How to use hiking app YAMAP (English guide)

01 January 2024

When it comes to hiking in Japan, there are a couple of options for GPS hiking apps. If you're used to hiking overseas or want something that has full English support, there's the American app AllTrails. There's also Yamareco, which first started in 2005, as well as the more recent YAMAP which was released in 2013.

YAMAP can be a little hard to navigate for beginners, and it's especially hard if you're not fluent in Japanese, since it only has partial English translations.

But I think with any UI, once you get used to where all of the buttons are it gets easier to use so I hope this guide can help. The screenshots below are taken on an iPhone with the language settings set to Japanese.

Finding your mountain, and using a model course

"Home screen of the YAMAP app"

When you first open the app, you'll land on the home page. There's an activity feed (if you follow other YAMAP users), an online store and other useful things like recommmended routes.

You'll notice 5 menu items down the bottom:

  • ホーム: Home page / activity feed
  • さがす: Search for mountains
  • のぼる: Your planned hiking routes
  • お知らせ: Notifications
  • マイページ: Your profile page

For the moment we'll be assuming that you already have a mountain in mind that you want to climb. So first let's click on the second menu button from the left (さがす) to search for a mountain.

"Mountain search page showing mountain on map"

Once you type in the mountain you are looking for - this step seems to work in both English and Japanese - it will probably return a lot of results, since mountains aren't that uniquely named in Japan. You might have to scroll a bit to find the one you are looking for (it'll be easier if you already know its elevation or the prefecture it's in).

Once you've picked the mountain, you'll get to see the mountain on a map - if you know the general area of where the mountain is, this also helps you verify that you've found the right one!

From here, click the grey 山の情報 button on the right, which will give you more detailed information about the mountain.

"List of model courses for a mountain"

From here you will be on the official YAMAP page for that mountain. There's quite a lot of information to see here but the two things that we're interested in for the moment are:

  • モデルコース: A list of model courses, created by YAMAP
  • 関連する活動日記: The most recent activities logged by people who have climbed that mountain

Generally I have to do a bit of research outside of YAMAP first to figure out what trailhead I want to start at, so once I've done that I check the model courses to see if the one I want to do is listed there.

The recent activities section is also nice to get a sense of what the mountain is like, but we'll come back to that bit later!

"Looking at a specific model course for a mountain"

Let's assume we want to create a hiking plan based on a model course.

Click on the one you want, and it will give you a time schedule of where you'll hit what checkpoints.

To copy this and create your own, click the big black button (このコースから登山計画を作成).

"Editing a hiking plan and choosing your start time

After you copy the model course, it will open a draft plan with the map already open.

From this screen you can:

  • See the course you'll be taking. Your path is the bit that's highlighted in yellow, red is for alternative routes used by other courses.
  • Change the start time (in the screenshot it's set to 08:00am)
  • If you expand the checkpoints, you can add in break times at certain checkpoints e.g. 30mins at the summit for lunch
  • In the bottom left there is a course time modifier
"Editing a hiking plan and choosing the course time modifier"

With the course time modifier, you can make your hiking plan longer or shorter e.g. If you have a 10 hour course and you set it to a modifier of 0.9, the timing will be updated to finish in 9 hours. Alternatively you can go the other way if you want to go at a more leisurely pace.

If you're not too sure at the moment, I recommend sticking to a 1.0 course time and factoring in some time for breaks.

Set your modifier with the black 決定 button, and then click the black save (保存) button in the bottom right.

"Editing a hiking plan and choosing the date"

Once you've closed the map you can optionally fill in the title and memo fields, as well as a date field. YAMAP has the option to share your hiking plan with other people, so this stuff will be public if you do share it.

Futher down the page there's other stuff like number of participants and amount of food and water you're taking.

Once you're done, click the save (保存) button in the top right.

"Downloading a course map"

Now you're done with your plan! The final step is to download the map via the black button (地図をダウンロード) - this will let you view it when you start hiking even without reception.

I recommend doing it while you remember to, because sometimes you might reach the trailhead, realise you forgot to download the map, but don't have reception, which kind of defeats the purpose of doing all of this work upfront!

download map options

When downloading the map there's a couple of different map types to choose from, and also note there's a map download limit if you're on the Free plan.

I always just choose the top one, because it lets you rotate the map (the other ones are in fixed position).

Going on your hike

"Seeing a list of all your hiking plans in Yamap"

When it comes time for your hike, you can find all your hiking plans via the middle のぼる menu item at the bottom of the app.

The green lozenge next to your plan indicates that you have the map already downloaded for your route.

Click the black 地図を見る button to view the map for your plan.

"Opening the map in YAMAP"

This map show you useful information like danger spots, toilet locations, as well as notes left by other YAMAP users.

Click the 活動を開始 start button in the bottom right when you are ready to start your hike.

"Seeing the map while you're in the middle of a hike in YAMAP"

While hiking, you can pause the activity using the 一時停止 button on the bottom left. Generally you don't need to do this on a dayhike as YAMAP calculates your breaktime for you, but it's useful if you are doing an overnight hike.

The other useful thing to note is the little icon in the top right with an arrow inside of the square - this will minimise your map and let you use the rest of the YAMAP app while your hike activity is still being recorded.

When you're finished with your hike, hit the white 終了 button in the bottom right.

Viewing your completed hike

"Completed hike screen"

After your hike you can see the total time, distance, and elevation gain.

There's also some additional stats around how much faster you were than the average course time, as well as how "hard" YAMAP deems this course to have been.

By default your activity diary will be set to private, and you have the option to edit it and add photos, etc. before making it public (only if you want to!)

Copying other people's plans

"Viewing another person's course and copying it"

If we recall the mountain information page we were on before, there was a section to view other people who had recently completed a hike at the same mountain (関連する活動日記).

From viewing someone's activity diary, there's also the option to copy and paste their plan with the black このコースから登山計画を作成 button.

This will take you through the same steps as you would if you created a plan using a model course.

Viewing other people's activity diaries is super useful if you want to double-check the conditions on the trail, or to see how popular the trail is. And sometimes the model courses don't quite cover the route you want to take, so being able to copy other people's activities is a feature I use quite a lot.

How I use YAMAP

I'm a big YAMAP fan, and along with the stuff I mentioned above, the other things that I like about the app are:

  • You can follow other users and bookmark their activity diaries if you find mountains that look interesting
  • Hiking plans with a schedule are useful for when you have a fixed start/finish times due to using public transportation
  • It's also a good reference mid-hike to double-check whether I'm going to be able to finish in time
  • The day before a hike, I can doublecheck the photos taken that day from the trail, which can be useful if you're worried about snow or mud
  • The app has a bit of gamification built-in with collectible badges depending on which mountains you climb
  • There's also a "people near you" feature which shows other YAMAP users you passed on your hike. More than once I've passed someone that I follow on YAMAP without realising it (one time, it was all the way up in Aomori!)

Although hiking can be a very solitary hobby at times, even when you hike alone the fact that you have a community of other hikers in your back pocket is kind of heart-warming so I've really enjoyed my time hiking in Japan, partly thanks to YAMAP. ♥️ I hope you can get some use out of it too!

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