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Difficulty: 3/5

Trails: 4 

Time: 5-8 hours

Elev. gain: 850m - 1400m

Prefecture: Tochigi



Mt. Nikko-Shirane

Elevation: 2578m



Elevation Gain

850m - 1400m




5-8 hours




Hotels & Campgrounds


Mt. Nikko-Shirane is the highest mountain in Nikko National Park, and also the highest mountain in both Gunma and Tochigi prefectures. The peak of Nikko-Shirane is a lava dome featuring large cliffs, a small crater lake, and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains including Mt. Nantai and Lake Chuzenji.


There are 4 hiking trails up Nikko-Shirane and all of them involve a diverse mix of beautiful forests and interesting terrain, with a healthy combination of mellow sections and steep climbing including ropes, chains, and ladders. 

1. The Yumoto Onsen Trail

This hike has the easiest bus access, but it's the longest and most difficult trail. 

2. The Nikko-Shirane Ropeway Trail

The shortest trail, although bus access is not ideal, best suited for those who are driving.

3. The Kinsei Tunnel Trail

If you have a car, this hike provides the fastest access to views of the sunrise. The parking lot fills quickly on weekends though.

4. The Sugamuna Campground Trail

The perfect option for spending a night or if you simply want to avoid the ropeway. 

Along with Mt. Shirane, Nikko National Park holds an incredible collection of mountains, lakes, temples, and shrines. You could easily spend 3 to 4 days hanging out here and exploring the area. Some of the most notable attractions include the amazing Kegon Waterfall, the lavishly decorated Toshogu Shrine, and the Mt. Hangetsu Observation Deck.



Your best option is driving, with parking lots available at all 4 of the trailheads. However, take note that on weekends and holidays, especially during autumn, the roads will be very busy and driving will be very slow. The roads around Nikko are stunning, so it might be worth taking a day off to avoid the weekend crowds if you prefer to drive.


Train & Bus

Due to the various connections required from Tokyo, if you're relying on the bus then the easiest option is to stay the night in Nikko or at the Sugamuna Campground.

The town of Nikko is a good base for entering the national park, there is an efficient bus system that runs into the park from the town, and a direct train from Tokyo that takes two hours. The bus from Nikko town to Lake Chuzenji takes about 45 mins to 1 hour depending on traffic. All the bus times are available on Google Maps, here's an overview:

Yumoto Onsen Trail

Lake Chuzenji Bus → Yumoto Onsen Trail = 40 mins

Sugamuma Trail

Yumoto Onsen → Bus → Sugamuma Campground = 15 mins

Nikko-Shirane Ropeway Trail

Yumoto Onsen → Bus → Ropeway = 40 mins

Bus Pass: For public transport, I recommend getting the Nikko all-area pass (4,780 yen), available from the TOBU Info Center in Asakusa, it includes a 20% discount on limited express train tickets and unlimited bus rides inside the park. If taking the cheaper the local trains or driving, you can just buy a bus pass from the Tourist Info Centre at Nikko station (2,650 yen) which gives you unlimited rides into the national park.

Tokyo: Nikko station is 2 hours from Asakusa in Tokyo and the train costs about ¥3000. Or you can catch the local trains with 1 or 2 connections and save about ¥1000 for an extra half hour of travel time. You can also catch local trains from Shinjuku for about ¥2000.

Crowds: During autumn (Sep/Oct) and on long weekends, crowds in Nikko can be pretty intense. The traffic can also become very congested, sometimes doubling the travel time by both car and bus.


Useful links

Weather  and  Seasons

The hiking season is from May to October, snow will hang around until June and begins falling again in October. The summer weather is beautiful and about 8 degrees cooler than in Tokyo, although rain is quite common. The autumn leaves reach their peak around the end of September, which is also the busiest time of year.


Hotels in Nikko can get booked out pretty fast, so it's best to book early, the best prices are usually found on

If you prefer camping, the Sugamuma campsite is right on the lake, located here. There are also a couple of refuge huts, they're pretty basic with no water, you can check them out here.

Trail Description

 The Yumoto Onsen Trail 

GPS Hiking Map:

Time: 8 hrs

Distance: 12.5 km

Elevation change: ➚ ➘ 1400m  

The longest and most difficult hike with the easiest bus access. In summer it also features the most overgrown bamboo grass trail I've ever seen, it towers above your head and will make you question your map, it's quite the experience.

 The Ropeway Trail 

GPS Hiking Map:

Time: 5 hrs (6.5 hrs with lake loop)

Distance: 10 km

Elevation change: ➚ ➘ 850m 

The Nikko-Shirane Ropeway trail is the most popular hike as it's the shortest trail and allows a lot of flexibility with the start time. It includes a beautiful forest that transitions into very steep rock climbing to finish off the summit. It can be completed within 4-5 hours, however, I've included a loop of the lake for additional views and an easier descent. Add 1-2 hours for the lake loop, it's well worth it.

 The Kinsei Tunnel Trail 

GPS Hiking Map:

Time: 6-7 hrs

Distance: 10 km

Elevation change: ➚ ➘ 1200m

If you have a car, this hike provides the fastest access to views of the sunrise. The parking lot fills quickly on weekends as it's quite small, with space for about 12 cars. It begins with a very steep ascent through the forest and reaches the ridgeline within about 30 minutes.  

 The Sugamuna Campground Trail 

GPS Hiking Map:

Time: 6-7 hrs

Distance: 11 km

Elevation change: ➚ ➘ 1050m

The perfect alternative to the ropeway with a large parking lot, but without feeling over-developed. It's a great option if you prefer having some flexibility with your timing, or if you're looking for a nice place to spend the night before the hike.

Elevation Profile

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 The Yumoto Onsen Trail 
 The Ropeway Trail 
nikko-shirane elevation.png



Altitude (weather)




Bears (rare)


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Elev. gain: 850m - 1400m

Time: 5-8 hrs

Trails: 4

Prefecture: Tochigi

Difficulty: 3/5

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