Hiking on Atagoyama
What it is
Mount Atago in the north-west of Arashiyama offers a beautiful but tough hike up to its top where lies a shrine. Count two to three hours walk on a steep slope that gets flatter around midway through, before increasing again for the last third of the journey. We get a couple of glimpses over the surrounding mountains but most of the trip takes place in the forest.[break]
There are however several side trails that can satisfy everyone’s tastes in terms of length and difficulty (although we’re still talking about mountain trails so it’s difficult to find perfectly flat paths). Besides, the place is free of tourists, silent and in the middle of nature, and the various trails are clearly signposted and easy to follow.[break]
There’s also a tiny village next to a river that makes for a perfect resting place, before or after the hike.
The mountain is big, with many hiking trails and therefore many access points. However if you’re coming via public transport then the easiest option is to take bus 92 or 94 from Arashiyama station (Hankyu line or Randen line – the stations are different) to Kiyotaki. From there you just take one of the two roads next to the bus stop that go down to the river and the village. Then it’s up to you to pick your itinerary!
You can easily make a loop by starting and coming back to Kiyotaki, or you can decide to be more adventurous and try other paths. During my first visit I simply went up to Kuya Falls and back. It took about two hours and the path wasn’t very steep (except in a few places) but beautiful; one area had a stone staircase covered in moss that reminded of some of the movies from Ghibli studio.[break]
The second time we walked all the way up to the shrine at the top before taking a muddy and slippery way down (don’t go there after heavy rains!) that led us to the charming Mizuo village, who’s very proud of its yuzu! Incidentally the very moment one leaves the forest and reaches the village is gorgeous, with the sudden open view over the surrounding mountains and the road down below.[break]
Then we followed the car road all the way to the JR station Kozukyo, which overlooks the Katsura River (you can even swim there!) amid an enchanting scenery, surrounded by mountains, away from time and the world.