You will not find a more distinctive mountain anywhere in the world than Mt. Fuji.
Cycling Mt. Fuji’s Subaru Line to Subaru 5th Station
25.4 kilometers (15.8 miles) 2,281m (7,485’) gaining 1,279m (4,195’) at 5%.
Summit of Mt. Fuji: 3,776 m (12,388’).
CYCLING MT. FUJI TO SUBARU 5TH STATION
Mt. Fuji’s Subaru Line is by far the more popular of the four 5th Line (end of the road and start of the hiking routes to the summit of Mt. Fuji). This approach is also the most scenic and busiest of the 5th Line approaches.
Near the start of the climb
There are more views of Mt. Fuji on the Subaru Line bike climb than any other approach.
The climb itself is fairly mild with a steady 5% grade for the most part throughout. If you have the opportunity to ride just one approach to a Mt. Fuji 5th Station, we recommend this one. The steepest kilometer is only 7.4% (Azami Line 15.4%; Gotemba 12.9%; Fujinomiya 12.4%) and you are never seriously challenged – at least not the way you are on the Azami, Gotemba or Fujinomiya Lines.
Breathtaking views on this route.
200 yen ($1.82 USD) to us the Subaru Toll Road as of May, 2019.
Japanese Alps in the background.
Station 4, kilometer 18.5
Subaru Station 5th Line - year-round, weather permitting.
The Subaru Line is also the venue of the largest bicycle race in Japan (and perhaps all of Asia). In early June each year about 8,500 cyclists participate in the Mount Fuji Hill Climb. Note that our guide, Tim Smith, advises that the weather is often cold and rainy at this time of the year on Mt. Fuji.
Start of Mt. Fuji Hill Climb
THE BEST LAID PLANS . . .
Our Mt. Fuji cycling experience was complicated by one major oversight which, in the end, turned out to be an unqualified blessing in disguise – or, PJAMM good fortune if you will.
We travelled to Japan for the sole purpose of climbing Mt. Fuji by bike and this extraordinary volcano did not disappoint. The rides were exceptional, but the adventure getting there was as much the story as the climbs themselves.
PJAMM’s May, 2019 Asian Trip Itinerary.
We flew direct from San Francisco International to Tokyo’s Narita International (not the best choice we later learned). Our troubles at Narita date back to my misfortune in Paris during our European cycling trip the summer before. My camera gear, passport and other miscellaneous possessions were stolen in Paris at the end of our trip. I had replaced most of what had been stolen, but made one major oversight that would define our Mt. Fuji trip from the beginning.
Our flight was smooth and landed on time. We breezed through immigration and then customs at Narita. Our luggage and bikes were waiting for us at baggage claim – our bikes were actually delivered directly to us by Narita baggage handlers – that was pretty cool.
We had rented a van and had our mini roof Sea Sucker roof racks with us so we could transport the bikes on top of the car, freeing up valuable space inside the car for our steamer trunk-like luggage pieces that necessarily accompany on these multi-country trips.
The trip hit the skids at the Hertz counter when the clerk asked a question that sent a chill down my spine: “May I see your international driver’s license.” Eeeck – What International Driver’s License!? That question refreshed my shaky recollection that my IDL had been stolen in Paris – and, what’s worse now is that I had not replaced it. Learning that at the Hertz window in Tokyo is really bad timing . . .
Travel Tip #1: You must have an international driver’s license to operate (and rent) a vehicle in Japan.
We had no plan B.
Attempt at Plan B #1: What about Uber – nope - $50,000 Yen ($500). Taxi? Not - $480 (52,776¥) 197 kilometers to Kawaguchiko where we were staying for our 2 days and 4 climbs of Mt. Fuji.
The problem we would have without a vehicle is that our Colombian photographer and drone operator extraordinaire, Javier, would not be able to accompany us up the mountain without a vehicle – this eliminated as a good option just using the train and bus to get to the start of each climb with our bikes.
Javier on drone duty . . .
Another complication that was out of our control was that our photographer/videographer/droneographer Javier’s flight from Colombia had been re-routed to Haneda International Airport which was about 1 ½ hours from Narita International where we were. We had planned on picking Javier up on our way to Kawaguchiko, but that plan went in the trash bin along with the rental car reservation. Javier hopped a bus to Kawaguchiko where we would (much later) meet up with him.
