The best hikes in the Japanese Alps 日本アルプスでのハイキング、トレッキング
Komagane Valley in fall
A waterfall along the Nakasendo
A letterbox for hikers to post their planned route before heading out
The Nakasendo route between Tsumago and Magome
Credit: Big Ben in Japan
The Japanese Alps are located in central Japan and consist of three mountain ranges spread over six prefectures. Twenty mountains are more than 3,000 meters high, forming many walking routes, a true paradise for hikers.
Discover the most beautiful scenery of the Japanese Alps through the best hiking trails that run through them.
Warning! The weather in the mountains can change very often, and quickly. Plan to bring any necessary equipment as much for the heat or cold as for the rain or wind. For a hike in the mountains, it's recommended - often required - to record your route (tozan keikakusho) in a specific mailbox at your starting point and at the mountain refuge for your safety. The unexpected eruption of Mount Ontake in 2014, right next to the Alps, requires even more vigilance.
Kamikochi is an alpine valley with an average altitude of 1,500 meters located in the heart of Chubu Sangaku National Park. It's a great base for hiking and mountaineering. On each side of the Azusa river, hiking trails are arranged with several possible routes according to your fitness and difficulty level. From the Kappa Bridge, which is a symbolic site of Kamikochi, follow the path to Taisho Pond for a 3.5 km walk with beautiful scenery. Admire the pond's pure water, and the dead trees that remain in the middle of the pond - these trees are 100 years old and there due to an eruption in 1915. Towards the Imperial Kamikochi Hotel is the starting path of climb to Mount Yake, with 2,455 meters of climbing to the summit in two and a half hours. It's difficult but the effort is worth it for the magnificent panoramic view of the Alps, the valley and to feel the atmosphere of this active volcano.
Directions : From JR Matsumoto Station, take the Matsumoto Dentetsu Line to Shin Shimashima. Then take a bus to Kamikochi. There are direct buses from Shinjuku, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Omiya. Cars are not allowed in the valley.
Discover the Japanese Alps with Voyagin
In the northernmost point of the Alps lies the mountain range of Hakuba, known for hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 1998. At Hakuba Happo One, you can easily reach the 1,830 meter altitude by taking a cable car and the chairlift from Happo station. From here you can take a trail to Happo Pond, it takes an hour-and-a-half of hiking and is 2,060 meters high. Two routes are possible, on the left following the ridge of a mountain chain by a stone path; or on the right by a path made of wood. The landscape is more open on the left, but the path is more difficult. Arriving at the pond, the reflection of snow-capped mountains in the summer or the blazing red of the colorful fall leaves is impressive. You can also reach Hakuba Daisekkei, which is an hour and a half walk through a beech forest. Passing through ravines, then turquoise lakes to arrive at the valley of the snow, the largest in Japan, is impressive. This natural refrigerator will make you forget the heat of the summer in Japan! The beautiful alpine flower fields reward of all your efforts. It's still possible to continue to the summit of Mount Shirouma (2,932 meters) in five hours, but for this trail it's necessary to have mountaineering equipment, including crampons, to climb it.
Access : Hakuba Happo One. From Nagano Shinkansen Station, take the express bus to Hakuba Happo. Or from JR Matsumoto Station, take the Oito line, get off at Hakuba. Then take the city bus in the direction of Sarukura to Hakuba Happo. For Hakuba Daisekkei, stay on the bus until Sarukura. Or take an express bus from Shinjuku.
This place is called "the hike in the clouds" and is located in the Senjojiki Cirque (word meaning "thousand tatamis") a depression formed by a glacier that eroded away the land. You can ski in the spring, admire beautiful alpine plants in the summer, and at the time of the koyo of course there are the colorful autumn leaves.
With the Komagatake Ropeway, a cable car, you can access the highest station in Japan (2,612 meters above sea level) in just 7 minutes.
The scenery is dazzling on the Senjojiki Cirque and on the mighty Mount Hoken. A hiking trail of 40-50 minutes is a good option to take full advantage of these wonders. There's also the possibility of climbing to the summit of Mount Kisokoma (2,956 meters), this takes two hours.
Access : From JR Komagane Station (on the Iida Line), take the bus to Shirabidaira, then the Komagatake ropeway.
The Nakasendo road was one of the five routes between Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period. Tsumago and Magome are two important post towns of this time, and today these small towns remain stuck in the past. Why not walk between these two villages through the cypress forest? The distance of 8km can be walked in about three hours. We recommend starting in Magome, because overall the route is more downhill. A luggage transport service is offered at the tourist offices of these two villages (costing 500 yen with drop-off between 8:30-11:30 and collection at the other end from 13:00). You can also borrow a free bell to ward off bears! And yes, this precaution (with a security deposit of 1,200 yen) may come in handy. It's possible to also take a path between two other villages, Yabuhara and Narai. It is 6km long and can be walked in around two and a half hours. It's less touristy and rather easy to access as it is located between two stations on the JR line. Bells are available on the road.
Access : From JR Nakatsugawa Station on the Chuo line, take the bus to Magome. Direct buses run from Shinjuku and Nagoya.
Comments Read comments from our travellers
I love Japan their culture is very unique. I would love to visit Japan and go on hikes as I love hikes very much. Thank you for letting us know about these awesome places.