Photo by Miyagi Prefecture
Photo by Wesley Keppel-Henry
Photo by Tohoku Sightseeing Organization
Mount Zao straddles the border of Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures. It boasts a variety of outdoor activities and landscapes that change dramatically with the seasons. In spring, cheerful yellow narcissus flowers bloom on the hillsides. During warmer months, Okama Crater is a must visit. The water of the crater lake change hue depending on the weather and time of day. There is a forty-five-minute hike along a trail rich with alpine plants leading to a viewpoint so near the crater’s rim that it gives the sensation of falling in. Cyclists love and curse the mountain for its steep grade but rewarding views. In autumn, the foliage fills the landscape with fiery reds and yellows. Winter is the season for skiing, snowboarding, and visiting the mysterious “snow monsters” that dot the frosty mountainside. As the winter gives way to spring, the Zao Echo Line highway reopens with towering walls of snow on either side.