[The typical "temple hall" on the hiking route]
[The path leads through a deep forest]
The first half of the hike is the most pleasant. First you climb up in a forest of large red pine trees, after that you go up and down over the ridge on top of the mountain. In spring, wild azaleas are blooming here. Now and then you get great views of Kyoto, lying far down at your feet.
At the start the path is paved, higher up you have a sand path or some rocky patches, but it is never difficult. Temple no. 52 (if I remember correctly) stands at the mountain top, at 236 meters.
[View of Kyoto from the mountain]
[Sometimes stone statues sit along the path]
From now on the hike is up and down along the side of the mountain through a long valley and this part is not so interesting anymore. The atmosphere is a bit damp and dark and there are no views. Although it is good that the route in the end brings you back to Ninnaji again, near where you started, another possibility is to climb to the top of Mt Joju and then track back.
[The path on top of Mt Joju]
Once a month from spring to autumn stamps are put out at all 88 halls and you can buy a stamp book for 300 yen at the main hall of Ninnaji (9:00-13:00). Check the Japanese website of Ninnaji.
Access: Ninnaji is close to Omuro Station on the Keifuku Kitano Line. When coming from central Kyoto, take the Hankyu Line to Shijo-Omiya and there board the Keifuku Arashiyama line; switch to the Keifuku Kitano Line in Katabiranotsuji. When coming from Osaka or Kobe, take the Hankyu Line to Saiin and change to the Keifuku Arashiyama line at Sai Station (1 min. walk); again switch to the Keifuku Kitano Line in Katabiranotsuji. The Keifuku Arashiyama line also connects to the Kyoto subway in Tenjingawa Station (Randen/Uzumasa). It sounds more complicated than it is - in any case, the trains are much faster than the option of taking a bus.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (16:30 from Dec. to Feb.)
Fee: the grounds are normally free, only during cherry blossom season a fee applies. There is always a fee applicable for the Goten palace buildings, and also one for the museum. The hiking route is always free and open.
Judith Clancy's Exploring Kyoto gives a good description of this mini-pilgrimage route.