hike in Kyoto. If you’re looking for a gentle, but challenging jaunt then this is the one for you. To start with, set your sights on the temples in Takao. As you make your way along the vibrant trail, you will also be able to follow a beautiful river that’s great for swimming when the temperatures rise.
Insider tip: Once you reach Jingo-ji Temple, passing Kondo Hall, you will start on the path to the next “attraction”, the kawarakenage spot. Reaching the kawarakenage spot, you’ll have a great opportunity to participate in a local custom by purchasing and using a kawarake! Chris Rowthorn of InsideKyoto.com explains:
Kawarake are small clay discs that you throw off the nearby cliff to rid yourself of bad karma. The act of throwing them is called “kawarakenage” (“nage” means “throw”). It’s a lot of fun and I highly recommend trying it. The kanji on the discs read 厄除, which means “getting rid of evil.”
4. Kyoto Isshu Trail
Highlights: Fushimi Inari shrine (eastern end of the trail), Enryaku-ji (summit of Mt. Hiei), and Nanzen-ji
Discover a 70-kilometre course that circles across the city that starts at the Fushimi Inari Shrine and travels across the mountains before ending at the Moss Temple.
There are several ways to approach the Kyoto Isshu Trail. Trek it over four or five days using the camping facilities, or you could just return to Kyoto before returning to where you ended the day before. The choice is all yours! While you’re travelling across the trail, you may encounter some boars, bears or deer – maybe even some monkeys in addition to the many impressive shrines and temples. It can easily make for one of the best day hikes in Kyoto, depending on how you choose to take it on.
5. Fushimi Inari Hike
Duration: 2-3 hours
While this ranks as one of the more gentle walks on this list, to take a stroll through the winding tunnels of the Fushimi-Inari pilgrimage hike is one of the greatest experiences you can have. Getting there is quite simple, the trail starts at Keihan Fushimi-Inari Station, which is only a short journey from Kyoto by train
The total journey time can take anywhere from one hour or up to 90 minutes and the torii gates stretch to the top of the 233m-high Mt. Inari. If you’re not in a rush, take your time and make a few stops along the way for some tea or the famous Fushimi sake. For a short walk, this one is by far the most interesting and iconic.
See Also: Should I Visit Japan?
6. Mount Daimonji
Duration: 1 hour
If you have a half-day to spare during your travels in Japan, take note of the hike up to Daimonji located just on the eastern edge of Kyoto. Here, you will be treated to bold views at the top of the summit as you weave past the lush scenery and nearby thundering streams. In total, the trail is about 1.5km in length and begins and ends at theGinkaku-ji Temple in Northern Higashiyama.
7. Shogunzuka and Seiryuden Hike (from Chion-in Temple)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Duration: Approximately two hours
If you have a few hours in your day, we suggest you take a look at hiking along to the Seiryuden Viewpoint which starts from the Chion-in Temple. The walk or gentle hike itself will take approximately two hours and will offer a visual feast for your eyes once you reach the central vantage point.
Planning a hike? Here’s your checklist!
Even if you’re planning a day hike, it’s important to be prepared. Here’s our checklist for what you need.
- Water bottle
- GPS device
- First aid kit
- Insect repellent
- Lip balm with SPF 15
- If you have any tips for hiking or trekking along any of the trails in Kyoto, comment below and share your advice with other travellers!
- To find your next adventure, check out our tours in Japan.