Hiking The Koyasan Choishi Michi Pilgrimage Trail

Signposting along the Koyasan Choishi Michi Pilgrimage Trail

One of the coolest things of my 1 month trip to Japan was hiking the Koyasan Choishi Michi pilgrimage trail. I learned about this trail via a friend who lived in Japan and gave me some awesome insider advice.

I love hiking and being outdoor and thus it was a no-brainer: we would hike the Choishi Michi trail. But… it wasn’t so easy to find information about the trail. Well, perhaps in Japanese there is lots of info, but unfortunately I don’t speak Japanese.

I spent many evenings trying to figure out if it was possible to hike the trail in May, if we could store our big backpacks in lockers at a train station, how long the hike would take, etc. The most useful resource I found was this map, but other than that information was scarce.

That didn’t deter me and my husband from hiking the trail anyway and it was so worth it! Hiking the trail was magical, we were the only ones on the track and fog was drifting through the forest, damping the sound of our footsteps and creating a mysterious atmosphere…

Mysterious mists on the Koyasan chōishi-michi pilgrimage trailShinto gates along the Choishi Michi Pilgrimage trail

Hiking Koyasan Choishi Michi pilgrimage trail: important things to know

How long does the Koyasan Choishi Michi pilgrimage trail take to complete?

We completed the entire trail within 6 hours, starting at Kudoyama station and finishing our hike at Okunoin cemetery. It took 5 hours to get to the Daimon gate, which is already part of Koyasan town. This map says the duration of the hike is 7 hours and 10 minutes; however, even if you take more breaks than we did, you’ll probably be able to finish the trail in less than 7 hours.

It’s not a difficult hike, the total elevation is 800 meters but most of the climbing is in the first 5 kilometers.

Even on a rainy day the Koyasan Choishi Michi Pilgrimage Trail in beautiful!

Start hiking early in the day

That being said, I do recommend to start your hike early. We took the 8.22 train from Shin-Imamiya Station in Osaka and would have been able to start the hike before 10am, had we departed the train at the correct train station. Which we did not…

A cloudy day on the Koyasan Choishi Michi Trail

Where does the Choishi Michi track begin?

This leads me to my next point: exit the train at Kudoyama station! This is the starting point of the Choishi Michi track, not Gokuraku-bashi station. We rode the train all the way to Gokuraku-bashi, which is the final station.

At Gokuraku-bashi you can take the cable car to the top of Mount Koya if you don’t want to hike. If you prefer a shorter hike, according to the friendly Japanese railway employee you can hike to Koyasan from Gokuraku-bashi station, he said it would take about an hour.

From Kudoyama station you have to hike about 1,5 kilometers through the town before you get to the Jison-In temple where to trail officially begins.

View from the Koyasan Choishi Michi Trail in Japan

How to follow the Koyasan Choishi Michi trail?

I downloaded a copy of this map on my phone, but once you located the Jison-In temple it’s not really necessary anymore to have a map.

Because one of the coolest things about the Koyasan Choishi Michi pilgrimage trail is that it’s marked by 180 stone signposts (or chôishi), set at 109-meter intervals. These are pretty hard to miss!

Stone pillars along the Koyasan Choishi Michi trail

Take a bear bell!

Take a bear with you! I didn’t know this but there are bears in the Koyasan area. We had bought a bear bell before our trip to Japan, but mostly for our time on Hokkaido. I had no idea there are bears on Honshu as well!

When we were at approximately 2/3rd of the hike, signs at the side of the trail appeared with warnings that many bears had been spotted in the area recently…

Be aware of bears at Koyasan Choishi Michi Trail in Japan

We spent the rest of the trail chatting a little more and a little louder than we usually do (basically, we tried to be as noisy as possible;-).

