Mt. Takao or Takaosan is a day-hike spot easily accessible from central Tokyo that boasts the remaining green forests despite its proximity to the urban area. Takaosan is known not only for hiking but also as a sightseeing spot, which has risen in popularity since it was rated three stars in the Michelin Green Guide Japon. In addition to hiking trails, Takaosan has temples, a zoological garden (of monkeys), and a beer hall, so you can have different ways to enjoy the mountain. Here you will find some ideas on how to make your Takaosan trip more fun based on your travel purposes – hiking, sightseeing, and both.
- Outline: Takaosan, the natural forest in Tokyo
- Walking around/getting to the top of Mt.Takao
- Walking up to the top of Mt. Takao from the trailhead at the mountain foot
- Travel tips
- Getting to Mt. Takao by train
- Related Information
Outline: Takaosan, the natural forest in Tokyo
Takaosan, or Mt.Takao, is a mountain that lies in the mountainous area on the outskirts of Hachioji City, the west of Tokyo prefecture. Though it is a small mountain only with an elevation of 599m, Takaosan abounds with many different native plants that attract people in Tokyo to go for a short day-hike.
Takaosan has been a sacred mountain for Shugendo (mountain asceticism), where a temple called Yakuoin Temple was built in the mid-8th century, and the lords preserved the natural forest in the temple site from generation to generation. Today, the mountain has an area designated as a preserved area called “Meiji-no-Mori Takao National Park,” and the natural forest of Takaosan is so well preserved that it makes visitors almost forget they are in a part of Tokyo.
Takaosan is easily accessible from the central area of Tokyo, about 55 minutes by train away from Shinjuku. The trailhead at the mountain foot is only a few minutes on foot from the nearest station Takaosanguchi. You can take a cable railway or a chair-lift from the trailhead to the mountainside, making it a popular destination for short hiking on a day trip.
Starting to walk from the cable railway station (Takaosan Station) on the mountainside and follow one of the tracks leading to the mountain top, you see restaurants, teahouses, a wild plant garden, a monkey park, a beer hall (restaurant with a view), and the Takao Yakuoin Temple. Takaosan has so many visitors in the seasons of leaves turning fresh green in spring and bright red in autumn. During the seasons, you will see a long queue in front of the cable railway station, coming to go up the mountain for both hiking and sightseeing.
Walking around/getting to the top of Mt.Takao
Mountain Takao has several hiking trails provided, mainly with six routes called in number from No. 1 to No. 6. Among those six trails, No. 1 and No. 6 are the routes to walk through up to the top starting from the mountain foot. Other routes of No.2, 3, 4, and 5 are short trails that begin on the mountainside, providing short walking to the top or around the mountain.
For light hiking, take trail No. 3 or No. 4 starting on the mountainside
If you like a short walk for 2 hours or a little more in the mountain, take trail No. 3 or No .4, the unpaved paths leading to the top. You can use the cable railway/chair-lift going up to the mountainside, then start walking to the top, that will be a 1-hour walk one way.
The starting points of No. 3 and No. 4 trails are both near the Joshin-mon Gate, standing along the way on route No. 1 between the cable railway station on the mountainside (Takaosan Station) and the mountain top. The path on the right side near the Joshin-mon Gate is to enter trail No. 4, and the trail on the left is to enter No. 3. Remember, the paved trail No. 1, the main pathway to the top, is always crowded with people heading to the Yakuoin Temple on the halfway there. If you prefer walking in a peaceful setting (as much as possible), it will be better not to follow the flow toward No. 1 and take No. 3 or No. 4. However, the route No.1 is the path only leading to Yakuoin Temple, a must-see place on Mt. Takao. The best way to visit both the temple and hiking will be to take route No. 1 early in the morning (before being too crowded) and visit Yakuoin Temple on the way to the top and then take route No. 3 or No. 4 to return, or vice versa.
Extra info. Trail No. 4 has nice viewing points, like a small suspension bridge. However, you have to be careful not to take the wrong path at the fork that is for another trail called “Iroha-no-Mori Course,” the path swerving to a different direction far off the trail No. 4. Make sure your direction with arrow signs at the branching paths.
No. 2 and No. 5 trails are for a walk in the forest.
For visitors who want to do some forest walking as well as sightseeing, the choice will be one of the trails No. 2 or No. 5, which is a short trail for about a 30-min walk in the greenery in the mountain of Takaosan. The suggestion is that you get to the mountainside by the cable railway/chair-lift, visit Takao Yakuoin Temple, and then enjoy an extra walk along trail No. 2 or No. 5 on the way back. After walking, you can also see other places: the wild plant garden, snow monkey park, local food restaurants, cafes, and the beer hall.
