Joe and I rode 1,100 km (~690 miles) over a period of 4 days in early June. We planned these particular hikes so that they would be a little more manageable to do with the limited gear space our bikes have. Some were “parking lot hikes” or hikes that have a mega parking lot near the peak or a ski lift to take you partially up. The exceptions were Bandai, which has a ski-lift but wasn’t operating when we were there, Chasau, which has a gondola, but closed just before we arrived, and Nantai. If we had waited another week, we would’ve been right at the start of the rainy season (tsuyu), but we had good weather the whole time.
Zao was a “parking lot hike.” There’s a ~2 km toll road that costs around 200 yen for motorcycles up to the parking lot, but the parking lot doesn’t cost anything, at least not for motorcycles. There was still snow in low-lying areas, but none on the trail. We got there late in the day and there were people, but most of the crowd stuck to the trail between the parking lot and the shrine at Mt. Katta. We took the trail over to Kumanodakezaouzan, which was deserted. We left before sunset (yuuhi) because the road back was kind of tricky. I would have been real nice though.
We stayed at the APA Hotel in Fukushima. This was a nice hotel and was only about $50 for the night and included really good breakfast. There’s a Seven-eleven down the street which is where I introduced Joe to the 9% highball. If you don’t have tattoos, you can use their onsen.
The next morning we had a nice 1-hr ride to Azuma-Kofuji. This peak is actually one of the more accessible peaks in the Azuma range. It’s not the highest point in the range, but we had great views anyway. You can even see steam coming from vents on neighboring mountains.
About an hour from Azuma-Kofuji, we got to the Adatara Kogen Ski Area. None of the hot springs in this area allowed people with tattoos, so we just took the ski-lift up about half way. If I remember correctly, it was about 1,500 yen round trip.
We got back to our bikes at about 3pm. We had already made reservations for the Hotel Route-Inn in Aizuwakamatsu and heard that their was a castle in that town. We decided to take a break from hiking an we rode about an hour and toured the castle before it closed.
The next morning we rode about an hour to the base of Bandai. I expected that the ski-lifts would be in operation and was thinking we would take it half way up, but either it doesn’t run on weekdays due to low use or it doesn’t run at all in the green season. The first hour of the hike was steep, and the trail paralleled the ski-lift the whole time. When we finally got higher than the ski-lift, the views opened up and you could see good views of Lake Inawashiro, Aizuwakamatsu, the farm land, and the nearby snow-capped mountain ranges. Surprisingly, there was hardly anyone on the trail we took to the summit, but there were plenty of people at the summit, which lead me to believe that there was probably another, perhaps shorter/easier trail somewhere else.
On the same day, we rode about 2 hours to the base of Chasau. By the time we got there (~5pm) the gondola was closed. We decided to head up anyway and the route was still very easy. The nice thing about hiking when we did was that hardly anyone else was there. We passed 3 or 4 people as they were on their way back down. When we got to the hut, nobody else was there. The views were incredible. You could see, hear, and smell the steam vents from all around this area, which was real cool. We hiked around the crater and enjoyed the views as the sun was setting.
We decided to hike Nantai the next morning so we wanted to try to get closer to it. We rode about a 1.5 hours to an APA Hotel in Utsonomiya. It was late by the time we got to the hotel, just enough time for a couple drinks at the pub across the street before bed.
Nantai was another hour ride from the hotel. The trail was relentless. Very steep the whole way. The terrain changes over from tree roots and dirt to boulders, then you follow a dry river bed the rest of the way to the top. I really didn’t expect this hike to be a steep as it was. It wasn’t particularly long, but the elevation gain was difficult. It was cloudy on the last day, so their really wasn’t much of a view when we got to the top.