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Day trip in Tokyo: Hiking Mt Takao in autumn!

Tokyo can be a tricky one, especially as a solo foreigner, you’ll wanna avoid the peak hours for public transport. Then, you gotta take into consideration that the sun sets really early in autumn and winter, which leaves you with limited time for activity in between.

Now, I’ve never heard of Mount Takao before, but I had a day to myself in Tokyo and wanted to do something different from the usual shopping and temple-hopping. While researching for options via the awesome Japan-Guide, I came across Mount Takao, a mountain in Tokyo that’s 599m tall. 50min by express train from Shinjuku, this mountain is really popular with the locals, especially in autumn!

Getting to Mount Takao

Keio Line discount package tickets to Mount Takao

At Keio Shinjuku Station (which is actually Shinjuku Station but at Keio’s side), I purchased a package (Mt. Takao Discount Ticket) from Keio Railways, using the ticketing machine, right before entering. The package includes round-trip train tickets from Shinjuku to/from Takaosanguchi Station, as well as return tickets (up & down) for cable-car &/or chairlift. This package works out to be a good deal, costing 1,380yen instead of 1,710yen, letting me save 20%! You can also choose the package of round-trip train tickets + one cable-car/chairlift ride, so you can hike down the whole way if you want.

Hiking Mount Takao solo as a day trip in Tokyo • The Petite WanderessFour cards/tickets will be dispensed if you buy return train tickets and round-trip cable-car/chairlift from the machine:
1) train ticket from Shinjuku to Takaosanguchi
2) train ticket from Takaosanguchi to Shinjuku
3) round-trip coupon for the chairlift/cable-car
4) a coupon that says you bought a “Mt. Takao Discount Ticket”

You can choose the English interface via top right-hand corner on machine screen. Look for the “Discount Ticket” on the left vertical bar.

Hiking Mount Takao solo as a day trip in Tokyo • The Petite Wanderess
my train at 10:20! Special Express train to Takaosanguchi

Making my way to Mt Takao felt a little like déjà vu, reminiscent of the time I did another day trip to Kamakura, almost exactly a year ago, in the same season.

| Read Also: Stunning Autumn Blooms at Kamakura, Tokyo |

Exactly 50 minutes later, I arrived at Takaosanguchi Station in perfect weather! Cold temperature with the sun illuminating everything =)

Mt Takao – the mountain in Tokyo that lets you see Mount Fuji (during clear weather)

autumn foliage, Mount Tokyo
taken right outside Takaosanguchi Station

Once you leave the train station, follow the crowd, turn right, and head upwards to get to the foot of Mount Takao.

The good news about visiting Mount Takao is, you don’t have to hike all the way from the foot to the top of the mountain (599m).

You can take a cable-car (actually a tram) or chairlift to the middle of the mountain, and continue hiking up. There are 5 hiking trails from where the cable-car/chairlift drops you off at.

autumn foliage, Mount TakaoAutumn foliage in Japan always takes my breath away!

autumn foliage, Mount Takao

Taking the Cable-Car up Mt Takao

queue at cable car station below Mount Takao

This photo above was the extremely long queue to take the cable-car. Since I already have my ticket from the machine at Keio Shinjuku station earlier, I didn’t need to buy them at this station. At the gantry in front, someone will validate your ticket to let you through. (Keep that round-trip coupon cos you need it for your ride down.)

If you wanna take the chairlift, stick to the right and walk past this crowd. It’ll lead you to a different, higher platform to take the chairlift. (Therefore, the queue begins there, not here.)

