Mount Inari hiking overview
Mt Inari in southern Kyoto’s Fushimi ward is the site of the famous Fushimi Inari shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) – a must-visit on any Kyoto itinerary (check out my in-depth Fushimi Inari guide). It’s also a great place to include as part of a hike in Kyoto’s mountains – the most obvious way to do this is by following the Kyoto Isshu Trail‘s Higashiyama course, heading north from Fushimi Inari to Kiyomizu-dera (a couple of hours), or to Shogunzuka & Nanzen-ji (a couple more), or to Mt Daimonji and the Silver Temple (a couple more!), or all the way to the top of Mt Hiei (making a long day of it).
The main Fushimi Inari hike is through the shrine itself, which has a great walking course going up the mountain and forming a circuit at the top, with various side trails branching off – see here for full details on Fushimi Inari. This is what you always see in pictures, with thousands of closely-spaced torii gates forming a red tunnel along the path. From the top circuit of Fushimi Inari it’s also possible to do a nice walk down a back-door path that brings you down to Tofukuji temple as per here (by branching off at the same horse statues as shown below).
Another option is to hike from Fushimi to Yamashina ward in the neighbouring valley, going up Mt Inari through the shrine and then down the other side through the bamboo forest. The main attraction of this hike is, for sure, Fushimi Inari shrine – but it’s also pretty cool to walk through the bamboo forest on the Yamashina side. This isn’t a perfectly photogenic bamboo forest with nicely manicured pathways like the famous one over in Arashiyama – this is just dirt trails running through a bamboo forest where hardly anyone goes. I love the creaking sound bamboo makes as it sways in the breeze, and the accompanying rustling of leaves and percussive sounds produced when the hollow stalks strike one another; it’s actually a little spooky walking through there alone! There’s also a creepy old abandoned shrine along the path, which adds a nice little Blair Witch touch.
Once you emerge in Yamashina, it’s just a fairly uninteresting walk through residential streets, but even then you’re seeing a suburb of Kyoto that few short-term visitors ever do, so there’s some value in that. Once you reach the station, if you’ve done this walk in the morning you can easily then take the subway two stops south to nearby Daigoji for another hike (whether hiking or not, Daigoji is highly recommended if you’re there during the cherry blossoms); or you can jump on the subway north and head to Nanzen-ji, Keage Incline, and the Philosopher’s Path.
Fushimi Inari hike to Yamashina
At first, visit Fushimi Inari shrine starting from JR Inari Station or Keihan Fushimi Inari Station and following the main Fushimi Inari hike up the hill (along the torii-lined path).
After 45 minutes or so (depending on crowds, photo stops, etc) you’ll reach the Yotsusuji rest area at the top of the main trail, at the junction with the summit loop trail. There are rest benches and a few cafes; it should be obvious enough, but there’s also a clock there and this view:
From here, if you stand with the main trail (and view) behind you, the steps going up to the left lead to a small shrine with the mountain’s best viewpoint hidden away behind it:
After checking that out, if you stand once again at the rest area with your back to the main trail, the slightly downhill path ahead of you and the steep uphill path to the right are the two ends of the summit loop trail. The right-hand path looks like this:
This is a fairly steep climb up to the mountain’s highest point (which doesn’t have a view due to the trees and buildings there), and it then loops around to eventually come back to the rest area.
This summit loop is awesome and well worth it if you have time (see here for more on that). If not, then take the path straight ahead:
…you’ll find more cool little sub-shrines, and after a short distance there’s a path heading down to the left into the forest – look out for the shrine on the right with a pair of horse statues facing one another (keep your eyes open, they’re a little tucked back from the path), that’s the point at which to turn left and head down.
The horse shrine is just up these steps on the right:
…which are located at this junction:
Take those steps going down on the left. This path makes a descent down the back side of Mt Inari, passing a cool little waterfall shrine and arriving at a junction with a larger path coming across from left to right. Turning left here will take you back to suburbia in the vicinity of Tofukuji Temple (and Tofukuji station); turning right takes you to the bamboo forest, and you can follow the path through to Yamashina.
The little waterfall shrine there has some fantastic moss-covered foxes:
Have you been to Fushimi Inari, or do you have any questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.
Access for Fushimi Inari
Inari station on the JR Nara line, or Fushimi Inari station on the Keihan line.
In-depth guide to Fushimi Inari
Check out my quick guide to Kyoto
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See my hiking in Kyoto & hiking in Tokyo pages and the excellent Hiking in Japan & Ridgeline Images blogs for further inspiration; if you’re also heading to Korea or Taiwan, check out my pages on hiking in Seoul and hiking in Taipei
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I went to Osaka in 2017 and toured Fushimi Inari Taisha during my Kyoto days.
At the very top I found a small dirt trail going into the center of the loop and took it a bit to see where it led. If it was interesting I could rejoin the main trail farther down.
I went down some steep stairs and ended up behind some buildings, but never fond the main trail again. I somehow missed it and ended up following a back path lined with mini-shrines until I was outside the shrine on the road on the south side. I have no idea how I could cross the main path and not know it.
So I ended up in a part of the shrine few tourists ever see. It was pretty interesting. It felt like I may have been the first American to see that place.
I ended up circling around and found a nature trail leading into a bamboo grove were they harvest material that led me to the restrooms just below the double path of torii.
I’ll have to go back and explore some more. I think I could spend a day just walking the back paths at Fushimi Inari Taisha.
Nice, it’s always good to wander off down random paths at Fushimi Inari and see where they take you! I’m not quite sure which path you took initially, but sounds like you probably ended up coming down the Fukakusa side (the last few pics on this page) – there’s a bamboo forest down that way and a string of really cool little sub-shrines along the path, and depending which way you go you can either get back to the main trail near the 1000 torii or come out between Inari & Fukakusa stations.