What to wear and pack for the Koyasan Choishi Michi pilgrimage trail

My Koyasan packing list

We both only carried our day pack on the hike. I always take my Nomad Topaz 20liter bag because it’s the perfect size for a day or weekend trip. Or hiking Mount Koya. Here’s what I wore/what was in my bag:

Clothes and shoes

  • Lowa Lady Light GTX(read my review here)
  • 1 pair of hiking paints
  • Merino shirt
  • Thin lightweight jacket
  • Rain poncho (we walked in the rain the first 30 minutes and hiking when you’re cold and wet is no fun. Make sure you also have a waterproof cover for your daypack, having wet back-up clothes is even less fun).
  • Zipper hoodie
  • Short-sleeved t-shirt
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • Flip-flops (not necessary, provided at Koyasan Guesthouse)
  • 2 pair of hiking socks
  • Underwear and something to sleep in


  • Hair brush
  • Deodorant
  • Contacts and glasses
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Plasters/Band-Aids
  • Betadine antiseptic
  • Lush solid shampoo bar (not necessary, provided at Koyasan Guesthouse)
  • Ear plugs and eye mask (not necessary, it was very quiet at Koyasan Guesthouse)


  • Passport
  • Debit card
  • Credit card
  • Enough cash (you can’t pay with cards at Koyasan Guesthouse)


You’ll notice there isn’t a towel on the list, we paid ¥100 per person to use a freshly washed towel at Koyasan Guesthouse.

Our Lowa Lady Light GTX hiking shoes

Where to store your other stuff

We spent the night before hiking the Koyasan Choishi Michi trail at Osaka, in Backpackers Hotel Toyo and left our big backpacks there for the night we spend at Koyasan.

The next day we traveled back from Koyasan to Osaka, picked up our bags at the hostel and continued to our next destination: Kyoto. As there are no lockers at Kudoyama station, I feel this is a good option if your hostel allows it.

Where to stay and where to eat in Koyasan?

Where to stay in Koyasan: Koyasan Guesthouse

We stayed at Koyasan Guesthouse and I absolutely loved this place. The owners, Ryochi and Yuri, want Koyasan to be affordable for every traveler, which is why they started Koyasan Guesthouse. Read more about their philosophy on their website.

Koyasan Guesthouse is a lovely place to stay. The design of the hostel is beautiful, clean and white with artsy items. The 1 person capsules are clean and spacious, each one has its own socket and the beds are very comfortable. We paid ¥3500 per capsule.

Check out the latest prices on Booking

Koyasan Guesthouse is the only backpacker budget accommodation on Mount Koya

What about food?

On the track

It’s important to bring enough food with you as you cannot buy anything along the track (it goes through the forest, no shops there). There are some vending machines in Yadate (there are vending machines everywhere in Japan, apparently the country has the highest rate of vending machines per capita in the world) but these only contain drinks. We bought food and plenty of water at the 7-11 in Osaka before boarding the train.

In Koyasan

We had both dinner and breakfast at Koyasan Guesthouse, all the food was delicious… For dinner we had an amazing Thai curry and breakfast included freshly baked bread. We paid ¥900 per person for dinner and ¥600 per person for breakfast.

Where to eat in Koyasan - Thai curry at Koyasan Guesthouse

How much does a trip to Mount Koya cost?

Transportation costs

We bought a 2-day Koyasan Heritage ticket, which costs ¥2860 per person (¥5720 in total). This included the train ride from Osaka to Kudoyama (or Gokuraku-bashi if you don’t want to hike), the cable car up to Mount Koya and all the buses in Koyasan and vice versa for the return journey. Read more about the Koyasan Heritage ticket here. Check Hyperdia for the train time table and prices, I used this website all the time in Japan.

Accommodation costs

Our stay at Koyasan Guesthouse (plus towels) was ¥3600 per person (¥7200 in total).

Costs for food & drinks

Total costs for food was ¥5747 for the two of us together:

  • Breakfast and food for the hike bought at 7-11 ⇒ ¥2417 in total
  • Coffee at Koyasan Family Mart ⇒ ¥330 in total
  • Dinner at Koyasan Guesthouse ⇒ ¥1800 in total
  • Breakfast at Koyasan Guesthouse ⇒ ¥1200 in total

The total costs of our 2-day trip to Koyasan for us as a couple came down to ¥18667/€149/$170.

