There are a few trails here, most are singletrack, some join old tractor tracks.
Up the hill from the Horyuji temple, it''s flowing singletrack along the skyline. Great views of the surrounding valleys.
The trails between the temples are popular with walkers, especially at weekends - it''s a ood little 2-3min downhill, but due to walkers isn''t recommended. However, the downhills described below are always empty.
Go to Horyuji station, only 20min from Tennoji, and then head north. At the busy main road, turn left to Horyuji Temple. The Information centre here can provide you with a local map for free.
You head up the right hand side of the temple, passing some ponds on your left, and go through a golf sourse. After 100-200m, the trail starts and heads up steeply to the left signposted to Matsuodera temple. At Matsuodera temple, you join a road for 50m, then turn left, climb over a low chain, and go up the steep road. You can turn right just below the top for the great ride along the skyline, or head to the top, for the start of a technical singletrack downhill.
If you take the downhill, you eventually join a road. Turn right, and first left gives you a fast downhill down some narrow tractor tracks, crossing a stream near the bottom, and the second left gives you a more technical singletrack. It's possible to reach these by following the paved road that goes left at the golf course.
Summary: These trails are a fun mix of single track and wide trail/road. Trails were mostly well signed, with place names in English and frequent map displays along the way. The main ridge trail is indeed quite popular with the walking/hiking set, but was tolerable on a Monday. It appears one can make a loop of it to the north, staring at the junction just past the valley observation platform. I was unable to ride the full length of the single track from the top of Matsuo Mountain described in the above route due to a lack of daylight. However the short section from the top to the road was rather technical.
Recommended Route: A few notes on finding the trail: When going right at temple entrance, ride along the base of the temple wall. At corner of wall, turn left, follow wall up alley. This will eventually cross a wider path which goes back into the main temple (to your left) or into another part of the complex (to your right.) Look for the alley to continue ahead, but offset to your right. Take this alley, which eventually widens to a road, up to a T intersection. Go right at junction, then make quick left going uphill. You will see pond on Left, then cemetery on right. Continue up paved road until it makes a sharp left hand turn. The (signed) Matsuodera trail starts here.