by Scott, staff writer of japan-guide.com
This journal is a log of my travels within Japan. Here you'll find my personal opinions on the places I've been and the things I've seen. Also expect to see the occasional review and editorial. Thanks for reading.
2012/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
Today I headed back up to Fukushima Prefecture to check out the lower slopes around Mount Bandai. The area experiences a long autumn colors season due to the large change in elevation around the mountain, and since our last visit earlier this month the colors have made their way down the mountain to the lower slopes around Urabandai.
The first area that I checked out this morning was the Bandaisan Gold Line, the toll road that leads up the western side of Mount Bandai. The road normally costs 730 but is currently free to promote tourism. This road leads to a trailhead near the top of the mountain from where it is a 2 hour hike to the summit. However, I wasn't interested in climbing the mountain this time around and instead spent my time checking out the colors along the drive.
The colors around the Gold Line were right around the peak today and the roads were crowded with tourists. The lower slopes of Mount Bandai looked like they were on fire with all the bright orange and yellow trees around.
The foliage noticeably changed as I neared the Happodai trailhead, from where the path leads to the summit of Mount Bandai. There were far less hikers today as the trees along the trail looked pretty naked.
Descending the north side of Mount Bandai led me to the Urabandai (lit. behind Bandai) town area at the base of the mountain. A popular walking path, called the Goshikinuma (5 color ponds), leads through the forests around the town between two of the area's larger lakes.
The colors around the Goshikinuma ponds were at different states around the different ponds, but overall they seemed to still be approaching their various peaks. The trees that were colorful provided some nice contrast to the beautiful blue pond waters.
It was relatively crowded around the Goshikinuma today, with the largest crowds around Bishamonnuma Pond at one end of the trail. The largest of the ponds, Bishamonnuma is more developed than the other ponds with lots of food stalls, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
The colors at Bishamonnuma were also the furthest along of the Goshikinuma today, and some people were renting rowboats to enjoy the sights from the water.
After finishing the hike, I drove over to the Bandai Azuma Lake Line toll road that connects Urabandai with the Mount Azuma area. This toll road is also temporarily free to promote tourism.
The trees along the lake line were at their peak and proved to be the highlight of the day. Several viewpoints along the way let you look out over the valleys and lakes below, and the slopes around the lake line were simply on fire.
One famous section of the Bandai Azuma Lake Line is the Nagatsugawa Gorge, a deep ravine below a bridge. There is a rest house and parking area a little ways past the bridge from where hiking trails lead down to the river below.
I went down to check out the view from below, but I only wish I had had more time. The best views look like they were from downstream of the bridge, but I'm not sure I understand exactly how to get there. I guess that leaves something to look forward to on a future trip to the area.