I hope I’ve convinced you to hike the Koyasan Choishi Michi pilgrimage trail, it really is a unique experience! Check out my other posts about Japan here or read more about other day trips from Osaka.

Hiking the 24 km Koyasan Choishi Michi pilgrimage trail in Japan was an amazing experience, fog was drifting through the forest, damping the sound of our footsteps and creating a mysterious atmosphere… Read about important things to know about the hike (don’t forget to bring a bear bell), transportation, what to pack, where to stay at Mt. Koya and how much it costs! #japan #koyasan #hikingHiking the 24 km Koyasan Choishi Michi pilgrimage trail in Japan was an amazing experience, fog was drifting through the forest, damping the sound of our footsteps and creating a mysterious atmosphere… Read about important things to know about the hike (don’t forget to bring a bear bell), transportation, what to pack, where to stay at Mt. Koya and how much it costs! #japan #koyasan #hiking

This post has been updated in November 2018

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  1. Cory Varga
    December 5, 2016 / 12:13 pm

    The cost seems really low. This is amazing. I know accommodation here is crazy expensive usually. We want to go but aren’t too sure yet.

    • Lotte
      December 5, 2016 / 2:58 pm

      Hiking is one of the cheapest activities when traveling (and one of the best;-). I did a lot of research to find an affordable place to stay on Mount Koya and Koyasan Guesthouse is the only one I found, the prices for the temple accommodations are absolutely crazy…

  2. Ella
    March 21, 2017 / 11:51 pm

    Thank you for such DETAILED information, I cannot wait to try this in the summer!

    • Lotte
      March 22, 2017 / 9:19 am

      You are very welcome! Enjoy the hike, it’s a really special experience…

  3. Walailuck Borrell
    April 17, 2017 / 6:51 am

    It sounds fantastic. We plan to visit during Olympic 2020 with 2 teenagers. Your travel plan is great with mixture of city and nature. I’m aware of costs during that time so we’re saving madly. If you have any suggestion, please do.

    • Lotte
      April 17, 2017 / 7:31 am

      Thanks Walailuck, glad you like my culture-nature itinerary:-). Your plans sound awesome, how cool to visit the Olympics! What kind of suggestion are you looking for? How to cut the costs or about the travel itinerary? Enjoy your trip!

  4. Sueli Tame
    September 3, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    Very good information. Saved me a lot of research. Many thanks!

    • Lotte
      September 3, 2017 / 11:03 pm

      You are most welcome! Enjoy the hike:-)

  5. Tim Jolly
    September 4, 2017 / 12:09 am

    Hey there. Amazing post, planning to now do this walk on October. Thank you.

    I have a couple of questions:

    – It is not clear to me how to get back from daimon to a station to return – how would you recommend doing this?

    – if we plan to travel from Kyoto and complete the walk in a day, do you thin this is achievable? – I am fit and enjoy walking.

    Thanks !

    • Lotte
      September 4, 2017 / 5:31 pm

      Hi Tim,

      Thank you for reading the post and for your questions. Once you reached the Daimon Gate in Koyasan Village you can take a bus to the cable car station. The buses don’t run that often (you can find more info here: http://www.rinkan.co.jp/global/en/timetable/) and stop early in the day. Which brings me to your next question, yes you could probably travel from Kyoto and complete the hike on the same day However, I highly doubt if you could make it back to Kyoto the same day. Do you intent to stay the night at Koyasan? I recommend to do so, that way you’ll be able to do the hike on day 1 and explore the village and temples on day 2.

      Hope this helps, let me know if you have any further questions!

  6. Tim Jolly
    September 5, 2017 / 10:03 pm

    Great thank you!

    I think we will travel into the walk from Kyoto, complete the walk, get the bus from Daimon back to Koya San. To be clear the would you recommend doing the bus back to Koya San after the walk, or is it worth sticking for a night in Daimon?

    Thank you so much again for the advice!


