Lisa Owen

Did you know that you can hike Japan’s highest mountain without a guide?

Mt Fuji’s official hiking season runs from 1 July to typically the end of August. If you plan to head up Mt Fuji solo, this is the time to do it when there’s no snow on the peak.

Here’s what it was like to hike up Mt Fuji solo – as well as some useful tips on how to do it.

hiking mt fuji sunrise

The Lowdown

Hopping off the bus from Tokyo at Mt Fuji’s 5th Station, the mountain loomed above me periodically covered in a thick swirling cloud.

After getting my Mt Fuji map, I started to make my way over to the Yoshida Trailhead to start the ascent.

Once you leave 5th Station, you walk along a flat trail for about a kilometre and then you see a sign to your right saying Mt Fuji Summit. The trail is clearly marked the whole way and it’s easy to follow due to the crowds of people ascending it every day during the brief hiking season.

mt fuji hiking sign

Not long after I started heading uphill, I reached 6th Station. Here you can rent helmets in case of rockfalls (not compulsory).

From 6th Station, you start going up switchbacks. It’s a steady trudge as you wind up the mountainside and unfortunately because Mt Fuji is a volcano it’s pretty desolate at this point and there's not much to look at.

After 7th Station, Mt Fuji starts getting steeper and the gravelly volcanic rocks are very slippery so progress is slow. Then you start basically walking up rocky outcrops. During peak season, you may experience lots of congestion around this point and it’s slow going.

The rocky terrain continues in patches from 7th Station as you steadily go up. From here on up, there’s also lots of mountain huts.

You can sleep in these mountain huts, as well as buy food and drinks. All the mountain huts have toilets too and work on an honesty system. The asking price is 200 Yen.

When I reached 8th Station close to sunset, most people were calling it a day and were going to get a few hours of sleep in one of the mountain huts. I opted to continue on up and wait for sunrise on the summit.

mt fuji hut

By the time I reached 9th Station (which I think once was a mountain hut but is now in disrepair), darkness had fallen and I was hiking up in the dark by the light of a headlamp. Progress was slow and steady in the dark as I negotiated more rocky sections that rose up steeply.

I reached the summit at about 10pm and then clustered my sleeping bag with others who had opted to also spend the night on the summit.

Around 2.30am, the people that had stayed in the huts started to arrive at the summit and I went off in search of my own vantage point.

It got colder as the sunrise approached. Then finally at 4.45am, the sun peeked over the horizon, lighting up the mountainside and the crater and it started to get a little warmer.

After the sunrise, I started to descend the mountain. The way down is adjacent to the way you ascend – and basically it’s boring switchback after boring switchback down steep, slippery gravel like terrain with not a lot to look at. And it wasn't so fun for the knees.

hiking mt fuji sunrise

While it took eight hours to get up the mountain at a slow and steady pace with breaks - it took just 3.5 hours to get down. Luckily, a bus to Lake Kawaguchiko came by 20 minutes after I got off the mountain so I was on my way to a shower and a hot coffee in no time.

Know Before You Go

Now for the important information. Read on to find out when to go, how to get to Mt Fuji and a recommended equipment list.

The Facts

  • Mt Fuji Elevation: 3,776 metres above sea level
  • Starting Point: Yoshida Trailhead near 5th Station (This is the most popular route up the mountain)
  • Starting Point Elevation: 2,305 metres above sea level
  • Elevation Gain: 1471 metres
  • Duration: This is dependent on how fast you want to reach the top. The average time up is about six hours, and the descent is four hours. It took me eight hours to reach the top as I took my time to ensure I kept moving in the cold for as long as possible. My descent took 3.5 hours.

mt fuji sunset point

When To Go

Mt Fuji’s hiking season runs from 1 July to typically the end of August depending on weather conditions. It is possible to hike other times of the year but be prepared for snow and very cold conditions.

The mountain huts are only open during the official hiking season. 

Plan to head there on a weekday as weekends are incredibly busy as locals come to climb the mountain.

mt fuji 5th station

How to Get There

It’s easy to get to Mt Fuji from Tokyo and you can either go by bus or train.

