Hiking the Hills of Nara Park
Nara is a hiker's dream. From the World Heritage Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route to Japan’s oldest roads, experience the history and natural beauty of Japan on trails from easy to challenging.
You can enjoy pleasant hikes and walks with spectacular views within Nara City. The trail from Nara Park to the 342m summit of Mt. Wakakusa is easy and ideal for families. The whole 4.5km trail takes around two hours and passes through the Mt. Kasuga Primeval Forest. Expect stunning vistas and plenty of deer.
In spring, the paths up the mountain and the area around the summit are dotted with cherry blossom trees, making it a popular picnic spot. In autumn, the paths are lined with pampas grass and shaded with red Japanese maple leaves. The sunset views from the top are gorgeous; bring a flashlight if you plan to descend after dark.
To the east of Todaiji Temple at the base of Mt. Wakakusa, there are several cafes and rest stops to fuel up before you ascend the summit. Start the hike by taking the Kasuga Mountain Trail from near Mizuyachaya, a picturesque teahouse in front of Mizuyajinja Shrine.
The winding trail through Mt. Kasuga Primeval Forest, leads through ancient forests of cedar, oak and maple. The maple trees are particularly stunning in autumn, when their leaves take on radiant hues of red and yellow.
After walking through the forest for an hour, you will approach the summit, where you’ll find a parking area with restrooms and vending machines, with well-lit paths to the top. The view from the summit takes in all of Nara City. Even at this elevation, you’ll find wild deer hoping for a snack. At the very top of the mountain, you’ll find a raised mound marked by a large stone; it’s an ancient tomb known as Uguisutsuka Tumulus.
When you are done taking in the views from the summit, follow the path down from the mountain in the direction of Todaiji Temple. The route is clearly signposted, and the path well-maintained. There are beautiful views from many points along the way.
As you reach the bottom of the mountain, you can take either the north or south gate to enter back into Nara Park. To sightsee around the Todaiji Temple area, the north gate is most convenient. To continue onto Kasugataisha Shrine or head over to Naramachi, take the south gate.
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Updated: Feb 13 2018