How to get to the Snow Monkeys this Winter

December 8th, 2010 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

As the famed “Snow Monkeys” of the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park are starting to get their namesake snow this winter, it’s time to take a look at how to actually make the trek to go see them.

Nagano Dentetsu, the main source of public transportation up to the Jigokudani snow monkeys, annonced their new winter schedule, with the changes effective 04-December 2010.

Getting to the monkey park from Nagano Station can be confusing — do you take a bus or train? And if you go by train, how do you get to the park from the end of the line, Yudanaka Station? As many of our guests here at Kamesei Ryokan make day trips to see the snow monkeys, I made a graph that matches up the trains from our local Togura Station to the busses and trains from Nagano Station.  Here’s the graph.  Just ignore the Togura parts if you’re originating from Nagano Station.  And please note that these are just sample times based around going up in the morning and coming back down in the afternoon.  There are other busses and trains at earlier and later times.
snow-monkey1

From Nagano Station
Basically there are three options to get from Nagano Station to the snow monkey park:

1. Express Bus to Kanbayashi (1300 yen)
NagaDen Bus operates 8+ busses a day during the winter from Nagano Station’s East Exit up to the ski fields at Shiga Kogen. They stop at Kanbayashi Onsen (“Kanbayashi Onsen Guchi” stop) which is in the vicinity of the Kanbayashi trailhead. From there it is a 30 minute, mostly flat ‘promenade’ through a beautiful cedar forest.

2. Train to Yudanaka (1,130~1,230 yen)
Nagano Dentetsu provides train service to Yudanaka and Shibu, a pair of classic onsen towns. Service is more frequent than the above-mentioned express busses, and you can choose between local trains (1,130 yen, approx. 1 hour 15 min.) and express trains (add’l 100 yen, as fast as 45 minutes).
NOTE: From Yudanaka Station to the monkey park, you can choose from the following:
A. Local Bus (210 yen)
Roughly matching up with the train arrivals, local busses connect Yudanaka Station to the Kanbayashi trailhead in a quick 7 minutes.
B. “Holiday Shuttle” (800 yen)
Shibu Onsen provides a “Holiday Shuttle” bus from Yudanaka Station directly to the Jigokudani Parking Lot. It is closer to the monkey park entrance than Kanbayashi (15 minutes walk vs. 30 minutes), but is a lot steeper of a walk. Reservations Recommended (tel# 0269-33-3600). The Shuttle runs on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays from December to March, with 6 runs each direction per day.

3. Chuo Taxi (from 2,722 yen per person round trip)
Chuo Taxi is offering a new, hassle-free taxi trip to the snow monkey park from Nagano Station. The cost is 17,000 yen for a regular taxi (4~5 people) or 24,500 yen for a jumbo taxi (~9 people) including transportation to Kanbayashi and back, and stand-by time so you can enjoy the monkeys for an hour. Call 026-282-7777 for reservations.

Finally, two last pieces of advice:  Make sure you have proper footwear (the trail can be slippery and slidey in the winter), and make sure to charge you

130 Responses to “How to get to the Snow Monkeys this Winter

  1. We are travelling from Australia to the Nagano region in mid April 2017. Is that a good time to see the snow monkeys? Is it practical to stay in Matsumoto and travel to see them or is it better to stay in Nagano?

  2. Terry-san, Coming up to Nagano next April, eh? Should be perfect timing for cherry blossoms! As for the snow monkeys, there’s no real “bad” time to see them (other than late-October thru mid-November when they are often too busy with their mating season, as Blair-san mentioned below). The snow will likely be gone by mid-April, but the monkey park will be waking from winter and the area’s vegetation will be starting to sprout spring leaves. As an innkeeper, I can tell you our guests visit the monkeys throughout the year and always end up taking tons of pictures. They will be as photogenic as ever in April.
    As for access, from Nagano Station the fastest route is a 45 minute express bus (bound for Shiga Kogen, get off at “Snow Monkey Park” stop) + 30 minute walk. If from Matsumoto you would have to add on a 52-minute express train ride (or approx. 1hr 15min if local train). A fellow-innkeeper in ‘Moto tells me some guests do make day trips to Jigokudani, but I would say it would be more common to stay in Shibu-Yudanaka (the onsen resort town adjacent to the monkey park) or Nagano City.
    Hope that helps.
    Enjoy your trip!
    -Tyler

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  4. Hi there,

    I was looking on the Internet for ways and transportation to get to the snow monkeys. We are staying in Liyama at Activelife Madarao on 16-19th January 2017. We would like to go see the snow monkeys but only have half a day to do that. Can you advise on fastest way to get there and the cost please.
    Thank you.
    Melissa

