Hiking Mt. Fuji When You’re Not an Avid Hiker
At 3,776 meters high, you don’t often hear about visitors hiking Mt Fuji in Japan. Beyond avid hiking circles, most visitors prefer to see the volcano from afar.
Climbing Mt Fuji, especially to see the sunrise, is not an easy feat. When I found out my friend, Nicole had decided to hike up to the peak with her boyfriend and friend one summer, I had to get her to share her experience!
Hiking Mt Fuji (The Yoshida Trail)
Hiking Mt Fuji wasn’t exactly a trip I’ve always dreamed of taking. From someone who has very little experience in hiking mountains (thank you Midwest), Mt. Fuji is more a leap than a step.
My ideal visit was a picturesque trip to the Fuji Five Lakes and capture it from the distance. But alas, I took that leap when I was presented with the chance. At the time, I wasn’t even sure if I was capable of climbing such a height!
Planning the Hike
Weeks before heading to Japan, I created an intense itinerary. I’d read plenty of articles and blog posts and watched Youtube videos on hiking Mt Fuji. After finalizing our plans, we instantly recognized that this hike would be the highlight of our trip.
We aren’t experienced climbers by any means so pulling off everything smoothly required a bit of research, but it all paid off in the end.
To start, we decided that if we were going to climb Mt. Fuji, we wanted to be at the peak for sunrise. Accomplishing this would mean our hike would take place over two days.
We would begin late afternoon and end around noon the following day at a steady pace, spending the night in one of the several “huts” along the trail.
The Start of Hiking Mt. Fuji
We also had to pick up a classic Mt. Fuji walking stick. At each station, there are one or more brands to get. It was fun collecting more and more as we made our way to the peak.
Although we got the full-size stick, they sell other smaller sizes which are a bit more convenient to bring through an airport.
With staff in hand, we began the hike. The hike itself was pretty moderate, with most of the paths well maintained with only small rocky sections. Even these areas weren’t difficult. The hardest part was patiently waiting for long tour groups.
Speaking of, Mt. Fuji is absolutely packed with large tour groups, so don’t expect a quiet hike surrounded by nature. Even though the mountain is a bit busier than we would prefer, nothing could ruin the gorgeous views (besides the clouds).
Finishing the Hike
The last 2 hours hike up to the peak was grueling. For every 10 steps we took, it felt like a sprint. We were constantly out of breath. Our friend, Michelle, did fine with the altitude (probably because she’s from Canada).
So, just a warning, some people might find it difficult and may feel sick instantly (or throughout) and some might not even have any problems. A guy in our hut was telling us he hiked up and back from the hut in only 3 hours. It varies from person to person. Get a lot of rest!
All things considered, this often repeated phrase is 100% true:
“If you come to Japan and don’t climb Mt. Fuji, you’re a fool; but if you climb it more than once, you’re an even BIGGER fool”.
More About Hiking Mt Fuji
- In Japanese: 富士山
- Cost: Entrance is free
- Elevation: 3,776 meters
- There is wi-fi.
- Hiking Mt Fuji is very safe. Emergency rescue can be done easily.
- Bathrooms are not the cleanest. They’re foul smelling and expensive. Still better than shatting on rocks.
- The one thing we weren’t really prepared for was altitude sickness. They sold O2 cans at the huts which were a lifesaver, but it was still extremely difficult to deal with nausea and exhaustion. Although there isn’t much you can do to prepare for the altitude, it is definitely something to be aware of.
- The hiking stick souvenir was 1,000 JPY (~$9 USD). Stamps were usually 300 JPY (~$3 USD) at each stop.
- The stations are mere markers for each level. You start hiking at the 5th Station, and most huts are between the 7th and 8th stations.
There are four different trails you can hike. They all start around the 5th station.
- Yoshida Trail – This is the best for the sunrise, but it’s also the most popular and thus the most crowded.
- Subashiri Trail – It eventually meets the Yoshida Trail at the 8th station, but is less crowded overall.
- Gotemba Trail – This is the least developed and longest trail.
- Fujinomiya Trail – This is the shortest trail. You will hike up and down the same way as well.
WHEN TO GO TO MT. FUJI
- For 2018, Mt. Fuji is only open for hiking between July 1st and September 10.
- While there is off-season hiking, you need special permission, and it is typically from September to October.
- The rest of the year is too perilous.
GETTING TO MT. FUJI
Note, these stops don’t operate during the winter.
- Shinjuku ⇒ Kawaguchiko: 1 hour, 45 minutes
- Shinjuku ⇒ FujiQ Highland: 1 hour, 40 minutes
- Shinjuku ⇒ Mt. Fuji 5th Station: 2 hours, 30 minutes
- It’s important to book a ticket to and from Tokyo ahead of time.
- If you are leaving from Shinjuku, the bus station is on the 5th floor (top).
- Kawaguchiko ⇒ 5th Station: 1 hour, 30 minutes – 2 hours
- Buses from Kawaguchiko to the 5th station are pretty frequent.
For reservations + schedules, check this site.
Budget Tip: Since we were spending the night on Mt. Fuji, we didn’t want to pay for an Airbnb just to store our luggage. Most of the subway stations have storage so we stashed away what we didn’t bring up the mountain. It can fill up fast so go there early in the day just to make sure you get one. Don’t lose your receipt. Otherwise, you’ll have to call the locker management to open it for you and can take a while.
What to Bring
Layers of clothing
We read that the weather could change pretty rapidly on the mountain so we definitely recommend being prepared (while trying to stay as lightweight as possible). Cold weather gear was also essential for the overnight hike. Throughout the hike, we went from constantly sweating in shorts and a t-shirt, to practically freezing in thick socks, leggings, gloves, hat, t-shirts, and thermals.
