Oct. 11, 2021 UPDATE
Kyoto's World Heritage Level Autumn Leaves – What’s Your Plans? Kyoto Autumn Feature
Part 4

Kyoto Autumn Hikes

Well, here we are, at part 4 of our Kyoto Autumn Feature. Up till here, we have introduced a wide range of different autumn spots. However, none of them have been for those wanting go out and enjoy autumn in nature and among the mountains, or who simply don’t like overcrowded tourist spots. For those people, we created this part
Here we’ll introduce the best fall spots for picnics, hikes, and everything in between.
All places introduced below are great for enjoying the autumn leaves and are a little far from central Kyoto. Enjoying fall leaves while basking in nature; now that’s what I call hitting two birds with one stone!
All right then, let’s show you what‘s on our list then!
Mt. Kurama /Kibune
Mt. Kurama /Kibune
If you’re looking for a light hike that even beginners can take on, then we recommend the Mt. Kuruma to Kifune Shrine trail. After taking the Eizan Electric Railway to the “Kurama Station,” walk for a couple minutes to the nearby Niōmon Gate. While here, make sure to check out the “aun no tora” or Tiger of Om.
Mt. Kurama is approximately 580 meters high, and the Kurama Temple’s main hall sits at around 410 meters. You can take a cable car to the top, but we recommend enjoying the fresh mountain air while you hike your way up.

The grounds of the Kurama Temple are absolutely full of spots to catch the autumn leaves. As you climb the stairs to the temple, the scenery and leaves around you transform with each new step.
Once at the main hall, continue past it and head deeper into the temple grounds. The path that extends behind the hall will be the start of the hike to the Kifune Shrine. The “kinone michi” or road of roots, is the highlight of this hike
As the bedrock below is so hard here, the trees spread their roots, not below the soil, but on top of it. This section of the hike provides you with a sense of the grandeur of nature and is encompassed by a mysterious and spiritual atmosphere. Made even more beautiful by warm colors of the season, the Kinone Michi area is the perfect place to rest your legs and bask in the beauty of the forest. The multitude of spiritually heavy spots, including the Kikeo- dō hall and Ōsugi-Gongen-sha shrine, combine with the red-stained woods to give off a powerful, and solemn atmosphere.
Follow the guideposts down, and you will arrive at the Kifune Shrine. This shrine is a famous tourist destination/autumn spot. In autumn, the trees that line the road leading to the shrine are also lit up at night. In particular, the beautiful combination of Kifune Shrine’s red lanterns and brightly colored autumn leaves is what makes this such a popular spot during autumn. You will be able to take the Eizan Electric Railway back to the city, but it takes about a 30-minute walk from the shrine to the nearest station, Kibuneguchi.
If the hike tired you out, then you can also catch a bus to the station. Also, during this season, you’ll be able to travel through a tunnel of autumn leaves and enjoy the warm colors of the trees from within the comfort of the Eizan Electric Railway. With this, the route introduced here truly allows you to enjoy the feeling of autumn up until the very end.
Best time of year: Mid-November
Travel time: Kurama Station –Kifune Shrine: 120 minutes
Kiyotaki to Takao
Kiyotaki to Takao
The highlights of the Kiyotaki to Takao hike are the Jingo-ji Temple and Kinunkei Valley. The Jingo-ji Temple on Mt. Takao is one of the most outstanding autumn spots in Kyoto. This area is characterized by the fact that trees here begin changing color relevantly earlier than other places in Kyoto City. This is a magnificent area for enjoying not only fall foliage from inside the temple but picturesque mountain scenery as well.
As this is quite a well-known spot, sometimes it can get a little busy. For those wanting to avoid any crowds, we suggest heading straight for the hiking course leading to the Kinunkei Valley. For those wishing to visit the Jingo-ji Temple, the path from the Niōmon gate continues to the Kiyotaki Bridge, so you will be able to get to the valley from here too. You will walk 3km of the Tokai Nature Trail, but there is no need to worry as it is appropriately marked with guideposts. Because of this, the trail is highly recommended to hiking beginners as well.
Surrounded by Japanese maples, this trail will allow you to enjoy both autumn foliage and the grandeur of nature. The trail also gives you incredible views of icons of Japanese forests, such as a path that cuts through a forest of captivatingly straight cedar trees and the clear waters of the Kiyotaki River that crashes into the giant river boulders.
Click here to see a 2017 blog post about the fall foliage in the Takao area:https://sharing-kyoto.com/Blog/b_takao

Best time of year: Early to late November
Travel time: Jingo-ji Temple – Kiyotaki: 120 minutes
Uji River and Sawarabi-no-michi Trail
Uji River and Sawarabi-no-michi Trail
Most well-known for its matcha and the Byodo-in Temple, Kyoto’s Uji City is actually home to a beginner hiking trail that's just as full of nature and autumn leaves as any other.

Leading to the Ujigami Shrine, the Sawarabi-no-michi road is situated right by the Keihan Line’s Uji Station. The area around the station seems like a residential area that stretches for quite some time, but if you make your way up the road, you’ll find yourself at the Ujigami Shrine. If you continue even further up the road, you’ll find the entrance to Mt. Buttoku. From here the Mt. Buttoku hiking trail begins.
Standing on the rough, stone path, look up, and you’ll realize that the trees have created a mountainside tunnel of red.
The path itself is wide, with hardly any slopes, making this a very easy to walk trail. If you continue to climb for around 20 minutes, you’ll arrive at the Daikichiyama observation deck.
Here you’ll find a panorama view of the mountains tinged in red that surround Uji City. Look out and you’ll see Uji icons such as the Byodo-in Temple and tea plantations. The observation deck marks the summit of the mountain, but if you continue to walk you will end up at the Kōshō-ji Temple. The temple is quite a popular autumn spot so it might be a little crowded.

Also, for those wanting to enjoy some greenery, but don’t want to climb all the way up a mountain, then we suggest checking out the Uji River. From there, you’ll be able to see the magnificent scenery of the blazing red hills that surround the city.
The pairing of the autumn leaves with the Asagiri Bridge, which crosses the wide Uji River, has a beautiful grace to it. The Uji River provides visitors with a myriad of ways to enjoy the beautiful autumn colors, whether it be hopping on and enjoying a magnificent time atop one of the sightseeing boats, or simply relaxing by the bank of the river.

Best time of year: Late November to early December
Travel time: Sawarabi-no-michi to the observation deck: 40 minutes
Did you find anything that piqued your interest? Well-known, famous autumn leaf spots may be pretty, but Kyoto is home to a ton of places where you can enjoy the beautiful sights of autumn among nature too. Many of the places we introduced above are public spaces, so if you’re planning on going and enjoying a picnic or something similar, then please mind your manners and be respectful of those around you.

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