  5. Melissa-san, Thank you for your message. To get from Iiyama to Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park (i.e. snow monkeys), Nagaden Bus operates 4 runs a day from Iiyama Station to the monkey park trailhead. It takes approx. 30 min. and costs 1000 yen per adult. Other than that, you may want to check with your accommodation’s staff for other options. We hope you enjoy Madarao as well as the snow monkeys. Please note that the trail to the monkey park tends to be very slippery this time of year, so waterproof footwear is advised. -Tyler

  6. Hi,
    My family of 4 (including 2 young kids aged 3 & 5) are planning a day trip to the snow monkey park on Feb 10th. Im contemplating between the 2 options:
    1. Catch the Nagaden Express bus to Kanbayashi which requires a 30mins walk from the trailhead to see the monkeys OR
    2. Catch Taxi from Nagano Station which will take us straight there.
    My question is, if we catch the taxi, would we be required to do the 30mins walk through the forest? or will the taxi take us straight to the monkey onsen? (Im a bit confused!) Having 2 young kids walking 1.6km in the forest is something I must consider!! :-/
    Also, is it necessary that we must book Taxi ahead? or can we just catch a taxi as we exit the Nagano station? As we do not speak a word of Japanese so the language will be a big issue for us.
    Please let me know the easiest way you would recommend.
    Thanks in advance.
    Cynthia

  7. Cynthia-san, Howdy! Thank you for your inquiry. To answer your questions,

    Both 1. and 2. would require the 30 min. walk from the Kanbayashi trailhead to Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park. Option 2. would give you the flexibility of not having to wait for a bus, but it would likely make the taxi driver very happy for such a high fare. (In other words, bus would be much cheaper.) NOTE: There always seems to be lots of taxis at Nagano Station, and you could just tell the driver “Kanbayashi”.

    The only other option would be to take Shibu Onsen’s Snow Monkey Holiday Minibus (http://www.town.yamanouchi.nagano.jp/asset/00032/site_shared/kankou/Dminibus2016-17_2.pdf). This departs from Yudanaka Station (approx. 45 min. from Nagano Station at the end of the Nagaden train line) on weekends and holidays during the winter and would take you to a closer trailhead. It would still mean a 15 minute walk.

    Having walked both, I can tell you that 15 minutes may sound better being shorter, but that trail is a lot steeper. Plus the 30 min. trail from the Kanbayashi trailhead passes through a beautiful evergreen tree forest. Our kids loved the walk when they were that young. Plus there is a restaurant and gift shop in Kanbayashi. (The gift shop rents rubber boots if you need.)

    Hope that helps, and that you and your family enjoy seeing the snow monkeys.

    -Tyler

  8. Hi Cynthia,

    Thanks for your question. I would not recommend a taxi for your trip to the Snow Monkey Park as they are very expensive and will not be able to take you any closer to the park than the bus will. During the green season there is another parking area about 10 minutes away from the park, but the road to it is closed during winter due to snow.

    For your reference, you do not need a reservation for a taxi and you can find them waiting on either side of Nagano station.

    I hope that answers your question!

    -Blair

  9. Thankyou Tyler & Blair for your advises. It is much appreciated!! :)
    It looks like we will most likely take the express bus than catching a taxi. Would you know if there is any express bus service that takes you straight to the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park Entrance/ trailhead before starting a 1.6km walk? Is there any bus that parks right in front of the trailhead entrance?? I understand that we cannot skip the 1.6km walk along the forest if we want to see the monkeys, but what I’m trying to avoid is any extra walk (5-15mins walk) that leads to the trailhead as much as possible.
    Thankyou for your time.
    Cynthia.

  10. If you want to avoid walking as much as possible, then you may want to take a taxi to the trailhead of the park. But instead of taking one all the way from Nagano station, take the Nagano Dentetsu train from Nagano to Yudanaka Station and take a taxi from there. There should be taxis waiting outside the station. If you tell them that you want to go to the Snow Monkey Park they will understand.

    I hope that answers your question.

