Mt. Echigo-komagatake (越後駒ヶ岳)

Mt. Echigo-koma is part of the famed ‘Echigo Sanzan’ trio of peaks lying southeast of Minami-Uonuma city in Niigata prefecture. The mountain features wonderful alpine plants, lingering snow fields, and one of the best panoramic views in the Echigo region.

Note: The Urasa approach described in the first part of this hike has fallen into disuse. The path is overgrown and is hard to pick up. Future hikers may want to consider doing the hike as a up-and-back from Shiori-toge, where the trail is easy to follow.

The hike: There’s a small campground at the start of the trailhead called Echigosanzan-shinrin Koen (越後三山森林公園キャンプ場). This is where you should tell the taxi driver to drop you off. The campground is free and unmanned, with a toilet and drinking water with a sign saying it should be boiled before using. There’s a gravel forest road running alongside the tiny campground, and the trailhead is at the end of this road, 3km upstream. The road is in terrible condition, but is relatively flat. About 2km into the hike, you’ll see a small concrete sidewalk on your right with a yellow arrow pointing down. There’s a tunnel here which has been built to bypass the massive snowfield blocking the road. Most of the snow will be gone by September, but use the tunnel if hiking in June or July. The tunnel is short and will meet up with the forest road again, so take your pick if the snow’s gone. About 10 minutes after leaving the tunnel, you’ll find the trailhead on your left. This is where the real hike begins. It’s 5.1km from here to the summit, and the path follows the spine straight up for an agonizing 1500m vertical ascent. It’s not technical or dangerous – just really long and steep. There are no signposts, but the trail is in relatively good shape, as it’s the main traverse route for Echigo-sanzan, as hikers can climb Echigo-koma, Naka-dake, and then Hakkai san before descending to a point not far from here. The first hour or so is pretty straight-forward until reaching Yukimi-no-matsu (雪見ノ松), a huge pine tree with outstanding views of Mt. Hakkai across the valley. Your next landmark is in another 2 hours or so, where you’ll find a small sign reading Rikimizu (力水), but there’s no water source here. Keep climbing for another 10 minutes or so and you’ll finally reach a ridgeline, where you’ll find your first views of Naka-dake. The summit of Echigo-koma is to your left, hidden by a large, pointy peak between you and the summit. This peak is labeled as Gushigahana (グシガハナ) on the map, but there’s no signpost on the summit. It’s a sweaty, steep one-hour climb. Just before the top of Gushigahana, the trail becomes overgrown with bamboo grass and very steep, with lots of large pine trees holding the ridgeline in place. Once you reach the top you’ll have your first view of the summit of Echigo-koma, and it’s an easy 40-minute hike away. The trail flattens out signficantly, so relax and enjoy the awesome views. In about 20 minutes or so, you’ll reach the true ridgeline for the Echigo-sanzan traverse, so turn left and head towards the summit of Echigo-koma. Just before the top you’ll find a trail branching off to the right. This goes down to Koma hut (駒ノ小屋), your accomodation for the night. Take in the scenery from the summit and ring the small temple bell on the summit, saying a prayer to the mountain gods for good weather. Retrace your steps back to the junction and turn left for the short 10 minute descent to the hut. A place to sleep on the floor will cost you 2000 yen, and there’s a caretaker there on weekends to collect money. Otherwise, there’s an honesty box to drop your money in. There’s no food here, so you’ll have to bring a stove and a sleeping bag. They do, however, have lots of silver sleeping mats and some blankets, so there’s no need to pack a sleeping mat. There’s also a clean toilet (bring your own toilet paper) and plenty of fresh water. The water is safe to drink but may run out in the autumn once all of the snow fields have melted. Enjoy a good night’s rest, and the next morning take the trail that descends just below the water tap. It’s pretty steep at first, but then flattens out nicely for a much easier (and popular) trail then the previous day’s climb. The maps say to allow 4 hours for the descent to Shiori-toge (枝折峠) but you can do it in half the time if fit. Your first landmark will be the top of Mae-koma (前駒), where the trail continues dropping off before flattening out. There’s a small lake in this saddle, followed by another descent to a trail junction on the summit of Mt. Kokura (小倉山). Turn left for an alternative finish at Koma-no-yu hot spring. Otherwise, continue on the same trail towards Shiori. About 30 minutes further on, you’ll see a junction on your right. It’s a short spur trail to the summit of Mt. Michiyuki (道行山), which has a nice view back to Echigo-koma. If the cloud is in you can just ignore this spur and continue descending. The next landmark will be a shrine, which looks remarkably like an emergency hut. Shortly after passing by the shrine, you’ll find a trail junction on your left marked as Kin-no-michi (金の道). This trail will take you to Kuma-no-yu hot spring in about 2 hours or so. Ignore this junction and continue on, where you’ll find a junction with another Kin-no-michi signpost. This trail to the right leads down to Ginzan-daira (銀山平), which has its own hot spring and plenty of accomodation. This is the trail I took, and it’s really well maintained and divided into 10-stages. It pretty much parallels route 352, but is much more beautiful than hiking down to the pass. At the 3rd stagepoint (三号目), you’ll reach a gravel forest road. Turn left and walk about 20 meters and the trail will drop off on the right side of the road. Take this trail and you’ll reach another forest road at the 2nd stagepoint (二号目). Turn right and cross the concrete bridge over the river. The road will become completely overgrown but don’t worry – keep going because it’s a short-cut to the hot spring. After a few minutes you’ll reach a paved road. Turn right for the 10-minute stroll to the hot spring. There are a lot of cabins and mountain huts, but the hot spring is on the left, in a large 2-story building. A soak will cost 650 yen and there’s a fresh water spring out front with drinkable spring water. You can either stay at one of the huts in this ‘village’ or walk back to route 352 and try your luck hitching. If you’d like to hitch, then I’d recommend turning right on route 352 and walking about 2km to the lake. Just past the trailhead to Mt. Arasawa (荒沢岳), you’ll reach an intersection. Turn left and wait just before the tunnel. Most vehicular traffic uses this long tunnel nowadays, and not so many cars pass by Shiori-toge.

