Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane (草津白根山)
A general term used for the belt of active volcanoes which include Mt. Shrine, Mt. Motoshirane, and Mt. Ainomine in Kusatsu Town, Agatsuma District, Gunma Prefecture. At the top of the mountain is Yugama Crater Lake, one of only a very few mildly acidic crater lakes in the world. Currently, the Volcanic Alert Level for the mountain has been raised and visitors are prohibited from coming within a one kilometer radius of the crater. The Mt. Shirane Ropeway gives riders the chance to enjoy a sweeping view of the Kusatsu Highland and Kusatsu's hot spring district from high above, and the station at the base of the mountain in front of the Sessho restaurant will take you to the “mountaintop” station at the foot of Mt. Motoshirane and Mt. Ainomine in about 13 minutes.
- Main Shirane Course: This trail starts from the Mt. Shirane Ropeway Summit Station and goes around the Mt. Shirane central crater, and Kagamiike Pond, with a climb of about 520 meters. If you use the lift, you can get to the summit basically climbing almost any slopes. There's a long tree-lined path, but the trail is well-maintained so it's easy to walk without any dangerous spots. After you pass through the forest of Erman's birch trees, the crater spreads out in front of you, with swathes of white dicentra flowers blossoming everywhere, making this the most striking scenery on the main course. If the weather is right, you can see Mt. Fuji, Mt. Asama, Kita-Karuizawa and the Town of Kusatsu from the main peak of Mt. Shirane.
- Fukihara no Ike Course: This trail branches off from the Main Shirane Course to cross Fukihara no Ike toward Sesshokawara. This is the perfect course for those wanting a quiet mountain walk. The stretch between Fukihara no Ike and Sesshokawara goes up and down quite a bit, so please watch your footing. There are some steep slopes to climb with ropes as well, so it's a good idea to wear gloves. There are lava rock areas around Sesshokawara that can be slippery, as well. When you descend from Fukihara no Ike, the view opens up to reveal the Kusatsu onsen town area.
- Sessho - Bandaiko - Mt. Sekison - Kusatsu Nature Walk Course: This trail starts from Shirane Volcano Ropeway Sanroku Station and goes through Bandaiko, Mt. Sekison, and Roadside Station Kusatsu Undojayakoen, ending at Yubatake. This trail passes through the bleakness of Sesshokawara into bunches of rhododendrons and azaleas. The trail around the crater can be narrow, and quite steep, so be very careful of your footing. Some areas also see outgassing of hydrogen sulfide gas, so be sure not to stop for long there. If you follow the fresh green of white birch trees, you'll come to the white steam of Bandaiko, one of Kusatsu onsen's hand-picked treasures. There are a number of guide signs, so there's no fear of losing the way.
- Rhododendron - Mononugu no Ike Course: This trail starts from Shirane Volcano Ropeway Sanroku Station and heads toward Tenguzan Resthouse via Mononogu no Ike pond. Mononogu no Ike pond received its name (Cast-off Armor Pond) from a legend of defeated warriors pursued by Minamoto No Yoritomo flinging off their arms here. The pond is surrounded by a wooden walkway to offer a full view, which is about a 10 minute walk. The pond offers a lovely reflection of seasonal color, with rhododendrons in early summer, and lacquer trees, Japanese rowan Erman's birch, and more in autumn. The walkway is wide and well maintained, so it's an easy stroll.
Information Sources: NAVITIME JAPAN