Kisen Alps (紀泉アルプス)

The Kisen Alps are a series of rolling peaks located on the Osaka-Wakayama prefectural border. Despite their close proximity to the big city, the mountains are relatively unspoiled and completely natural, without a single cedar tree in sight.

The hike: Go through the unmanned ticket gates, and turn right on the small paved road in front of the station. Turn right at the next street, where you’ll cross a small river and the railroad tracks. Follow the signs to Kisen Alps (記泉アルプス), turning left at the sign, and then right up a small dirt road. This road eventually becomes the trailhead, as you pass through a very funky entrance gate. The path climbs rather steeply at first, paralleling a large expressway. The traffic noise is pretty loud, but you’ll soon leave that all behind and enter a magical wonderland of beautiful flora. I have no idea why this area was spared of the post-war deforestation, but I’m so happy it was. As you hike, imagine how beautiful this country must’ve been hundreds of years ago, when every single forest looked just like this! Keep your eyes out for snakes and wild boar, as there are quite a few in this area. After about 30 minutes of climbing, you’ll reach the ridgeline and a trail junction. Head to the right for about 20 meters to reach a wonderful clearing with excellent views of Kansai airport and Osaka bay. Take some photos and head back to the junction. The trail follows the entire mountain ridge, and your target is the high point called Unzenbou (雲仙峰). There’s a considerable amount of up and down between here and the top, but it’s not too difficult. There are lots of places to take breaks and enjoy the outstanding scenery. You should reach the peak in about 2 hours or so. Just below the top, you’ll come across a 3-way junction with beautiful bilingual signposts. Yep, you’ve officially entered Wakayama prefecture, where they seem to have more money in their budget for trail maintenance. Continue on to the top of Unzenbou. There’s not much of a view from here, so after taking a break continue down the other side. In about 10 minutes, you’ll come across yet another trail junction, with magnificent views of Wakayama city and the Pacific Ocean. Turn left at the junction and you’ll reach a well-maintained public park with lots of benches and a gazebo. This is a great place for a picnic or a nap on a pleasant day. From here, trails split off in all directions, and you’ve got lots of options. I’d recommend following the signs to Kii station (紀伊駅). It should take about 90 minutes or so from the park to the station, and there are lots of different trails you have to take, so follow the signs carefully. Just before the trail dumps you out on a road, you’ll pass through a bamboo forest that is downright spooky at dusk. From Kii station, you can catch a JR train back to Tennoji.

When to go: This hike can be done year round, but I’ve been told that autumn is the best time to see the virgin forests in all their glory. The mountains do get some snow in the winter, but it usually melts relatively quickly.

Access: From Tennoji station (天王時駅) take a train on the JR Wakayama line and get off at Yamanakadani (山中渓駅). An express train should take about 45 minutes or so. Please note that this is an unmanned station (hint, hint).

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ~200m)

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24 Comments on “Kisen Alps (紀泉アルプス)”

  1. Laura-the-Explora Says:

    Love this hike! It’s a great one to do year round… and no concrete or crowds.

  2. Laura-the-Explora Says:

    Wes, we just rehiked the Kisen Alps. This time, at the first fancy Wakayama signpost juncture, we followed the route to the dam. It’s not a very well maintained trail (which may be the reason we only encountered one other hiker) but it offered a quiet alternative to the traditional route. There is a beautiful spot by the lake to take a break and we were able to follow some of the other trails back to a JR station. It was a great 4 hour hike! Thanks for the detailed instructions!

  3. Erik Says:

    Just did this hike today. I only encountered one other hiker and he was on his way out. Great hike, easy to access from Yamanakadani station. Thanks for the posting. Erik

  4. eva Says:

    Hi there, great blog. I’m visiting Japan in January and I was wondering if this is a hike that can be done as a day trip from Osaka? Or what would be your most recommended day hike from Osaka in January?Greetings from Hong Kong!

    • wes Says:

      Yes Eva, you can do this as a day hike from Osaka. Just make sure you get an early start, since the sun usually sets at 4:30pm. There’s a bit of snow up there at the moment, but it should melt once it warms up this weekend.

  5. Rachel Says:

    Thank you so much for your website. We had a great time at the kisen alps today. Didn’t see a snake or boar BUT I do swear we saw a lot of bear shit on the trail. Do you know of many bears are in wakayama?
    Really, this website is great for kansai hiking, thank you!

