Outdoor Activities (Green Season)
Hiking, biking, walking, just taking in the fresh mountain air. Yep, Matsumoto is surrounded by accessible hills and mountains and there are plenty of outdoor activities to put a smile on your face or tire you out a bit. An hour walk in the woods, a bike ride into the hills, or, for the more adventurous, how about an overnight hike up any of the soaring peaks in the nearby Japanese Alps.
Go to Winter Activities page for white season ski and winter hiking information.
Here are some suggested hiking, walking, and biking activities in Matsumoto and around the area.
- Mountain view from Matsumoto city center (PDF)
- GPS Hiking Route-Matsumoto (application for Android smartphones)(Google play)
Hiking and Walking
Mount Jonen Hike
Japanese: Jonendake (常念岳)
Elev: 2,857 meters
This is really one of the beautiful hikes in our area. 2,857 meter Mt. Jonen is the friendly and distinct peak that towers over the Azumino valley and can be seen from many places within Matsumoto city. Mt. Jonen is usually snow-covered between December and March, so the best time to hike it is between May and November.
The popular Mt. Jonen Lodge features cozy rooms with futons, blankets and hot meals provided. For the more rugged, there's a campground adjacent to the lodge where you can pitch your own tent.
Details: Trail head begins at Ichi-no-sawa (beware: there is an alternate hiking route that begins at Mitsumata and is much more difficult) which is about 20 minutes by car/taxi from Hotaka train station. (From Matsumoto, north to Hotaka, it takes about 30 minutes by car or train.)
From the trailhead (restrooms, drinking water, shelter) the route follows a beautiful mountain stream as it gradually narrows; the trail gets steeper, then the final hour is mostly switchbacks leading to the saddle where the lodge is located. Trailhead to lodge is about 3.5 to 4.5 hours, then another hour (steep) to the summit. Allow some time at the top as it is one of the most beautiful vistas in the Japanese Alps.
At 1,500 meters, Kamikochi is cool, scenic -- and busy. During the summer months and into early autumn, the walking trails along the Azusa river offer spectacular scenery and fresh air. If you want to be right in the center of the northern Japanese Alps, then Kamikochi is your place for leisurely walks and also rigorous hikes. The center of activity is at the Kappa Bridge (Japanese: Kappabashi 河童橋) where you'll find a few restaurants and souvenir shops, and it's a short walk from the small bus station.
See our Kamikochi page for more information.
Here are some of the popular hikes and destinations:
Karasawa Hike to Karasawa Lodge - popular, especially during autumn colors. and somewhat less strenuous than others as it leads to a high valley rather than the top of a mountain.
Mt Choga (Japanese: Chogatake 蝶ヶ岳) - from the Tokusawa rest area, there are two routes to the top: continue along the river for another hour then start the climb, or take the steep trail up from Tokusawa. From Mt. Chouga, if you'd like to stay up high, continue on to Mt. Jonen, Mt. O-Tensho and Mt. Tsubakuro.
Be ready for some strenuous hours with these hikes:
Mt. Hotaka (Japanese: Oku-Hotaka-dake 奥穂高岳) & Mt. Yari (Yarigatake 槍ヶ岳) - These are very popular routes during the hiking season. Mt. Hotaka is Japan's third highest peak at 3,190 meters; and Mt. Yari (3,180 mts.), with it's distinctly rugged profile, is a ubiquitous symbol of the northern Alps.
Mt. Yake (Japanese: Yakedake 焼岳) - an active volcano that you can see above Taisho-ike pond in Kamikochi. It took 4 hours to climb to the peak from Kamikochi, and 2.5 hours to go down to Nakanoyu Hot Springs or 3 hours to return back to Kamikochi. See a blog article.
See Kamikochi page for more information about these hikes.
There are many two- and three-day hikes as well as longer routes. This area of Japan is a hiking paradise!
MOUNTAIN LODGES (Japanese: yama-goya 山小屋)
Mountain lodges provide futons and bunk space, and meals and don't require reservations. Costs vary from about ¥6,000 to 9,000. Most lodges have adjacent campgrounds for tenters. On popular trails in August, you may make a few new friends while sharing a futon at one of the mountain lodges!
Getting to Kamikochi : See our Kamikochi page.
