Ashigara Castle Ruins (足柄城)to Mt. Kintoki (金時山)

Mt. Kintoki (金時山) is also known as Mt. Ashigara. Instead of turning left toward Ashigara Manyou park, continue walking straight with your back to the Ashigara Castle ruins, past the car park. From the car park, there is a turn-off on the right toward Hakone. Go straight if you want to go to Mt. Kintoki. It is a relatively easy walk to the start of the trail. There are wild sakura trees to be seen in spring along this road.

Wild sakura

Wild sakura

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The gravel path continues on an incline until you reach the foot of Mt. Kintoki. It’s a good warm up for the next part of the climb. Helpful park rangers have installed metal staircases or ladders leading upwards. It’s not exactly an easy climb, but it will work your glutes and aerobic abilities. Remember that that the air is thinner higher up the mountain. Gloves come in handy when attempting the stairs. Rest up as it is going to be a somewhat steep climb upwards on 12 flights of narrow metal steps. Each of these set of steep steps have a sticker of an animal representing the twelve Chinese zodiac signs. This is going to be the toughest part of the hike up the mountain but it is worth it. It should be no problem at all, if you are relatively fit. At a rest point near the top of the mountain, there is a wooden bench (thankfully). You could see an exquisitely lovely view of Mt. Fuji framed by sakura blossoms and clouds in spring.

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One last steep-ish climb and you’re at the top of Mt. Kintoki. Many Japanese hikers are very encouraging and will call out “Ganbatte!” to cheer you on. At the top of Mt. Kintoki, you will be rewarded with…the smell of delicious udon! There is a shop selling udon and soba at the top of Mt. Kintoki at 1213 meters above sea level. This could possibly be the highest noodle shop in the world. It is an indescribable experience to be eating a piping hot bowl of udon and broth after physical exertion. It’s also possible to get a beer at this restaurant. There is a bathroom across from the restaurant.

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Raise up the axe for a photo op

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Overlooking Hakone

Enjoy the view of Hakone, pose for a photo with Kintaro’s axe with Mt. Fuji in the background, and join the many daytrippers perched on rocks for a picnic in the clouds. Claim a rock for yourself to rest your weary feet. Do note that the summit gets pretty crowded on the weekends and public holidays. Because of it’s proximity to Tokyo and Hakone(箱根), many daytrippers hike up Mt. Kintoki on the weekends to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you wish to avoid the crowds, it is better to attempt this hike on a weekday.

The hike to Mt. Kintoki can be attempted throughout the whole year. If there is heavy snowfall, you may wish to bring your crampons. A pair of snow guard would protect snow from getting into your boots and making them wet. Walking sticks are useful only for the first part of the trail to get to the foot to the mountain. They aren’t particularly useful for when you are climbing up the stairway of the 12 zodiac animals. There are ropes for you to hold on to along this part of the trail. Gloves are necessary when climbing during the colder seasons. You don’t want to leave bits of skin on frozen metal bars! The summit of Mt. Kintoki is 1213m above sea level. The wind can be pretty strong at the summit.

Level: Medium (mostly, with a bit of a scramble when going up 12 flights of steps)

Gear: Sturdy boots and walking sticks (useful when there is snow on the ground), crampons and snow guard are useful in winter, gloves

It takes an hour to hike from Ashigara Pass to Mt. Kintoki. Factor in a bit more time for rests and water breaks. It usually takes me around 80 minutes to reach the top, but I like to stop to look at the view. To descend, you could choose the trail leading to Hakone or you could backtrack and head back toward the Ashigara touge trail. In my opinion, going down those ladders is definitely easier than going up them!

Ashigara Pass -> Mt. Kintoki (60 minutes) 3.4km

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