Yarigatake (槍ヶ岳) is perhaps one of the most recognizable peaks in Japan. Located in the center of the Kita Alps, it’s a must for anyone serious about peak bagging in the Land of the Rising Sun.
It can be accessed via numerous trailheads and is possible to conquer in a day (a very tough day). I recommend spending a night in the mountains and/or pairing Yarigatake up with a nearby peak (like Okuhotakadake).
- Name: Yarigatake (Mount Yari)
- Japanese name: 槍ヶ岳
- Location: Kita Alps (北アルプス)
- Summit elevation: 10,433 ft / 3,180 m
- Elevation change: 6,991 ft / 2,131 m
- Round-trip distance from trailhead: 17.6 mi / 28.4 km
- Round-trip time from trailhead*: 12 hours
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Water on trail: Yes
- Trailhead facilities: Parking, bathroom, lodge, drinks, food
- Nihon Hyaku-meizan: Yes
*NOTE: The round-trip time listed above is based on my own experience. Please remember that your time may vary greatly.
Getting to Yarigatake
NOTE: There are multiple trailheads for reaching Yarigatake (including from Kamikochi (上高地), where private cars are prohibited). The trailhead/route described here begins at Shinhotaka Onsen (新穂高温泉). A map of the Kita Alps peaks and huts can be found here.
- Accessible via public transportation: Yes
- Trailhead parking: Yes
- Trailhead coordinates: 36.286281, 137.575869
- Summit coordinates: 36.342027, 137.647704
BY CAR: Via car, the base of Yarigatake can be easily reached. There is a free parking lot for hikers at the Ryokan Shinhotaka Okuhida (map). From here you will need to walk up the road, past the entrance to the ropeway, and then past the parking lot at the top of the hill to officially begin the hike (signage and maps provided at the lodge).
BY TRAIN: Sorry, no train station near the trailhead.
BY BUS: Get yourself to Takayama Station (高山駅) in Gifu (it’s a train station). From there, take the bus bound for Shinhotaka Onsen (新穂高温泉) to the last stop. It takes about an hour and a half, and the first bus departs Takayama Station at 7:00.
If you’re farther north, you can also take a bus from Matsumoto Station (松本駅) in Nagano.
The hike begins following a forest road before entering the trees only to emerge on the road once more for an even longer stretch of road walking.
You’ll pass the turnoff for the route of Okuhotakadake and not long after you’ll reach a spring and a concrete dam (like structure) that you’ll cross before beginning what could actually be considered the start of the hike.
The trail climbs gradually as it follows a river north through the valley. After 5 mi / 8 km you will reach Yaridaira Goya (槍平小屋) where there is a campground and (seasonal) lodging available. There aren’t many great places to take a break on your way up so feel free to take advantage.
Yaridaira Goya is actually at the intersection of four trails, one leading away in each direction, and you can reach Yarigatake via any of the three. The easiest (and the one described here) is one you’re already on and is the most obvious of the three trails (it goes north).
The most difficult is the climb up to the east which will take you up to the ridgeline and across three additional summits on the way to Yarigatake. The trail to the west takes hikers up to another (lower) ridgeline and approaches the summit from the northern ridge above the valley.
Continuing north along the valley floor, the trail is incredibly steep. However, it’s uphill nearly the entire way, with the steepest sections still waiting further ahead.
Continuing up the valley as it slowly winds east, your destination comes into view. Yari means “spear” in Japanese and it’s easy to see how this peak got its name (you might also see this peak referred to as Mount Yari, but I stick with the Japanese names for consistency’s sake).
You will pass one more junction as you make your final approach up the valley, offering you the opportunity to climb (now north) and make your approach to the summit from the western ridge. This route is a bit more scenic than the climb up the valley, but both will get you to the summit in around the same time.
Before reaching the summit of Yarigatake, you will find Yarisanso (槍ヶ岳山荘) – the surprisingly large lodge occupying the prime real estate just below the summit. On the ridge just south of the lodge, there is an exposed campground where you can pay ¥1,000 to pitch your tent if the exorbitant lodge prices aren’t to your liking.
Although it may look like there’s no easy way to the summit, the final 100 m are not too terribly difficult to conquer (I did it in a typhoon). Your biggest obstacle may be other hikers as bottlenecks are a real threat to you making it up and down to the summit in a reasonable amount of time (I took about 50 minutes, including my brief stop on top).
The route to the top is well marked (with separate up and down routes in some tight spots) and there are, as always, a lot of chains and ladders. If you manage to make it up on a clear day, the unobstructed views from the summit are some of the best in the Kita Alps.
Once you return to the lodge, you can either head back the way you came, head south along the ridge past Obamidake, Nakadake, and Minamidake before turning west at the Minamidake Hut (南岳小屋) and descending to the Yaridaira Hut (槍平小屋) (the last one you passed on the way up from Shinhotaka), or continue south past the Minamidake Hut and through the Daikiretto (大キレット) over to Kitahotakadake and Okuhotakadake.
You could also head down to Kamikochi, or west across the ridgeline towards Momisawadake. It’s really a great location for exploring the rest of the Kita Alps.
My GPS recorded the following route up Yarigatake.
I have no guarantee that this route is correct, nor that it can be accurately relied upon for backcountry navigation. It should serve only as a general guideline for what the trail is expected to look like.
For me, simply seeing a picture of Yarigatake was enough to convince me to climb it.
Although it would be a serious ass-kicking day hike, it wouldn’t be impossible if you got an early start. Camping below the summit is entirely feasible (but not free), so there’s no reason you can’t turn this into a relaxed weekend trip (just look out for the crowds).
Have any questions about Yarigatake? Want another post about one of Japan’s mountains? Have a suggestion to improve this information?
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