A valley in Japan during the fall

Hiking in Japan in November: Best Autumn Trails

There are so many ways to explore a new country – whether you’re looking to take in some of the local art, try new foods, or just enjoy an experience you haven’t had before, one of the most exciting parts of planning a trip is figuring out how, exactly, you’d like to travel! 

Travellers looking for a true escape from their everyday lives and a way to get to know a new destination on a deeper level should always consider a hiking trip. From beginner day hikes that will allow you to experience the country’s history and natural beauty from a new perspective, to longer trekking adventures that will push you and encourage you to explore more of the world, there’s a hiking trip for every kind of traveller, in every destination.

Japan, especially, is home to countless hiking trails of all difficulty levels. While these trails are wonderful to hike and incredibly rewarding to complete, certain parts of Japan experience heavy snowfall in the winter, and thus some trails close in the late autumn and winter. Before you start planning your dream November hiking trip in Japan, take a look at some of our favourite hiking trails for November!


Travel to: Japan


November weather in Japan

Travellers will find the weather in Japan to generally be cool and crisp – perfect hiking temperatures, as you won’t be boiling in the heat, and in most places, you won’t find snowy weather either. Don’t expect too much rain, either – November is known as a dryer month, so you won’t need to worry about packing all those bulky waterproof clothes! 

However, hikers should try and wear layers – while the temperature will be cooler than, for example, hiking in July, temperatures can still fluctuate, and when you’re working up a sweat during your hike, you’ll be grateful for the option to dress down slightly!

Two people on a ski lift on a snowy day in Japan
Some parts of Japan are snowy wonderlands by November! | © Delphine Ducaruge/Unsplash

Some hiking trails in Japan will be closed during November due to snowfall and the risk of ice, so it’s always a good idea to look into the specific trail you have your eye on to make sure that you won’t be disappointed once you arrive!

The best Autumn trails in Japan

Shikoku Pilgrimage

  • Length: 1,200 kilometres

On the island of Shikoku, there are 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kukai – and the Shikoku Pilgrimage invites travellers to discover each and every one of them. 

The most important thing travellers should know is that there’s no right or wrong way to complete the Shikoku Pilgrimage (if you even want to complete it!). If you were to set out intent on visiting all 88 temples along the trail, it would take well-prepared and fit travellers about 6 weeks. However, one of the most magical things about the pilgrimage is the fact that travellers come and go over lifetimes, visiting just a few temples at a time whenever they have the chance to return. 

A temple on a rocky island in Japan
Find some serenity on a hike in Japan | © Pavlo Klein/Unsplash

Along your way, you may find strangers offering you gestures of kindness, such as food, water, or even rides to accommodation or the next temple. That’s all part of the Shikoku experience – your job is to relax and enjoy where the journey takes you. 

Kumano Kodo

  • Length: varied

Another must-try pilgrimage, the Kumano Kodo is an excellent choice for hikers interested in learning more about Japan’s history. The journey to Kumano was taken by everyone from commoners to emperors, and today it’s an amazing way for travellers to see more of Japan while undertaking a hike that will stay with them long after they’ve left Japan.

Pilgrimage tokens on the Kumano Kodo in Japan
Tokens left by pilgrims on the Kumano Kodo | © Amandine Pasin/Unsplash

There are four main pilgrimage trails to Kumano:

  1. Nakahechi: known as “the imperial route,” Nakahechi was once used solely by the Japanese royalty as they made their way to Kumano from Kyoto. This trail is the most popular with local hikers from western Japan, and travellers will find traditional lodges in serene villages along the way. 
  2. Kohechi: arguably the most difficult of the four routes, Kohechi is “the mountainous trail,” challenging hikers to 70 kilometres of steep inclines and isolated trails. While this route is beautiful, only experienced and well-prepared hikers should attempt to hike Kohechi. 
  3. Ohechi: luckily for travellers looking to find that picture-perfect moment on their hiking adventure, Ohechi’s coastal route provides stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Ohechi has long been a favourite of writers and artists, and the historic trails have been well-preserved. 
  4. Iseji: a popular choice for pilgrims in the 1600s, Iseji’s eastern route gives travellers the chance to see more of Japan – throughout this trail, the scenery changes dramatically and there’s never a dull moment! Keep an eye out for the 17th-century cobblestones put in place to prevent erosion from strong rains. 

Kamakura 

This city in Japan’s south enjoys access to several gorgeous trails leading into the surrounding mountains and forests. If you’re a traveller looking to get a hike or two in during your trip, consider adding Kamakura to your list! Most of the trails take 30-90 minutes to complete, meaning you don’t have to arrange a trip specifically around hiking to enjoy an excursion or two. 

A bamboo forest in Kamakura, Japan
Kamakura’s otherworldly bamboo forests | © Charles/Unsplash

The Daibutsu Hiking Course connects the city’s temples with its Great Buddha statue, while the Gionyama Hiking Course connects the Yagumo Shrine with Harakiri Yagura, an ancient cave. 

From pilgrimages to day hikes to adventures that could last intrepid travellers months, there’s so much variety in Japan’s hiking scene. If you’re travelling in November, you’ll also get to experience the country’s trees lit up in their gorgeous fall shades – all this while avoiding the major crowds? Hiking in Japan is always a dream come true, but hitting one of our favourite trails in November could be one of your best hiking experiences yet.  

Have you been to Japan in November? How did you find it?

Maggie is a life-long traveller who, after three years abroad, has returned home to Toronto, where she works as a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she's not reading, writing, or dreaming about her next trip, you can find her talking at length about her dog to anyone who'll listen.

group of people walking on park with a beautiful building in the background and manicured gardens
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