Check out UNIQLO’s HEATTECH line* for some warmer clothes.
Hiking backpack, hats, winter hats, sunglasses, warm gloves, thick socks, and a headlamp.
Proper hiking boots
We were worried about footwear since we do not have well broken-in hiking boots. Fortunately, we were able to rent some boots for a relatively low cost. Since we were moving around a lot throughout Japan, we worked with the rental service to choose a hotel near our Airbnb to ship the boots to.
Returning the boots was even more simple because many convenient stores also function as drop-off points for shipping services (usually indicated in their window by a little black cartoon cat).
We used Kobe Outdoor Rental. Make sure you have your passport and/or ID. They’ll also give you a Japanese message just in case.
A Water Bottle + Snacks
We read that there are places on the mountain to refill a water bottle but this was definitely false! The stations sell water at an extremely high markup and there are absolutely no trash cans while hiking Mt Fuji, so whatever you take up or purchase you will have to carry down.
We recommend a Hydroflask* as it keeps your water cold. You can also try using a Steripen* to sterilize water.
You’ll be surprised how much you’ll need. Try Supergoop!*, an ethical sunscreen.
Money. More than you think you’ll need.
You’ll use it for bathrooms, snacks/food, stamps, souvenirs, etc.
A Can of O2
They sell them in the huts but they are very expensive. If you don’t know how you’ll do with the elevation, it’s safe to have one.
No garbage cans from the 5th station up so make sure to bring a plastic bag for your trash.
Where to Stay
We stayed in a hut at the 9th Station. We were able to reserve our hut through an independent service since the official website doesn’t cater too well to non-Japanese speakers, but the process was incredibly simple. It wasn’t too long until they contacted us again verifying our reservation.
When staying at one of the huts you can pay a little extra for a package that includes dinner, or one that includes dinner and breakfast, with the breakfast being portable so you can eat it at the peak in the morning. The meals themselves were a bit less than amazing, but it was nice having something warm to eat after a long hike. Make sure to arrive at the hut before 9 p.m. They stop serving dinner then.
Overall, our hut was 8,900 JPY per person with an additional 1,000 JPY fee to book.
Similar Mt. Fuji Tours
If you’re not ready to hike Mt. Fuji, but you want to still see the mountain, here are some tour options!
- Mt. Fuji Classic Route* – Will take you to Oshino Hakkai, one of the Fuji ponds, Peace Park Stupa, Gotemba Premium Outlets, and Takashimaya in Shinjuku
- Mt. Fuji Day Bus Tour* – Will take you from Shinjuku to Lake Kawaguchiko, Oshino Hakkai, Oshino Shinobi no Sato (the Ninja Village), 5th Station, and Fuji Airways
- Fuji 5th Station Tour* – Visit the Yamanashi Prefecture Sightseeing Orchard, Kawaguchi Lakeside Park, Mt. Kachi Kachi Ropeway, and Mt. Fuji 5th Station. You’ll also eat lunch at the Lakeside Restaurant with views of Fuji.
Since you’re hiking, we always recommend getting travel insurance. You never know how much a twisted ankle could cost you. World Nomads* is a favorite in the industry, you can get a quote easily here*.
For More Japan Posts, Check Here
- Staying at a Ryokan in Kyoto
- 20 Breathtaking Photos to Inspire You to Visit Japan
- 10 Things to See in Kyoto, Japan
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Originally published Sept 2016, updated July 2018
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BLOGGING / SOCIAL MEDIA
You know, I never would have thought about doing this, but it actually sounds right up my alley. Silly how often we just assume something is out of our league without even thinking twice about it! Thanks so much for sharing.
Impressive! Good on you for hiking 3,000 meters up despite not being an avid hiker. That takes guts. I love hiking but wouldn’t consider myself an expert by any means. So diving in is daunting but hey, you did it anyway. I’ve always been fascinating by Mount Fuji. Ever since I obsessed over old skool Godzilla movies as a kid LOL. Funny reason but the campy flicks pulled me in when I was a wee lad. Thanks for sharing :)
Wow, that’s quite a journey. Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing.
Haha, that quote is so funny. I’ve yet to do a hike I would describe as grueling and never a multi day hike. Sounds like this might be a great place to try sometime though. Love all of your photos.
Sam, thanks for getting Nicole to share her story! I love the pinterest image, it’s nice to have that itinerary printed out right there. I’m legit a crap hiker but one of my bucket list is to climb a major mountain so having this kinda makes me feel like its more feasible of a dream. I love how she says “bring more money than you think you need.” Oh Japan, why you so expensive?!
This is a great guide! It’s so hard to gauge what someone else says when they say a hike is difficult or easy, this really explains what to expect.
I am an avid hiker and would love to summit Mt Fuji! The altitude would definitely require some advance preparation and extra O2. Great tips for preparation.
Haha your closing statement about being a fool is exactly how I felt about Kilimanjaro. I always say it was a once in a lifetime experience – because I’m so glad I did it, but there’s no way in hell I would ever do it again :D!!!
This is a really useful guide. I particularly like your tips about what to bring and so on. I think you’re really brave doing this without much mountain experience and it makes me feel like I could do it too. Well done!
Thank you so much for this informative guide and tips for hiking Mt Fuji. I didn’t know you could do it overnight and stay in a hut. The sunrise looks amazing!
I’m not a hiker at all as well and I can’t believe that you can actually do this even if you haven’t done hiking ever before. The view is fantastic and I think really worth it.
It’s great to know you don’t have to be a really experienced hiker to tackle Mount Fuji. There’s some useful information but I don’t think I’ll be tackling Mount Fuji anytime soon!
This looks and sounds incredible although not so keen on massive groups. Did you do much training in preparation?