HOW TO: PREP FOR THE HIKE TO JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK
Going to the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park? This page will give you insight in what to expect from the moment you get out of the bus or car and go to Snow Monkey Park on foot! Please see the below for a chronological explanation of what you will encounter on your way to the Park:
From the Bus Stop:
After getting off at the Snow Monkey Park or the Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop, there a signs that point you in the direction of the Snow Monkey Park. The first few minutes leading up to the trail are very much uphill. The photo below shows you what kind of road is awaiting for the first part of your journey to the snow monkeys.
Access to Toilet:
After walking up the road for about 5 minutes you will see the Jigokudani Parking Lot on your right. This is the last public toilet before getting to the Park. The park has a toilet, as well as Enza Cafe, the cafe next to the parking lot, but these are for customers only.
Breakfast/Lunch Options before the Snow Monkey Park trail
Walk a little bit further along the road and you’ll see Enza Cafe on your right. This cafe is the closest cafe to the Jigokudani Park. 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. Enza Café provides you with a place to relax before and/or after the hike to Snow Monkey Park.
The menu has delicious chicken-based ramen, sandwich wraps, 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 a 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.
Before the Forest Trail to the Snow Monkey Park
A little before the forest trail of the Snow Monkey Park is the Snow Monkey Resorts Info & Gift Shop. As the name implies, the staff of this shop can provide you with all sorts of information about the area but also with helping you find the perfect souvenir.
In the colder seasons, warm clothes and shoes are a must. For those without shoe-wear that isn’t sturdy, you can get rental snow boots or rain boots for 800 JPY if the weather is snowy or rainy. If it is really icy, as it can get in this area, 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).
See this blog for more details on the Info & Gift Shop winter services.
In the warmer seasons, the shop has rental bicycles for those who want to enjoy a downhill, countryside bike ride through the area. After your visit to the Snow Monkey Park, you can get on a bike and cycle leisurely down to Yudanaka Station where you drop the bike off.
Please see here for more information on rental bicycle services.
Walking the Forest Trail to the Park:
Once you have the appropriate gear, you are ready to head to the Snow Monkey Park, the place where Japanese macaques reside. The walk to the park is about 25 minutes from the trail entrance. The state of the trail varies depending on the weather. The trail is unpaved, so it gets muddy after rain or when the snow starts to melt in the spring. In 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.
At first glance, the trail might seem steep but no worries; 80% of the walk is relatively flat. Don’t get too close to the edge of the slope as it gets hard to tell where the path ends and the slope begins especially in winter with all the snow.
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.
Arrival to the Jigokudani Valley:
After walking for approximately 25 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.
Welcome to the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park!
When you see the Japanese inn Korakukan, the Snow Monkey Park entrance is just a stone’s throw away. Climb the set of stairs on opposite side of the river from the ryokan and you’ll see the entrance to the Park.
Enjoy observing the wonderful nature and wild-life!
If you are looking for a guided full day package, with a visit to the Snow Monkey Park + one of Nagano’s famous attractions, please take a look at our tour site!