Guide to Cycling Mt Haruna 榛名山

The Mystical Forest Roads up Mt Haruna.
The Mystical Forest Roads up Mt Haruna.

Introduction

Mount Haruna is a one of the three famous mountains of Gunma Prefecture known as the Sanmei-zan 三名山. A large stratovolcano that erupted in the past, Haruna is now home to a large flattened caldera adorned with a caldera lake, jagged peaks, and a mini Mt Fuji. Because of this, cycling Mount Haruna is a popular choice for cyclists in Japan.

Gain
4/5

Views
4/5

Accessibility
5/5

Pavement
5/5

Zen Factor
4/5

Climb Score Card from our full article on the 14 Best Cycling Climbs in Japan (Hint, Not Mt Fuji!).

The views of the Kanto Plains below from the Takane Observation Deck.
The views of the Kanto Plains below from the Takane Observation Deck on Mt Haruna.

Cycling Mount Haruna

With 5 different paved roads summiting over 1,000m up to the inside of the caldera, Mt Haruna is ripe for exploration for cyclists who love to climb! So much so, that like Mt Akagi, Haruna is home to an annual mass start event, the Haruna Hill Climb Race each May.

While this event draws thousands to ride up closed roads for one day from the edge of Takasaki City to the summit of the Tenji Pass 天神峠, there are many more enjoyable routes for cyclists that want to explore Haruna outside of the competition.

The finish line at the Haruna Hill Climb Race.
The finish line at the Haruna Hill Climb Race.

Osusume ~ Recommended Mount Haruna Cycling Course

Mount Haruna Climb Course Elevation Profile.
Mount Haruna Climb Course Elevation Profile.

For those looking to have the best experience cycling up Mt Haruna the newly refinished Rt 28 is hands down the best route up the mountain. Situated on the southeast side of the mountain, Rt 28 starts in the small town of Shinto 榛東村. From here you climb through a dense forest before reaching the Matsunozawa Pass 松之沢峠, the highest pass on Mt Haruna at 1,158m above sea.

Once at the summit, a quick descent takes you to the lakeside of Mt Haruna where small soba shops and cafés await. Then, take off heading north along the wide switchbacks of Rt 33 towards Ikaho Onsen Town. This road is the inspiration for the Anime Initial D, and is one of the most famous roads in all of Japan because of the show.

The stone steps of Ikaho Onsen Town.
The stone steps of Ikaho Onsen Town.

Sweeping hairpins, epic overlooks, and one of Japan’s best kept secret onsen towns make this a descent unlike any other! Note: we don’t recommend climbing up Rt 33 as the traffic is very heavy, but descending you will have far less issue as you are traveling much faster.

Strava Route File

Climb Overview | Matsunozawa Pass

Scorecard Breakdown

[Climb Score Card from our full article on the 14 Best Cycling Climbs in Japan (Hint, Not Mt Fuji!).]

Gain – 4/5 | 1,000m from Takasaki Station
Views – 4/5 | Be sure to stop at the Takane Observation Deck
Accessibility – 5/5 | 50min Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Takasaki Station, 1h45 Shibukawa Station to Tokyo via 2 Trains.
Pavement – 5/5 Recently repaved amazing runway tarmac on Rt 28 on the way up, very nice pavement in the caldera and on the way down on Rt 33.
Zen Factor – 4/5
Up 5/5 | Hardly any cars use this route as it takes much longer than the larger roads on the mountain. Perfect for a cycling climb!
Down 3/5 | Cars use Rt 33 as the main access to Ikaho Onsen Town so traffic can be heavy compared to other routes. That said, speed limits are low around 30-50kph and the roads are easy to ride.

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