Mt Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan, an active volcano and an important pilgrimage for those of Buddhist faith. It’s arguably one the most famous mountains in the world and certainly the most famous in Japan. Sunrise summit hikes are a popular activity and one I couldn’t miss when I planned my trip to Japan. In fact I timed my visit specifically so I could climb Mt Fuji.
There’s a lot you need to know if you’re planning on hiking Mt Fuji. The most important being it’s an absolutely incredible experience and you should definitely do it! The rest of the details you can find right here, in my ultimate guide to climbing Mt Fuji.
First things first, there is only a limited season for climbing Mt Fuji. Coinciding with Japan’s summer season the climbing routes open in early July and close in early September. Outside of this timeframe the trails and huts are closed and attempting to climb the mountain is extremely dangerous.
There are four trails to choose from to climb Mt Fuji. You should choose your trail based on your experience and climbing/ hiking ability.
By far the most frequented trail, Yoshida has many mountain huts, facilities and first aid stations and a well worn, obvious trail. This alone makes it the trail of choice for most, myself included. Access to the Yoshida trail 5th station is possible by bus from Kawaguchiko and Fujisan stations and takes approximately one hour. Starting from 2300m the Yoshida trail ascends to 3776m over 6km. I climbed Fuji over two days with an overnight spent in Taishikan hut at 3100m.
Day 1: I departed Fujisan 5th station at 12pm and hiked for approximately 2.5hrs before reaching Taishikan Hut. The trail is wide with a moderate incline until the 6th station. After the 6th station the trail zig zags at an increased incline. From the 7th station the trail is steep and rocky until the 8th station and Taishikan hut.
Day 2: I woke at 12:30 am to start my ascent to the summit, I started hiking at approximately 1 am and reached the Yoshida trail summit at 4am. The trail is steep and narrow. With many hikers attempting the summit at this time of day, the route to the top can be very slow moving. From the top of Yoshida trail I walked around the crater to the true summit at 3776m and arrived in time for sunrise at 4:50am. The descent route is a steep, slippery trail, separate to the ascent route. The trail is clear and wide and took approximately 3.5hrs to reach Yoshida 5th station.
With over 150,000 climbers choosing this route per season, expect the trail to be busy and ensure you factor time into your hike for delays if you plan on reaching the summit for sunrise.
With approximately 20,000 hikers per season, Subashiri Trail is reached by bus from Gotemba or Shinmatsuda Station. The trail head sits at 2000m and the trail has only a few mountain huts, facilities and no first aid stations. Expect the ascent to take 6hrs and the descent 3hrs.
The longest, toughest and least frequented trail, Gotemba trail has only 15,000 hikers per season. Accessible by bus from Gotemba Station, the trailhead lies at 1450m. With a whopping 2,326m in altitude gain needed to make it to the summit expect the ascent to take 7hrs and the descent 3hrs. There are few mountain huts, temporary facilities and no first aid stations.
Starting at 2400m you can expect the Fujinomiya trail to take 5hrs to reach the summit. The trail is accessible by bus from Mishima, Fuji, Shin-Fuji and Fujinomiya Stations. Mountain huts can be found at every station and a first aid centre is available at the 8th station. Despite starting higher than the other trails the conditions are tough with the trail being steep and rocky throughout. With over 50,000 climbers choosing the route per season expect it to be crowded and allow extra time accordingly.
For a detailed description of the the mountain trails see here.
Should I climb Mt Fuji in 1 or 2 days?
It’s entirely possible to climb Mt Fuji in a day however if you want your experience to be a safe and comfortable one I would advise attempting the climb over two days. Regardless of the trail you choose you will be gaining at the very least 1300m in altitude. Mt Fuji might not be Everest but it’s still considered a high altitude climb. By tackling the climb in one go you will seriously increase your risk of altitude sickness.
By attempting the climb over two day you will allow your body plenty of time to acclimatise and adjust to the change of air pressure and oxygen levels. Not only that but chances are the hike will be a much more enjoyable experience than it would be if you try to smash it out in one go.
Don’t get me wrong I love a good challenge and I seriously considered trying to make the climb in a day. However after lots of reading and research I decided my best option was to spend a night in a mountain hut on my way to the top. AND I did not regret this decision for a second! By the time I made it to the mountain hut, I was cold, hungry, a little lightheaded (altitude) and my feet were seriously in need of a rest! After a warm dinner at about 4pm I was very happy to snuggle up in my sleeping bag and get some rest before I was up at midnight for my summit attempt.
Fuji mountain huts are basic accomodation offering dorm style rooms. Don’t expect anything fancy, the most important thing they offer is somewhere warm to rest your sore tired muscles and a hearty meal to re-energise you after a tough day climbing.
Pre booking a bed during climbing season (particularly on Yoshida trail) is essential. The process of booking was a lot harder than I expected! Almost all of the mountain hut websites are in Japanese, making it particularly hard for English speakers to make a booking. In the end I stumbled across the website Fuji Mountain Guides who offer the invaluable service of booking the mountain hut for you. For 1000 JPY, approximately 11 AUD they will contact the hut and confirm your reservation.
Generally I prefer to book things myself and avoid the middle man. In this case, without the ability to speak Japanese, I could not figure out how to book the huts myself so I was very grateful for this service. In addition to the booking fee you will be required to pay for the nights accomodation when you arrive at the hut for check in. All mountain huts accept CASH ONLY, in fact everything on the mountain is cash only so make sure you have plenty on you or you might find yourself sleeping outside!
What to pack
My best advice is to pack light. You have to carry whatever is in your pack up the mountain so the lighter the better! In saying that don’t skimp on the essentials. The weather on Mt fuji is famous for it’s unpredictability. Despite the summer heat you’ll battle with at the start of you hike, expect cold temperatures, high winds and possible rain at the summit for sunrise. Listed below are the essentials you’ll need to climb Mt Fuji.
- Plenty of drinking water! Water is available for purchase on the mountain but the higher you go, the higher the prices. So do your wallet and the environment a favour and carry as much water as you can in reusable drinking bottles. Don’t worry you’ll drink plenty on your way up so you won’t be lugging it all to the top.
- HEAD TORCH!!! It’s going to be pitch black if you’re heading to the summit for sunrise, you’ll be in a bit of trouble if you forget your head torch.
- Overnight Pack
- Down Jacket
- Rain jacket/ poncho
- Full length hiking pants or leggings
- 2 tops
- Hiking boots
- 2 pairs of socks
- Beanie and gloves
- Ear plugs to block out the snoring from your neighbour in the mountain hut.
- Cash for the mountain hut and any other purchases
- Celebratory Snickers bar for the summit