Distance: 12.6 km
Elevation change: 933 metres
Highest point: 1363 metres
Start: Kawanori-bashi bus stop
Finish: Hatonosu Station (Ome Line)
Near Perfect Weather for Climbing One of Okutama’s Finest
It’s been a work in progress, but I finally got around to knocking off the last big mountain in Okutama – Mt. Kawanori. Last year, I made it as far as the Hyakuhiro Waterfall until heavy mist and light rain put an end to any summit attempt, so with near perfect spring weather, it was time for another bid. Access to the trailhead involves taking a train to Okutama Station and a 15-minute bus ride (bus stop 1 Higashi Nippara 東日原行) get off at the Kawanori-bashi bus stop (260 yen). Be warned, though; this mountain sees a fair share of foot traffic on weekends, and I count myself lucky to have squeezed onto the additional bus that rolled up, with those less fortunate told to wait for 40 minutes.
From the Kawanori-bashi bus stop, walk along the Kawanori Forestry Way for 35 minutes to the first rest stop, where you’ll find a local area map and a toilet. The landslide damage from last summer had been repaired, giving a welcome reprieve to walking along the bitumen. Note that from here on, sections of the trail that rise above the river are quite exposed, so take extra care with your footwork. From the first rest stop, it takes around 50 minutes to reach the strikingly beautiful Hyakuhiro Waterfall, making it a fine spot to relax and take in the 40-metre-high cascades.
When you’re ready to head off, retrace your steps back up the wooden steps and prepare yourself for a solid 100 minutes of steep climbing to reach the summit. The first part of the trail shows up as a hazard marker on the map, and climbing ropes have been added at some locations. After dipping back down to a small creek, the trail splits a little further along. The trail heading straight is less used and calls for a demanding climb to the summit, while the trail on your left is more commonly trodden and better kept up. Before you reach the true summit, the trail pops out at a saddle, and from here, a wide path meanders its way to Mt. Kawanori 川苔山 (1,363 m). When I arrived at the summit, there was barely a square inch of earth to sit down with the crowds, more akin to a cherry blossom festival than a quiet mountain retreat.
If the summit is crowded, a better bet is to eat near the saddle junction. For the return journey, look for the sign pointing towards Hatonosu Station 鳩ノ巣駅 (6.6 km). This trail unfortunately doesn’t hold a candle to the path heading up and, for the most part, ambles its way through plantation forests. The path is also quite rocky, which doesn’t help.