Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Kyoto has some brilliant hiking. There are good hikes right in the city and others just a short train or bus trip away. Here are my five favorite hikes in and near Kyoto.
In a hurry? Scroll down to get to the list of hikes. Otherwise, read the following background information.
Introduction to Hiking in Kyoto
Kyoto is a hiker’s paradise: the mountains around the city are literally latticed with trails. You can do some great hikes right out of the city, just minutes from downtown. So if the concrete is starting to get you down, why not head for the hills?
The hikes listed here are all in or near Kyoto. You can do them in any season and you don’t need hiking boots unless there’s snow on the ground or you have weak ankles. Note that it only snows and sticks on the ground a few times a winter in Kyoto itself, while up in the mountains north of the city (in places like Kurama, Takao etc), it snows and sticks several times a year (usually between Dec and Feb).
Here are my five favorite Kyoto hikes. For maps and more details on these, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s excellent Hiking in Japan guidebook. If you can read Japanese, pick up a copy of Shobunsha’s “Kyoto Kitayama” map, which is part of their superb Yama-to-Kogen series (you’ll find it at Maruzen bookstore in downtown Kyoto).
If hiking is going to be a major component of your visit to Kyoto, it’s probably best to stay on the east side of town (Southern Higashiyama or Northern Higashiyama). These neighborhoods are very close to the Higashiyama Mountains. For some great hotels and ryokan in these areas, see our Kyoto Hotels page and our Kyoto Ryokan page.
Hikes in Kyoto City
The view over Kyoto from the Daimonji viewpoint – image © Chris Rowthorn
Mt. Daimonji-yama Climb
A great, short hike that brings you up to the best viewpoint over Kyoto.
Time: about one hour (round trip)
Distance: about 1.5km (round trip)
Start point: Ginkaku-ji Temple in Northern Higashiyama
Finish point: Ginkaku-ji Temple in Northern Higashiyama
Full details: Mt Daimonji-yama Hike from Ginkaku-ji Temple.
The view over Kyoto from the Seiryuden viewpoint – image © Jeffrey Friedl
Shogunzuka and Seiryuden Hike from Chion-in Temple
One of the easiest and best hikes in Kyoto City, this brief jaunt takes you up to a viewpoint where you can enjoy eye-popping views over the whole city.
Time: about two hours
Distance: about 3km round trip
Start point: Chion-in Temple in Southern Higashiyama
Finish point: Chion-in Temple in Southern Higashiyama (others possible)
Full details: Shogunzuka and Seiryuden hiking route.
Caption Fushimi-Inari Shrine © Damien Douxchamps
Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Pilgrimage Circuit
The hike to the summit of 233m Mt. Inari-san and the pilgrimage circle around the shrines near the top is one of the most interesting short walks around Kyoto. It’s also the best way to see all of Fushima-Inari Taisha Shrine.
Time: about 3 hours
Distance: about 5km
Start point: Fushimi-Inari Station on the Keihan Line or Inari Station on the JR Nara Line
Finish point: Fushimi-Inari Station on the Keihan Line or Inari Station on the JR Nara Line
Full details: Fushimi-Inari Hike
Hikes near Kyoto
Steps on the Kurama to Kibune Hike – image © Chris Rowthorn
Kurama to Kibune Hike
The best half-day hike near Kyoto, the Kurama to Kibune hike has it all: mountain temples, shrines, plenty of greenery and a quaint village.
Time: 2 to 3 hours
Start point: Kurama Station on the Eizan Train Line
Finish point: Kibune-guchi Station on the Eizan Train Line
Full details: Kurama to Kibune Hike
Stairs to Kondo Hall – image © Chris Rowthorn
Takao to Hozukyo Hike
One of my favorite hikes for when I want something longer than the Kurama hike. This hike starts with two superb temples in Takao and then follows a beautiful river that’s great for swimming in the hot months.
Time: about 6 hours
Distance: about 11km
Start point: Takao village in the mountains northwest of Kyoto
Finish point: JR Hozukyo Station in the mountains west of Kyoto
Full details: Takao to Hozukyo Hike via Kuya-no-taki Waterfall
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings on CheapOAir.com
- If you're visiting more than one city, get your Japan Rail Pass
- Get travel insurance for your Japan trip - book online with World Nomads