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Hiking in Fukuoka: Iwarayama

· Hiking,fukuoka

With a myriad of routes to the summit, Iwarayama (井原山) is one of the most versatile hikes close to Fukuoka City. Start at the Mitsuse Pass for significantly less elevation gain and a well-marked trail, from above the Zuibaiji Dam for 2 route options, or combine with Raizan to make a day-long loop course. Famous for its Azaleas in the springtime, the views from the summit are good at any time of year.

1. Kitoku Parking Area to Summit

2.5 hours return

For the quickest route to the top, just follow the 'Iwarayama Nature Sidewalk' path out of the parking lot and follow the trail straight to the top. There are a few difficult stream crossings at the start of the hike, so wear boots or bring an extra pair of socks if doing the hike when it's been rainy. Close to the summit, the trail will connect with the through trail that goes from Iwarayama to Raizan. Turn left towards Iwarayama (井原山), and make sure you don't miss the turn on your way back.

2. Mitsuse to Iwarayama Summit

3 hours return

At the top of the Mitsuse Pass (Rt. 263), along the border between Fukuoka and Saga prefectures, the hiking trail crosses the road and there is a small parking lot. Head up the trail on the same side of the road as the parking area. From here, simply follow the trail, ignoring turn-offs to other destinations, until you get to the summit of Iwarayama.

3. Zubaiji Bus Stop to Summit

4 hours return

A more challenging alternative to the Kitoku route, this path parallels the main trail, following the path of a stream to connect with the through trail along the summit ridge.

From the bus stop, head up the road, follow signs for the 'Iwarayama Raizan Nature Sidewalk,' past the campground and Fujiwara Shrine, and then follow the sign for the Ichitani Keitani Traverse Course (only in Japanese - 洗谷溪谷(縦走コースへ)).

This course is quite a lot of fun, but very challenging. The path pretty much IS the stream bed, so be prepared to get wet if it's been rainy. Keep an eye out for coloured tape trail markers, as well as the plentiful cairns that mark the way.

Closer to the top, there are ropes to help you pull yourself up the steep inclines. Once you reach the main trail at the top of the ridge, you're almost there! Hang a left (east) to head towards Iwarayama.

4. Raizan and Iwarayama Loop

To Raizan: 90 minutes

From Raizansennyoji Temple (definitely worth a stop!), walk downhill about 100m, looking for a turnoff to the right with the sign 'Raizan Nature Sidewalk.' Keep to the left at first, then after you pass a house on your right hand side, the trail will begin. About a quarter of the way to the summit is a small waterfall, then a small shrine around the halfway point. The trail is well-marked all the way up.

The Traverse: 50 minutes

From the summit of Raizan, follow signs towards Iwarayama (井原山), heading east. The trail is fairly level and easy to follow, though the bamboo on either side of the path is overgrown in places.

The Descent: 90-120 minutes

You can choose to follow either Route 1 (for an easier descent) or Route 3 (for more of a challenge). If you take Route 1, turn to the left on the small paved road you'll hit about 400m before the parking area. Follow this road until you see signs for Raizan. From Route 3, you'll see signs for Raizan (雷山) as you near the bottom of the trail.

Keep following signs for Raizansennyoji Temple, and the trail will finish close to your starting point.

What is your favourite route up Iwarayama and Raizan? When is the best time of year to climb them? Let me know in the comments!

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