    -Blair

  11. I am thinking of visiting the Jigokundani Snow Monkey Park on April 15, 2017 on my way from Kanazawa to Tokyo. What is the timetable for the buses from Nagano Station to and from the park? The only ones I could find ended at the beginning of April. I want to schedule my day so I know when I need to leave Kanazawa and then the park to catch a return bus to Nagano station. Thank you for your time.
    Melanie

  12. Melanie-san,
    Thank you for your inquiry on Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park. The Nagano Station to Shiga Kogen express bus schedule (for the “Snow Monkey Park” bus stop) for spring/summer/fall should be posted on the Nagaden Bus website soon, so I suggest checking back in a few days. In the past, there’s usually been about 1/3 the number of runs as compared to the winter schedule. Another option would be to take the train from Nagano Station to Yudanaka Station, and then a local bus or taxi to the trailhead. Train times are available at www.hyperdia.com.
    However, please note that Nagano Prefecture is so much more than just monkeys (although the monkeys ARE cute). Especially if you are considering coming in mid-April, that means cherry blossom season. Especially famous is Garyu Park in Suzaka, located between Nagano and Yudanaka Stations. There are so many fantastic onsen ryokans (hot spring inns) in the Yudanaka-Shibu Onsen area (the highest concentration of tripadvisor’s Travelers Choice winners in the country!) as well as a popular guesthouse (“KURA”) in Suzaka, it would be a waste to not stop and spend the night in Nagano. We hope you consider making Nagano more of just a stop-over point on your way from Tokyo to Kanazawa. Thanks!
    -Tyler

  13. Thank you so much for your reply Tyler. I wish I could stay overnight but I have to meet family in Tokyo. The area looks beautiful. I will check for the new schedule in a few days. I appreciate your help!
    Melanie

  14. Good day, we will be skiing in Hakuba in mid-March and would like to have a break and self-drive our party to the snow monkey park on one of the afternoons. Are we able to do this trip if we leave Hakuba at about 2 pm? Would we still have enough time to see the park?

  15. Natasha-san, Thank you for your inquiry about driving to see the snow monkeys from Hakuba. Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park is open until 4pm through March. It takes approx. 1 hr 30 min to drive to the trailhead from Hakuba, then a 30 min walk along the trail. So leaving Hakuba at 2pm would give you approx. 1 minute to see the monkeys — their cuteness is worth more than 1 minute. Hopefully you can adjust your schedule a bit. We hope you enjoy Hakuba and the snow monkeys. -Tyler

  16. Hi we are headed to japan on 23rd feb and would love to see the snow monkeys. We are staying tokyo, oaska and niigata where would be the best place to do a day trip there? We also have a jr pass so not sure on what else we need to book and the cost? ? It will be for 2 adults and 2 children we are also wanting to go to an outdoor bath fire the experience any suggestions? Thanks julie

  17. Julie-san,
    Thank you for your questions on visiting the snow monkeys with your family. This winter there has been lots of snow, so the monkeys are living up to their name.
    To answer your question, by “best” I assume you mean “fastest” and/or “fewest transfers” using JR. Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is accessed via Nagano Station. Tokyo Station to Nagano Station is approx. 1 hr 30 min / 0 transfers, Niigata Station to Nagano Station is approx. 2 hrs 20 min / 1 transfer at Omiya, Osaka is approx. 4 hrs / 1 transfer at Kanazawa, so from Tokyo would be the fastest and fewest transfers.
    (Note: From Nagano Station to the Monkey Park trailhead at Kanbayashi Onsen, we suggest the Nagaden Express Bus bound for Shiga Kogen, “Snow Monkey Park” bus stop, approx. 45 min. Alternatively, you can take the Nagaden train to Yudanaka and change to local bus to Kanbayashi. Either way, from Kanbayashi, it is a 30 minute walk to the park.)
    While the monkeys are cute, there is a lot more to Nagano then just monkeys. You mention outdoor bath — many of the ryokans (inns) in the Yudanaka / Shibu / Kanbayashi area have outdoor onsen baths so we really suggest you consider staying the night instead of making it a day trip. But to answer your question, the closest outdoor bath to Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park is at Korakukan, an inn just across the river from the park. Just be warned — their outdoor bath is, err, rustic. For more Nagano onsen suggestions, the most detailed info in English is here: https://www.createspace.com/6512538.
    Finally, if it were me, I would change your itinerary around to make a nice loop, such as Tokyo – Niigata – Nagano (snow monkeys) – Osaka, including stays at all 4 places.
    I hope this info is helpful. If any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
    -Tyler

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  19. Kikit-san, Howdy! Access to Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park by car is of course possible. As per http://en.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/access, the closest you can go by car in the winter is Kanbayashi Onsen, where there is a free parking lot. If you have a GPS that lets you set a telephone # for the goal, use 0269-38-1736 (the cafe next to the parking lot) or 0269-33-2986 (the inn across the street). From there, it is a 30 min. walk.
    For other times of the year, you can use the park’s official toll parking lot which is only 15 min. on foot from the park. For GPS purposes, the tel# is 0269-33-5733.
    Hope that helps, and that you enjoy seeing the monkeys!
    -Tyler

  20. Hi, I wound like to overnight in Hakuba but have a stop at Jigokudani to see the snow monkeys on the way. What is the best transport option from Nagano station to have this stop and then continue on to Hakuba & what is best option from Hakuba back to Nagano station?

