“How difficult is it?” is one of the most common questions we get asked, but also one of the most difficult questions to answer. Difficulty ratings can be very subjective and also open to variables such as the weather. For example, if it is raining very hard and you have had a bad night’s sleep therefore feeling very tired, a ‘moderate’ ranked course can easily become ‘demanding’. With physical gradings it’s also important to understand that a label of, say ‘moderate’, can mean two completely different things to two different people depending on their experience, fitness level and mental attitude.

Is this the right trip for me?

When considering booking the Kumano Kodo (or any of our other trips), it’s important that you look at the descriptions in our materials relating to accommodation, food and difficulty level to ensure that it matches your expectations. Particularly with the physical difficulty rating it’s vital to select a trip that is realistic for your ability. The Kumano Kodo is a demanding trek and we do expect people to have a good level of fitness where they are taking regular physical exercise in the lead up to the trip. You will also need to practice hiking in a hill or mountain environment with your equipment (boots especially!) that you’ll be taking to the Kumano Kodo. You should prepare for walking several hours (6-9 hours a day) with ascents and descents, so your training should reflect this. Choose hills to train on and push yourself to do long days to prepare yourself adequately. The more training you do and the better prepared you are, the more you will enjoy this beautiful world heritage listed walk.

How well is the trek signposted?

The Kumano Kodo trail is extremely well signed and a well-defined trail so you won’t need advanced orienteering skills but you should be comfortable in reading a map, referring to route notes and independently navigating your way along this rural trail. You will always follow the ‘Kumano Kodo’ signs – there are even ‘Not Kumano Kodo’ signs on some crossroads indicating where not to go! In addition to the Kumano Kodo signs, there are waymarkers every 500 metres as well as regular signs indicating directions and distances.

What’s it like underfoot?

The majority of the Nakahechi section of the Kumano Kodo is in forested mountains and includes a number of steep ascents and descents on each walking day. This is a rugged trail and underfoot you will find exposed tree roots, loose rocks and stone steps which can be very slippery, particularly if it has been raining. There are also a few short sections of country lanes and gravel roads, mainly when coming into the towns. Please find some pictures further down to give you an idea on what to expect underfoot.

For further details on each day’s walking, you can also have a look at the following (found on our Kumano Kodo information site):

Route maps – route map for each day’s walk, including altitude profile.


On the difficulty rating chart, 1 stands for easy and 5 stands for difficult – further guidelines below:

Difficulty ranking 1:

  • short distance
  • minimal time to walk
  • minimal elevation gain and descent
  • easy terrain, e.g. pavement or well maintained trail
  • very accessible, e.g. bus stops are nearby
  • settled area, e.g. people live along the trail or nearby

*these walks are appropriate for the casual walker

Difficulty ranking 5:

  • long distance
  • full day walk
  • steep elevation gain and descent
  • difficult terrain, e.g. roots, steep uneven staircases etc.
  • limited accessibility
  • remote area

*these walks are appropriate for the prepared, experienced walker in good physical condition

It is also worthwhile noting that for example not all routes that are ranked 5 have no bus access etc. – other criteria may play a more important role in ranking.

As you can see above, all of the four full day walks (Takijiri-oji to Tsugizakura-oji; Tsugizakura-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha; Kogumotori-goe section from Hongu area to Koguchi & Ogumotori-goe section from Koguchi to Kumano Nachi Taisha) are all classified as either 4 or 5.

Our destination specialists Heini and Leanne would be more than happy to discuss any questions or concerns in more detail.

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