I’d expected a half-hour wait but this cable-car queue took 50min -.-”

cable car at Mount Takao
6 minutes per journey

cable car at Mount Takao

When it was finally my turn, I promptly boarded the tram along with many other Japanese people, and stood along the aisle. Towards the top, the ride turned crazy because the inclination became really steep and I was struggling to hold myself upright while still taking video with my iPhone! Guess what, this is supposedly Japan’s steepest cable-car, with a 31-degrees inclination. It sure felt more than 31 degrees though!

trees outside cable car at Mount Takao

12.15pm: Got off the tram and we’re halfway up Mount Takao by now. Check out this view of Tokyo!

autumn foliage, Mount Takao

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udon restaurant, Mount Takao

Initially, I thought I’ll skip lunch and make do with the snacks in my bag if I get hungry. But I walked past this udon restaurant and decided to check out its menu at the door. The prices were reasonable (less than 1000yen for udon), but it was something that was beyond the food that convinced me. The restaurant has some amazing views outside their windows on the other side! With outdoor seats! I Must Eat Here!

There were no vacant outdoor seats when it was my turn, but I told the waitress (who looked super busy but being Japanese, always polite and smiley) that I’ll wait.

Afterwards, when there was an available seat outdoors, she politely ushered me there. You’ll understand why I insisted on eating and sitting outdoors….

autumn foliage, Mount Takao

Lunch view of autumn foliage, window-less!

I was besotted…  My udon arrived really quickly, but it took a long time to begin eating, simply because I have to take the photos!

autumn foliage, Mount Takaoautumn foliage, Mount TakaoThe air was chilly, people were just chatting softly in Japanese around me, while I took in all the sounds and sights of nature ahead of me. I wished the serving was bigger, just so I could spend a longer time to enjoy my food. The udon was delicious by the way!

udon lunch at Mount Takao

So glad I stopped for lunch here! Because the hike afterwards took me longer than I’d predicted. If I hadn’t eaten this udon, I would have been famished with limited energy.

Hiking Mount Takao

Starting my hike at Trail 3

1.10pm: After leaving the restaurant and walking on, the majority of people were strolling up Trail 1 – a well-paved, concrete road. Having done my research and deciding on Trail 3, I deviated to the side and began my hike. It’ll be 2.5km to the top of Mount Takao.

Trail 3, Mount TakaoWas a little apprehensive because it looked kinda secluded, but how many people do I expect to be hiking with me anyway?! Trail 3 turned out relatively well-maintained, though there was uneven ground because this is nature, or the path can turn very narrow, etc. To the left of the path, it goes a deep way down. How deep I do not know, but I didn’t really wanna think about it, nor imagine having a heart-attack and collapsing the wrong way blah blah. Practise mindfulness, just stay in the moment.

Trail 3, Mount Takao

Sometimes, a tree trunk will cut through your path. Of course that tree gets right of way!

forest in Mount TakaoMount Takao

I hiked at my own pace, pausing constantly for photos and to revel in the raw beauty and quietness of the forest. I was also slightly amazed that most of the time, I was alone and that I could actually do this on my own in a foreign country! #solotravelachievement

It’s actually not as secluded as my photos will have you think. Every now and then, fellow hikers will pass by from the opposite direction or overtake me from behind if I stop for photos. Sometimes, the path gets too narrow to accommodate more than 1 person, so someone will step/lean to the inner side and let the other party pass. It’s also a kind of ‘practice’ that hikers say hi while passing by, in this case, “Konnichiwa~”. There were also hikers asking me information in Japanese, so I had to indicate that I can’t speak Japanese.

Mount TakaoEventually, I put my camera and handphone away (my selfie stick broke after this photo because I was too rough lololl), in order to focus on the hike. And yes, I hiked in this winter jacket and more layers underneath without breaking much of a sweat! It was wonderful being able to connect with nature in this kind of temperature.

Towards the end of the trail, it was upslope with many, many steps, until the path emerged into this area! I love all the sun flares taken by my iPhone!

Mount TakaoMount Takao

2.20pm: Reached the summit of Mt Takao!

It’s so bright, sunny, and chilly, with plenty of people around (not in an annoying way).

Mount Takao summit
Nov 2016 – no sighting of Mount Takao

In clear weather, you’ll be able to see Mt Fuji from here. Here’s a peak of Mt Fuji, when I hiked Mt Takao again in Nov 2017! Can you see it? It’s the one with a fluffy top, nearer the right side of this photo!

Mount Takao

I sighed, it’s so lovely to be here.