  6. sally koala Says:

    we did this hike mid sept 2013, it was lovely. so many mushrooms. and great foliage. i was glad to be with some japanese people though because the signage on the 2nd half was a bit unclear. we also accidentally went down some black stairs to a dead end (an electricity pylon) and had to come back up, which sucked. dont go down black stairs!
    my husband’s photos of the trail is on his blog at

  7. TUJ Trevor Says:

    Thanks for the great site Wes. I commute on this road by bicycle everyday, but haven’t had the chance to enjoy the hills until recently. Your guide made it easy.

  8. Joseph Says:

    We did the hike in the middle of September and it was a joy. The views are beautiful, apart from the first initial hike up it’s very easy and we saw about 6 people all day. It‘s easy to miss the entrance, we asked a local farmer about the hike, showed him the Kanji which we had copied onto our phones and he said “hiking” and gestured the way. Ask for the ‘baseball field’ as the hike follows that on your left and then you will see the famous funky entrance. Not for arachnophobes, as we passed a lot of impressive spider webs on the path, some we saw too late. The path is generally very easy to follow but after the benches and the great view of Wakayama there are a few options down, double check them. We took the wrong one but knew that if we went down we would find a village and eventually a train station so don’t worry too much. As of Sept 2014 the gate is still unmanned, it’s still the furthest I’ve got on an Y170 ticket and my favourite hike in Kansai.

  9. Chong Says:

    Just did the hike on 1 Apr so would like to say thanks for this great write up without which there’s no way we would have found this lovely trail. Also, you may like to know that the trail towards Kii station is currently closed for some construction so we took the trail towards Musota, the next station down (which is not an unmanned station BTW).

  10. Andreas Says:

    I hiked this trail today, with quite hot but beautiful weather. I highly recommend to do that hike. It’s so conveniently close to Osaka and yet you it feels like being in a completely different world.
    Like Chong said currently there is some construction going on near the end of the trail to Kii. There are signs everywhere which inform that you can’t go there until somewhere next year, I couldn’t understand everything of the signs though as my Japanese reading ability is limited. I decided to ignore the sign and try the trail to Kii station as described in this blog post. And it was actually fine! There is a pedestrian route through the construction area (which follows the mentioned bamboo forest) under some tunnel. Before that, the path is amazing. Vegetation is more dense and diverse compared to the other parts of the hike. The only downside is that there are slightly more spider webs or those strange caterpillars roping down from the trees and more trees to hop over. I’m not sure if this is because it’s currently not officially maintained, although everything else was there like supporting ropes and signs warning of slippery slopes. When I left the forest, I found myself in a highway rest area with restaurants, a shop and numerous beverage vending machines. I took way too little fluid with me, the sun was strong today, so that place felt like heaven

  11. Stephanie Says:

    We hiked this route last week and would strongly advise anybody to avoid it currently. It seems like the rainy season has really eroded large stretches of the path, especially on the way down and towards Kii station. On ascending,the path was constantly blocked by uprooted trees, the ground was soft and often hard to get a grip on, and there were lots of hand written warning signs for dangerous slopes. After the park bit, the path was barely a foot wide in many parts, two feet (as in, putting your feet next to each other, not the measurement) at best, and even less stable. We are pretty fit and not easily scared, but this was the first time in my adult life that I was seriously afraid. The last bit with the bamboo was almost completely eroded – we literally had to slide down on our behinds. Construction is still going on behind there, too, so we had so climb through a bit of the construction site to get out to the paved road. Because of the previous comments, we did look out for signs at the beginning, but there was no mention of any closures, not for the trail to Kii either. We did see one other hiker during our trip. Unless you are suicidal, avoid this route at the moment…

    • StewartJ Says:

      Trail Update 14 December 2015

      The trail today was in excellent condition. Stephanie`s October experience, above, can apply to a significant proportion of Japanese mountain trails after rain – they very quickly can turn into slushy, slippery water ways. Add uneven rocks and masses of shiny, worn tree roots and bruised and battered limbs – and worse – are ever-present risks.

      I went up from Yamanakadani Stn, as per the Wes trip, with the hills a still quite colourful mix of deciduous leaves and evergreens and the path almost entirely dry. The trail has obviously been groomed since Stephanie`s trip.

      I note, though, that Wes` descending trail to Kii Stn is now closed for some months due to major construction work on the expressway. There was signage to this effect that I first saw at the Gazebo area and at the trail turn to Kii Stn a little down from the Gazebo. So I walked on to the next station passed Kii – Musota – on the alternate and well marked trails. One suggestion, though – part way along a junction shows a left and right trail both going to Musota Stn, with both indicating a time of 40mins. I took the left one and it brought me down out of the forest some way from the station with a complete dog`s breakfast of roads, none of which went directly to the station unless you walked the train line. I therefore suggest taking the right hand path as I understand it leaves the forest with more direct road access to the station.

