There are a lot of scenic, challenging and rewarding cycling routes around the Osaka area. One of the best things about the Osaka routes is they are generally easily accessible which means you'll be out of the city in no time.
Osaka's reputation for being one of the world's most livable cities was cemented in 2019 as the Kansai hub came in at 4th place on the annual Global Livability Rankings published by The Economist Group.
As if that wasn't enough, the decision to hold the 2025 Expo in Osaka was made in November 2018. Osaka definitely has a lot going for it!
If you're a cyclist (if you are reading this then the chances are that you are) then Osaka also has plenty to offer the one-day rider too.
Whether you are in Osaka on business and have one day to stretch your legs, traveling around but wanting to keep to a training program or want to get away from the family while they go to Universal Studios or shopping (very common reason!), the river routes and mountains surrounding Osaka make for some fun and at times epic riding.
Here's a list of a few of our favourite Osaka cycling routes and areas to ride in that can be squeezed into one day or less.
- Yodo and Kanzaki River Loop
- Yodo river up and back
- Yodo river to Arashiyama and back
- Minoh Park and Katsuoji Temple
- Osaka Harbour Cycling Route
- Kawachinagano area - South Osaka
- Osaka city at night
Yodo and Kanzaki River Loop
Starting with the simple and for anyone who just wants to squeeze a quick 40 to 60 kilometres ride into a couple of hours, the Yodo and Kanzaki River loop is flat and mostly follows along riverside cycle paths so traffic can be avoided.
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Yodo River up and back
It's common to see local cyclists on the Yodo River. It's pretty flat and with no cars around riders and cycle freely without worry. There are some safety barriers along the wide river path so every several kilometers you will need to slow down and negotiate the barriers.
How far you ride along the Yodo River is entirely up to you but many local riders stop at the Yodo River Mikawa Goryu Meeting place. Here there is a resting area and tower for viewing where the Yodo River meets the Kizu, Katsura and Uji Rivers.
Yodo River to Arashiyama and back
With the volume of tourists now visiting Arashiyama - located to the west of Kyoto, it can hardly be referred to as a well kept secret.
Trains to Arashiyama are often full during the height of the Hanami (Cherry blossom viewing) and Kouyou (Autumn Leaves) seasons. Locals and visitors alike take in the beautiful setting that despite it's popularity still retains an air of tranquility and is well worth a visit.
Arashiyama makes for a great 1 day ride from Osaka or is a good point to take a breather for those heading to Kyoto or Lake Biwa.
The 53km route (one-way) from Osaka largely follows the river paths along the Yodo River and Katsura River so those who like to avoid busy roads can enjoy a leisurely ride without worrying about competing with the traffic.
It's time to get out of the saddle when you reach the Togetsukyō Bridge. Just a stroll around is enough to re-energise after the bike ride from Osaka, although there are some vendors on hand with refreshments if needed.
Just find a quiet spot along the river to take in the scenery and atmosphere.
For those who want to do a bit of sightseeing in Arashiyama, there are plenty of temples and shrines scattered throughout the district; and the Arashiyama Bamboo groove is one of Kyoto's top sights.
There is excellent cycling in the mountains north of Kyoto city and also south of the city going towards Nara.
As with all the Yodo River routes, one thing to factor into your planning is wind. Nine times out of ten there seems to be a tailwind pushing you nicely towards Kyoto but remember to save some energy for the return and headwind blowing in your face.
We have an in-depth guide covering this route which can be found from the link below.
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Minoh Park and Katsuoji Temple
Located around 30 kilometres north of Osaka, Katsuoji Temple is a real find along the route over the hills of Minoh.
With a little bit of hill work involved to get there, it makes the perfect stop to take a quick breather and to take in your surroundings. The luscious forest surrounds this secluded and tranquil place of worship.
With its tiered levels, wooden pagodas and Koi-filled pond Katsuoji makes for a great escape from the city.
As with much of Japan, each season creates it's own distinctive backdrop to the temple grounds. The beautiful 'Sakura' (cherry blossom) bloom in Spring provides the perfect postcard of Japan, while the autumn brings the changing of the leaves, equally as beautiful in its own way.
Summer provides a real treat when the extended hours begin and the temple can be visited at night making dusk the perfect time to see the night and day views.
Katsuoji translates to win temple. Visitors can buy daruma dolls hoping to obtain winner's luck. If the wish is fulfilled, the is often returned to the temple and left somewhere on the grounds.
If you've made it as far as Katsuoji Temple and want to push on further, Emma Coffee is a further 10 kilometres of rolling hills and quiet countryside paddy-fields away. It's a popular destination for local cyclists and serves up a Cafe Latte and BLT Sandwich to die for.
See our Osaka to Minoh cycling guide and route in more detail.
See the Minoh route and core details on our route page.
Osaka harbour Cycling Route
A great route idea for exploring more of the city, rivers and harbour is the Osaka Harbour cycling route.
At 40km it's a great length to get a sweat going, see some of the city and explore the extensive river and harbour area which includes some stunning bridge crossings.
See our Osaka Harbour cycling guide and route in more detail from the link below.
Kawachinagano - South Osaka
An often overlooked area for cycling in Osaka is in the south.
Southeast of Sakai city there is a very mountainous area which is great for cyclists. Most of the routes and roads pass through and around Kawachinagano and Tondabayashi near the border of Nara and Wakayama.
The largest peak in the mountain range is Mt. Kongo which is the tallest mountain in Osaka standing at 1,125m. The border of Nara and Osaka runs through the peak of Mount Kongo meaning the west side of the mountain is Osaka and East side is Nara.
There are numerous winding mountain roads that weave around Kawachinagano, Tondabashi and Hashimoto to the south which is where Wakayama prefecture begins.
We have a great 80km ride starting from Tennoji that will give you a good idea of the kind of cycling in the area. See the route from the below link.
Osaka city at Night
If you are looking to explore Osaka city on a road bike, it's best to do so at night.
While you can ride around the city during the day, the traffic and huge number of pedestrians can make it a pretty hectic experience.
But, after the work day ends and the city settles into the evening the streets become a thrilling yet relaxing place to discover on the bike.
With far less traffic on the roads you can enjoy more space and freedom and explore places in the city that are too busy to really enjoy on the bike during the day.
We love hammering north to south along the Uemachi-suji, spending time on the excellent paths and roads that surround Osaka castle, passing through Shinsekai and the Tsutenkaku tower, darting up and down the streets of Minami and soaking up the river-side atmosphere at night along the Oo river around Higobashi and Nakanoshima.
Osaka is a unique city and experiencing it on a bike is excellent. If you want to avoid the traffic and get more space to yourself, we recommend riding around at night.
To read more about cycling Osaka city at night please see our blog which has photos, tips and an example route.
Above, provides an outline of some of our favourite and most convenient areas to explore in and around Osaka but there are plenty more.
Head over to our routes and resources page for more routes, guides and information on cycling in Osaka.
Another good way to look for popular routes is by using the 'Global Heatmap' setting on Strava's Route creator. You can also find more Globalwheels cycling routes on our Strava profile.
Safe cycling all!