Cycling to Kyoto from Osaka is easy to navigate while also being a very satisfying ride. You'll cycle along the Yodo river (Yodogawa), discover some fantastic river-side cycling spots and also marvel at the cycle paths that cut through river-side farms on the way to the stunning Arashiyama, in Kyoto.
Table of Contents
- Introduction >
- Route >
- Yodo River Start >
- Hirakata to where the River Splits >
- Katsura river to Matso taisha >
- Arashiyama, cycling Kyoto and the return >
- Final thoughts >
Cycling Kyoto is amazing. The mountains, rivers, rural areas, spiritual sites and world-famous sightseeing spots make for top-class cycling and exploring
From Osaka, getting to Kyoto is easy and also involves some beautiful moments on the bike that make the Osaka to Kyoto cycling route an accessible yet stunning part of any Kansai cyclists' itinerary.
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The Yodo river (Yodogawa) start
The ride starts on the Oo river (Oogawa) right outside RBRJ. You'll head down onto the river path and then start cycling north towards the Yodo river (Yodogawa) river intersection.
As you get the Yodo river you'll turn right and head east (ends up being North-east) and start the cycle towards Kyoto. The Yodo river connects Osaka and Kyoto and if you follow it, you'll get to Kyoto. The river is generally free of traffic except for a few slow moving service trucks transporting materials up and down the river so makes for a nice stretch to settle into your bike and slowly (or quickly!) pull and push yourself to Kyoto.
You may have heard of them but there are barriers on the Yodo river cycling path. They are every few kilometers and to be honest, a bit frustrating. You'll probably have to clip out if you are wearing cleats but as you pass through a few of them, you'll develop a bit of a technique to get yourself through them and back cycling as quick as possible.
I've negotiated the barriers enough times but I still managed to fall off my bike as I was trying to pass through without clipping out and got caught in a slightly high gear and came tumbling down like a clown. The people watching in the car-park had a good laugh as I gathered my dignity, got back on the bike and continued on my journey.
Cycling along the Yodo river
From Hirakata to where the River Splits
Hirakata is about half-way between Osaka and Kyoto. The town is quite large and it's from Hirakata that the river-side cycling starts to get more interesting and natural.
There is a point where a few smaller cycling paths meet and you'll probably approach on the higher cycling path on the right.
Hirakata Cycling paths
We recommend heading down onto the cycling path and putting your bike through its paces on the lovely river-side cycling road as you breath in the nature and enjoy the view of the mountains on the north side of the river towards Kyoto.
In terms of the route from Osaka to where the river splits into three the leg from Hirakata to the bridge crossing is the best. The trees wrap along the path while the river morphs into some amazing beach-like moments which will have you considering stopping and parking yourself on one of the many private beaches (sandy shores of the river) and making the most of the river segments that join Osaka to Kyoto.
Lovely Yodo river cycling
The ride will continue past a golf course which is a sign you are about 10km from where the river splits into three. The golf course will be on your right-hand side and it will lead to a part where the path actually continues straight but you want to make a left and keep following the river-side path and route.
Golf course photo
Enjoy the scenery for another 10km or so as the path cuts through the jungle while always having the river as a background on the left. With the barriers gone and the scenery becoming more and more alive this is a memorable part of the ride. The mountain range of Mt. Ponpon will be standing tall on the left (north side) of the river as you push and pull yourself down the path towards Kyoto.
Continue cycling until you get to a bridge that you cross to take you over to the Katsura river (Katsuragawa). This is the point where the Yodo river splits into three rivers (Kizu river, Uji river and Katsura river) and you want to turn left on the bridge and head north to the northern-most river - the Katsura river - which will take you to Arashiyama, Kyoto.
Photo of the sign approaching the bridge
Recognizable tower on the bridge
Katsura river (Katsuragawa) to Matsuo-Taisha
The Katsura river will continue heading North-east until it slowly starts to curve to the left to point you north and towards Arashiyama.
The cycling along the river is at times breathtaking. You'll head past small Japanese suburbs on your right, the ever-present river on your left and some stunning farm-areas that sometimes stay to the side of the path but sometimes you'll find yourself cycling through the middle of the farms which will no doubt provide a few memories from the ride.
Farm areas along the Katsura river (Katsura river)
The bike paths taking you through the farms, next to the river towards Arashiyama are amazing. They are dedicated for pedestrians and cyclists and will have you cruising along with glee as you experience some real 'Japan' moments on the bike.
It's times like these I really appreciate cycling in Japan. With the farms, river and steep mountains in the background you sometimes can't help yourself smile and just appreciate the spot you are in.
Photo towards Arashiyama
Arashiyama, cycling Kyoto and back home
You'll continue along the Katsuragawa until you reach Matsuo-Taisha shrine and then Arashiyama.
Matsuo-taisha is an underrated temple at the bottom of a mountain that is well worth cycling past and marveling at the beautiful Tori gates of the spiritual mecca located just south of Arashiyama.
The temple is about 1km from Arishiyama so doesn't get the crowds that most Kyoto temples get so it makes for a lovely stop-off and place to buy a drink or some food from the convenience store. There is a Family Mart convenience store right next to the station with outside tables and this is a top little spot to stop, get a coffee, water or pocari sweat and have a look at your route and plan the next steps.
The ride to Kyoto is a classic cycling route that won't disappoint. The initial ride along the Yodogawa has some decent cycling and the barriers can get quite annoying but the river-side ride really comes alive and is well-worth persisting for.
The route takes on another level of beauty along the Katsuragawa and will have you cycling with a smile as you approach Arashiyama and the mountains perched along the river.
One of the great things about this route is that you can then base yourself from Kyoto and tackle and explore the myriad of paths, nature and beautiful cycling in the Kyoto area. We'll be covering some Kyoto routes soon on the blogs so keep your eyes peeled for more in-depth information and guides on cycling Kyoto.
Happy and safe cycling!