The most direct way is by bus from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal to Mt Fuji’s 5th Station. You can buy tickets at the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal at the ticket machines or at the ticket office. I recommend buying your ticket a day or two in advance. The trip takes about three hours.

You can also opt to take a Japan Rail (JR) train to Kawaguchiko Station from Shinjuku Train Station and then take a local bus up to the 5th Station.

I recommend taking a mid morning or early afternoon bus or train if you plan to stay for sunrise.

Equipment List

Mt Fuji should only be attempted by experienced hikes used to steep inclines, high altitude, rough terrain and cold temperatures.

What you’ll need on your hike depends on if you choose to stay at the mountain huts or not.

At a minimum, you will need:

  • Warm jacket, wind proof jacket and mid layer fleece for sunrise.
  • Head lamp.
  • 3-4 litres of water. (Be warned you cannot refill bottles on Mt Fuji as it is all recycled water in the bathrooms. You can buy water but it can be expensive for a small bottle.
  • Beanie and gloves.
  • Snacks such as chocolate bars, dried fruit and nuts, bread, juice and candy. (Food can also be bought on the mountain but it's expensive).

If you don't plan on staying at one of the mountain huts, bring a sleeping bag and plenty of food.

People who stay in the huts are provided with blankets and meals.

If you’re prone to altitude sickness, consider taking some altitude sickness tablets before you head up.

Mountain Huts

The big question is will you stay at the mountain huts or not? Mountain huts are located at regular intervals along the Yoshida Trail from 7th Station upwards until 8.5th Station.

Your bed is simply a mattress with blankets bunched up next to a row of other beds (similar to a dormitory set up).

Prices for a bed start from around 7,000 yen. It’s gets more expensive the higher you go.

I opted not to stay in a mountain hut and I’m glad I didn’t. Every hiker I talked to who opted to stay in the huts said it was a waste of money as it was impossible to sleep with hikers coming in at all hours - so essentially you stay for warmth, a meal and a rest. People who stay in the huts generally start the ascent up to the summit around 1am.

mt fuji horizon

What time should you start the hike?

The time you should start the hike depends on if you want to do it as a day hike, if you’re staying in a mountain hut and if you want to see the sunrise.

If you intend to stay overnight on Mt Fuji to wait for the sunrise (this is what most people do) then you’ll want to start in the afternoon.

If you're staying in a mountain hut, plan to start around midday so you can make the most of your rest time when you get to your hut.

If you're planning to sleep on the summit, I would start around 3-4pm. I started at 2pm but wish I had started a little later as I was much warmer while hiking and it was not too bad hiking at night by the light of a headlamp. And there was no one on the trail once the sun set.

If you’re doing the hike as a day hike (not recommended), start as early as possible as it’s at least a 10 hour hike. 

What’s the terrain like?

Mt Fuji is an active stratovolcano (don't worry it last erupted in 1707), but this means the trail is steep with very loose, slippery rocks. Most of the way you traverse along switchbacks steadily heading up. Around 7th station is when you start clambering up more rocky terrain – but there are lots of places for your feet.

Going down was tougher than I expected – especially with the lack of sleep - but it was much quicker than the ascent. The route down is adjacent to the ascent route and is a series of monotonous switchbacks down a steep path filled with slippery gravel like volcanic rock. Take it slow to make sure you don’t slip on the rocks.

It’s very easy to follow the trail. Because the official hiking season runs for only about two months – it’s very busy during July and August so there will always be people on the trail.

There’s also lots of signage and barriers marking the trail so it’s easy to find the way up.

What’s sunrise like?

Sunrise was magical! Even though I was freezing at the top – it was beautiful seeing the sunrise and light up the volcano and its crater.

You can also do the 90 minute walk around the crater and see the shrines built on top of Mt Fuji.

The summit area is huge so while there is a lot of people it’s easy to find your own perch without looking at the back of someone’s head!

It can be very cold at the summit in the hours before sunrise so bring warm clothing or quickly make some friends to huddle with.

Armed with this handy guide, you can decide whether hiking up Mt Fuji solo is best for you and how it can be achieved on a budget.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 80 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.

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