- Climbing Mt. Okuhotaka from Kamikochi (10/22/2008)
- Climbing Mt. Yari & Mt. Hotaka (8/8/2008)
- Climbing a Volcano from Kamikochi (Mt. Yakedake 10/5/2009)
- Get out the hiking boots! (Mt. Chogatake 8/17/2007)
- Hakuba Ooike (Hakuba Ooike 8/27/2008)
- Let's Go Hiking! (Mt. Ontake 6/17/2008)
Norikura Plateau - Walking & Hot Springs
Japanese: Norikurakogen (乗鞍高原)
Surrounded by nature and mountains, and nearby to Kamikochi, Norikura sees a lot less visitors than Kamikochi. More popular in winter due to it's ski and snowboard trails, Norikura also has fresh air and a year-round hot spring resorts like the Norikura Plateau Onsen Resort and Shirahone Onsen Resort.
Getting there: You'll need a car or bus to get there in the summer, but free buses to Norikura leave from the Matsumoto Bus Terminal during the winter season.
Japanese: Hachibuse Yama (鉢伏山)
Elev: 1,928 meters
I don't think there's a better high elevation picnic spot (around the region! The trail from Tobira Onsen takes a few hours, but you'll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Japanese Alps and ... often Mt. Fuji is visible too. The top of Mt. Hachibuse is less rugged than other mountains and its rounded shape and open space make it a good place to spread a blanket and enjoy your picnic lunch with friends.
Details: The hiking trailhead begins at Tobira Onsen (get there by car/taxi only). The trail leads you through a forest and along a mountain stream for a 1.5 to 2 hours. Check out the moss-covered rocks in the stream. The second part of the hike is a one hour switchback climb from the stream to the treeline and on to the peak. Near the top, there's a teashop and some cabins for rent.
For cars, motorbikes and bicycles, the road begins near the Shiojiri border at Gake no Yu Onsen. See Mt. Hachibuse Biking below.
Japanese: Utsukushigahara Kougen (美ヶ原高原)
Elev: 2,034 meters
A popular place to walk around and enjoy the view. Cow-viewing is popular here and there's a unique museum that has some of the craziest and eclectic outdoor art anywhere in Japan. During summer, the plateau's cool breezes attract walkers and explorers of all ages, and there's even a hotel and restaurant on the top.
Details: Public buses take about an hour and a half. They leave from Matsumoto Bus Terminal and go via Asama Onsen station then Lake Misuzu (Japanese: Misuzuko).
Buses also leave from Matsumoto Bus Terminal and arrive at the Art Museum, traveling via Sanjiro.
FOR HIKING, get off the bus at SANJIRO bus stop, and the trailhead is about a 15-20 minute walk from there. Allow about 1-1/2 hours to hike up to the Utsukushigahara Plateau.
See also Sightseeing - Utsukushigahara page.
Japanese: Hachibuse Yama (鉢伏山)
Elev: 1,928 meters
The Hachibuse mountain bike trail is THE trail to explore in all of Nagano Prefecture! It's 11 kms. of challenge, beauty and stamina and it all starts and ends right here in Matsumoto. Yes, you'll burn those thighs and calves during the 2-1/2 to 4-hour climb up from the center of town but it is well worth it when you get on top and see a complete panorama of the Japanese Alps. We certainly recommend a rest stop on top after pedaling up. Then, put the helmet back on, mount and get ready for a ridgetop ride full of exhiliaration!
Details: The main climb starts from Gake no Yu Onsen. Stay on the main road up to the top of the ridge, then turn left and it's a few kms. to the tea shop and parking area.
FOR THE DOWNHILL: take the dirt trail that heads away from the teashop and soon you'll make a left turn towards the ridge. After a couple hundred meters, you need to again bear left to stay off the road. The trail is flat along the ridge for a few minutes, then begins the long DESCENT towards central Matsumoto and the valley below. At one point, you'll cross a narrow gravel road and pickup the trail on the other side. Later on in the ride, you'll again encounter the gravel road. Keep and eye on the left side of the ride, where the trail will again thrust you into the woods and down down down! The end of the trail comes out near the Susuki River in the eastern area of Matsumoto City. This is a downhill you won't soon forget!