The Zao and Azuma mountain ranges lie on the border of Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures.
This Tohoku ride offers panoramic views as you go over mountains gaining elevation of 1,560 meters in the Zao Mountains (from Shiroishi-Zao Station to the pass beneath Zao-katta-dake peak), 1,160 meters in the Azuma Mountains (from Yonezawa City to Shirabu-touge pass) and 1,060 meters on the Bandai Azuma Skyline Road (from Urabandai to Joudodaira). You need to be ready for a challenge when you decide to set out on this route.
In May, these high elevation roads may still be lined with snow walls, but once the snow melts, it is fun to trek to the crater lakes located near the peaks of the Zao and Azuma mountains. Note the Zao Highline road leading to Okama Crater Lake near Zao-katta-dake peak is closed for bicycles. You can trek the 1.6 kilometers to the lake or take the Zao-katta lift from the Yamagata side.
In between those mountains, the route is spotted with famous spas, such as the 550-year-old Kaminoyama Onsen, and you can enjoy biking through the open fields of farming villages and quaint castle towns such as Yonezawa. The starting point at Shiroishi Zao Station and the finishing point at Fukushima Station are both on the Tohoku Shinkansen line. The route distance is approximately 250 kilometers.