How to Climb Mount Fuji: The Complete Guide

Mount Fuji with Cherry Blossoms

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Mount Fuji has been a place of fascination for centuries with its distinctive cone shape and snow-capped peak. As the tallest mountain in Japan (the summit reaches 12,388 feet), it has been portrayed endlessly in Japanese art, music, and literature perhaps, most famously by artist Katsushika Hokusai who created the 36 views of Mount Fuji.

The views from the top are transformative, and reaching the summit yields a feeling of complete euphoria. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013, there is no trip in Japan that comes close to the hike up Mount Fuji, making it a truly unique experience and an item on many a traveler's bucket lists. 

Mount Fuji is an active stratovolcano (last erupting in 1707) with three volcanoes on top of each other: the Komitake volcano, the Kofuji volcano, then Fuji at the top. This means that a trek to the summit is is makes for a dynamic climb with four trails available, depending on how much of a challenge you’re after, and the opportunity to slide down the volcanic rocks on your descent.

Due to the adverse weather conditions, Mount Fuji can only be climbed during the climbing season, and while it’s possible to climb off-season (by following certain protocol) it’s not advised. This means, ticking that this incredible bucket-list experience off your list will come with a certain amount of planning. While it is possible to climb Fuji on a day trip from Tokyo, many people choose to stay overnight by booking a mountain hut in advance or by starting the climb late and hiking until dawn to see the sunrise. With all that said, here’s everything you need to know about planning your Mount Fuji climb.

Trails to Climb Mount Fuji 

There are four trails, each with ten stages, that you can take to the summit of Mount Fuji though most hikers typically start from the fifth station. Each of these trails is color-coded for convenience:

  • Yoshida (Yellow Trail): This is the most popular trail to climb Mount Fuji and starts at the Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station leading to the summit from the north side of the mountain. It’s perfect for people wanting to stay overnight before finishing the hike at dawn as there are mountain cabins and other facilities scattered on the way up. Conversely, there is a separate trail to descend with far fewer accommodation options. This trail diverges from the Subashiri route at the eighth station so pay attention to the signs once you get there. The route typically takes six hours to ascend and four hours to descend and is considered a beginners trail.
  • Subashiri (Red Trail): The Subashiri trail shares the Yoshida trail until the eighth station where it diverges to become a climb more suited to experienced hikers. This is because the forest zone extends up into high altitudes and night hikers have to be particularly careful and bring a headlamp. Hikers are rewarded with more varied views on this trail. During descent, you will walk down a trail of volcanic gravels making for a more exciting and intense experience. The route typically takes six hours to ascend and three hours to descend.
  • Fujinomiya (Blue Trail): This is the second most popular route to the top of Mount Fuji as it’s the quickest providing a steep and rocky incline to the top taking just five hours. This trail approaches Fuji from the south side starting at Fujinomiya Trail 5th Station and ascends and descends via the same route so there’s less confusion. The descent takes three hours.
  • Gotemba (Green Trail): This is the most challenging climb up to Mount Fuji. The route is a gentle slope with a steady incline to the top; it’s suited to experienced hikers who can handle the large altitude difference otherwise it can quickly become exhausting. You will see far fewer people attempting this route so your hike will be quieter and you will always have a clear view of Fuji as you climb. This route also allows offers a fun descent sliding down volcanic gravel. Note that there are no huts or toilets on this route until the seventh station. The route typically takes seven hours to ascend and three hours to descend.

How to Reach the Trails

During the climbing season, which lasts the summer period, shuttle buses run regularly from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. to and from nearby train stations for 1,500 yen (around $13.75) each way. You can also catch the bus directly from Tokyo, Shizuoka, and Gotemba which will take you directly to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th station. You can also take the Fuji Excursion Limited Express train from Shinjuku Station directly to Kawaguchiko Station (about 2 hours one way). 

The trails are well sign-posted and maps are available at tourist information centers. 

The Best Time to Climb Mount Fuji

Contrary, to popular belief you can hike Mount Fuji outside of the peak season but there are things you will need to take into account. Typically you should aim to hike Mount Fuji over the summer to have the full experience. Here's what you need to know about climbing peak season, off-season, and night climbing.

  • Peak season: The climbing season falls between July to early September and there is no need for a guide or permits to climb. Public transport and all trails and facilities like lodges, shops, and toilets are open to the public.
  • Off-season: Outside of these months the trails and facilities are closed and climbing isn’t advised due to adverse weather conditions. It’s also much more difficult to reach the mountain with public transport.

While some people do still attempt the climb outside of these months, particularly from April until early June, it can be dangerous, particularly in winter, due to snow and shouldn’t be attempted by inexperienced climbers. Many hikers also opt to ski or sled back down Mount Fuji. Many hikers also opt to ski or sled back down Mount Fuji.

Night Climbing and Mountain Huts

It’s very common to climb Mount Fuji just before dawn or overnight so you won’t find yourself alone making this climb. Most people opt to start hiking late afternoon and stopover at a mountain hut, which can also help you get used to the altitude. An early start will have you at the peak for sunrise, just make sure to bring a head torch. The mountain houses are simple places to rest, don't have shower facilities, and can be crowded; they are simply to rest in. Toilets and simple meals or snacks are available.

Note: Camping on Fuji is prohibited so there's no need to bring a tent.

Permits & Fees

Permits are not required to hike Mount Fuji at any time of year, however, if you hike during the off-season the prefecture police department requests people to complete a climbing form in case of an emergency. 

There are no fees involved with hiking Mount Fuji but facilities including toilets, refreshments, lodges, and transport all cost money. Make sure to bring cash and coins with you.

What You Should Bring to Hike Mount Fuji 

While it’s important to pack lightly, here are some things that you should bring to make your hike easier"

  • Make sure to bring cash for refreshments and transport as well as change as toilets cost 200 - 300 yen 
  • The weather changes quickly on Fuji so always bring rain gear, gloves, and extra warm layers for when you get closer to the top 
  • While you can purchase food and drink at each station, this can get expensive and it’s good to have your own with you in case you’re thirsty in between stations

If you don’t want to use climbing poles, you can buy a wooden pilgrim staff which you can then have branded at the stations making for a wonderful souvenir of your climb. Make sure to bring cash as each stamp cost a few hundred yen. This is only available during climbing season.

Safety Tips

Climbing Mount Fuji within peak season is considered a safe activity with well-marked trails and facilities but there are always some safety tips to bear in mind:

  • It’s common to experience altitude sickness while climbing Mount Fuji. It’s advised that you take some time to adjust to the altitude once you reach the fifth station before continuing. If you do notice symptoms of altitude sickness such as headaches and nausea then don’t over-exert yourself and return to a lower elevation.
  • Yoshida is the easiest of the four trails but still requires some hiking experience and frequent breaks are recommended. The other trails are best suited to those who climb regularly.
  • Try to walk along the inner edges of the climbing tracks instead of the outer edge as it causes rocks to slip.
  • Make sure you wear good hiking boots with suitable ankle support.
  • If you’re hiking off-season then wearing crampons is advised and you may also need hiking poles or ice axes depending on conditions.
  • Bring a headtorch if you’re likely to be walking while it’s still dark.
  • As there are few trees on the climb, you need to protect yourself from UV rays with sunscreen and a hat.
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