HOW TO: PREP FOR THE HIKE TO JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK
After getting off at the Snow Monkey Park bus stop, or the Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop, a 30 minute hike through nature will give you your daily dose of outdoor exercise. The first few minutes leading up to the trail are very much uphill and could wear one out. The below information could be of help in making your trip towards the monkeys more comfortable!
If you haven’t had breakfast or lunch yet and are feeling hungry, you’d better stack up on energy as you will have no access to food for the next 2 – 3 hours. The Enza Café, located right before the trail entrance, provides you with a place to relax before and/or after the hike to Snow Monkey Park. They offer various kinds of Japanese and western foods and drinks.
The menu includes delicious chicken-based ramen, crispy french fries, fried chicken, sushi rolls, and fresh coffee, hot chocolate, refreshing soft drinks, and alcohol beverages like the local Shiga-Kogen beer and Japanese sake. If you are in hurry, you can get most of the items on the menu at the takeout. Please note that, outside of Enza’s trash bins, there are no trash bins from and to Enza café, therefore take-out trash must be carried with you throughout the hike.
Next item on the list: the toilet. The closest available toilet before the one at the Snow Monkey Park is located at the parking lot before the Enza Café.
The state of the trail varies depending on the weather. The trail is not paved, therefore it often gets muddy after rain or when the snow starts to melt in the spring.
During the winter season, a tremendous amount of snow falls from the sky and the trail sometimes gets snowed under and slippery, so sturdy boots are a necessity. Also, don’t get too close to the slope side as it gets hard to tell where the path ends and the slope begins.
If you don’t have suitable shoe-wear, or if you don’t feel like getting your shoes muddy, rental snow boots are available at “Snow Monkey Resorts Info and Gift Shop” next to the trail entrance for 800 yen. Also crampons are available for 1350 yen.
The Info and Gift Shop also provides customers with a rental winter jacket (500 yen), and they can keep your luggage/suitcase for (500 yen per item). If you are in need of a taxi, just ask the people at the Infoshop to make a phone-call on your behalf.
Once you have the appropriate gear, you are ready to head to the Snow Monkey Park, the place where Japanese macaques reside. At first glance, the trail might seem steep but no worries; 80% of the walk is relatively flat.
During your walk, if you are lucky and keep track of the surrounding forest, you may be able to meet a Japanese serow, a native the mountain area.
After walking for approximately 20 minutes, you will find the original source of the hot spring of the park next to Korakukan (the only ryokan within the park area). Its steam rises out of the ground with great force, so don’t get too close.
From there, the Snow Monkey Park entrance is just a stone’s throw away. Enjoy observing the wonderful nature and wild-life!
After coming back from the park, here are the options of what to do next:
1.Stop by the Info and Gift shop and choose something from the snow monkey goods to bring back home to your family, friends, and of course, get something for yourself! They have original hand-made items as well as the local apple flavored KitKat (or the recently added sake flavor) and other types of sweets.
2. Participate in the bicycle tour that takes you to see the local agricultural scenery and the hot spring town at the bottom of the Snow Monkey mountain. Click the link for more information.
3. Rest and relax at the Enza café with some tasty food and drinks.
Or, if you want to try soba noodles, Nagano’s signature dish (often comes with a side of tempura), head over to the nearby Sobaroku. It is located on the main bus street, and a 1 minute walk from the snow monkey park bus stop.
4. If you want to find your way back to Yudanaka or Nagano Station, this webpage gives you a detailed bus/train schedule: http://www.snowmonkeyresorts.com/access/