Mount Yakedake – Hiking an Active Volcano
This last weekend, I enjoyed a hike to the top of an active volcano on the edge of Matsumoto’s mountain region. Mount Yakedake (Yakedake = Burning Mountain) can be most easily accessed from one of two approaches; Kamikochi, which can be reached by bus, and Nakanoyu, which can be reached by car, taxi, or bus, though the trailhead might be hard to find from the Nakanoyu bus stop.
I was lucky enough to catch a ride in my friend’s car so we took the Nakanoyu approach. To find the trailhead, drive up the road a few minutes past Nakanoyu Onsen Ryokan. You’ll know when you find it because there will be other cars parked on the side of the road. Although we left Matsumoto before 5:00 in the morning, we grabbed the last parking spot immediately in front of the trailhead. At the trailhead, you’ll also likely find warning signs explaining the current dangers of the volcano.
The start of the hike reminded me of hiking back home in Seattle. The mountainous trail, greenery everywhere, the tall trees, and the light rain made me feel comfortable and confident. You’ll find moss-covered logs with new plants sprouting out of them, tangle roots holding pools of water, and bursts of color amongst the sea of green.
Even with the rain and the clouds obstructing the view, it was a beautiful and enchanting hike.
After a couple of hours of hiking, the clouds finally disbursed and we enjoyed the full view Mt. Yakedake had to offer. Looking up, we could see the poisonous gases billowing from vents in the rock. A fast hiker could make it from the trailhead to the top in around 2~3 hours. My hiking buddy and I took our time and finally reached the peak in around 4 hours.
We rested, ate, and took photos at the peak. The weather occasionally offered us some amazing photo opportunities. From the top, you can look down on the large gas vents, a beautiful lake in the center of the volcano’s crater, and the many surrounding mountains and valleys. The constant plumes of gases rising into the air nearby reminds you of the many warnings to be cautious of any activity that feels out of place. All the signs tell you to evacuate immediately if there is any activity you feel is unsafe or abnormal. Apparently, the billowing gas plumes are normal!
We stayed at the peak for over an hour before heading back down. I noticed steaming vents on the actual trail where we climbed down to the walking path. I recommend not breathing the gases coming from these small vents!
The skies had cleared up considerably for our hike down the mountain. We took a small break on a rock to rest and take photos. Lucky for us, this rock was a butterfly magnet! They landed all over our stuff – and on us!
There were plenty of other bugs and animals to spot during the hike. I saw spiders, flies, grasshoppers, birds, and even a snake!
Although this is a relatively simple hike, it is steep. My unconditioned knees were aching on the way down, even with having worn knee braces the entire hike. Yet, I still felt refreshed and satisfied when we reached the car.
The beauty and power of Mount Yakedake is a memory that will stay with me for a long time. Don’t “blow” your chance to visit this magnificent active volcano! Go check it out!
You can see my videos on Matsumoto (and more!) on my Discovery Makes Knowledge Youtube channel!