Mount Hakusan (白山) is a dormant volcano that lies along the border between Ishikawa and Gifu Prefectures. This 2702 meter high mountain at the center of Hakusan National Park is the country's tallest peak west of the Japanese Alps. It is also considered one of the country's three most sacred mountains along with Mount Fuji and Mount Tateyama. Covered in snow for over half of the year, Hakusan becomes a popular hiking destination during the climbing season from June to October.
The most popular route up the mountain starts at the Bettodeai Trailhead from where the round trip to the summit takes between 8 and 10 hours. With an early start it is possible to climb Hakusan in a day; however, a rental car is recommended for accessing the trailhead, as limited bus service makes it difficult to complete the climb before the last bus departure of the day. In either case, nearby Shiramine Onsen is a convenient base from which to climb the mountain.
Two trails, the Sabo Shindo and the Kanko Shindo, lead up the mountain from Bettodeai. While both trails are about the same distance, the southern approach along the Sabo Shindo is less steep, making it both easier and faster to climb. The Kanko Shindo, on the other hand, traces along a ridge and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains especially along the descent. Both trails have a small mountain hut along the way where hikers can spend the night (reservations required).
It takes about 3.5 to 5 hours to make the 6.6 km climb up to Murodo, a well maintained mountain station with lodging (reservations required), toilets, a visitor center, shop, dining hall, shrine and medical station. It is a great place to take a break, grab a snack and fill up your water bottles before the final ascent to the peak. The last section of the trail is a relatively easy 30-40 minute climb from Murodo to Gozengamine Peak at the top of Mount Hakusan.
At the top of the mountain lies the satellite shrine of Shirayamahime Shrine, whose main buildings are found in Hakusan City further down in the valleys below. The top also offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside all the way out to the Sea of Japan and the Northern Alps in the distance.
From the peak, either return to Murodo the way you came or take the alternate Oike Meguri loop which leads down the side of Gozengamine, past several mountain ponds back to Murodo. Overall the loop adds an extra 30 minutes (1.5km) to the descent, but includes some nice views along the way. Several other trails lead up Mount Hakusan from a variety of points around the mountain, including some long distance treks to the Hakusan Super Rindo and Shirakawa-go.
Access to the Bettodeai trailhead by bus is provided only on selected days during the climbing season from Kanazawa Station (bus stop 1) and Tsurugi Station. There are 1-3 departures on weekends and national holidays from late June to mid October, as well as daily departures during the peak of the season from mid July to mid August. The ride from Kanazawa takes about two hours and cost 2200 yen one way, while the ride from Tsurugi Station takes about 75 minutes and costs 1800 yen.
The Bettodeai trailhead is most easily accessed by car. A large parking lot lies just below the trailhead. However, the road to Bettodeai is closed to private cars on busy days during the peak season (around weekends and holidays from mid July to mid October). During these times shuttle buses (500 yen one way) ferry hikers in from an alternate, larger parking lot at Ichinose further down the mountain.