Mt. Echizen-dake Trail Option 1
Total Distance: 9 to 14 km
The closest train station is Gotemba station. Thereafter, transfer to the bus. There are convenience stores located in the station and across from the station. Restaurants are opened at around 10:00am. At Gotemba station, take the Fuji-san exit, walk down the stairs to your left and you will see the small bus terminal. At the ticketing counter, ask for a ticket to the Ashigara Trailhead entrance or Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi, in the direction of Jyurigi. Stand in line at the number 5 bus bay to take the first bus which leaves at 8:30am. It’s a 43-minute bus ride.
A one-way ticket costs 650yen. Say “Ashigara Touzan Iriguchi ma de no chiketto wo hitotsu onegaishimasu. Katamichi desu.” You could purchase a return ticket if you like, in which case, you would say “Oufuku desu” instead of “Katamichi desu”. For the return trip, purchase the bus ticket from the driver. Say “Gotemba-eki ma de desu.”
Hitting the Trail
Trail option 1: Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi to Mt. Kurodake and Mt. Echizendake
Trail option 2: Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi to Wari Ishi Touge / Mt. Hourai and Mt. Echizendake
Trail option 1: Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi -> Mt. Kurodake -> Fujimi Pass -> Mt. Echizendake -> Jyurigi Highland (Challenging)
Once you alight from the bus, you are at the trailhead. From the Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi, it’s a 15-minute brisk trot along the forest trail which leads to a mountain shrine with a public restroom. It’s a 40-minute hike to Fujimi Pass junction. Along the way, you’d see a small mountain hut that is opened to anyone who wishes to have a short rest or to hide out from the rain. At the Fujimi Pass junction, decide if you wish to take a side trip to Mt. Kurodake. At 1087m, this peak in Ashitaka that is closest to Mt. Fuji. On the way to the peak, you could see a very good view of Mt. Fuji from the lookout point. Allocate at least 35 minutes, if not more, for the return trip to Mt. Kurodake.
Once you’re back on the Fujimi Pass, follow the trail for around 3 hours to Mt. Echizendake, which is the highest one in Ashitaka at 1504m. Before that, you’d arrive at the second lookout point from which to see Mt. Fuji. On a clear day, the view from this lookout point is spectacular. From the lookout point, it takes another 20 to 30 minutes to get to the top of Mt. Echizendake. There are a few wooden benches for you to rest your weary feet, eat lunch and chat with fellow hikers before heading down the mountain toward Jyurigi Highland to catch the bus back to Gotemba Station.
The hike up to Mt. Echizendake isn’t too exhausting and you’d be hiking up naturally-formed steps of tree roots and rocks. This is a relatively popular hiking spot, so the trails are visible, though not excessively well-trodden. There are the occasional markers to guide you along. You’d also meet fellow hikers, solo or in groups. This trail is also popular with budding botanists because of the azaleas blooming in summer.
Tip: If you are attempting this trail after a heavy bout of rain, note that this trail becomes pretty muddy and slippery. Be careful when hiking in early winter, when the trail becomes a muddy slushy mess when the frost on the ground starts to melt. It is best to avoid this trail when it is snowing heavily unless you have good hiking equipment for hiking on snow and ice. The trail gets almost completely covered in snow.
Ashitaka Trailhead -> Ashitaka Pass (55 minutes) -> Mt. Kurodake (return trip 35 minutes) -> Fujimi Pass -> Mt. Echizendake (100 minutes) -> Jyurigi bus stop (25 minutes)
Total hiking time: 4 hours