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

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

  1. Alfred-san,
    Thank you for your inquiry regarding skiing and snow monkeys in March.
    To answer your questions,
    For your night in Nagano City, there are plenty of eateries in central Nagano City (http://n-restaurant.jp/), and Gondo is the lively bar and night club district.
    If you want something more representative of Nagano City as a temple town, the venerable Zenkoji Temple offers a ceremonial ‘O-Asaji’ morning service, https://www.zenkoji.jp/ENGLISH/gyouji/index.html.
    Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel is conveniently served by 3 bus stops. For the 10:15am departure from Nagano Station, it arrives at the following bus stops at these times: Yakebitai Entrance Prince Hotel Nishi (West) Kan 11:55, Prince Hotel Minami (South) Kan 11:57, Prince Hotel Higashi (East) Kan 11:59.
    For access from Prince Hotel to Snow Monkey Park bus stop (trailhead to the monkey park), use the “Yudanaka-Shigakogen line (For Okushigakogen)” schedule on http://www.go-nagano.net/tripinfo/bus-timetables/northen#kanbayashi.
    Hope that helps! If any other questions, please let us know.
    B. Rgds,
    Tyler

  2. Hi

    We are planning to ski in Hakuba in February 2018 and would like to travel from there directly to Shibu Onsen so we can visit the monkeys the next day. Do you know if we would be able to get a taxi to take us for that journey? There don’t seem to be any direct means of public transport.

    Thanks
    Charlotte

  3. Charlotte-san,
    Thank you for your inquiry and for planning to come to Nagano in February. For public transport from Hakuba to Shibu Onsen, you could take the Alpico Express bus from Hakuba to Nagano Station, then the Nagano Dentetsu train from Nagano Station to the end of the line, Yudanaka. Most self-respecting inns in Shibu offer free pick-up at Yudanaka Station, so I would check with your inn to see what their policy is. As for a taxi, Chuo Taxi would probably be happy to drive you but it’s 80km — that would be a hefty fare!
    Hope that helps, and that you have lots of snow during your visit.
    -Tyler

  4. Hi,
    I plan to visit Jigokudani Snowmonkeypark at the end of March this year. we will rent a car to get as close as possible because I have bad knees. Can you tell me which parkinglot is best to use at this time of the year? How far is it to walk from there?
    Thanks
    Uschi

  5. Uschi-san, Thank you for your inquiry, and for your interest in the Snow Monkey Park.
    Regarding access by car, the closest parking lot is the Jigokudani Parking Lot which is accessed from Shibu Onsen. However, it usually is closed for the winter until early April. (For reference, the tel# for GPS purposes is 0269-33-5733. There is a fee to use the lot. It is 15 min. on foot to the park, but the trail is relatively steep.)
    For end of March, the closest parking lot will be the Yaen-Koen Parking Lot in the Kanbayashi Onsen area, accessed from Route 292. For GPS purposes, the tel# for the adjacent Enza Cafe is 0269-38-1736. From there, it is 1.6 km, approx. 25 min. on foot, and the trail is relatively flat except for a steep slope at the beginning.
    Even in late March, there is a chance for snow on the road and path, so snow tires for your rental car and sturdy footwear is recommended.
    Hope that helps!
    -Tyler

  6. I am staying in Shibu Onsen. My innkeeper will give me a ride to the Snow Monkey Park but I have to make my own way back to the Onsen. Are there taxis waiting at the entrance of the Snow Monkey Park? if not, how do I order a taxi?

