Hiking, as we all know, is the best way to explore Japan’s vast and stunning nature—and Hakone has plenty to explore! While this area (just 90 minutes from central Tokyo) does not have the most challenging trials, it is a great destination for families to have some good old outdoor fun.
Trail 1: Over the hills and across the plains
Starting out at the main transportation hub, Hakone-Yumoto, the first trail is a calm and peaceful hike to Sengenyama and the town of Gora. The start of the trial can be a bit tricky to find as it is on the side of the road that does not have a sidewalk, but once you go to the coordinates listed below you will easily spot it.
Hiking up the stairs you will follow a fairly steep paved path along the ridge taking you into the forests of Hakone. After about an hour you will spot the plains leading up to Sengenyama from where you can enjoy a great view over the surrounding area while eating a snack on one of the benches.
Descending from Sengenyama you once again head into the forest by taking the path to the right from where you came. There is the cherry on the cake at the end of the trial: a small yet beautiful waterfall.
Duration: 3.5 hours
Length: 7.5 km
Difficulty: Easy, but some parts are quite steep
Starting coordinates: 35°13’56.1″N 139°05’56.0″E
Final coordinates: 35°14’07.0″N 139°03’00.2″E
Trail 2: The uphill struggle
After this “warm-up” hike and taking some time to visit Gora (a town peppered with hot springs, nature and art museums), it is time for something more challenging.
Heading up to Myojogatake from Gora, you will first pass through a quite unexciting residential area—but no worries, things pick up. After briefly following a nature path you will be back in the open plains with views all around. This part of the trail is the toughest part due to its steep climb upwards.
After about 30 minutes you will join the main trail that runs from the outskirts of Odawara to our final destination. (Yes you just cheated a bit by only doing the last 1/3 of the trip.) Shortly after, you will be treated to one of the most impeccable views of Mount Fuji rising above the clouds.
Duration: 3.5 hours
Length: 11 km
Starting coordinates: 35°15’53.5″N 139°03’18.0″E
Final coordinates: 35°16’19.8″N 139°00’43.8″E
Trail 3: Tokaido road trekking
The last trail is by far the easiest of the three but at the same time also the most famous. Connecting the ancient capital of Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo), the Tokaido Road was Japan’s feudal era equivalent of Route 66. Only some parts of the road were paved with stones but the majority of the journey had to be done over dirt tracks covered which occasionally were covered with cut bamboos.
A short section of the paved road still remains in Hakone from Moto-Hakone near Lake Ashi. From here you can follow in the footsteps of the thousands who had traveled between the two cities in the soothing shadows of the forest.
After approximately two kilometers, you will see the traditional rest house named Amazake Chaya emerge through the trees. The thatched-roofed building with its darkened beams truly feels as if you have gone back in time and are about to take a rest after a long journey. The rest house’s specialty, as its name suggests, is amazake—a sweet rice wine which is served with pickles.
The trial can be followed all the way up to Hakone-Yumoto, but the scenic parts tends to end in the small town of Hatajuku from where you can take a bus.
Duration: 1 hours (Hatajuku) or 2,5 hours (Hakone Yumoto)
Length: 3 km or 10 km
Starting coordinates: 35°12’14.6″N 139°02’09.1″E
Hatajuku coordinates: 35°12’31.4″N 139°03’26.6″E
Hakone-Yumoto coordinates: 35°13’59.8″N 139°06’13.9″E