Date: 2nd July 2018
What do you think of when one mentions Hakuba? Ski? During the green season, basically in summer and autumn, Hakuba offers other outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain-biking, kayaking, rafting and more.
My destination was the Happo-ike or Happo Pond, which on a clear day would mirror the Hakuba Sanzan mountains – Mount Shakushi, Mount Yari, and Mount Shirouma.
I was staying in Matsumoto, so I took the train to Hakuba Station which should take between 1 to 2 hours depending on which train type you take. From the train station, you need to get to Happo-eki Gondola Adam to board the gondola and then 2 quad lifts to Happo-ike Sanso. I will list down the access options and details at the end of the post.
At this boarding station, you will be able to purchase all the 3 rides, including return rides. So first was the Gondola Adam, which took roughly 8 minutes, taking you to Usagi-daira at 1400m. There is a terrace here, which offers some view of the surrounding mountains particularly Amakazariyama and Yatsugatake, but I left that for when I return later.
Next is the Alpen quad lift, which took about 7 minutes, taking you to Kurobishi-daira at 1680m. You will start to see the Hakuba Sanzan while taking this lift. There is an Unkai Deck (Sea of Clouds Deck) near the Nagano Olympics Start House at Kurobishi-daira, best to see early in the morning.
Lastly is the Grat quad lift, which took about 5 minutes, bringing you to Happo-ike Sanso, at 1830m, where the hike starts.
There are basically two ways up and down, both of which frequently meets near the cairns you see hiking up. One of the trails are recommended for ascend since there is a section which has loose rocks, which are actually serpentinite rocks. The other trail consists of mostly wooden boardwalk, however when I was there, there was still some snow on some parts of the boardwalk, so there were caution signs to take this trail.
Along the way, there were alpine flowers, I saw about two types, one of it is Nikko Daylilies. You should be able to see other alpine flowers in other months.
The hike to Cairn No. 3 at 2080m or Happo-ike at 2060m took me an hour and a half where the clear weather allowed for a wonderful view of the Hakuba Sanzan, reflected on the pond. There was still some snow on the pond as well.
From Cairn No. 3, it is possible to continue to Karamatsudake at 2696m, however at the time of my visit, there was still some snow left, so I was not equipped to continue. From August, it should be safe to travel up to Karamatsudake with basic hiking gears.
Most people took a break at Happo-ike having light snacks, but I was not hungry at that point. After admiring the view and taking plenty of photos as souvenir, I headed back down, this time via the boardwalk, wanting a different view from what I saw on the other trail. Before that, I had observed some hikers without snow gears who managed to walk on the snow and had heard that there was not much snow anyway, so it was actually fine to take the boardwalk.
It took only 45 minutes to descend and I was back at Happo-ike Sanso. I had a drink at the cafe at Kurobishidaira, but the clouds obstructed views of the mountain peaks.
At Usagi-daira, I finally decided to have lunch, a delightful plate of pasta.
- From Matsumoto Station:
- JR Chuo Line Limited Express: 1 hour (2,840 yen)
- JR Oito Line via Shinano-Omachi: 1 hour 40 minutes – 2 hours (1,140 yen)
Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal:
- From Hakuba Station: Alpico bus (5 minutes, 180 yen) (Link)
- From Nagano Station: Alpico Bus: 1 hour 15 minutes (1,800 yen) (8 buses a day) (Link)
- From Shinjuku Station:
- Alpico Bus: 5 hours 13 minutes (4,850 yen) (Link)
- Keio Bus: 5 hours 13 minutes (4,850 yen) – Reserve via Willer Express
- From Osaka / Kyoto Station: Alpico Bus: Overnight bus from 22:30 (Osaka) / 23:45 (Kyoto) to 07:15 @ 8,400 yen (Link)
Happo-eki (Gondola Adam):
- From Hakuba Station on foot: 35 minutes
- From Hakuba Station via taxi: 8 minutes (1,200 yen)
- From Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal on foot: 10 minutes
Happo Alpen Line (Gondola Adam + Alpen Quad Lift + Grat Quad Lift)
- One-way: 1,550 yen
- Round-trip: 2,900 yen
- Round-trip + Onsen: 3,350 yen
- Operating hours: 08:00 – 17:00
Note: Please read carefully when searching about access as most details are for ski-season.