Hiking Mt. Hakusan, One of Japan’s Top Three Sacred Mountain

With an altitude of 2702 metres, Mt. Hakusan (or Mt. Haku (白山)) is one of the top three mountains in Japan along with Mt. Fuji (富士山) and Mt. Tate (立山) of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. With picturesque and magnificent scenery along the hiking trails, Mt. Hakusan is a popular hiking destination for any age group.

Just like Mt. Tate, Mt. Hakusan is actually the collective name of the mountain range in the area including the three main peaks – Gozengamine (御前峰), Ōnanjimine Peak (大汝峰), and Kengamine Peak (剣ヶ峰). The ground of Hakusan National Park (白山国立公園) spread across Ishikawa, Fukui, Toyama, and Gifu prefectures, and each have a couple of hiking courses for people to challenge themselves.

From the tallest peak – Gozengamine, you will get a panoramic view of the surrounding famous mountains such as Mt. Tate (立山), Mt. Hotaka (穂高岳), and Mt. Norikura (乗鞍岳). On your way to the top of the mountain, depending on which route you take, you might be able to take a brief rest and recharge at Midagahara (弥陀ヶ原), and view a field of gorgeous alpine flowers that seem to stretch indefinitely.

There are several mountain trails in Mt. Hakuzen with varying degrees of difficulty. For this article, we will focus on the most popular and least difficult course starting from Bettō Deai (別当出合) in Ishikawa Prefecture through Sabō Shindō (砂防新道) to the summit – Hakusan Murodō (白山室堂). The map to the right shows the entire journey.

As a return hike will take at least 7 hours without stopping, we highly recommend that you spend a night at Hakusan Murodō. During the two-day trip, you will encounter precious flora and fauna that can only be seen in high mountains, the starry night sky that you can’t enjoy in the city anymore, and be enchanted by the sunrise scenery at the summit. On the way home, rejuvenate at one of the onsen pools at the foot of Mt. Hakusan so you don’t wake up with muscle pain the next morning (^_-)-☆.

You can also refer to the official English map HERE.

How to Get to Bettō Deai Trailhead

With Public Transport from Kanazawa

On weekends and public holidays, bus services depart in the early morning between JR Kanazawa Station (金沢駅) east exit’s bus stop no. 1 connecting you to Ichinose (市ノ瀬). From there, change for shuttle buses departing from the visitor centre that will bring you to the trailhead at Bettō Deai (別当出合). It takes around an hour and 45 minutes to get to Ichinose. For the exact operating dates and the timetable, please refer to Hokutetsu’s Japanese website HERE as their English website, unfortunately, doesn’t have the information about the services heading to Mt. Hakusan.

The services are scheduled for an overnight hiking trip. This is why the returning services depart around lunchtime from Ichinose allowing you some time to for sightseeing in Kanazawa.

The connecting shuttle buses between Ichinose and Bettō Deai are operating at a 20 minutes interval. Once you boarded the shuttle bus, it will take around 15 – 20 minutes to get to Bettō Deai. For the timeframe that the services are operating in between, please refer to the table HERE. “登山” refers to the services departing from Ichinose and “下山” refers to the services departing for Ichinose.

The Transportation Cost to Ichinose and Bettō Deai

    • A one-way trip from JR Kanazawa Station to Ichinose will cost 2,100 yen
    • From Ichinose to Bettō Deai, it will cost another 800 yen (400 yen for pre-school children)

Driving to Bettō Deai

Please note that while there is a car park at Bettō Deai, when the shuttle buses are operating, private cars are forbidden to drive past Ichinose. This means you will need to park your car at Ichinose Car Park that has a capacity of 750 cars, and change for the shuttle bus. The capacity might sound more than enough, but the car park may be full from early morning. So do try to get to Ichinose as early as possible if you are going to drive.

What to Do at Ichinose

Ichinose serves as one of the bases for Mt. Hakusan’s hikers. There is a visitor centre for you to submit your hiking notification which is essential for a safe hiking trip. If you read Japanese and don’t need assistance with filling in the form, you can also submit your notification electronically HERE. Remember to top up your water bottle and drop by the public toilet here before you board the shuttle bus too.