    • Lotte
      September 5, 2017 / 10:09 pm

      Hi Tim,

      You are welcome:-). I’m not sure what you mean, do you mean the Daimon Gate? Because that gate is already in Koyasan, it’s not a separate village. I would do the Koyasan trail and spend the night in Koyasan, do some sightseeing in the morning and travel back to Kyoto in the afternoon. Have a great trip!


  7. Liz
    September 15, 2017 / 8:40 am

    I am travelling to Japan for the first time next year during May and am torn between doing this or a hike within the Kumano Kodo.
    With your hike above can you please confirm you started from Osaka, did the walk and stayed the night in Mount Koyasan. The next day you travelled back to Osaka?

    • Lotte
      September 15, 2017 / 11:05 pm

      Hi Liz,

      Very cool you’re going to Japan, I’m sure you’ll love it… I haven’t done the Kumano Kodo trail (or parts of it) but can only tell you the Koyasan trail is very worthwhile. You are correct, I took an early train from Osaka, did the hike and spent the night in Koyasan. The next day I explored the village in the morning and traveled back to Osaka in the afternoon.

      Good luck choosing between the trails (or do both;-).

  8. September 30, 2017 / 10:38 am

    Thank you for the information, it’s really helping me organizing the trip! Well done! 🙂 J.

    • Lotte
      September 30, 2017 / 8:20 pm

      Very welcome! I hope you have a nice trip and hike:-)

  9. melanie
    November 25, 2017 / 10:57 pm

    Hi, Thanks for al the great info! I am wondering if you know if this hike would be possible in the middle of april?

    • Lotte
      November 25, 2017 / 11:45 pm

      Hi Melanie,

      Very welcome:-). We did the hike at the start of May so I don’t think mid-April would be a problem. Perhaps you’ll need a long-sleeve but if you take layers you should be fine. Enjoy the hike!


      • melanie
        December 2, 2017 / 7:01 pm

        Awesome thanks so much for your help

        • Lotte
          December 2, 2017 / 10:41 pm

          Very welcome Melanie! Enjoy the trail:-)

  10. Ellie
    February 26, 2018 / 12:00 pm

    Hi! Thank you for this article! I visited Koya-san a few years back and has ever since dreamt of coming back via the hiking trails. Your article saved me lots of researched and quite frankly, all that I have found is really discouraging! So thank you for telling me this can be done. I have a question about shoes: do you feel that the trail demanded as sturdy boots as you were having or would a pair of even more light weight boots suffice? How was the maintainance of the track, was it stoneladden/gravel/earthen? Did much water/mud accumulate on it during the rain?

    • Lotte
      February 27, 2018 / 9:12 pm

      Hi Ellie,

      Glad you like the post:-) Koya-san truly is a magical place… Awesome you are planning to return there! About your questions:

      – Shoes: I was wearing my hiking shoes but I do feel you can do the trail on lightweight shoes as well. However, that does depend on the condition of the trail, if it has been raining heavily I definitely recommend proper hiking boots.
      – Track maintenance: the trail is well maintained and easy to follow because of the beautiful stone signposts (or chôishi) set at 109-meter intervals. Mostly earthen track, some parts are a bit stony and several parts were a bit muddy and slippery but nothing too bad.

      Hope this helps! Enjoy the trail and Koya-san:-)

      • Ellie
        February 28, 2018 / 6:52 am

        That helps alot. Thank you!

        • Lotte
          February 28, 2018 / 8:29 am

          Awesome:-) Have a great hike!

  11. Benita
    April 16, 2018 / 11:34 am

    Hey there!

    Amazing tips for this hike. My partner and I are going to follow in your foot steps mid May this year! Did you need to book ahead for this guest house?
    And is it easy to get back to Oaska from Koyasan?

    Cheers for the info!

    • Lotte
      April 25, 2018 / 3:19 pm

      Hi Benita,

      Thanks for reading and great you’ll be hiking this trail:-). Yes, you need to book ahead for the guest house, since it’s pretty much the only budget option (and a very nice place to stay) in Koyasan its often fully booked.