Plan B2: I had 2 contacts in Japan that I had met on-line while researching cycling Mt. Fuji. I had planned on meeting both at Mt. Fuji for some of our climbs. I emailed Caleb and Jerry and they both set to working on alternative transportation for us. The first decision we made was to take the train from Narita to Shinjuku Station and the bus from Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Bus Station and finally a taxi from the bus station to our hotel 2 kilometers from the bus station.
Enroute to Kawaguchiko we were contacted by Tim Smith of Astuto Cycling Center (email@example.com). who I had communicated with before traveling to Japan. Tim had been quite responsive and knowledgeable about Mt. Fuji in advance of our trip, but we had originally intended to self-guide our rides up Mt. Fuji as is PJAMM’s custom. To our good fortune Tim was available and willing to guide us for our 2 days on Mt. Fuji. Tim is a custom builder of high-end cycling wheels who also oversees cycling tours throughout Japan.
Tim picked us up from our hotel at 5 a.m. on Saturday to begin our 4 Fuji climbs in 2 days. The next 2 days were a pure joy – not only does Tim know every inch of Mt. Fuji from each of the 4 approaches to the 5th Stations, he is an expert at cycling in general (having cycled extensively in Europe and Asia), cycling in Japan, nutrition, and coaching and training (UCI cycling coach).
Tim in Full Support Mode!
We learned that there is an gorgeous 5 Lake Bike Loop in and around Mt. Fuji. There are also many excellent and beautiful climbs in the Japanese Alps not far from Mt. Fuji. Tim’s company has a residence in the Japanese Alps and offers tours of Mt. Fuji, the lake loop, the Japanese Alps and more.
Mitch with the Japanese Alps in the background.
Station 4, kilometer 18.5
Tim is originally from the US and speaks English and conversational Japanese having lived and worked in Japan for 10 years. As with all PJAMM endorsements, they are purely to assist our viewers in experiencing climbs throughout the world and are made only in relation to products and services that we sincerely believe in and appreciate – we receive absolutely no financial benefit from our endorsements. With that qualification, we unequivocally and wholeheartedly recommend using Tim Smith and Astuto for any cycling trip you are interested in that is anywhere near Tokyo, Mt. Fuji and/or the Japanese Alps.
HIKING FROM 5TH STATION TO MT. FUJI SUMMIT
Big-time adventurer Kyle Stanton-Wyman, Bremerton, WA writes for the hike up to Mt. Fuji (as part of our bike-hike sometime in the future):
In regards to a Fuji summer summit - yes I have done that once and it is much more achievable. I climbed the Gotemba route in August of '18 during the official climbing season. Strava link for details and photos: https://www.strava.com/activities/1153817882/overview
Fuji (when snow free) is a 'simple' hike and doesn't require any technical climbing skills or equipment, but it is still a very strenuous hike. Gotemba is the longest of the four routes at 7,400 vft, and the other three are around 4,000 vft. Beware that you might suffer from the high altitude, given the summit is at 12,388 ft. It is most popular to start the hike pre-dawn, and summit in time for sunrise as that is typically when the weather is clearest. Given the peak's isolated nature, it is often obscured in clouds by the afternoon. Also be warned that the three shorter trails are EXTREMELY busy during the official climbing season, especially on weekends (check out the picture of the traffic jam of hikers on my strava link). During the official climbing season there are also open noodle huts selling food and water on the summit. Outside the official climbing season, the summit may still be relatively snow free and easy to hike, especially in early fall, and there will be far fewer people, but no services.
Lastly, here are the three rules for off season climbing: http://www.fujisan-climb.jp/en/risk/guidelines.html
Although the website says it's "prohibited", that's a mis-translation. They just want to make sure you are fully prepared for the conditions.
I'm sure you got the road riding beta from Caleb. Based upon that, I think a bike and hike is perfectly possible on any of the 4 routes!
This website is excellent and tells you all you need to know about hiking to the top of Mt. Fuji - https://www.garyjwolff.com/climbing-mt-fuji.html#1