Walking up to the top of Mt. Takao from the trailhead at the mountain foot
The best hike in Takaosan will be to walk all the way up from the mountain foot. In that way, you also don’t have to wait in a long line at the cable railway station. The trails starting at the mountain foot are No. 1 and No. 6.
Paved trail: Route No. 1
Trail No. 1 begins at the square opposite the cable railway station (Kiyotaki Sta.). The trailhead is the paved path on the right side, most suitable for tourists. It is likely that tourists who hesitate/give up waiting in a long queue for a cable car ride take the choice to walk No. 1. Though the paved path of No. 1 is easy to walk without hiking shoes in, it is about a 3.8km-long hill walking from the beginning to the end. It will be about a 50-min walk steep up to a point near the cable railway station (Takaosan Sta.) in the mountainside, and you will walk another 60-min toward the top from that point. Walking the steep, hard-paved path there and back may not be a good idea. If you visit Takaosan for sightseeing, it will be better to take the cable car/chair-lift on the way back.
Nature trails: Route No. 6 and Inariyama Course
The trailhead of No. 6 at the mountain foot is within a short distance down the left side of the path in front of the cable railway station (Kiyotaki Sta.). The No. 6 is a 3.3 km trail with natural attractions, including walking along streams and viewing waterfalls a little off the path. The unpaved path can be partly bushy and muddy, so you must be in hiking clothes and shoes. There is no toilet facility on the route. Trail No. 6 cannot be an alternative route for tourists feeling like a walk instead of a cable car ride. Having no tourists to take, route No. 6 is not much crowded compared to No. 1, but the narrow path is popular enough to get crowded on weekends during the busy season.
In addition to No. 6, there is another route called Inariyama Course, which is to walk in the forest of the neighboring mountain Inariyama. The Inariyama Course is a 3.2m trail, almost the same length as trail No. 1. Taking up this route toward the top of Mt. Takao by way of Mt. Inariyama’s summit, you can walk on a sunny path among trees. The starting point of the Inariyama Course is a stone staircase on the left side of the cable railway station (Kiyotaki Sta.) at the mountain foot. Be careful not to mix up with the entrance of No. 6 nearby.
Takao is a popular destination with many visitors, especially on weekends, so it will be better to plan your visit on a weekday if possible. Also, consider your hike starting early in the morning and returning to the mountain foot before the busiest lunch hour on the mountain. If you come back to the foot around mid-afternoon, it will also be a good time to enjoy lunch and relax.
At the foot of Takaosan, it is also recommended you visit TAKAO 599 MUSEUM, the facility open to the public for free, where you can learn about the nature of Mt. Takao. The museum also has a café to take a break and relax after a mountain walk.
If you visit Takaosan to relax and experience something special, how about dining at a luxurious restaurant? One suggestion is the Japanese restaurant “Ukai Toriyama,” nestled in the forest near the Takaosan, renowned for authentic Japanese cuisine, such as grilled dishes, which can be enjoyed in a tranquil setting.
Getting to Mt. Takao by train
The most common access from central Tokyo by train is to take the Keio Line (Keio-sen 京王線) from Shinjuku Station 新宿駅 and head to Takaosanguchi Station 高尾山口駅. Shinjuku Station on the Keio Line is in the same location as JR Shinjuku Station. You can find the Keio Line’s ticket gate by its color of magenta (deep pink).
From Shinjuku Station on the Keio Line, take the “Keio-sen Tokkyu Express” train bound for Takaosanguchi, which takes you to the final stop without changing trains, with about a 55- min ride. The fare is very reasonable, that is 388 JP Yen one way (as of September 2022), another reason why Mt. Takao is so favored.
Your stop is Takaosanguchi Station, the final stop on the Keio Line.
Keep in mind not to mix up “Takaosanguchi Station” and “Takao Station,” which is the station one stop before. Both stations are walkable to Mt. Takao, but the starting point of hiking trails and the cable railway station are located near Takaosanguchi Station. Although the name “Takao Station” sounds like it is near Mt. Takao, it is more than 2 km away from the trailhead.
From Shinjuku Station, both the Keio Line and JR Chuo Line take you to Takao Station; however, the train to reach Takaosanguchi Station runs only on the Keio Line. If you need to take the JR Chuo-sen Line for a reason, such as being a JAPAN RAIL PASS holder, change to the Keio Line at Takao Station and head to Takaosanguchi Station one station ahead.
TAKAO 599 MUSEUM
Tokyo Takao Visitor Center (高尾ビジターセンター)
Takao Tozan Railway Corporation (高尾登山電鉄株式会社)
Takao Monkey Park & Wild Plant Garden by Takao Tozan Railway Co.
(高尾山さる園・野草園 | 高尾登山電鉄株式会社)
Mt. Takao Beer Mount by Takao Tozan Railway Co.
Ukai Toriyama (うかい鳥山)