  21. Paula-san,
    Thanks for your questions on transport between Nagano Station, Jigokudani and Hakuba. Distance-wise, Jigokudani is approx. 35 km west of Nagano Station, and Hakuba 45 km east of Nagano Station. Using public transport, the fastest way from Nagano Station to Jigokudani is Nagaden’s express bus bound for Shiga Kogen to Snow Monkey Park stop, approx. 45 min., + 30 min. on foot. Then from Nagano Station to Hakuba, the fastest was is Alpico’s express bus, 1 hr 10 min. http://www.alpico.co.jp/en/transportation/detail.php?id=13. We hope you enjoy the snow monkeys as well as your time in Hakuba!
    -Tyler

  22. Hey Tyler,
    Would you suggest that coming in from Tokyo with destination of Nozawa Onsen, that we head over to Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park on our way?
    Ie. early shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Iiyama Station, store our luggage/snowboards at Iiyama station (assuming this is possible), catch a Nagaden Bus to the park – hike up the 30min trail (with 4x under 8yo’s, that’ll be fun!) – enjoy the monkeys and head back to Iiyama, collect our luggage and catch the Nozawa Onsen Liner bus to our accom?
    Do you think it is do-able or crazy to attempt?

  23. Sarah-san, Thanks for your inquiry on visiting the snow monkeys. Your itinerary sounds doable, if you can time things right. Depending on a few factors, there may be a better way. If your trip is during the ski season, there are often regularly scheduled snow monkey tours straight from Nozawa Onsen — you’re place of accommodation should be able to confirm. That way, you could go straight from Iiyama to Nozawa, check-in (luggage and everything), then pick a day / time to go see the monkeys. If there is no tour that fits your preferred timing, hiring a jumbo taxi from Nozawa would give you more flexibility (and — depending on how many people — could be more cost-effective).
    From our family’s experience, the 30-minute walk with under 8yo’s should be the least of your worries. Our kids typically enjoyed snow ball fights the whole way.
    Here’s hoping you enjoy both Nozawa Onsen and the Snow Monkeys!
    -Tyler

  24. Hi Tyler San

    My fam and I are planning to visit Nagano on the 29th of March 2017. We want to visit Jigokudani to see the monkeys as well as other POIs. Unfortunately we only have 29th & 30th to spent (1 nite). We will be coming from Tokyo. We plan to leave Tokyo about 10ish by Shinkansen. Would you suggest we drop our luggage at Metropolitan Hotel then go to Jigokudani and back for dinner to stay at Metropolitan or spend the nite at an onsen hotel near Jigokudani then back to Nagano in the morning to explore the city, matshushiro and Zenkojhi Temple?

    We really would like to be back in Shinjuku by 7pm latest.

  25. Aldrin-san,
    Thanks for your inquiry. As far as your itinerary scenarios, both seem like great options. I suppose it matters which you prefer — more city or more rural countryside.
    If you decide to stay at a ryokan in Shibu-Yudanaka Onsen near the snow monkeys, and still want to fit in Matsushiro as well as Zenkoji Temple, one suggestion would be to take the train from Yudanaka Station to Suzaka (approx. 2 trains per hour), transfer to bus to Matsushiro (approx. 1 bus per hour). After touring that samurai town, you can take a bus from Matsushiro to Nagano Station (2 per hour), then walk or short bus to Zenkoji. Of course, luggage could be a problem. One solution would be to leave your bags at the Shinjuku hotel and just take a day pack to Nagano, or takkyubin your luggage ahead to Shinjuku.
    One other suggestion: late March and early April is when the apricot blossoms in Mori are in bloom. http://www.go-nagano.net/shisetsu-detail?shisetsuid=16017001. Access from Nagano Station is on the Shinano Railway approx. 20 min. to Yashiro, then shuttle bus or taxi.
    Hope this info helps!
    -Tyler

  26. Hello,

    In this december we are planning to go to Jigokudani Snow Monkey. If we are coming with a coach (join a private tour), can we park near by Snow Monkey Parking lot? Do we need to walk 30 min or 15 min from the parking lot? After 30 min or 15 mkn walking to the entrance, there is another 25 min walking kn order to see the snow monkey?

  27. Hi Hendy,

    Buses are required to park/wait at the Shiga Kogen Roman Museum parking lot (see in Google Maps here). From there, it is about 35 minutes on foot to the park entrance. The hot spring pool where the monkeys gather is about 1 minute away from there.

    I hope that answers your question!

    -Blair

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