At the summit of Mt Takao, you’ll find restaurants selling Japanese food, vending machines, and modern, clean washrooms. I wondered how the staff makes their way to work every day? And the delivery of food ingredients? Amazing.

Mount Takao

3pm: It’s time to descend Mount Takao

This time, I chose to take Trail 4 as it comes with a suspension bridge somewhere along the trail. This trail had a “Slippery” warning sign because of leaves and so on.
This was my path, lol. Don’t underestimate those leaves – they really can make you slip if you’re not careful!
Mount TakaoMount Takao

autumn foliage, Mount Tokyo

suspension bridge, Mount Takao
spot the suspension bridge!

suspension bridge, Mount TakaoCouldn’t get a nice photo of the suspension bridge and there were significantly more people on this trail leaving Mt Takao. Hiking down was much faster though. In no time, I was back near the cable-car platform. Nearby, there’s this place selling a mochi-like snack (called dango), made of steamed and hulled rice flour, roasted over fire, then coated with sweet, sticky sauce.

I sat on a chair eating my mochi balls while facing this view. Life is awesome! Right? Until… A fruit-fly decided to fly to my snack and get itself stuck on the sticky sauce. -.-”

Taking the Chairlift down Mt Takao

chairlift station, Mount TakaoGetting onto this chairlift involves walking onto a moving conveyor belt and then sitting your butt down courageously on the chair when it looms up behind you. This means you can’t carry your backpack behind, but in front. The staff are very professional and efficient. There’s no handle-bars to secure you to your seat, FYI. You can grasp the metal handles at the side of the chair! Don’t worry, the ride is pretty smooth. Just don’t rock your chair.

I risked dropping my stuff just to take these photos and video for you guys!

chairllft down Mount Takao

Soon enough, I was back at the foot of the mountain. Before I left Takaosanguchi, I decided to go to the onsen facility (Onsen Gokurakuyu, I don’t recommend it though) beside Takaosanguchi Station, and soaked inside all the pools before I left! There’s also a Takao 599 Museum (free entry) that you can visit.

| Read Also: Beginner’s Guide: How to Use Onsen in Japan! |

I can see why Mount Takao is so popular.

This day hike was much easier than I thought, coming from someone who’s not really into outdoor activities nor did much hiking before (I had a really tough time hiking Mt Batur in Bali). The different trails Mt Takao has meant you can choose according to your preferences and fitness levels. Each trail offers different experiences and sights, ranging from Biwa Waterfall (perhaps even a monk training under the waterfall if you’re lucky), to a monkey park, Yakuo-in Temple, etc. I enjoyed hiking through the quiet forests for Trail 3 – the silence through the forests was a welcome delight. That path also gently forced me to stay in the present moment and focus fully on my journey.

Glad I did this day trip!

What to know before visiting Mount Takao!

map for Mount Takao's trails

  • To take the train, look for Keio Line at Shinjuku Station. If this helps, the direction where Keio Line is will be towards the right of Shinjuku Station’s South Exit (if you’re coming from inside Shinjuku train station); or, towards the left of mentioned exit (if you’re standing at the entrance in front of, before Shinjuku’s South Exit). That’s where you should head to to get the Keio discount tickets + take the train from.
  • The train station to get off at is Takaosanguchi Station (KO 53), not Takao Station. You’ll see many people exiting the train with you. It’s also the last stop for that direction.
  • Decide ahead which trail you’re keen on, before going Mt Takao. Trail 1 is mostly paved concrete road, is friendly for kids, even the elderly. However, it’s also a longer trail (3.8km), compared to the other five trails. Disclaimer: I cannot confirm the condition of Trail 1 as I didn’t use that. There are likely stairs to overcome.
  • Buffer time for queuing for the chairlift/cable-car especially in autumn! You can easily queue for almost an hour.
  • Note the last available timings you can take the chairlift/cable-car to leave the mountain.
  • Eat something before hiking the trails after your chairlift/cable-car, because you won’t find food along the way till you reach the summit. There are eateries outside the cable-car station, then at the summit.
  • Bring at least a small bottle of water. In summer weather, a face towel for wiping sweat will be useful.
  • If you’re not taking Trail 1, it’s important you wear proper shoes (hiking shoes or non-slippery covered shoes (I wore leather boots)). The nature trails might be slippery from the soil/mud/leaves/streams.
  • Take your trash with you, don’t leave it on the mountain.
  • For the cable-car, it can climb to a very steep angle so if you’re standing along the aisle, be sure you hold on to a pole or bar, and that you don’t have unsecured things that will topple onto others. For the chairlift, carry your backpack at the front before stepping onto the conveyor belt.
  • Note emergency numbers, just in case.

