Hiking Sandan-kyo Gorge

hiking sandankyo gorge

The mouth of this beautiful gorge may only be an 80 minute bus ride from the city center, but once between its sheer cliffs, surrounded by verdant vegetation and hearing the rush of the crystal clear water over rocks it’s easy to grasp that very few people had ever penetrated Sandan-kyo Gorge until a little over a century ago. What is more difficult to understand is why, other than for a few short weeks between late October and early November when large numbers of leaf watchers make the trip to see its famous Autumn colors, Sandan-kyo is rarely overrun. All the better for those want to escape the hassles of city for a day and love to stroll among nature.

Sandankyo makes for a wonderful hike. The out-and-back trail (much of it surfaced with rough concrete) is very clear and it is very difficult to get lost. Although the path does undulate, is very doable for anyone of reasonable fitness. The prime goal for many is Sandan-daki – the three tier waterfall for which the gorge is named – which makes the hike a full day commitment. Many of the trail’s highlights, however, can be seen on a walk as far as Kurobuchi (about 50min each way). [Scroll down or click here for the trail map]

At the entrance to the gorge, there are a few small shops (which serve some food and will hold onto baggage for a small fee). The bathroom where the bus drops you off, while not the only one on the trail, is certainly the nicest). Also at the start of the hike day-trippers as well as overnight guests can take a hot spring bath in the worn, but charming, Sandankyo Hotel.

Trail map and shop at the entrance to the gorge
Trail map and shop at the entrance to the gorge
The start of the Sandankyo Trail
The start of the Sandankyo Trail
Sandan-daki Falls in Autumn
Sandan-daki Falls in Autumn

sandankyo-map

Time guide
Entrance to Kurobushi 50min one way (3.7km)
Entrance to Sandandaki via Sarutobi & Nidandaki 5hrs round trip (approx 19km)
If you manage to catch one of the buses that run between the gorge entrance and the parking near Deaibashi it should take about 2hrs to loop Sandandaki,Sarutobi, Nidandaki and back.
The whole 12km trail from gorge entrance to Hijiriko Lake can take up to 5hrs one way.

Access
Buses to Sandankyo leave from Hiroshima Bus Center (Platform #7). Express buses (¥1440 one way) take about 80min while local buses (¥1230 one way) take well over 2hrs. The 08:18 express bus arrives at the gorge at 09:33 and the 15:00 departure from Sandankyo will get you back at 16:20 (after that local buses leave at 15:30, 16:30 and 17:55). For an early start the 06:10 local bus from Hiroshima will get you to the gorge just before 08:30. 19:10 is the last departure from Sandankyo taking you as far as Kabe JR Station from where local trains depart for Hiroshima.

Download the bus timetable here [ja]

Paul Walsh

Paul arrived in Hiroshima "for a few months" back in 1996. He is the co-founder of GetHiroshima.com and loves running in the mountains.

2 thoughts on “Hiking Sandan-kyo Gorge

  • May 6, 2016 at 2:31 am
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    Hi, thanks for a great article. I will go to the hiroshima area in a couple of weeks, and was hoping to get some full day trail runs at about 35 kilometers. Is it possible to extend this hike with some extra kilometers, or make it into a round trip (not going up and down the same road)? I also wondered about the surface, is it asphalt, gravel or forest path?

    Reply
    • May 6, 2016 at 8:25 am
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      Hi Bjornar

      The trail all the way to Lake Hijiri is 12km one way. There are some trail sections, but the path as far as Sandantaki Waterfall is mostly an old concrete path. It “feels” like a trail though. Personally, I prefer doing an out and back on this trail rather than adding road sections. By the way, part of the trail beyond Kurobushi is closed due to landslide damage at the moment so you have to take a short boat ride (¥500 round trip/open 09:00-16:00).

      There is an English map of the trails here http://www.akioota-navi.jp/en/text/e_map_sandankyo_s.pdf

      There is a steep trail up to the top of Mt Hijiri from the lake starting from the left as you face the lake – road to trail head here https://goo.gl/maps/18fdwdhN1ME2

      You can also take the road from Lake Hijiri or Mizunashi Parking (this road is more “trail like” – 5km of asphalt, but little traffic and steep and winding!) to Mt Shinnyu.

      Adding an out and back to the top of Mt Hijiri or Mt Shinnyu would give you a good long run and a good amount of vertical.

      You can get an English map of the wider area here

      http://www.akioota-navi.jp/en/text/e_map_akiota_s.pdf

      At the end of this month, Hiroshima’s first ultra trail race is being held at Osorakan mountain resort in this area. Three separate loops adding up to 60km have been cleared and prepared for the race. I haven’t been up there yet so I don’t know how obvious access to the routes is.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply

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