Since recent years, Hakuba has been gaining a lot of attention internationally as a popular ski destination, with it being said that it has some of the best powder snow in Japan. But for those who find themselves here during a season other than winter, don’t worry. There are plenty of wonderful things to do in the Hakuba area during the rest of the year as well!
Scenic hike in Tsugaike Nature Park
Hakuba is the perfect place to go if you’re looking to get out of the city and into nature for relaxation or adventure. There are countless of outdoor activities you can do here, including kayaking, paragliding, mountain biking and hiking of course. One of Hakuba’s most popular tourist attractions and best spot for hiking is the Tsugaike Nature Park.
At the foot of the Northern Japan Alps at an altitude of around 2,000m, this natural paradise offers a spectacular and unique view of the Hakuba Daisekkei (snow valley). Its scenery changes beautifully with each season, with flowers blooming in summer and the tree leaves turning yellow, orange and red in autumn.
When exiting Hakuba Station you will find several shops and restaurants around. On the left side, there is a free footbath as well as the Hakuba Information Center (the building with the green exterior).
The shuttle bus we took from Hakuba Station to Tsugaike. Isn’t it cute? You’ll find more information about Tsugaike Nature Park and how to get there at the end of the blog.
The peak of the autumn colors in Tsugaike Nature Park was reached a few weeks back, so we went there at the time to do some hiking and take in the colorful scenery. The best tourism season is from late September to mid-October.
During our rides on the gondola and ropeway, we were engulfed in clouds and it felt like we were venturing in an unknown new world.
Tsugaike Hutte (left) is one of the lodging facilities in Tsugaike and has a restaurant and shop as well. The Tsugaike Visitor Center (right) has all the tourism information about Tsugaike Nature Park. The Visitor Centre and is also a tourist attraction itself; offering lots of fun things to do inside, such as a climbing wall.
To get to Tsugaike Nature Park from Matsumoto, we took a train, bus, gondola lift and ropeway. About half an hour is spend on the gondola and ropeway, which is great because you can get a panoramic view of the spectacular surrounding scenery.
When we got there though, dark clouds blocked our view of the sky and the mountains. We were slightly worried that we wouldn’t be able to see much of the Hakuba mountain range, but the weather conditions of mountainous areas change quickly and slowly but surely, we saw the clouds disappearing to uncover the most vibrant blue sky. We got our park tickets (300 JPY per adult) at the Tsugaike Visitor Center and started our hike!
The hiking trail is largely made up of boardwalks that will take you over wetlands, as well as forest paths. Walking around the park will take about 3.5 hours (5.5 km), but if you’re short on time you can also opt to do a 1 or 2-hour course.
The park is divided in four large marshes, which are the Mizubasyo Marsh, the Watasuge Marsh, the Ukishima Marsh and the Tenbo Marsh. Each area has their own unique viewpoints and differing sceneries. When you get to Watasuge Marsh, a large area opens up and you will get a panoramic view of the wetland surrounded by the Hakuba mountain range, which is simply breathtaking.
When we got to the big clearing, there were still clouds blocking the view of the mountains, so we decided to wait a little there. There is a small area with a couple of benches for you to sit on.
Then it all cleared up and we had the most amazing view!
We stayed in that place for a while, just taking in the beauty of it all before continuing our walk. The trail itself is not too difficult as most of the area is flat, but the elevation will slowly start rising from 1,870m (Watasuge Marsh) to 2,010m (Tenbo Marsh). You will also find a toilet just after Watasuge Marsh which is the only toilet within the park, so keep that in mind.
When you climb a little higher, you get a nice overview of Tsugaike Nature Park. You can even see the Visitor Center and park entrance on the left side.
Now and then you will come upon a small seating area where you can sit down and relax.
This plant has only one leaf that was yellow! We were lucky to spot it.
After a while we arrived at the Tenbo Marsh, where there is a nice scenic spot that gives a great view of the mountains. Unfortunately for us, the clouds returned and settled right on top of the mountains.
The scenery from the area around Tenbo Marsh was amazing. We could see people walking along the boardwalks. A great place to sit down and relax during your hiking tour.
There was some beautiful autumn foliage as we made our way down.
The clouds seemed to hang around a little longer this time, so when we got back to Watasuge Marsh, the scenery was quite difference from what we saw earlier.
Once we reached the Nature Park entrance again, we decided to take a look at all the things the Visitor Center had to offer, and we weren’t disappointed!
There’s a climbing wall, a slackline and a photobooth where you can take a picture of yourself in Tsugaike Nature Park during the different seasons. There’s also a café area with a drink bar that has free coffee, tea and water for you to enjoy.
The weather had cleared up again when we took the gondola lift down.
Before taking the bus back from Tsugaike, we grabbed a late lunch at one of the restaurants near the ropeway station called Tsuga Base.
And that was the end of our itinerary in Tsugaike Nature Park! It was wonderful day and we absolutely enjoyed walking around and soaking up the beautiful scenery around us. If you’re planning to go to Japan next year, be sure to set a day aside to visit this amazing place! Trust me when I say that you won’t regret it.
Getting to Hakuba and Tsugaike Nature Park
Hakuba is easily accessible by bus or train from areas like Nagano or Tokyo. For the bus timetables, click one of the links below:
*You can get to Tsugaike Kogen (where the gondola station is located) from Nagano on the Nagano Hakuba Line without transferring.
To get to the Tsugaike Nature Park from Hakuba Station or Happo Bus Terminal, take the Hakuba Mountain Resort Shuttle Bus or a taxi to Tsugaike. Transfer there to the Tsugaike Gondola “Eve” Lift that takes you to Tsuga-no-Mori Station. Walk along the path through the forest until you get to the Tsuga-Daimon Station where you’ll board the Tsugaike Ropeway to Shizen-en Station.
After a short walk you’ll reach the Tsugaike Nature Park.
Hours and admissions
Open: Early June until Late October (Please check the exact date from the park’s official website.)
Ropeway and gondola fares: 3,700 JPY for round-trip including entrance fee to the park
Park entrance fee only: Adults 320 JPY, Children 260 JPY
Want more information about the Hakuba area? Click the link below to check out our Hakuba Tourism Guide.