Dewa Sanzan: How to Get Around & Hiking Info

This post tells you how to get around the 3 Holy Mountains of Yamagata in Japan. In the summer months from June through early September, it is a great season for travellers, day-trekkers and hikers to visit the Dewa Sanzan. The most popular one to visit is Haguro-san, the first shrine. The grounds are large, and it has one of the country’s oldest five-storey pagodas nestled in a cedar forest. For hikers and alpine flower enthusiasts, Gassan is a good day-hike. Yudono-san is seen as the holiest of the three shrines, but is also the most inaccessible.

Below you will find information on the bus routes for Haguro-san, Gassan, and Yudono-san, local maps, a lodging directory, and useful vocabulary.

You can also read my diary entries that include photos and route descriptions:

Getting In and Out:

Transportation to and from the Dewa Sanzan is quite straight-forward if you know what you are looking for. The route is also quite scenic.

  1. The closest JR train station is about 4-5 hours from Tokyo Station on the Shinkansen. You will transfer at Niigata Station, and try to get an express train up to Tsuruoka, as they have wide-view windows for a view of the ocean.
  2. Get off the JR Train at Tsuruoka Station.
  3. From Tsuruoka Station, you will need to take bus line to Haguro-san, then Gassan. There is a separate bus line to Yudono-san. Your other option is a taxi, which will be expensive. Note the last bus times leaving each mountain, as they come only a few times a day.

Getting Around / Bus Times:

Buses in Japan are punctual, so make sure you arrive at a bus stop a little early. Buses will rarely leave early, so as long as you arrive at the specified time, you will catch it.

Local bus drivers speak little English. However, the bus to Haguro-san usually has a map of the area provided for free. The word for ‘map’ is chizu.


A walking and bus map of Haguro-san I found. Look at information centres & ryokans.

Getting to Haguro-san:

Take the bus to Haguro Town from Bus Stop #2 in front of Tsuruoka Station.

The stop for the bus in front of the JR Tsuruoka Station is: 鶴岡駅前②のりば

Key stops to note are:

  • Haguro Aramachi (羽黒荒町)- Where the ryokans / inns are
  • Zuishinmon (随神門) – Entrance to the 30-60 minute hike to the top
  • Haguro Peak (羽黒山頂) – Stops in a car park that’s about 10 minutes walk from the main entrance of Haguro Shrine

Please check this link for updated information: Bus Timetable from Tsuruoka Station (鶴岡駅前②のりば) to Haguro (羽黒荒町) 

There are few buses between the mountains. Make sure you’ve written this information down before you head out. Also copy the Japanese names for key bus stops so you can show drivers / recognize them in online searches.

Here is my diary entry for my walk to Haguro-san.

Map of Gassan, including walking times and rest areas. Get at 8th Station shop.

Getting to Gassan (via Haguro-san):

Buses going to Gassan pass through Haguro-san. There are only 4 buses going to and 4 buses returning from Gassan every day.

These buses only run regularly July and August. They also run on specified days in September.

From Haguro-san to Gassan
*July, August, Select September dates
From Gassan to JR Tsuruoka Station
*July, August, Select September dates



Please check the link for the bus schedule for Gassan (Japanese)

Here is my diary entry for my walk to Gassan.

Buses to Yudono-san (湯殿山):

From JR Tsuruoka Station Bus Stop #2
* From Jun 1 – Nov 1
From Yudono-san to JR Tsuruoka Station
* From Jun 1 – Nov 1



Please check for updates here: Bus schedule for Yudono-san (Japanese)

Here is my diary entry for my walk to Yudono-san.


Below is a list of ryokans at the base of Haguro-san. Majority of the town is ryokans. Most of them speak only Japanese, and a phone reservation prior is recommended. If you plan to walk in, then you should arrive before noon, as they will need time to prepare your dinner if you are staying the same day. You can also try using the Rakuten Travel (English) site to book online.

Lodging information bus driver from Tsuruoka Station to Haguro-san gave me.

Useful Vocabulary (especially for map reading)

羽黒山 Haguro-san / Mount Haguro
月山 Gassan / Mount Ga / Moon Mountain
湯殿山 Yudono-san / Yudono Mountain
山頂 Peak
神社 Jinja Shrine
宿坊 Shukubo
旅館 Ryokan
民宿 Minshuku
案内 – Information
至 – towards
バス – bus
バス停 – Bus Stop
駅 – Station / Train station

If you have a pocket wi-fi or SIM, you can check out my list of apps for local travel. Please note that Gassan and Yudono-san may not have good reception.

And that’s it!

If you want to see what the route is like, please check out my Dewa Sanzan Diary Forward!

You won’t regret going lesser-known site that combines historical significance with stunning natural scenery. Wishing you a great adventure!

Athena Lam

A content marketing strategist and consultant.

15 thoughts on “Dewa Sanzan: How to Get Around & Hiking Info

    1. No problem! 🙂 I speak Japanese and had trouble sorting out information. If it weren’t for the help of my bus driver and the ryokan owner, I would probably have been stuck on a mountain. In the end, I had a great time and I hope you do too!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Adi,

      The buses that go to the mountains only run in the summer, so if you want to hike them in the winter you’d have to taxi. In April, Gassan will still be locked in snow.

      Many of the the higher and northern mountains will still have snow, so if you are itching to hike, I would recommend going down to Kyushu.




  1. Hi Athena,
    This is lovely. All of the information here is so useful! Just wondering if buses would run from Tsuruoka to Haguroaramachi around the second week of October?


  2. Hi
    Your post is great, we are having a trip to japan this October(starting on 22th) – November, and we really want to do the trip to Dewasanzan, but i’m afraid that we will only be able to visit Hagurosan due to the weather, i know that for sure Gassan will be closed and i’m having troubles to find information about Yudonosan buses schedule, i saw that they only work on holidays and weekends, do you think a rent car can help? or maybe just leave it for another trip.
    Thanks in advance


    1. That’s snow country. Unless you’re accustomed to hiking in snow and low temperatures I would not advise it. A car would only work for gassan. You don’t have enough time to go to yudono


      1. That is what i was afraid of 😐 we found out about Dewasanzan after deciding our trip dates, since we are not used to snow the best will be to do it later on with more time, thanks a lot for you time and advice 🙂


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