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

115 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

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