Climb Nagano’s tallest mountains. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Japanese Alps. Walk along the ancient Nakasendo. Cycle through the Japanese Countryside.
Surrounded by the 3,000-meter-high peaks of the Japanese Alps, Nagano is a beautiful countryside area of Japan with year-round outdoor activities. While most people know it for its excellent skiing and snowboarding, Nagano also offers plenty to do in summer as well, like mountain biking, rafting, canyoning, and more!
Get out of the stuffy city and see another side of Japan.
What to do in Nagano in Summer
Ride Ropeways to Spectacular Mountain Views
Enjoy the Effortless, Unforgettable Scenery of Nagano’s Mountains
Don’t want to work up a sweat to see the best views? You don’t have to! Ropeways and gondolas around Nagano take people up the mountains to incredibly picturesque viewpoints.
Counter-clockwise from top: Ryuo SORAterrace, Hakuba Mountain Harbor’s terrace, Hakuba Mountain Harbor’s exterior, Happo Pond
At Ryuo’s SORAterrace, located in Northern Nagano’s Yamanouchi area, you can take a 166-person-capacity ropeway to the top of the mountain and enjoy views of the valley from 1,770 meters high. Under the right conditions, you can see a miraculous phenomenon called unkai, seas of clouds that cover the valley!
At Hakuba Mountain Harbor, you have front row seats to the Hakuba Sanzan Mountains (Mt. Shirouma, Mt. Shakushi, and Mt. Hakuba Yari). Enjoy the wonderful views with delicious baked goods and coffee from the City Bakery.
To stretch your legs a bit, hike to Happo Pond. 90 minutes from the top of the Alpine line lift at Hakuba Happo One, Happo Pond is famous for its views of the mountains reflected in its still waters.
Hike in the Highlands and the Japanese Alps
Hikers and mountain climbers from around Japan–and recently from around the world–come to Nagano to climb its majestic peaks. Having 9 out of 15 of the tallest mountains in Japan, Nagano is the place to go when you’re looking for fantastic mountainous vistas.
Stroll through Japan’s Picturesque Highlands
While some prefer the challenge of the hike, most would rather maximize their time enjoying the scenery. At Nagano’s many highland areas, you can enjoy leisurely strolls with impressive mountain views. You can see delicate highland marshes, verdant, virgin forests, and plains covered in colorful alpine flowers.
Counter-clockwise from top: Taisho Pond (Kamikochi), view from the Kappa Bridge (Kamikochi), Tsugaike Nature Park, Onuma Pond (Shiga Kogen)
Kamikochi, at the base of the Japanese Alps, is one of the most scenic nature parks for hiking in Central Japan. The views of the Hotaka mountain range from the Kappa Bridge are unforgettable, and there are many other scenic spots around the basin. With many dining and accommodation options, as well as great access from Matsumoto, Kamikochi offers visitors a chance to reconnect with nature without any of the hassle.
Tsugaike Nature Park sits atop Tsugaike Ski Resort in the Hakuba Valley. A highland marsh at 1,880 meters high with an area of 100 hecrates and a trail 5.5km long. You can walk along the marshes and see a myriad of alpine flowers and small ponds with the Hakuba Sanzan mountains in the background. The park also has a trailhead for mountain climbers which leads to Mt. Hakuba Norikura and Hakuba Oike.
Known as one of the largest ski resorts in all of Japan, Shiga Kogen also happens to be a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. There are many nature trails around the highlands here, from easy strolls to arduous climbs. One of the most popular trails is the Ikemuguri Trail, which passes through marshland and around several ponds, among which electric-blue Onuma Pond is a must-see. See trail maps here.
Conquer some of Japan’s Tallest Mountains
With hundreds of routes that span day-hikes to multi-day treks, there’s something for everyone in Nagano. Beginners can enjoy the wonderful views from short, gondola-assisted hikes or relatively flat highland areas. Those looking for a good workout can tackle nearby peaks like Mt. Karamatsu and Mt. Kiso-Komagatake. Finally, hardened mountain climbers can test their mettle on the many three-thousanders around the prefecture, such as Mt. Yari, Mt. Hotaka, and Mt. Ontake.