      Yes, it’s easy to get back to Osaka from Koyasan, you can take the cable car from Koyasan to Gokuraku-bashi station and hop aboard the train to Osaka.
      Enjoy your hike!


  12. Tess
    April 19, 2018 / 10:29 am

    Thanks for the great article! It was super helpful 🙂

    I have a slightly odd question — do you know if there is any rule against doing it backwards, given it is a pilgrimage trail? We have booked a night at Koyasan guesthouse (it’s all booked full now) but there is heavy rain forecast for the day we would arrive. I’m wondering if we could keep the booking at Koyasan but hike out toward Kudoyama station (and then get the train back to Osaka in the evening) the next day instead. Any thoughts?


    • Lotte
      April 25, 2018 / 3:16 pm

      Hi Tess,

      Thanks, happy to hear you found the post helpful:-). About your question, I’m not aware of any rules prohibiting the hike in reverse. But perhaps you can ask in your accommodation in Osaka or the hotel/hostel you have booked in Koyasan, they may be able to advice you?

      In any case, enjoy your hike and stay at Koyasan, it’s a magical place…

  13. Facundo Rife
    June 18, 2018 / 11:16 pm


    This a great post, really useful I’m travelling with my brother this December to Japan and we really want to enjoy some natural attractions. We don’t want just a city-tourist travel and we thought that the Koyasan Pilmigrage trail is perfect for us as we are not experts hikers. My question is: do you think it’s possible to make it on winter with the correct gear? We saw that it’s not a snowy area.

    Thanks a lot!
    Greetings from Argentina.

    • Lotte
      June 21, 2018 / 8:16 am

      Hi Facundo,

      Thanks for reading, I’m happy to hear you like the post:-) About your question, I think it would be okay to do the track in winter if you have proper hiking gear and clothing… Nevertheless, you may want to check with your guest house/hotel when booking accommodation in Koyasan and ask about the condition of the trail. Enjoy your trip to Japan!


  14. Sarah Andre
    October 12, 2018 / 4:02 am

    Hi! I’m planning on doing the hiking alone next weekend (20th of October). Do you think the condition of the trail would be okay ? I have brought my timbaland shoes here in japan and I have proper warm gear to hike.
    Also, do you know where to buy a bear bell?

    Thanks !

    • Lotte
      October 13, 2018 / 1:18 pm

      Hey Sarah,

      Great you’ll be doing the Choishi Michi Trail next week! I would check the weather forecast and ask the train staff at Osaka station if they know anything about the condition of the trail. Or you can send an email to the owner of the Koyasan Guesthouse. Usually it should be okay in October. Be sure to bring a rain coat/poncho though, it was raining a bit during our hike. I’m not sure where to buy a bear bell in Japan, we brought ours with us from home. But there are outdoor shops in Osaka and you may be able to find one there. Many Japanese people are avid hikers so these specialty shops are usually well stocked. Enjoy your hike!


  15. Sarah Andre
    October 14, 2018 / 10:51 am

    Dear Lotte thank you so much for your reply!
    You’d say it’s okay for me to do it alone then if I have proper équipement and the bell ?

    Thank you!

    • Lotte
      October 16, 2018 / 2:32 pm

      Hi Sarah,

      Very welcome:-) Because of the stone pillars it’s almost impossible to loose the trail and Japan is a very safe country so I don’t think you’ll have any issues hiking the trail alone! We didn’t have our bear bell with us but if you can find one that would be good. Otherwise just make sure to make some noise (sing a song;-) every once in a while.

      Enjoy! Lotte

  16. chris
    February 8, 2019 / 9:23 am

    thank you.
    planning to do this also but cant find enough info in english and i dont know if i can do it with this cold weather now.

    • Lotte
      February 11, 2019 / 9:26 pm

      Hi Chris, yes getting up-to-date information is difficult! I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem to hike in cold weather, but when there is a lot of snow the trail might be tricky and slippery. You could check with the owners of Koyasan Guesthouse if they have more accurate information:-) Enjoy the trail!

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