Mt. Ontake (御嶽)

Special note: On September 27, 2014, Mt. Ontake erupted unexpectedly, causing fatalities and covering the mountain with ash. The peak will be closed to hikers until further notice.


Clocking in at over 3000, Mt. Ontake is the nation’s tallest active volcano and 8th tallest mountain. Popular with Shinto pilgrims, the peaks offers outstanding panoramic views, pungent volcanic steam vents, and picturesque turquoise lakes.

The hike: From the bus stop at Tanohara, hike through the Shrine torii down into a flat meadow. If the weather is clear then you’ll see the massive volcano towering just above you. The path starts climbing on the other side of the meadow. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, and you’ll pass by countless shrines and statues on your way to the summit. It should take an hour or so to reach the first emergency hut at the 6th stagepoint (六合目) Keep climbing higher and higher, and after another 90 minutes or so, you should reach a rather big shrine and hut on the summit ridge line. You’ll see the smoldering steam vents just in front of you, as well as the summit shrine. You’ve got another half an hour of climbing before reaching the summit, so keep going. The narrow summit is quite over-developed, with 2 different mountain huts and a shrine. In fact, the very top is covered in concrete! Go back the way you came, or consider descending to the small turquoise lake on the other side of the summit. This area is called Ni-no-ike (二ノ池), and you’ll find a couple of huts here, which are only open from July to September. The ‘new’ hut has a hot spring bath you can use! Click here for the web site. From here, you can descend to the gondola in about 2 hours or so. Just follow the signs to Ontake Ropeway (御岳ロープウェイ).

When to go: This hike can be done year round if you’ve got the right equipment and experience. Otherwise, aim to go during the summer when the huts are open. I climbed in early June and there was still a fair amount of snow on top and the huts were completely closed. Click here to see the scenery in early May.

Access: From Kiso-Fukushima station (木曽福島駅), take a bus bound for Tanohara (田ノ原) and get off at the last stop. There are only 3 buses a day, so plan accordingly. Click here to see the bus schedule. Alternatively, you can take the Ontake Ropeway, which will whisk you up to 2100m in just a few minutes. Take a Ontake Ropeway (御岳ロープウェイ) bound bus and get off at the gondola. Again, there are only 3 buses a day, so click here to find out the schedule. Please note that the bus only runs every day between July 18th and August 30th and weekends only in early July, September, and October.

Live web cam: Click here and here

Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change 937m)

Explore posts in the same categories: Nagano hikes (長野県), Nagoya hikes (名古屋)

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20 Comments on “Mt. Ontake (御嶽)”

  1. Rohan Says:


    I was just wondering – does the Kisofukushima-Tanohara bus run until the 29th or the 30th August? Your article states the 30th, but on the Japanese website it seems to say up to the 29th…I am hoping to go on the 30th, but this depends on if the bus is running!


    • wesu Says:


      I think you are correct. The last bus does appear to be on August 29th. I originally wrote this article before the 2010 timetable was released, so thanks for double-checking for me. The bus to the ropeway runs until August 31st. If you want to climb on the 30th, then you’ll either have to use the trail near the ropeway or try to hitch to the trailhead. Sorry about that. I’ll make some changes in my write-up of the hike.

  2. thurgate Says:

    Do you have any idea if the peak is open for climbing again? Thanks!

    • wes Says:

      The summit is still off limits but you can climb as far as the 9th stagepoint and to the lake below the summit

    • Esin Says:

      Hello, did you climb? I am planning to go from Tanohara. Could you find any information about using this route?

      • wes Says:

        The route from Tanohara is currently closed. You’ll need to climb the route that starts at the top of the ropeway. The climbing season is coming to a close, with a dusting of snow already settling on the summit, which is still off-limits to hikers. You may climb as far as the lakes just below the summit

      • thurgate Says:

        Yeah, I climbed! The top is still closed off, but you can get decently close. You can still climb over and around the lakes. This is the best map I found. There is one that is updated from September, but I can’t find it again:

        I think we started from 中の湯. I don’t actually read kangi, so I’m not totally sure. Sorry!
        My understanding is that you can not climb from Tanohara 田の原. All the routes from there are red x’d which means closed. On the updated sheet you could start climbing from Tanohara, but can’t get to a route that connects with anything else or to the top. You get half way up and then stuck.

      • Esin Says:

        Thank you thurgate! But I’m really confused. Because I asked to Otaki Village Office. And they said that the route from Tanohara to 9th Station is open. I think I will try Tanohara.

      • wes Says:


        The trail is open from Tanohara to the 9th Station, but it is closed beyond that point, so you wouldn’t be able to traverse over to the crater lakes, which are the most beautiful part of the mountain. I guess that’s why the majority of hikers use the ropeway route, as it passes right by the lakes.

  3. Esin Says:

    Thank you wes! So I can only use ropeway to 7th station? I am planning to go on Saturday. At least I can see autumn colors. Maybe next year summit is opened and I can try my chance again.

  4. Judith Ricken Says:

    Someone told me you can climb to the top again, but it’s kind of limited to a thousand hikers (per summer?) do you know anything more detailed?

    • wes Says:


      I did a bit of research. While the is no specific limit on numbers, there are a few rules that should be followed if you climb to the summit.

      1) Try to ascend/descend as quickly as possible to avoid unnecessary time in the active volcanic zone.
      2) You should arrive on the summit no later than 1:30pm
      3) A helmet is recommended

      I hope that helps.


  5. Judith Ricken Says:

    Thank you so much for your research! Do you know an updated bus schedule from Kiso-Fukushima? The above link doesn’t seem to work anymore…

  6. Judith Ricken Says:

    I found the new bus schedule myself, you don’t need to look for it anymore, thanks for all your help!

  7. Judith Ricken Says:

    by the way, here is the link:

  8. Judith Ricken Says:

    to give an update, I climbed Ontake yesterday from the ropeway. Apparently there is a bus from Kiso-Fukushima station to the other trailhead (tanohara) but at least yesterday it wasn’t running. The trail to the summit was open, but the right trail at the 8th station that goes to the lakes, was not. People were very chilled and even had lunch in the “dangerous area” so altogether it’s rather safe again, I think.

  9. Judith Ricken Says:

    Here is a more complicated bus schedule, if you can read Japanese, it might be helpful:

    Click to access 934555f12b20aa812ce95d60b3c140a973aecb9f.pdf

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