Fantastic Views from Mt. Chougatake

July 22nd, 2016 by
Category: Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

The Chougatake mountain hut facing Kamikochi and the Northern Alps.

The rainy season has ended and the time for hiking is officially here. Monday’s weather was perfect, so a couple of us decided to climb Chougatake, a 2,677 meter high mountain in Azumino. Bordering Kamikochi to the Southeast, it has splendid views of the Northern Japanese Alps.

The hike begins at the Mitsumata trailhead[1] behind Alps Azumino National park[2]. The road to the trailhead is winding, narrow, and occasionally blocked by wild monkeys. From Mitsumata, the hike takes 6.5~7 hours (4 hours up, 2.5 hours down). The trail is well-maintained, and there are wooden stairs and railings that make many of the steeper parts quite manageable.

We started at the trailhead at about 8:15 in the morning, aiming to reach the peak by lunchtime. After filling out and submitting our hiking plan, we headed into the woods. The path was gentle and the sounds of the forest and running water were incredibly soothing. After 30 minutes we came to a resting spot with a gnarled tree covered in pointy rocks. A sign-post beside it read, “a tree that looks like Godzilla.” It was a great conversation starter with passing hikers.

A stunning likeness.

The trail became gradually steeper with an increasing number of wooden staircases. Around two hours into the hike we reached a comfortable clearing around a small stream. People were snacking, resting and washing their faces with the cold mountain water. The fog that had covered us sank, revealing the peak of Mt. Jonen above us. Energized by the view we marched back into the woods and began to scramble up the rocky path.

Mt. Jonen peaks out from above the morning fog.

Despite our fatigue we managed to break through the woods in just three hours. A highland meadow spread out in front of us with a variety of pink, purple and white flowers. The path slowly flattened out, and as we passed a row of bushes we were struck by a majestic view of the Northern Japanese Alps. Snow still rested in the nooks of these 3000m-high mountains, and waterfalls cut swaths through verdant forests along their base. Looking south we saw Mt. Norikura and Mt. Ontake in the distance. Behind us towards Azumino was an uninterrupted sea of clouds.

The view of the Northern Alps that greeted us at the top of Mt. Chougatake.

On a clear day you can see for miles in all directions. The far-left mountain covered by clouds is Mt. Ontake.

Campers pitch their tents above the clouds.

The return journey was relatively easy and we made it back down in two hours. The onsen at Holiday-no-Yu[3] was waiting for us with its indoor and outdoor baths, sauna, and Jacuzzis. It was the perfect way to end a day of hiking. As we drove north along the IC we saw the Northern Alps shrouded in clouds, as if the magnificent view had been reserved only for us.

Additional Information

Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in other hikes in Nagano, take a look at some of blog posts below, or click the Mountains and Hiking Tag for a complete archive.

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Mitsumata Trailhead

There is parking for about 25 cars here, and another parking lot further back to accommodate overflow. There is a men and women’s bathroom here as well as running water for washing your gear. The walk to the trailhead and hiking itinerary station is about 10 minutes from here.

See in Google Maps

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Alps Azumino National Park (Mt. Hotaka/Horigane)

At the base of Mt. Hotaka, this section of the Alps Azumino National park has beautiful views of the Northern Alps, cool forested areas and rolling meadows. Throughtout Spring and Summer a variety of colorful flowers bloom here, including lavender, day lilies and tulips. There are plenty of attractions for children, making this a great stop for families. See their homepage here (Japanese).

Entrance Fee: Adults/ 410 yen, Children/ 80 yen, Seniors/ 210 yen
Hours: Spring and Autumn/ 9:30~17:00, Summer/ 9:30~18:00, Winter/ 9:30~16:00
Holidays: Mondays
Location: 16 min. by car from the Azumino IC exit. (to Google Maps)

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Holiday-no-Yu Hotel, Hotspring and Campsite

Holiday-no-Yu is about 10 minutes away from the Alps Azumino Park. From here, it’s another 20 to 30 minutes to the Mitsumata trailhead. Room plans start at 4500 yen and up. The Onsen is free for hotel guests or 530 yen for campers or day visitors. See their official website (Japanese) here.

The Sunado Campsite is across the road from the hotel. Toilets, barbeque pits and the facilities of the hotel are open to campers. A campsite is 2580 yen per night. See more information here (Japanese).

Onsen Entrance Fee: Campers/Day Visitors 530 yen, Hotel Guests free
Hours: 10:00~21:30
Location: 20 min. from the Azumino IC exit. (to Google Maps)

10 Responses to “Fantastic Views from Mt. Chougatake

  1. Wow this looks amazing. We are spending 3 nights in Matsumoto next week and considering this hike for one of the days. Any idea how long to get from Matsumoto to the starting point? And if easy to do by public transport? Feeling very inspired by your beautiful photos and narration! Thanks so much.

  2. Thank you for your kind words, Judith!

    The trailhead to Chougatake is tucked away in the back of a mountainous valley, so it’s difficult to reach by public transportation. From Matsumoto, you can take the Oito line train to Toyoshina station (22 min.) and then take a taxi to the Mitsumata trailhead. The Nan-an taxi service (南安タクシー) runs taxis from Toyoshina station to the Mitsumata trailhead for 5700 yen one-way, which takes approximately 45 minutes. For pick-up at the trailhead after your hike, you may have to make reservations in advance.

    Another option is to rent a car. The drive isn’t difficult, but the mountain roads can be narrow. You can type this phone number (0263-73-8500) into your GPS to make navigation easier. It will take you to Holiday-no-Yu, and from there you continue straight along the road towards the trailhead.

    I hope that helps answer your question. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do.


  3. Pingback: Climbing Mt. Tsubakuro – Go! Nagano

  4. Thanks for this great info! I was going to attempt this hike around ~June 24 but I’m worried about snow. I have never used mountaineering equipment such as crampons as I’m more accustomed to warmer hikes. I’m young(ish) and in good shape and just finished a trekking trip out to Zion. Any advice is to whether this hike would be feasible for me around that time?

  5. Hi Jenn,

    One of my coworkers just climbed up Mt. Jonen, Mt. Chogatake’s taller neighbor, and he said that there was no snow on the trails anymore. You shouldn’t need any special equipment to hike up Mt. Chogatake around the 24th. It is rainy season now, so make sure to bring some plenty of waterproof gear just in case!

    I hope that helps.


  6. Hi Blair,

    May i know if this can done from Kamikochi side during Mid May and if there are snow during that time? Thanks!

  7. Hi Tang,

    Looking at the area in previous years, there will be snow on the mountains around Kamikochi during May. If you do not have experience climbing in winter mountains, I don’t recommend attempting the climb until June.


  8. Hi Blaire,

    I’m planning to go on this hike in August but coming from Kamikochi. Would that be a good time? Do you think the surrounding mountains are still snow-capped by then? Just hoping to take some great photos of the scene in addition to the experience of climbing the Japanese alps.

  9. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your comment.

    The mountains peaks will no longer have snow, but you’ll probably see a few snowy valleys between mountain ridges. Nonetheless, August is a beautiful time to visit Kamikochi and enjoy the mountain scenery.

    You can see some more information about the layout of Kamikochi and the different routes to Mt. Chougatake at Kamikochi’s official website. The routes from Kamikochi are a bit longer than the route from Azumino at about 7 to 8 hours along each, so I recommend spending the night either at the start of the trail in Tokusawa/Yokoo or at the top of the mountain.

    Let me know if you have any other questions!


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