The Kumano Kodo Nakahechi (熊野古道) route is a popular 4 days - 3 nights pilgrimage hike in Wakayama. Due to the popularity of the hike and the limited accomodation along the trail, its often booked out months in advance.
Because Kumano Kodo is a sacred pilgrimage route, wild camping is not allowed.
However, there are a couple of official campgrounds along the route and it is possible to walk the trail and camp. You will have to carry your tent and gear and also some food (mostly for day 3). The trail is well marked and the Tanabe City Tourism Bureau has an amazing website with every map you could possibly need.
Elevation Gain: 3700m
Multi-Day Hike 3 Nights, 4 Days
Start of the Nakahechi route is in Takijiri at the Kumano Kodo Information center , which can be reached by bus from Tanabe station. It takes about 30min and costs 970¥. The bus runs from April to November.
I would recommend staying in Tanabe the night before so you can get an early start with the first bus.
Day 1 (7:30h - 15.9km) Takijiri to Chikatsuyu
Don't forget to get your first stamp and stamp booklet.
The first day is pretty easy-going. We walked leisurely until our first stop in Takahara village and had a look around their rest house and enjoyed the views.
After Takahara it was still about 9km until Chikatsuyu-oji. Look out for the mountain crabs when you cross some of the streams.
It took us 7:30h of pretty slow walking with plenty of picture stops and little breaks. We started at 9am and arrived at the campground at 4:30.
Day 2 (10 to 12h - 25km) Chikatsuyu to Kawayu
Started at 6am as we knew this was a long day and the weather forecast for the second half of the way was pretty bad. We had a good 3 hours of sunshine until it started pouring in Tsugizakura. At 11, we decided we had enough rain and took the bus to Hongu Taisha. We got off at trailmarker 39 and walked a bit to get down to the road.
Depending on where you are, its possible to shorten the distance of your walk and take the bus if you're tired or the weather is bad.
Since we now had some extra time, we also decided to walk from Hongu Taisha to Yunemine Onsen. This part is quite steep as your going over a small mountain to get to Yunomine Onsen. Its an extra 2km which should take you about an 1h.
If you have some extra time, I highly recomend Yunomine Onsen, as it has one of Japans oldest onsen. Tsuboyu is essentially a little shack next to the river and its really hot. After being wet and cold all day, it was amazing. There are no reservations and its first come, first serve. You'll have to go to the little shop on the main road, get your ticket and then wait your turn.
It's a private bath and multiple people can enter at the same time (we squeezed in with 3 people). Tickets are 770¥ per person and you get 30min
From Yunomine Onsen to Kawayu Onsen its another hour and about 4km along the road.
Day 3 (6h - 13km) Kawayu to Koguchi
This day was pretty easy and we arrived early at the campground. Stopped by the little store in town to get some snacks, had a bath and relaxed by the river for the rest of the day.
Day 4 (7h -14km) Koguchi to Nachi Falls
Last day started with a bit of elevation gain. My friends were complaining, but its not too bad if you're decently fit. Started at 7am and arrived at the falls around 2pm, explored the area and then took a bus to Katsuura where we stayed an extra night and enjoyed some seafood.
Night 1: Iris Park Auto Campground
Tent site 2300¥ per person including Onsen.
They also have a cooking shelter, where you can have a BBQ and WIFI. Onsen had shampoo and soap.
There is a supermarket (A-Coop) within walking distance.
Night 2: Tanabe- Kawayu Camping Ground
Tent side 1200¥ per person
No reservation required but check in by 8pm (this is a long day so make sure you leave early enough to arrive by 8pm!)
They have a cooking shelter and the town has a free public onsen next to the river.
Kawayu has a restaurant or you can get supplies in Hongu from the convenience store (Yamazaki).
Night 3: Shingushi Koguchi Camping Ground:
Tent site 1000¥ per person including use of their sento/bath. (They also have a car section which is more expensive)
We didn't reserve because we went during Covid times but nowadays maybe better.
They also have a sheltered BBQ.
The town has a very small shop (南方商店) with very limited selection and opening times. We only got some extra snacks there and brought our food for this night.
Elevation Profile & Map
If you have any questions, leave a comment below or message me directly through the chat!