Reaching Mt. Tonodake’s summit can be quite a challenge especially for first timers. It has long stretches of pure climb with very limited flat or descending portions to recover.
Japan is one of the best places to kick-start one’s fondness for nature and the outdoors. Almost everyone can get to enjoy hiking in nature trails and prefectural parks spread across the country. In the Tokyo metropolis alone, the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park already serves plenty of places to visit (like the town of Okutama and Mt. Mitake).
Another popular destination, which lies a little further southwest, is the Tanzawa mountain range. Consisting of numerous peaks with varying difficulties, it caters both budding and seasoned mountaineers.
For starters, Mt. Oyama (1252m), offers beginner-friendly trails while balanced with plenty of interesting sights like old temples and shrines. It also has a ropeway or cable car facility. For those looking for an extra dose of adventure, summits like Mt. Tonodake (1491m), Mt. Tanzawa (1567m), Mt. Hinokiboramaru (1601m) and Mt. Hiru (1673) are formidable peaks to conquer.
After almost half a year of touring around, we had an opportunity to visit the Tanzawa mountains once again. This time we planned take our hiking shoes up Mt. Tonodake. As usual we had a great experience, but at the end of the day, we cannot deny that Tonodake-san was a notch higher than all the previous mountains we climbed so far.
Mt. Tonodake Sights and Scenes
Mt. Tonodake or Mt. Tō is one of the notable peaks in Kanagawa. It is ranked 6th among the tallest mountains of the prefecture, with its highest point measuring almost 1.5 kilometers above sea level. It is classified as intermediate in terms of difficulty.
Hiking is open for all season in Mt. Tonodoke, but we had our climb during summer. The weather was warmer and there’s less chance of rain.
The Tanzawa mountain range has a network of trails that leads to different summits. This means that hikers have a number of different options on how they want to reach each mountain.
The same also applies to Mt. Tonodake. One popular route is to traverse from Yabitsu Pass to Okura trailhead (or reverse) where it’s possible to reach the other peaks along the way. For our hike, we decided to start and end at Okura.
From Shibusawa Station of Odakyu Line, we took a bus bound to Okura. We hopped off at the last stop, near the Hatano Togawa Park. The trailhead is around 10 minutes north by foot.
Mt. Tonodake’s summit is more than 8 kilometers via this route, reachable in three hours on the average. The bottom section is mostly covered with towering trees, reminiscent of Mt. Mitake. The vegetation changes as we progress further and further into the summit.
As shared by most hiking destinations in Japan, Mt. Tonodoake’s trail is well established with signposts on junctions for directions.
Hikers will come across a few teahouses on the way up that offer a very relaxing environment. Rest stations with benches and tables are also available in between.
Reaching Mt. Tonodake’s summit can be quite a challenge especially for first timers. It has long stretches of pure climb with very limited flat or descending portions to recover. But this reputation makes it attractive to hikers and even trail runners.
Although Mt. Tonodake isn’t among the toughest hikes out there, it is still very important to prepare yourself before the climb. If your leg starts cramping up, there are no cable cars to bail you out.
The clouds were low during our hike and we had a misty atmosphere along the trails. We didn’t have a good visibility but the cooler temperature helped us maintain a good pace.
At 1300m elevation, you’ll come across the Hanatate Sanso. It is a small lodge that offers overnight accommodation for hikers. It also serves meals and refreshments for day-visitors. Their Kakegori (shaved ice with fruit syrup) is popular especially during summer.
At this point, with the tall trees almost gone, the high elevation is getting more evident.
The summit is still a little over a kilometer away from the lodge, reachable in around thirty minutes. The trail gets steeper as you make the final assault.
On top of Mt. Tonodake is a 360-degree panorama of the Tanzawa mountains. On a clear day, it offers a magnificent view of Mt. Fuji on the west. Unfortunately for us, it was a cloudy day.
Here, you’ll see another lodge, the Sonbutsu Sanso which is another popular place to spend the night.
Mt. Tonodake’s summit is a good place to rest and spend some recovery time. Hikers usually eat their meals here either by cooking or ordering from the lodge. There are several wooden benches where you can just lie and linger.
The complete course takes about six hours to complete. After you finish, there are washrooms in Hatano Togawa Park where you can freshen up.
How to get to Mt. Tonodake
The easiest access to Mt. Tonodake is via the Hatano Togawa Park trailhead in Hadano. From Shibusawa station of Odakyu-Odawara Line, take the bus number 2 going to Okura. Alight at the last stop, near the park. The jumpoff point is 10 minutes away north by foot.
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