  7. Alex-san,
    Thank you for your inquiry. Most innkeepers in Shibu-Yudanaka Onsen provide both drop-off and pick-up to the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park trailhead. But if you have to find your own way back, it’s only approximately 1.8km walk downhill from the trailhead to Shibu, or there is a local bus that stops at Shibu on the way to Yudanaka Station. If you require a taxi, if you ask politely at the gift shop and/or Enza Cafe near the trailhead, they would likely call a taxi for you. (In the many times I’ve been to the monkey park, I’ve never seen a taxi waiting at the entrance.)
    Good luck, and I hope you get some great pictures of the snow monkeys.
    -Tyler

  8. Greetings. If I stay at a hotel near the train station in Nagano and don’t have a car, can I easily get to the snow monkey park one day and to ski slopes another day? Thank you, Patricia

  9. Patricia-san,
    Thank you for your inquiry. To answer your questions,
    Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park is a 45 min. bus ride + 30 min. walk from Nagano Station, so it is an easy day trip even without a car.
    Nagano’s 3 major ski areas (Hakuba, Nozawa and Shiga Kogen) are all approx. 1 hour bus rides from Nagano Station, so making a day trip to the ski slopes without a car is also easy.
    My only suggestion would be to consider staying at, for example, Shibu-Yudanaka Onsen after seeing the monkeys, then taking a local bus up to nearby Shiga Kogen for your skiing. That would save the hassle of going back and forth to Nagano Station.
    Either way, skiing and snow monkeys sounds like a memorable trip. Have fun!
    -Tyler

  10. Dear Tyler-san,

    Planning a trip this December 2018. Coming from Tokyo, Shinkansen to Nagano, then here is the question: We will be staying 3 nights in a Shibu Onsen Ryokan for Snow Monkey experience plus Skiing and Onsen town experience. So, from Nagano station, I still don’t know if we take the Express bus direct to the park or should we take the train to Yudanaka station and go to our hotel first to deposit our luggages? I believe there is a Yamato luggage service at Nagano station, should we get this service? or again, bring our luggage first to our Ryokan? Is there a locker/ luggage storage at Yudanaka station? What is your suggestion?

  11. Square-san, Thank you for planning to come to Nagano in December. Regarding arrival to Shibu Onsen, you don’t mention a time but most inns accept guests dropping off luggage early. Depending on the time, your inn in Shibu may provide free pick-up at Yudanaka Station as well as drop-off at the trailhead to Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park. I suggest you contact your inn with your estimated arrival time to Yudanaka and ask if pick-up and/or luggage storage is available. I hope you get snow during visit to get the full “snow monkey” effect. Good luck! -Tyler

  12. Hi,
    I would like to find out:
    1) where can we rent/borrow or buy cheap snow boots on the way from Nagano station to snow monkey park?
    2) is there any place to have lunch when we reach snow monkey park?
    3) are the lockers in Nagano station big enough for large luggages?
    Thank you
    Mk

  13. Mk-san, Thank you for your inquiry and your detailed questions. To answer,
    1. The gift store at the Kanbayashi trailhead has boots for rent. If you require boots from Nagano Station, I’m not aware of any rental options but the Don Quijote discount store across the street from the station probably has some cheap rubber boots for sale that you can could dispose of after use.
    2. Enza Cafe is near the Kanbayashi trailhead and they have a full menu for lunch.
    3. Some of the lockers at Nagano Station are even big enough to accommodate skis, so yes, large luggage is no problem.
    If any other questions, just let us know.
    Thanks!
    -Tyler

  14. Hi Tyler-san
    I would like to seek your opinion whether my plan to visit snow monkey in 1 day is possible .
    We will only be staying in Nagano for 1 night. We will be coming from Ainokura on 13 Dec by 7.45am bus to shin-Takaoka then to Nagano station. Do you think we have time to put our luggages in our hotel at Sunroute Nagano before heading to the snow monkeys? Your advice will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you
    Mk

  15. Mk-san, Thank you for your follow-up question. Assuming the bus to Shin-Takaoka and the shinkansen on to Nagano Station takes around 2 hours, that would mean arriving Nagano approx. 10am. That would be plenty of time for a side trip to the Snow Monkeys. You may want to consider leaving your luggage at a coin locker at Nagano Station to make better use of your time. Also, please remember the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park closes at 4pm in the winter. Hopefully there will be snow up at Jigokudani then (I’d say you have a 50/50 chance).
    -Tyler

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