On the eastern edge of Matsumoto City lies Utsukushigahara Heights (literally beautiful plateau). From here you can begin a short refreshing walk or a long adventure. Not far from the parking lot here is a peaceful meadow with grazing cows and lovely wild flowers, along with an old bell tower once used by those lost in the fog.
On a clear day the 360 degree view is breathtaking and worth a few pictures. One can see Mt. Fuji and Mt. Kitadake to the south, Mt. Hotaka Range and Mt. Yari to the west, and Mt. Asama to the east. A short ways down the road you will also find a collection of funky sculptures (the Open-air Art Museum) looking out on Matsumoto and a gift shop selling interesting treats.
Utsukushigahara Heights is an 70-minute drive from Matsumoto JR train station or a 105-minute bus ride from Matsumoto bus terminal in front of the Matsumoto JR train station to the Art Museum by Utsukushigahara Heights Art Museum Line bus, which operates only early August to mid-August. In 2016, another bus to Utsukushigahara Heights operates from the Alps (west) Exit of the station weekend of June 18 to Sep 19 and everyday of July 25 to August 31 (twice per day, 8:00 and 13:30).
If you visit the Art Museum first by the Art Museum Line bus, you can take a 30-minute hike to Utsukushi-no-tou (a small symbol tower). If you have time, go to the top of Utsukushigahara Kogen Plateau (Ougatou) by hiking 40 minutes more.