For those who are looking for accommodations, Hakusan Onsen Nagai Ryokan (白山温泉永井旅館) is just opposite the visitor centre. From June to October, you can also camp close by if you are bringing your own camping essentials (please reserve by calling +81-76-259-2022 Minamiryū Sansō Lodge (南竜山荘) beforehand though).

Note that Ichinose is also the base for hikers heading to mountains close by, so don’t just follow other hikers thinking you will reach the summit of Mt. Hakusan eventually. They might be on their way to Shakashindō Trailhead (釈迦新道登山口) for Mt. Hakusan-Shaka (白山釈迦岳) or Bessandō Trailhead (別山道登山口) for Mt. Bessan (別山).

And The Hike Begins!

Bettō Deai (別当出合) ⇒ Nakahanba (中飯場) ⇒ Jinnosuke Mountain Shelter (甚之助避難小屋), Approximate Time Required: 160 Minutes

At the Bettō Deai Trailhead, you will see this wooden torii gate. The Bettō Deai mountain trail is actually the pilgrimage path to Shirayama Hime Shrine Oku-gu (白山比咩神社奥宮) at the top of the mountain.

From the suspension bridge beyond the torii gate, it should take you less than 60 minutes to get to the first resting area – Nakahanba, where you will find toilet facilities and water supply.

©白山市観光連盟
Photo from photo-ac.com

From Nakahanba, it will be around another 140 minute hike to get to the Jinnosuke Mountain Shelter. Throughout the journey, there are clear directional signs big or small with English underneath the Japanese (as portrayed by the sign in the photo), so there is no need to worry about getting lost.

Jinnosuke Mountain Shelter (甚之助避難小屋) ⇒ Murodō (室堂) , Approximate Time Required: 100 Minutes

Jinnosuke Mountain Shelter is the second resting place along the trail. Many will take a long break here, not only because they need to recover their stamina, but also because the view from here is just incredible!

Tips: If the tables around the shelter have all been taken, hike up a bit and you should find another resting space with more tables (^_-)-☆.

Photo from photo-ac.com

From Jinnosuke Mountain Shelter up to Murodō, the scenery is breathtaking. It is a course where you can fully enjoy the flora and fauna that can only be seen in tall mountains. Passing the Jinnosuke Mountain Shelter, your view will suddenly widen, with a high chance of seeing a sea of clouds.

Note that as you hike up, there will be an intersection. If the weather is good, we recommend to hike up via Echo Line (エコーライン) by detouring to Minamiryū-dō (南竜道) and hike down through Sabō Shindō (砂防新道). To do this, around 20 minutes from Jinnosuke Mountain Shelter, choose the trail at the right at the intersection, then left when the road splits again. Going through the Echo Line means an extra 20 minute hike, but, you get to see a field of alpine plants at Midagahara (弥陀ヶ原)!

You can of course choose to hike down by taking the Echo Line. But you never know what sort of weather you will get on the way home. That is why you want to venture out to the area with the best view when the sky is clear!

Midagahara (弥陀ヶ原)

Just a short walk from Kuroboko-iwa Rock, you will finally enter Midagahara, a superb viewing area!

©白山市観光連盟
©石川県観光連盟

After you have enough of the spectacular view of Midagahara, it is time to hike up the slope to Murodō.

The last bit of trail to Murodō is probably the steepest and the most tiring. But, the magnificent scenery and food and/or snacks in the shop and restaurant at the Hakusan Murodō Visitor Centre should keep your motivation up!

Kuroboko-iwa Rock (黒ボコ岩)

©石川県観光連盟

The Kuroboko-iwa Rock is a rock created by an ancient volcanic eruption. Carried by the pyroclastic flow of the time, it is sitting at the tip of Midagahara (弥陀ヶ原).

The black rock is where the trail from Murodō splits into two trails – Sabō Shindō (砂防新道) and Kankō Shindō (観光新道). So when you see this black rock, it means you are just 30 minutes away from Murodō!