      In all, a very pleasant walk.

  12. Maria Says:

    Hello all, currently at the summit on this hike! Lovely day for it. I came from Kii Station and can confirm that the trail is open and no longer under construction. And the ticket gate is still unmanned ;)

    There was a big storm three days ago in Wakayama, a lot of wind and rain, but despite all that the trail looks to be in excellent condition once more. Easy hike. Thanks for blogs like this, I don’t speak Japanese so I’d be totally lost and city-bound without them!


    • wes Says:

      Thanks for the “live update” from the summit! Glad that the trail down to Kii is re-opened. It’s a much longer slog from Musota station.

  13. Unbroken Chain Says:

    Contemplating a hike from yamanakadani station to kyoshi station
    passing through Manaitaishi. I would guess it to be 25km more or less and about 7 hours with breaks. not much info online but looks possible from google maps.

    Anybody climbed this route?


    • wes Says:

      Yeah it looks entirely possible on the map I have. There are a lot of different trails in the area so you would need a bit of advance planning to make sure you don’t turn at the wrong junction.

      Looks like another option would be to continue north from Manaitaishi and head to Hakotsukuri station on the Nankai line (3 stops closer to Osaka from Kyoshi station).

      The map you need is the Yama-to-kogen #49 map, which you can pick up at any Montbell, Kinokuniya, or Junkudo. It looks like this:

      I hope that helps

    • Chris Says:

      Thanks a lot Wes for that information. I’d happened upon your site from time to time in the past when googling for hiking info on specific mountains. I was blown away the other day when I looked at all the mountains on your blog, all over Japan.

      I will go to kohijitsu sanjo, Osaka grand front and look for that map.
      I can see where I’m at on my ramble app even with no 4g. So most likely
      Comparing that with the paper map, I will make it to kyoshi.
      I finished from mt. Ikoma to shigi to nijo to katsuragi to Kongo to kimitoge …
      Diamond trail main but I want to do all of the mountain ridge separating Nara and Osaka Wakayama city.

      I will share the ramblr GPS if its a success.

      Thanks again

      • Unbroken chain Says:

        Finally had a chance to attempt the hike.

        My goal was Kyoshi or wakayamadaigaku station
        from yamanakadani.

        The hike to Unzanbo was straightforward as per your directions.
        Beautiful old growth ridge hike with views of Kansai airport, wild boar marks everywhere but didnt chance upon one.

        I couldn’t find the trail to get from unzanpo to Manaitaishi to fudatate yama to Kyoshi station as planned.

        maybe I should have stayed on the ridge a little longer after unzanpo (I turned off 30 minutes after because the trail was leading away from manaitashi yama and seemingly towards Kii station.

        It was precarious for a while the trail I took descended 200meters then I started seeing signs in Kanji for musota station, it was almost 16:00 so I decided to give up on Kyoshi and head down a really long trek to Musota station. Kind of disappointed not to find a way to get to manaitaishi but it was an adventure. Here is the Gps …(have to double click the map to see live)

      • Unbroken chain Says:

        You can see where I backtracked several times, the trail had been following the border and then deviated.
        I thought I had missed it but from unzanpo peak, that ridge trail is impossible to go down there vertical.

  14. Dennis Says:

    Absolutely no signs from the top to Kii station these days

    • wes Says:

      Thanks for the update Dennis. I need to do this hike again at some point to update the information. I guess the free construction work has put hikers off from descending to Kii station.

  15. J Says:

    Just got home from this one (there was an odd combination of tons of green still on the trees and many fallen leaves…). Station still unmanned, and notices up about the closed trail back to Kii; slated to reopen sometime in March, according to the sign.

    There’s another trail which lets out a bit further west; but it very obviously has been neglected for some time as parts of it aren’t more than piles of rock. Some switchbacks early on it were covered pretty heavily with debris too; I wouldn’t recommend going this way without confidence, a stick, or foolhardiness!

  16. Paul Says:

    Update: a friend and I hiked this in the rain. It wasn’t exactly easy going, but doable. There are a ton of spiders (orb weavers which are harmless but pretty scary looking). We skipped a lot of the viewing areas since it was raining and they didn’t look well maintained. The views we did see were amazing. It was a cloudy day and the fog on the mountains was really pretty. The hike down to Kii station from the Gazebo was the least maintained, we actually went back to double check a sign since it was so overgrown. Overall a good experience. Don’t go in the rain!

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