Hiking for Viewing Karasawa Autumn Leaves
Kami-kochi ~ Tokusawa ~ Yoko ~ Karasawa ~Yoko ~ Tokusawa ~ Kami-kochi (Beginner)
Karasawa is a curl terrain shaped by a glacier at one time. A carpet of autumn leaves covers the entire valley surrounded by the rock peaks of the Hotaka Mountains, which makes for one of the great sports of autumn leaves viewing in Japan.
Schedule: One night and two days
Walking hours: 11 hours 10 minutes
(Up 6 hours 10 minutes Down 5 hours)
Walking distance: 30 km
Variance in elevation: 800 m
↓ 1 hour
↓ 1 hour
↓ 1 hour 10 minutes
↓ 1 hour
↓ 2 hours
↓ 5 hours 10 minutes
The road from Kamikochi to Yoko is a wide and gradual slope. From Yoko, the road becomes a trail along the Yoko valley. Its grade of “Beginner” is for Alps climbing, and advanced climbing skills are not required for this route, however, standard climbing skills and experience are necessary. The mountains huts and the camping site become very crowded during the autumn leaves season at Karasawa, therefore, it is recommended that you plan a visit on weekdays or a stay at Yoko and making a round trip to Karasawa. It takes one day and two nights, however, and if time allows, it is recommended that you walk around Taisho-ike the first day to enjoy Kamikochi, then to hike to Karasawa on day 2 to fully enjoy hiking with no time pressure.
The peak for autumn leaves at Karasawa is late September to early October and middle October to late October from Kamikochi to Yoko. It is also recommended to visit Yoko for on a round trip since there are some good spots for autumn leaves and fantastic views of the Hotaka Mountains from Kamikochi to Yoko during this season. The numbers of hikers significantly drops and the trail becomes quieter, which makes hiking easier from a stamina standpoint as well. In early November, you might be able to enjoy late autumn leaves and the snow covered Hotaka Mountains in Kami-kochi. The peak for autumn leaves changes from year to year so make sure that you check the latest local information before you visit.
From Kamikochi bus terminal, walk up along the Azusa river and enjoy the view of the Hodaka Mountains at Kappa bridge. Then proceed on the to trail on the left bank of the Azusa river. To Yoko, there are mountain huts every 1 hour and those are good spots for resting. After passing the Konashi-daira camping site, the trail goes through forests consisting mainly of evergreen trees such as Kome-Tsuga or Abise Mariesii. After crossing Shimo-shirasawa, the view becomes wide and the Mt. Mae-hotaka mountains and the Mt. Myojin-dake can be seen.
Pass Myojin junction where Myojin-kan stands and proceed through the forest. When the forest becomes spare and the trail reaches the riverside of the Azusa river, the view of Mt. Myojin-dake comes into sight. Pass Tokusawa, where Tokusawa lodge and Tokusawa-en Mountain Hut are located, and proceed along the trail about 20 minutes. The view of Mt. Mae-hotaka-dake and the east slope of Kita-o’ne ridgeline can be enjoyed at Nimura bridge. Once you approach Byoubu-iwa, an overwhelming rock wall, you will have come near to Yoko, and you will have reached Yoko-sanso Mountain Hut.
From Yoko, walk away from the route along the Azusa river to Mt. Yariga-take and cross Yoko bridge, a hanging bridge, to Karasawa. Walk through forests for a while till the view becomes wide and Byobu-iwa can be seen. The trail goes up along Hontani riverside and crosses Hontani bridge toward the other side of the river. The area where the bridge is located is an open space and many hikers take a break
After passing Hontani bridge, the trail becomes steeper with short uphills. The trail goes through forests. As you proceed, the trees become more scattered, their height along the trail grows lower and the valley becomes more open. The appearance of the rock peaks of Mt. Hotaka-dake makes your hiking more enjoyable. Karasawa hut will be reached after ascending a very steep hill. A long panoramic view of Mt. Maehotaka-dake, Mt. Oku-hotaka-dake, Mt. Karasawa-dake, and Mt. Kita-hotaka-dake surrounding Karasawa curl, spreads out in front of you.
You may stay at Karasawa hut, Karasawa-koya Mountain hut above the curl, or at a camping site at Karasawa curl. After check-in, walk up to Karasawa-koya Mountain hut and enjoy the autumn leaves and fantastic views. On the next day, wake up before sunrise and enjoy a view of the Hotaka Mountains shining in red by as they reflect the morning sun. To descend, follow the same trail used for ascending.