Hakusan Murodō (白山室堂)

The red-roofed visitor centre is the symbol of Hakusan Murodō. Here, there are various essential facilities for hikers, including accommodation. It is also a place where you can get various information about hiking at Mt. Hakusan.

At the shop and restaurant, there are snacks, instant food, and light meals that will help you recharge your energy. There is even beer and other alcohol sold here for those who want to be rewarded with a nice cold drink (^_-)-☆. You can also send yourself a letter or postcard to mark your effort from the simplified post office here (only opens from mid-July to late August).

©石川県観光連盟

If you have booked your accommodation for the night at Murodō, lighten yourself at your accommodation before you head to Gozengamine, the highest peak of Mt. Hakusan.

Important: The visitor centre doesn’t have a bag storage facility for guests.

Murodō (室堂) ⇒ Gozengamine (御前峰), Approximate Time Required: 40 Minutes

Once you reach Murodō, our recommendation is not to spend too long at the visitor centre if you are planning to head to Gozengamine that day. As the scenery may be cloudy later on, heading up to the summit by 10 am will be the best.

Shirayama Hime Shrine Oku-gu (白山比咩神社奥宮)

©白山市観光連盟

Trekking beyond Murodō Visitor Centre, you will first see the prayer hall of Shirayama Hime Shrine Oku-gu (白山奥宮祈祷殿). The real rear shrine – Oku-gu is at the highest peak – Gozengamine (御前峰).

This rear shrine was established by the monk – Taichō Shōnin (泰澄上人) in 717. Since then, numerous pilgrims hike up Mt. Hakusan for training.

Remember to pray here. The god that is enshrined here looks after Mt. Hakusan after all!

Photo from photo-ac.com

Gozengamine (御前峰)

The scenery from 2,702 metres above the ground is simply stunning and magnificent. On a clear day, you can see the Murodō Visitor Centre with Mt. Bessan in the background. The red colour of the visitor centre contrasts starkly with the surrounding green (*´ω`).

Photo from photo-ac.com
©石川県観光連盟

Assuming you started hiking to Gozengamine from Murodō, you should reach the summit right around lunchtime! So if you do have a packed lunch with you, enjoying it over the panorama view of the surrounding splendid scenery here will definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Continuing on Next Page!

Gozengamine (御前峰) ⇒ Oike Meguri (お池巡り) ⇒ Ōnanjimine Peak (大汝峰) ⇒ Murodō (室堂), Approximate Time Required: 90 Minutes

Once you have made it to the summut of Gozengamine, you can extend your trip by touring around the 7 ponds (Oike Meguri in Japanese) at the top of the mountain and also hiking to Ōnanjimine Peak. The Oike Meguri course is a loop that will bring you back to Murodō eventually. Note that you will be climbing up and down some rocky trails that aren’t too well-maintained. So consider your physical stamina before you proceed.

Photo from photo-ac.com

From Gozengamine, if you look north, you will notice a few crater lakes. At the far back is the Ōnanjimine Peak with Aburagaike Pond (油ヶ池) at the left and Konyagaike Pond (紺屋ヶ池) at the right.

From the peak, descending towards the ponds by following the directory signs to Senjagaike Pond (千蛇ヶ池).

Midorigaike in the photo at the right is the biggest pond amongst the seven ponds at the top of Mt. Hakusan. Depending on the season that you visit Mt. Hakusan, alpine plants might be blooming along the trail. In spring, you will find the sides of the ponds are still covered by snow from winter. In autumn, the greeneries will be dyed with the vibrant autumn colour that is another stunning scenery to look forward to!

If you are lucky, you might bump into an alpine accentor and stoat as well (≧▽≦).

Photo from photo-ac.com

Please be really careful when you climb down the steep rocky section. Some stones aren’t stable and can fall when you step on them. So ensure the rock that you are stepping down onto is firm before you put your whole body weight onto it. Once you reached the bottom, the trail becomes clearer and a lot easier to walk on.

