Mount Mitake 御岳山 (929m)

Just 1.5 hours away from Tokyo, Mount Mitake is an easily accessible place for a day trip to escape the city, especially during autumn.

This mountain requires a full day, so make sure to set off early. You can take the cable car for a 6-minute ride, or a 70-minute forest hike up. The hike was just a windy road up amongst tall pine trees – not the most scenic, but a peaceful opportunity to appreciate nature.

Once you reach the main path around Mount Mitake, it is more bustling with other visitors. You will pass various restaurants and souvenir shops until you reach Musashi Mitake shrine. This shrine is set upon the mountain, offering splendid views over Tokyo and Saitama, and appealing opportunities to view cherry blossoms or autumn leaves (depending on the season).

Walking further down the path through tree foliage, you come to a cross-section. If you take the left path for five-minute walk, you reach a stunning viewpoint overlooking Tokyo from another angle – you can even see the Tokyo Skytree!

Back at the cross-section, you have the option to extend your hike for another two hours. We took a narrow path down towards another attraction: the rock garden. This is a lush landscape full of foliage, rocks, and water. From here, you can carry on upstream to Ayahiro falls, or turn back and walk down precipitous ladders to Nanayo falls. We chose the latter option. Nanayo falls was a small yet charming waterfall. The hike back up continuous steps to the shrine was an uphill trek to say the least, so prepare your legs for a workout! After we returned to the restaurant strip, we ate soba noodles at Komadoribaiten (駒鳥売店) with views overlooking the trees and city – a well-deserved and delicious meal for our tired souls!

If you have any extra time (or energy) before your train once you return to Mitake station, you can admire the view over Mitake gorge and take a walk alongside the river. This could round off a wonderful day before your journey home.

Highlights: Lots of nature to see, wonderful views, great for momiji.
Time: 3-6 hours, depending on how much you hike.
Access: Take the Chuo line from Shinjuku to Ome station, from there take the Ome line to Mitake station, then the number 10 bus to Takimoto cable car station (10 mins, every 40 minutes, 290 yen). Cable car: Adults – 590 yen one-way, 1110 yen return; children – 300 yen one-way, 560 yen return

Mount Takao 高尾山 (599m)

Mount Takao is easily the most popular tourist hiking spot, but for good reasons. It boasts temples, views, multiple hiking courses, and is the most accessible from Tokyo. Go during the week to avoid the crowds.

There is a lot to do on this mountain, so you can really spend as long as you want here. There are 6 different trails to explore. At the bottom of the mountain, you can take the cable car to one of the shorter trails, or hike up one of the longer trails, no. 1, the no. 6 or the Inariyama trail. We ascended on trail 6, which took 60 minutes. This is the least busy trail, taking you along streams and tree-covered paths.

At the summit, there are brilliant views overlooking Tokyo and Mount Fuji on clear days. If you are hungry, you can buy ice cream or soba noodles from vendors at the top. We descended on trail 1, passing various attractions: Takaosan Yakuoin Yukiji temple, multiple mitarashi dango and taiyaki stands, a suspension bridge, and multiple observation decks. You can also visit the monkey park if you desire. Trail 1 passes the top cable car stations, meaning it is a lot more crowded than trail 6 or the inariyama trail. This took us 90 minutes. At the base near the railway station, you can visit the Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu for a relaxing soak, or the Takao 599 museum to learn about the ecology around Mount Takao.

Highlights: Good for kids, short hike, easily accessible, many attractions
Time: 3-4 hours, depending on what you want to see and whether you take the ropeway.
Access: Take the train from Shinjuku station. You have two options:
• Keio line: Shinjuku to Takaosanguchi station – 50 mins, 390 yen.
• JR Chuo line: Shinjuku to Takao station, Takao to Takaosanguchi station – 40 mins, 570 yen.
Cable car: Departures every 15 minutes. Adult 490 yen (one-way), 950 yen (return), Infant 250 yen (one-way), 470 yen (return).

Mount Ōyama 大山 (1252m)

This mountain might have to be my favorite. Located in Kanagawa prefecture, Mount Oyama offers wonderful shrines, sea views, and forest paths.

Although you can take the cable ropeway up to Oyama Afuri shrine, we chose to hike up. You have two paths to choose between – Otokozaka (men’s trail) and Onnazaka (women’s trail). Each trail will pass Oyama Afuri shrine, but typically the Otokozaka trail is steeper, while the Onnazaka is more scenic. We ascended on the Onnazaka path, so were lucky to admire small shrines along the path and Oyama-dera temple along the way. It is quite steep and has a lot of steps, so be prepared.

Once you reach the top of the cable car station, you reach an area with souvenir shops and restaurants, coming to Oyama Afuri shrine. Here, you will be able to see wonderful views and admire the intricate designs of the shrine. Around the left side of the shrine, you can go inside the caves and drink fresh mountain water!

At this point, you can continue up to the summit. The hike up to the peak takes about two hours. It goes through the forest and has a slightly different terrain to the previous path; instead of endless stone steps, you tread among tree roots and scattered rocks. Unfortunately, the day we visited was foggy and misty. Thus, we had very little view atop, but on clear days you can see views of Fuji and the ocean. However, we had some magical moments walking through the eery forest!

On the descent from the peak, we took the Miharashidai path, which adjoined to the Otokozaka trail down to Oyama-cable station. The path crosses narrow wooden bridges and steps, weaving among the trees. We were also very lucky to see wild deer, who didn’t seem too phased by our presence! Once you return to the bottom, you can replenish with souvenirs, food and drinks from the vendors as you walk down to the bus stop.

Highlights: Less crowded, views of Fuji, varied trails, two wonderful temples
Time: 4-5 hours
Access: Take the Odakyu rapid express line from Shinjuku station to Isehara station (60 minutes, 840 yen), then take the bus 11 from Isehara station to Oyama cable bus stop (30 minutes, 320 yen). Walk 15 minutes to reach the Oyama cable station. You can hike from there or take the cable car (640 yen adults, 320 yen children).