Widely known for powder skiing, most travelers do not think of Hakuba as a top hiking destination. During the summer the peaks you see above the ski lifts are a mountain playground with trails, huts, and natural onsen. If you are looking to escape the summer heat and enjoy nature, skip the crowded beach and head to Hakuba for some amazing hiking.
May 30th, 2020 | by Mike Humphrey (Updated July 2021)
Hiking and Mountaineering History in Hakuba
Hiking in Hakuba dates back to the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912), with the first summit of Mt. Shirouma (Hakuba’s highest peak) in 1868. Mountaineering was generally a research activity for academics to observe nature and conduct experiments. By the beginning of the Showa Era (1926 – 1989) the entire Japanese Northern Alps were designated a National Park, protecting the region from development and ensuring access for future generations.
In 1945 mountaineering boomed in Japan and climbers flocked to the mountains in droves. Hiking became a popular outdoor activity and Hakuba was a prime destination.
With the influx of outdoor enthusiasts, more infrastructure was needed. A system of trails and mountain huts was constructed, many of which hikers still use today.
When to Hike in Hakuba
Hiking season starts in late May with the Teiitusai Festival that celebrates the opening of Hakuba’s mountain huts. Hiking continues from May to late October when the huts are shut down for winter.
Spring, summer, and fall offer many exciting hiking opportunities to choose from. In spring Hakuba’s glaciers and greening valley provide spectacular sights. During the summer months, the mountain peaks offer a cool respite from Japan’s oppressive humidity and fall is a spectacle of autumn leaves not to be missed.
Where to Hike
Hakuba has a wide variety of hiking, ranging from easy walks to multi-day hikes. Trails can be found both on the valley floor and on the mountain peaks. Many of the higher trails start from the top of the resorts and are accessible via the ski lifts.
Below is a shortlist of some of the many hikes Hakuba has to offer. Stay tuned and check back often as we will be making detailed articles with GPS routes for many of the hikes mentioned below.
Looking to come hiking in Hakuba? Take a look at the accommodations available here and check back for more detailed information about specific hikes. Read our detailed article about how to Plan Your Hakuba Hike.
Note on Safety:
When heading into the mountains be sure to have proper clothing and footwear, check the weather before you go, and fill out the safety documents as required.
These walks are generally flat, requiring a low to moderate fitness level, and are great for kids. The Hakuba Valley Trail system is quite extensive and is also used for cycling. It can be accessed almost anywhere in town and trail maps are available at the tourism office downtown.
- Hakuba Valley Trail System
- Green Sports
- Iwatake Forest (top of Iwatake)
- Tsugaike Ropeway and National Park
- Kita One Kogen (closed for 2021 Season)
Half-Day Hikes (moderate difficulty)
These half-day hikes are moderate to difficult and range from 2 – 4 hours in length. The trails are well marked and easily navigable. The Hike to Happo Ike from the top of Happo One’s Grat Quad is a standard field trip for Hakuba’s grade 3 students.
Day Hikes (moderate to challenging)
Take on a bit of a challenge with these day-long hikes that offer more difficulty and larger elevation changes. These hikes are more difficult but offer spectacular views of the mountains and Hakuba.
- Hakuba Ike
Single to Multi Day Hikes
Looking for a multi-day tour? The mountains are your playground! Many of the ridges between the mountain peaks have trails that can be hiked and huts are available for overnight stays. Be sure to plan your route and make your reservations in advance (huts book up quickly on weekends).
- Tsugaike to Shirouma
- Daisekke to Shirouma
And many many more
Have you hiked in Hakuba? Let us know below and share your photos with us on Facebook and Instagram!