Counter-clockwise from top: Mt. Tsubakuro, Mt. Yari, Mt. Shirouma, Mt. Karamatsu
Walk the Nakasendo
Built during the Edo Period, the Nakasendo was an important trail that connected Kyoto and Edo (modern day Tokyo). Running from Sanjo Ohashi in Kyoto to Nihonbashi in Tokyo, the trail spanned 526 kilometers. Many small towns were established along the route to support travelers, some of which still retain the atmosphere of the Edo Period today.
The post towns that remain along the Kiso Valley are some of the most well-preserved in Japan. Tsumago, Magome, and Narai post towns are the most famous. Walking along the streets here, you can imagine yourself back in time in the Edo Period.
You can walk part of the trail between Tsumago and Magome, which takes about three hours to complete. Enjoy the serene forests of Kiso and the many remnants of the trail’s heyday, such as old shrines, wooden waterwheels, and tiny hamlets.
Go Cycling and Mountain Biking
Cycling is a great way to see the Japanese countryside during spring, summer, and autumn. You see a more authentic Japan that is otherwise out of reach, like stretches of rural kominka houses surrounded by rice paddies and small shrines hidden in thickets of cedar and bamboo. With a guided tour, you can learn much more about the local area and how it has changed over time.
Cycling through the Japanese Countryside
Counter-clockwise from top: Cycling along the Chikuma River (Iiyama), downhill cycling (Madarao Kogen), Zukudashi Ecotours (Togura Kamiyamada), cycling in Karuizawa
Rent a bicycle near Karuizawa Station and enjoy this international summer resort. Ride through shaded roads and visit beautiful sites like Kumoba Pond and the Kyu-Mikasa Hotel. Enjoy Karuizawa’s natural scenery, chic streets, and shopping! See Karuizawa’s cycling map here.
In Northern Nagano’s Iiyama area, you can enjoy cycling along the Chikuma River, traveling between its many temples, or challenging some of its steep hilly areas. You can also join a downhill biking tour from Madarao Kogen. Rentals available at Shin’etsu Shizenkyo in Iiyama Station.
In the Showa-retro hot spring town of Togura Kamiyamada, you can see into the history and lifestyles of the people here with help from a local guide. See beautiful temples, traditional houses and idyllic orchards while interacting with local people.
At the base of the Japanese Alps, you can cycle leisurely through the countryside or race down mountains. Several local tour companies offer cycling tours around the valley.
Mountain Biking in the Heart of Japan
Hakuba Iwatake, Fujimi Panorama, and Nozawa Onsen all offer mountain biking courses. For beginners and families who want to give mountain biking a try, Miharashi Farm also has a mountain biking course that you can enjoy in between fruit-picking and other workshops.
Cool Off in Nagano’s Rivers and Streams
During the hot summer, getting away from the city and into nature is a surefire way to relax and rejuvenate. Ocean and beaches are lovely, but you can find even more refreshment in the shady gorges of Nagano’s mountains and along the its rivers and highland ponds.
Canyoning in Hakuba
If you want to visit a water park without the crowds or suspiciously warm waters, trying canyoning in Hakuba may just be for you. In canyoning, you descend gorges using natural slides as well as zip-lines. The shade and cool water are incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day, and the activity itself is exhilarating! Time will fly by as you slide, swim, and zip along.
Cruises and River Rafting down the Tenryu Gorge
The Tenryu Gorge is located in Southern Nagano’s Iida City. Carved over the centuries by the Tenryu River, which flows from Lake Suwa out to the Pacific Ocean, it features steep, wild cliffs adorned with verdant greenery. You can enjoy the view from pedestrian bridges over the river or while riding down the river on a traditional fishing boat or raft. See more information here.
Blueberry Picking in Ina and Nagano
Blueberry picking at Miharashi Farm
Nagano Prefecture is the largest producer of blueberries in Japan, and there are many orchards around where you can pick them for yourself. What better way to spend a hot summer day than picking delicious and juicy blueberries right off the bush?
Miharashi Farm in Ina City and Mori-no-Hatake in Suzaka City both offer blueberry-picking during summer. See Mori-no-Hatake’s details below, and this page for details on Miharashi Farm.