Mt. Mitsuboshi (三星山) – Mt. Ryūzen (龍神山) loop

Extra tips:

DO NOT attempt the route from Kizestsu-kyo (奇絶峡) as it is incredibly steep and exposed. Instead, it’s much better and safer to do this hike as a loop starting from 佐向口登山口. There are a couple of parking spaces near the entrance. Otherwise, you can either take a taxi from Kii-Tanabe station to the trailhead or an infrequent bus bound for Ryujin Onsen and alight at Yahagi (矢はぎ) bus stop. Click here for the bus schedule.


The route from 佐向口登山口 first starts on a gravel forest road marked by a lot of cairns. Follow the mountain river upstream and pay attention to the tape marks. After 15 minutes or so you’ll reach the junction for the loop hike. The signposts are old, but rumor has it they will be replaced by the city soon. Anyway, turn left at this junction (instead of taking the trail straight further up the river) and follow the tape marks. You’ll first pass by a small waterfall flowing over some layers of rock, with a small altar and shrine gate resting at the entrance. Follow the switchbacks above the river and continue heading upstream, over a series of river crossings. At the junction, turn right and continue upward, where the trail soon splits. You can take either way, but a right turn here will offer more views as it climbs up a spur. Both trails meet up further on so take your pick. You’ll soon reach Ryūjin (or Ryūzen, as both readings are correct) shrine punctuated by some very massive trees in places. From here it’s a simple 15-minute ascent to the summit. Just before the summit plateau, ignore the trail junction (龍神分岐) heading right (you will take this later) and head straight on, past the castle ruins and up onto the summit of Mt. Ryūzen (龍神山). Take a quick break to admire the views.

From the summit, retrace your steps back to the junction and turn left at 龍神分岐. There’s a sign here that says 三星山山頂 75分. The route is well-marked and starts off relatively flat before quickly losing altitude as it descends to a narrow saddle called 三星のコル. Take a sip of water and stow away your trekking poles, as things are about to become interesting. For the next hour or so, you’ll be involved in a fight against gravity, making your way up cliff faces with fixed ropes. Watch your footing as the rock is gritty sandstone that can be slippery depending on the traction of your shoes. It is A LOT easier to go up this route than down (see video above), but take it slow and enjoy the many vantage points along the way as you reach the cliff tops en route. Just below the summit, the climbing will become easier and once you reach the summit, settle down to a well-deserved break. If you would rather take your lunch break at a viewpoint, then continue past the summit just a few minutes (DO NOT take the trail left off the summit but continue straight on the well-used route) and you’ll reach a big rock formation with excellent views. After taking in the view, continue on the descent through a couple of fixed rope sections until reaching another saddle called 西岡のコル. The signposts here are tattered, but turn right at this junction for the signpost marked 竜星の辻. It will take about 30 minutes of so to reach the first junction of your hike, thereby completing the loop. The loop will probably take about 4 hours depending on how long you spend taking photos and enjoying the views.


Click here for a YAMAP post showing the route.

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