Ōnanjimine Peak

Passing the Midorigaike Pond, there is a trail leading to Ōnanjimine Peak. If you aren’t in a hurry, definitely hike up for the spectacular view of the mountain ranges close by from a different angle. The below photo to the right is the scenery of Mt. Hakusan that you will get when you are at Ōnanjimine Peak!

Photo from photo-ac.com
©石川県観光連盟

Important: The area close to Midorigaike Pond (翠ヶ池) and Chinoike Pond (血ノ池) can become dangerous to get close to when the area is covered by fog-liked gas. You can easily get lost without being able to see the surrounding clearly. So please don’t risk your life for the sake of challenging yourself if the weather condition isn’t ideal.

Near Chinoike Pond, the promenade is split into two. The path on the left is a shortcut back to Murodō. Either path will go past the must-see Senjagaike Pond (千蛇ヶ池). So if you’ve had enough and are getting tired, choosing the shortcut won’t mean missing out on this iconic spot.

And why Senjagaike Pond is a must-see? It is for the snow/ice that never melts throughout the year. Even at the beginning of autumn, the snow from the last winter still covers part of the pond!

Guided Tours at The Top of Mt. Hakusan

  • Below guided tours are will take place from mid-July to mid-August for anyone to join. Note that it is only operated in Japanese.
    • Summit and around the ponds tour: shortly after sunrise
    • Around Murodō-daira (室堂平) at 3 and 4 pm. Each session is around 40 minutes

Staying Overnight at Hokusan Murodō

There are two accommodation facilities at Murodō, Hakusan Murodō – Lodge (白山室堂山荘) and Hakusan Raichō-sō Hut (白山雷鳥荘), both can only be booked with a phone call at +81-76-273-1001from 9 am to 5 pm Japan time.

  • Important:
    • Both accommodation facilities are not taking guests on the day. Please reserve at least 3 DAYS in advance
    • Especially with Hakusan Raichō-sō Hut (白山雷鳥荘), rooms can be fully booked quickly during the peak season (late July to mid-August), so we recommend you to reserve as early as possible. Reservation is opened at 9 am from the first of April each year
    • A deposit is required to be transferred to them after you have placed your booking
    • If you need to cancel your booking, please let them know in advance. Note that cancellation charges will apply
    • If you are cancelling due to bad weather conditions, please still let them know by midday of the day you booked

You can check out the capacity calendar HERE for Raichō-sō Hut and HERE for Hakusan Murodō – Lodge before you call. The days that are marked with “x” have been fully booked.

Hakusan Murodō – Lodge

  • Hakusan Murodō – Lodge is a dormitory type accommodation that has a capacity of as many as 750 people. Below are things to note during your stay before you book.
    • The lodge is taking guests from the 11th of June to the 16th of October for the 2021 season
    • Bedding will be provided but a sleeping bag liner is required due to COVID-19
    • Toilet facilities are located outside of the lodge
    • Dinner and breakfasts can be provided upon request
    • Lights will be turned off at 8:30 pm in summer and 8 pm in autumn (from September to the end of the season)
    • There are no shower facilities at the lodge
  • The accommodation cost is as below. The charges come with dinner and breakfast. Please check with them at the time of booking if they can replace meat dishes with vegetables for you. You should be able to get extra rice upon request.
    • 8,200 yen for adults
    • 5,300 yen for primary school students and below
    • 1,200 yen for breakfast that is provided between 5:30 to 8 am in July, 6 to 8 am from early August to early September, and 6:30 to 8 am from Late September
    • 1,900 yen for dinner that is provided between 5 to 6 pm. If many guests are staying at Murodō, you will be given a 20 minutes dinner slot from 4:40 pm when you check-in
    • 1,200 yen for a bento box that will be ready for you to collect after breakfast at reception
    • If you want to replace your breakfast with a bentox box (sushi), it will be ready for you to collect at the reception after dinner
  • For the bank account to transfer the deposit, please refer to their website HERE. They currently don’t take credit card payments, but please check with them when you call if you don’t hold a Japanese account.

Important: It is possible to change your meal request upon arrival. But no changes will be accepted after that.