Ps: This entry is updated on 24 November 2017, because I went Mt Takao again on this day!

Any questions about Mt Takao?

| Check Tokyo hotel rates –> | |

Month visited: Nov 2016 & Nov 2017

Posts from Japan!
How to use Japan’s naked baths (onsen)
15 reasons Tokyo is perfect for solo travel
Tokyo for the first time? Here’s where to go!
Tokyo’s cutest festival in November: Shichi Go San!
Checking in Tokyo: Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku Hotel
Checking in Kyoto: Yumotokan onsen ryokan hotel
Seeing a geisha finally in Kyoto

.. and more about Tokyo and Kyoto!

Follow my footsteps on social media!

Hiking Mount Takao as a day trip, Tokyo • The Petite Wanderess

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    1. Thank you dear! I’m still considering if I will ever hike Mt Fuji one day, definitely not in near future for sure, ha! Great to see your post on hiking at another prefecture in Japan!

  1. This is the first time I’ve heard of Mt. Takao. The nature in your photos looks beautiful! I’m glad you found this one so as to avoid the usual touristy things. I bet it must have been a memorable experience 🙂 I’ll save this for future reference.

    1. Thanks Fiona, indeed it was very memorable which means I had so many photos to sieve through for this entry, hehe. Was really glad to do this in Tokyo!

    1. I know right Kristen <3 The views were really superb and the autumn foliage was a really special touch! Hope you can make it to Tokyo one day! It's one of my fave cities in this world =)))

    1. Aww thanks so much Jaimee! Hiking this was fun and just a veryyyy little bit spooky if I were to let my imagination run wild! ;P

  2. Looks like such an incredible hike, especially in the fall and on such a beautiful clear day. But WOW, that’s a LOT of people. I guess I’m accustomed to hiking in Ontario with little to no people, lol.

    1. Haha! Actually, for the trail I took, most of the time, I was hiking it on my own, with people coming from opposite direction once a while, but only at the top, the people congregated from the various trails! The irony was, I was thinking while hiking, “Where is everybody??” Well this means I haven’t hiked enough times in the great outdoors, I should do it more often in different places 😉

    1. Thanks, Renee! It’s indeed a shame the weather wasn’t that clear, but I’m very grateful for the other sights including the autumn foliage =))

    1. Thanks so much Urska! This place is very popular with Japanese locals especially in autumn, and for a good reason, because it’s easy to hike for all ages, different trails offer different experiences, it’s an hour or less from Tokyo downtown, and you get to enjoy the raw elements and fresh air of nature despite being in a city! Absolutely lovely~

  3. I love hiking, so this sounds great. The chair lifts also look like fun. The area is just beautiful and the views are amazing. Thanks for all the tips and detailed advice.

    1. The chairlift was very fun indeed! A little nervous when I was there but it all turned out good! Thanks Anisa for coming by!

  4. Mt. Takao it is so beautiful, I just love forest hikes, especially in cooler weather with all those natural colors. It looks like such a fantastic day out. Thank you for sharing your experience and photos.

