Hiking Mount Fuji should be on any outdoor enthusiast’s to-do list when visiting Japan. Here are some tips for ascending Japan’s highest peak.
1. The day-hike starts from Mount Fuji’s 5th station. To get there, you’ll need to take a bus.
Mount Fuji has 9 stations leading up to the peak. The base of the trail starts at the 5th station, about 2300 meters (7545 feet) above sea level. Buses will take you up there on a paved road, but you have to catch the earliest one to do the hike in a single push. The times differ based on which trail you choose. Prepare to wake up well before dawn.
2. There are 4 trails to the summit. Pick the right path for your ability level.
The beginner-friendly Fujinomiya and Fujiyoshida trails are the most popular of the four trails that ascend the 3776 meter (12,388 feet) volcano. Huts line the stations of both. This site provides detailed information on all 4 trail options.
3. Don’t expect a leisurely stroll.
Don’t be fooled, hiking Mount Fuji is difficult even for the fittest travelers. The grade also becomes incrementally steeper as you go. You may get lapped by a Japanese grandma on the way up. Don’t take it personally, they do this all the time.
4. It’s worth it but it can be expensive.
Between sleeping arrangements, the bus, the suggested donation at the entry (1000 yen/about 10 US dollars), the bathrooms, and whatever transportation you use to get there, you can easily spend over 100 US dollars. Please do not skimp on the donation. This money helps preserve Mount Fuji and keeps the hike accessible to future tourists.
5. Mountain huts are an important resource. If you want to sleep in one on the trail, book in advance. Otherwise, stay near the base.
You can purchase water, coffee, and snacks at the huts even if you aren’t staying the night. Bring ample water and nutritious snacks in your pack in case supply at the huts is low. The huts cost around 7,000 yen (about 70 US dollars) per night with a meal and require a reservation. You have to pay in cash upon arrival. Alternatively, I stayed at a cheap hostel near the bus stop in Fujiyoshida to do the hike in one day.
6. Descending is slippery! Start early or hike down in the dark.
The total hike is AT LEAST 5 hours up and 3 hours down. The descent is unstable and rocky. Don’t worry too much if you slip, almost everyone will. Carry a headlamp in case you need to slow down and end up on the mountain after dusk. Start before dawn to avoid darkness.
7. Prepare for inclement weather. Dress appropriately and waterproof everything!
Keep an eye on the weather forecast. When I hiked Mount Fuji, freezing rain plagued us for over 4 hours… Bring rain gear and a rain cover for your backpack. A change of clothes isn’t a bad idea either and worth its weight in gold if you end up soaking wet and shivering. Proper shoes are a game changer. Wear broken-in, sturdy hiking boots with wool socks. I saw a few miserable tourists attempting to summit in sandals. Don’t be one of them.
8. Stock up on 100-yen coins to use the bathrooms on the mountain.
The bathrooms on the trail cost between 200-300 yen (about 2 to 3 US dollars), and get progressively more expensive as you go further up Japan’s largest volcano. Save your coins and remember to use the free bathrooms at the base of the trail to save some yen.
9. Expect to queue up for hiking, especially on the weekend!
Hiking season for Mount Fuji falls from early July to early September. The short window draws tourists from all around the world. Avoid hiking during Obon week from August 13th to 16th. This spiritual Japanese holiday is peak time for domestic hikers. You can climb Fuji during the off-season, but it’s dangerous and strongly discouraged.
10. Stay safe. Save the emergency number in your phone and locate first-aid stations before hiking.
Altitude sickness is a definite possibility. Pace yourself accordingly. Refrain from drinking alcohol the night before to reduce your risk. For reference, 110 and 119 are the Japanese equivalent of 911 in the United States.
11. Enjoy the sunrise from the summit.
Pack your camera. The sun rises around 5 am during hiking season, which means you have to start hiking by midnight to witness the epic sunrise. Sleeping in a hut is a better option, but a night start is certainly doable in a pinch. Make sure to check out a Japanese onsen (hot spring) afterward for some post-hike recovery!
12. Respect the mountain.
Don’t litter. Stay on the trails. Use the designated bathrooms. Mount Fuji is a sacred world heritage site, don’t break the rules.