Mt. Bandai (磐梯山)
This is an active volcano located in Inawashiro Town, Yama Country, Fukushima Prefecture, and is designated as one of the 100 most famous mountains in Japan. It has an altitude of about 1,816 meters. The view from the top of the mountain is wonderful, and you can see the scenery of the mountain foothills, to the huge peaks of the Nasu Mountain Range to Mt. Aizu Komagatake. In the foothills to the south of Lake Inawashiroko, is what is called Omote (the front side) Bandai and to the north is called Ura (behind) Bandai, each with various trekking courses. The Goshikinuma Nature Trek that goes around the mysteriously colored lakes of Ura Bandai, and the Happodai Mountain Climbing Path where the path is not steep and the climb is easy, are popular.
- Happodai Trailhead: This is the shortest trail to Mt. Bandai. It's relatively easy to climb, and has many climbers. The trail climbs 620 meters. The Happodai Trailhead is on the Mt. Bandai Gold Line, and from there it heads toward the Mt. Bandai summit via Nakanoyu ruins, Okabe hut, Kobo hut, and Koboshimizu. The Okabe hut only has a shop, there is no overnight lodging there. Along the path are chains and ropes to prevent falling into the valley, but there are few really dangerous spots.
- Inawashiro Trailhead: This trail starts from Inawashiro ski resort and crosses Numanotaira, in view of the Mt. Bandai summit, to climb 1,100 meters to the peak. The ski resort slope is steep, but the view out over Lake Inawashiro is stunning. Alpine plants thrive around Numanotaira, offering a striking contrast against the backdrop of the rough crater wall. The trailhead has a large parking area and onsen facilities as well, so since there's no bus service to the trailhead, please come by car or taxi.
- Kawakami Trailhead: This course heads toward the summit from Kawakami Onsen, along National Route 459, and climbs about 1,100 meters. The first half passes through forest for a wonderful woodland atmosphere, and when the view opens up you arrive at the crater mouth, with a view of the crater rim on the left. After the trail converges with the route from Urabandai Ski Resort, there are lots of gravel and scree areas, so the landscape can shift with rain, etc. Caution is advised. There are stairs to climb the crater wall, which offers a view to the north of Lake Hibara and the Azuma Mountain Range. The view from the crater floor of the rough crater rim and looming Mt. Kushigatake is spectacular. Since there are a few onsen inns around the trailhead, it's a great place to use as a base for your trip.
- Shibutani Trailhead: This trail is hard to follow, and anyone but real experts are likely to get lost, making this a real expert course. The climb is 1,000 meters. Climbing this course requires extensive preparations and careful planning. The trail turns to mud soon after the climb starts. The area about 1.5 kilometers before Numanotaira is very easy to get lost in, so caution is advised. From here, there are long stretches of gentle slope, so if you don't miss the red tape or paint blazes, you shouldn't get lost. There are also bunches of various alpine plants growing, and it follows lots of woodland paths so this is a perfect route for forest immersion.
- Urabandai Trailhead: This course starts with a walk from the Urabandai Ski Resort entrance, and climbs about 900 meters. This trail offers a wilder taste of Mt. Bandai, as opposed to the front courses. The real pleasure here is the view from below of the harsh volcanic crater. You can drive to the ski resort in winter, but in summer cars are not allowed due to the danger of landslides. The summit course crossing Akanuma and Nakanoyu ruins converges with the summit course climbing the Mt. Bandai volcanic wall at Urabandai Ski Resort. The latter includes a very difficult climb along the way, and it's not recommended in bad weather or after rain, but it does offer a full view of Urabandai. There are no toilets, including at the start, so we recommend going before you leave.
- Okinajima Trailhead: This course is recommended only for those with lots of stamina, as you must climb a steep scree slope all out. The trail climbs about 1,050 meters. The trailhead is in Inawashiro Resort ski grounds, and if the ski gondola is running you can take it to get 1,200 meters up the mountain without walking a step. If it's not running, then you can walk the course across the ski slopes, with the first half going through the woods. The trail from the gondola landing is quite steep and rocky, but it's the quickest way to reach the summit out of all the trails. The latter half offers an amazing, unobstructed view. It offers a lovely panorama taking in the Aizu Basin and far-off Iitoyo Mountains.
Information Sources: NAVITIME JAPAN