When to go: This hike can be done from June 1st to October 19th, when the bus to Shiori pass is running and route 352 is open to traffic. It’s nearly impossible to do this hike before June, as the road is still covered with meters of snow and avalanche danger still high on the Urasa approach. However, Ginzan-daira (銀山平) is accessible by car from Golden Week onwards, but be prepared for lots of snow if attempting a May ascent.

Access: If you’re doing the traverse, then there’s no bus transport to the trailhead, and you’ll have to shell out around 3500 yen from a taxi at Urasa (浦佐) station. Otherwise, if you’re doing the up-and-back approach from Shiori-toge (枝折峠), then there’s one bus a day leaving from Koide (小出) station. Unfortunately, this bus leaves at 6:30am, meaning you’ll have to either stay overnight at Koide station, or take the overnight bus from Ikebukuro station in Tokyo, which arrives at Koide at 3:15am! Click here for the bus schedule. The bus from Shiori back to Koide leaves at 4:35pm.

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change ~1700m).

Explore posts in the same categories: Niigata hikes (新潟県)

Tags: , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

7 Comments on “Mt. Echigo-komagatake (越後駒ヶ岳)”

  1. b.a. Says:

    Many thanks for the detailed post, much appreciated. I am going on this route tomorrow.

  2. b.a. Says:

    Was really good. Took the first shinkansen to Urasa and a taxi from there to the park near Mizunashi river. Came back down to Shiori Touge. Missed the bus but somebody gave me a ride to Koide. Will come back with some pictures soon. The climb to Gushigahana was no joke.

  3. b. a. Says:

    I made a youtube video of the climb, if anybody is interested

    • wes Says:

      wow, thanks for the youtube video and comments. I’m sure the other readers of my site will enjoy it. Glad you had great weather as well!

  4. David Says:

    I climbed Echigo-Komagatake last weekend following the route described. I think that it must be pointed out that the route up via the camp-site seems to be used less and less. The hut caretaker seemed to agree.

    First the gravel road from the camp-site is totally overgrown and there is only a small path going down the middle of it.

    Next, I didn’t see the tunnel at all. There were only some arrows pointing to caves where you could take shelter during a storm.

    There was however a carved tunnel going through the snow bridge – no artificial support whatsoever. The bridge was still holding up at the end of September but the inside of the tunnel was melting furiously and looked like it would collapse under the weight of the above ice at any moment. I decided to make a mad dash through the streams of water falling from the roof.

    It was also possible to squeeze by to the left between the mountain side and the snow but that seemed fairly troublesome to do. Actually there was a sign at the camp-site recommending to do this but I couldn’t read the kanji unfortunately.

    Finally, except for the start and end of the climb, the signs are sparse, worn and unreadable, making me wonder at times whether I was on the right track. Added to that, I was hiking up in thick mist and rain and crossed only one person who was going down (it was a Sunday).

    I would only recommend this route if you had nerves (and legs) of steel. However the views were spectacular before the clouds rolled in, which made it worthwhile.

    Koma no goya was one of the friendliest huts I have ever stayed in (another one is the the nearby Aizu-komagatake hut).

    • wes Says:


      Many thanks for the update on trail conditions. I climbed it back in 2008, so I was surprised to hear about the degrading trail conditions. But then again, since the majority of people go there by car, it’s perhaps no wonder that most hikers choose the shorter and easier way up the mountain.

      Yeah, I agree about the hut owner being really nice. I had a great experience at Aizu-koma as well. I guess there’s something about that area of Japan….

      I’ll put a warning at the top of the hike description so that others who follow in our footsteps will know what to expect.

  5. David Says:

    Hi Wes,

    Another thing I forgot to mention is that the last section of the road was closed so I had to walk an extra 40 minutes to reach the camp site (the taxi only cost 2500 yen though). It doesn’t seem permanent since the map I bought this year still mentions you can take a taxi all the way to the camp ground (which doesn’t seem to be in use).

    I arrived at Urasa station at 930 AM by shinkansen, started hiking from 10 and reached the hut at 5h30 PM. I am relatively fast so there is a chance that some people wouldn’t be able to reach the hut by night fall. You could of course take the very first shinkansen that would give you an extra hour since it arrives around 8h30.

    Even though it was a Monday there were loads of people going up and down the path from Shioritoge. I had to walk all the way down to Ginzandaira 銀山平 since there are no buses from Shioritoge on weekdays. That path, Gin no michi 銀の道, is a very easy to walk and beautiful path – I highly recommend it. There are 2 express buses going daily from the boat pier in Ginzandaira to Urasa station – one at 12:02 and one at 17:27. There are a couple of hot spring baths there but little food.

    One last thing I ought to mention is that the hut doesn’t require reservations and still costs 2000 yen. I actually reserved at the Aizu Koma hut by mistake since the name is the same and is at the top of the google search for “koma no goya”. I was told this happens often. Luckily I was able to call them and clear up the mistake (they still remembered me, and you as well!).

    By the way feel free to shoot me a quick email so that we can easily stay in touch. I am taking a temporary break from Facebook!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s