Mae Nikko Highlands 前日光高原 1,357m

At the observation deck with Nikko National Park's high peaks in view.
At the observation deck with Nikko National Park’s high peaks in view from the Mae Nikko Highlands.

Gain
5/5

Views
4/5

Accessibility
4/5

Pavement
4/5

Zen Factor
5/5

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

Mae Nikko Highlands 前日光高原 1,357m | 360° Views of Endless Mountains

Ahh, the Mae-Nikko Highlands. People know of Nikko, but did you know there is some 500km of tranquil, beautifully paved, and basically car free Rindo Forest Roads just south of Nikko National Park? It is here that the Kiryu Alps and Ashikaga Foothills merge up with the Ashio Mountains and summit at the Mae-Nikko Highlands.

Mae or 前 in Japanese means before, or in front of, and the Mae-Nikko Highlands is just that. Summiting at Mt Yokone at 1,373m these highlands feature sweeping views thanks to the Bokujo Farms atop and the 2km gravel road that rides the ridge-line to the Zonohana Observation Deck.

Panoramic views from the Zonohana Observation Deck atop the Mae-Nikko Highlands.
Panoramic views from the Zonohana Observation Deck atop the Mae-Nikko Highlands.

Osusume Course

As stated before, there are lots of ways up (and down), but if I had to choose one route for those who have never done this loop it would be this. Starting from Shin-Kanuma Station taking the Rt 15 up to the Kasuo Pass 粕尾峠. Then, take Rt 58 up to the Mae-Nikko Highlands access road. At the gate, take the gravel road the 2km out to the Zonohana Observation Deck and soak in the views!

From here, back out via the 58 now heading north until it merges with the 14 taking you back to Shin-Kanuma Station.

Strava Route Cycling Mae Nikko Highlands Loop

Mt Nantai in Nikko National Park in the distance and Azaleas road side. Taken from the gravel road along the ridge line.

Mt Nantai in Nikko National Park in the distance and Azaleas road side. Taken from the gravel road along the ridge line.

Climb Overview

Scorecard Breakdown

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

Gain – 5/5 | 1,200m or so, starting very gently in the lower valleys, but growing quite steep around 30km in.
Views – 4/5 | Not the most obstructed view of Fuji, but the angle, lack of cars, and many views along the route makes for a top notch sunrise ride!
Accessibility – 4/5 | 1h30 express Asakusa Station to Shin-Kanuma Station
Pavement – 4/5 | Decent to good pavement along most of the route. Gravel for the last 2 kilometers to the observation deck.
Zen Factor – 5/5 | From around 14km in until back in Kanuma expect minimal to no traffic for much of the route! Do watch out though for peak fall foliage weekends though, but typically the roads are near empty even on weekends and holidays.

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