The Rock Garden is one of the most popular hikes in the Kobe area, and is renowned for wild boar sightings, as well as incredible views of Osaka and Kobe cities.
Mount Rokko, the hike, is the number one most popular in Kansai. Spectacular views of the cities, great trail, some good climbing, good length. A definite favourite. It can even be done in the height of summer, as much of it is tree covered.
Mount Rokko is also home to the awesome Rokko National Park. You can access this by public transit and there are lots of things to do. A beautiful place for a romantic date or to go with friends.
Access: From Hankyu Umeda station, take a Limited Express train on the Kobe line bound for Shinkaichi (新開地) and change to a local train at either Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi or Shukugawa stations. Take a local train on the same line to Ashiya-gawa (芦屋川) station, which is one stop from Shukugawa. On the return (if you don’t continue on to Mount Rokko), you can take a Hankyu train on the same line from Okamoto (岡本）station, which is only one stop from Ashiya-gawa.
Route: Go out the north exit (北出口) of Ashiya-gawa station, cut through the small concrete plaza directly in front of you and continue climbing straight ahead. Follow the road towards the mountains, keeping the river on your right. Across the river there’s a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright designed building sitting on the hill. Built in 1924, it’s one of a handful of original Wright buildings still remaining in Japan, and the only one in the Kansai area. After about 5 minutes, you’ll cross a bridge and see a sign in blue letters reading “高座の滝/ロックガーデン with a red arrow point towards the right. Follow this road for a short bit until reaching a fork in the road and a wooden sign with the same Chinese characters as before. This one has a 左 on top, which is the character for “left”.
Take the upper road on the left that climbs up and not the flat road on the right. Another 100 meters or so, you’ll see a road going straight with a yellow sign in black letters reading この先行き止まり/Uターンできません。Strangely, there is are no signs telling you where to go, but turn left here and do not go straight. After 10 meters you’ll see a road going straight but keep towards the right, following the overgrown hedges that curve around on the right side. A little further ahead you’ll see a brown sign reading 高座の滝. Continue on the road you’re on and shortly you’ll enter the forest. The trailhead starts at the very end of the road. Don’t cross the metal bridge on your left, but continue straight past a tea shop selling food and drinks. Kouza (高座) waterfall, just behind the teahouse, is considered to be one of the 100 most beautiful waterfalls in Japan. Cross the small rock bridge in front of the waterfall and you’ll immedately start climbing up some steep switchbacks. You’re now entering the ‘rock garden’, a series of large sandstone formations.
Mount Rokko (Hike)
Access: (Same as Rock Garden) From Hankyu Umeda station, take a Limited Express train on the Kobe line bound for Shinkaichi (新開地) and change to a local train at either Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi or Shukugawa stations. Take a local train on the same line to Ashiya-gawa (芦屋川) station, which is one stop from Shukugawa.
Route: After climbing through the Rock Garden and reaching the summit, continue the trail towards Mount Rokko. There will likely be other people around, just follow them, although the trail is quite obvious on its own.
Mount Rokko is probably the most popular hike in the Kansai area. It ends in the town of Arima, where there are some small but ‘famous’ onsens. These aren’t fancy, but it’s the ‘thing to do’ to visit them. In the town of Arima you can take a charter bus back to Umeda, or use the train station. Arima is a cute little town, worth exploring.
Also very worth checking out is the Mount Rokko National Park, although you may want to do this by accessing Arimaonsen Station directly, and making it an urban adventure, so you aren’t all sweaty while enjoying the fine dining and observation deck.
Mount Rokko National Park
This beautiful area can be reached either by Arimaonsen Station on one side, or Rokko Station on the other. The Arimaonsen side’s ropeway will get you to the facilities faster, as there is more walking from the Rokko Station, although that’s not a bad thing. Going to Arima means also getting the chance to explore this pretty little town. Go more than once and you can try both routes.
National Park Includes:
Snow Park (Dec-Mar)
Rock Garden Terrace (dining and shopping, a romantic spot)
Rokko-Shidare Observation Deck
Rokko International Music Box Museum
Alpine Botanical Garden
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