Waterfall Mountain: RYU-ZAN (Mt. Ryu)


Hiking Guide to the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture



Ryu-zan is one of the main peaks along the Zao Renpo known for its steep slopes and as the home to the legendary Ubagami, Japan’s version of Medusa.

Ryu-zan doesn’t have the same elevation as the other mountains along the Zao Renpo, however its steep slopes truly make it stand out. An object of worship since ancient times, at the summit of Ryu-zan you will find Ryu-zan Jinja. From there, views over the Zao Renpo and Yamagata basin abound.

Take note, there aren’t any places to gather water or toilets near the summit.

Zao Sky Cable Trail (2 hours one-way)

The Zao Sky Cable Trail takes you from Chuo Kogen Station on the cable car along a ridge to the summit. It is quite a long trail, but is the best for beginners hiking Ryu-zan. There are a number of slight ups and downs to navigate, all the while enjoying panoramic views right up to the summit.

Ryu-zan Gerende (Ski slope) Trail (2 hours one-way)

Walk up the Ryu-zan central ski field and the Gerende Trail is on the left hand side. The Gerende Trail boasts views of Zao Onsen. Although the distance is relatively short, there are a number of steep rocky slopes that you need to be weary of.

There is access via a paved road, but the carpark near the trailhead is unpaved. The carpark is one used for skiing in winter, and there is space for 100 cars.

Ubagami Trail (2 hours one-way)

An Ubagami is literally an ‘old woman’ Kami. The term came about when in the old days women would try to climb mountains on which they were banned. This incurred the wrath of the Kami, and the women were turned into stone statues called Ubagami. The trail is named as such because there is a statue of an Ubagami about halfway up.

The Ubagami Trail begins off one side of the Nishi Zao Hobokujo (free-range farm). Near the trailhead there is a water hole called Ugaiba. The trail splits into the Otaki and Ubagami trails, but the Otaki trail is currently closed. Keep following the path and when you’re past the Ubagami, there are a few steep areas in a row that require ropes.

Access is possible via a paved road. There is an unpaved carpark about 1km from the trailhead where 70 cars can park.


Mt. Ryuzan, Mt. Ryu, Ryuzan

Ryu-zan is one of the main peaks along the Zao Renpo known for its steep slopes and as the home to the legendary Ubagami, Japan’s version of Medusa.


Ryu-zan (瀧山りゅうざん) is a 1362m (4468 ft.) peak in the Murayama region of Yamagata prefecture best hiked from June to October. Ryu-zan is a level 2 in terms of physical demand, which means it is relatively easy to hike, has a B technical grade, which means it doesn’t require too much expertise, and you want to allow at least 2 hours one-way for a climb.

Mountain Range

Zao Renpo




1362m (4468 ft.)

Technical Demand

B (requires little expertise)

Physical Demand

2 (relatively difficult)


Three: 1) Zao Sky Cable Trail (2 hours one-way), 2) Ryu-zan Gerende (Ski slope) Trail (2 hours one-way), 3) Ubagami Trail (2 hours one-way)

Best time to climb

June to October

Day trip possible?


Minimum Time Required

2 hours one-way on any of the three main trails


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