Hakusan Raichō-sō Hut

  • Hakusan Raichō-sō is a mountain lodge with 6 private rooms that have a total capacity of 21 people. Below are things to note during your stay before you book.
    • The hut is taking guests from the 25th of June to the 9th of October for the 2021 season
    • Bedding will be provided but a sleeping bag liner is required due to COVID-19
    • Dinner and breakfasts can be provided upon request
    • Lights will be turned off at 8:30 pm in summer and 8 pm in autumn (from September to the end of the season)
    • Check-in is between 1 to 4 pm
    • Meals are provided at Hakusan Murodō – Lodge
  • The accommodation cost is as below. The charges come with dinner and breakfast. Please check with them at the time of booking if they can replace meat dishes with vegetables for you. You should be able to get extra rice upon request. Note it is possible to just book for a one-person stay.
    • 42,500 yen for the room with a capacity of 3 people
    • 56,000 yen for the room with a capacity of 4 people
  • For the bank account to transfer the deposit, please refer to their website HERE. They currently don’t take credit card payments, but please check with them when you call if you don’t hold a Japanese account.

Sunset and Star Gazing at Murodō

One of the benefits of staying overnight at Murodō is you get to enjoy the stunning sunset and nighttime sky full of stars.

©石川県観光連盟
©石川県観光連盟

Sunrise at Gozengamine

©石川県観光連盟

An hour before sunrise, you should be able to hear the sound of the Taiko drum (太鼓). Follow the sound and hike up to Gozengamine again for the beautiful sunrise!

Murodō (室堂) ⇒ Bettō Deai (別当出合), Approximate Time Required: 150 – 180 Minutes

After breakfast, when you are ready, let’s head back to Bettō Deai. At Kuroboko-iwa Rock (黒ボコ岩), you can decide whether you want to head back down through the Sabō Shindō (砂防新道) that you hiked up from the day before, or hike down a trail that is harder but offers better scenery – Kankō Shindō (観光新道).

The map to the right is for those who want to hike down via Kankō Shindō, which takes around 180 minutes, 30 minutes longer than Sabō Shindō (砂防新道).

Things to Keep in Mind at Mt. Hakusan

    • The weather in the mountains can change easily. Hiking during bad weather is extremely dangerous. If it is not suitable for hiking, consider canceling the trip
    • Start early and arrive early are the principles of mountain hiking. Make sure you arrive at your accommodation at least 2 hours before sunset. Hiking in the dark is never a smart move
    • A pair of comfortable and sturdy hiking shoes, rain gear, warm clothes, changing clothes, sunglasses, emergency medicine, snacks that some degrees of calorie, and sufficient water are essential
      • The guideline for the replacement of hiking shoes is once every five years
    • A pair of holdable hiking poles will be really useful especially when you climb down the mountain
    • Never try to bring anything that belongs to the nature home
    • Stay on the mountain trail so you don’t get lost
    • No littering and bring your garbage home. There are no garbage bins placed at Mt. Hakusan
    • Smoking is strictly prohibited
    • Bring a headlight if you are staying overnight at Murodō
    • If you are hiking on a weekday in autumn (September onwards), the restaurant at the top of the mountain may not be providing light meals during lunchtime
    • Meal tickets are sold between 11 am to 1 pm at Murodō

Alpine Flower and Autumn Foliage Seasons

  • Around Murodō
    • Mid-July to August for alpine flowers
    • Late September to early October for autumn foliage
  • Around Minamiryū Sansō Lodge (南竜山荘)
    • Mid-July to early September for alpine flowers
    • From early to mid-October for autumn foliage
  • Throughout the hiking trails
    • from early to the end of October for autumn foliage
©石川県観光連盟

What to Wear When Hiking Mt. Hakusan

  • Summer (July and August)
    • Short sleeves with long sleeve light jacket in your bag
  • Spring and Autumn (June, September and October)
    • Thick jacket is required as the temperature will only be around 5 to 15 degrees with the temperature dropping to as low as 0 degrees at night and early morning
    • In spring, crampon is required as parts of the trails will still be covered by snow/ice
    • It is also recommended that you wear two pairs of thick sucks

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