    1. Hi Bianca, thank you for your lovely comment! Mt Takao is indeed gorgeous at the peak. I’m not much of a hiker, but the weather, route and views were a wonderful experience to me! =D

  5. Hi I just came across this blog and thought it was sooooo awesome! perfect timing because i am due to go back to tokyo for a holiday in November… hopefully thats when the autumn leaves are out and blooming by the time i would be there? Your photos are definitely amazing and so inspiring!! i cant wait to go now 😀

    1. Hi Hana! I was there in November (towards the end of Nov) when I took these photos! Thank you for your compliment and hope you’ll have a great time at Mt Takao! =D

  6. Thanks for sharing this post, it looks great! We are going back to Japan next year and looking forward to visiting Mt Takao! Did you go mid-week or on a weekend? I’m wondering if that would make much of a difference for the queues? Also, roughly how many hours were you there from getting off at Takaosanguchi to the time you got back on that train? I’m wondering if this is a half-day or full day type activity. Thanks 😀

    1. Hi Lauren! I checked my 2016’s photos’ timestamps and they’re like that –> Took the Special Express train at 10.20am, reached Takaosanguchi Station at 11.10am, and only got into the tram at around 12.10pm, got off at 12.16pm. Had a short lunch, started my hike on the trail and reached the peak at 2.20pm.

      I started descending from the summit at 3pm, took half an hour to reach the tram & cable-car area. Had quick snacks before queuing and finally boarding the cable-car at 4.15pm. I went on a Friday =)

      Daylight hours are limited in autumn (the sun sets before 5pm) and the trams’ and cable-cars will also operate at limited timings, so it’s better to check the schedules because you don’t wanna miss them! I have no experience about hiking down on foot after the sun sets though.

      Hope this helps!

  7. Hi Kristine! What a lovely and helpful post for people planning their trip like me! I’m thinking of visiting Mt Takao with a toddler in tow. Do you think it’s doable in terms of the hike and the no-bars chairlift? Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Caitlyn! For the hike, there are a few trails but I only took Trail 3 for ascending and Trail 4 for descending. Trail 3 is not difficult to hike; you just need to make sure your toddler does not go off by himself because it’s slopes on one side of the trail most of the time – I don’t really wanna imagine how steep. Towards the end, there are some cut steps to walk up which can get tiring but you can always do it at your own pace. As for Trail 4, I remember good distance was the descending – meaning many steps downwards. If it’s a crowded day, there’ll be many people following close behind you so it might get a little stressful.

      Trail 1 is the general trail – paved ground, which most people will take.

      As for the chairlift, the time to sit your butt down and also get out of the way to leave the chairlift are pretty tight, as the chairlift doesn’t stop at all, so I believe you wouldn’t have much time to carry your toddler at these 2 important phases. For safety reasons, I’ll recommend you use the tram =)

      Hope this information can help you with planning!

  8. Thank you for such a wonderfully detailed post, which has inspired me to include this in my itinerary when I go to Tokyo next month 🙂 I also really appreciate how you shared the timings of your travel! Was just wondering about the timings of the Special Express train though – would you recommend taking a train earlier than 10.20 am to (hopefully) avoid some of the crowds? Thank you for your help!!!

    1. Hi Wei! That could be an idea, if you can head out earlier! I usually don’t dare to leave too early because I’m afraid of the morning rush for the other trains if I’m not staying at Shinjuku 🙂

  9. Thank you very much for such a wonderfully detailed post, which has inspired me to include this in my itinerary when I go to Tokyo next month :)) Was wondering about the timings for the Special Express train though.. would you recommend taking an earlier train than the 10.20 am one, to hopefully avoid some of the crowds? Thank you once again for your help!

    1. Sorry I just saw your message! If you can make it earlier for the trains, I guess the crowds might be lesser at Mt Takao – but it’s still speculation. All the best for your trip!

  10. Thank you , enjoyed this post! Super excited for my trip next week to Japan, and you answered a lot of the questions I had regarding Mt Takao!

  11. Hey I just did this today after reading this post!
    Your level of detail was super helpful such that I followed this to the letter. The only thing I did different was depart from Shibuya instead of Shinjuku. The ticketing procedure was the same.
    Thank you again for this; I would not have the confidence or knowledge to experience Mt Takao without you!

    Ben Du from Brisbane, Australia

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