Climbing Mt. Tsubakuro

This picturesque mountain in the Northern Japanese Alps is a fan favorite with hikers of all ages.


Mt. Tsubakuro (2,763 m) is a very popular destination in the Northern Japanese Alps due to its unique appearance and beautiful alpine flora. Its well-maintained trails, convenient rest areas and lodges, and beautiful scenery make it a must-hike spot in Nagano. Daytrips to the peak are possible, but hikers can enjoy a much more relaxed two-day hike if they stay at the expansive Enzanso Hut on top of the ridgeline.

This article was updated on October 4th, 2023

Mt. Tsubakuro at a Glance

Hiking Season Trailhead (Start/End) Peak Total Distance Average Course Time
Jun. to Oct. Nakabusa Onsen Trailhead (1,462 m) Mt. Tsubakuro (2,763 m) 9.8 km 9.5 hours

The Trail to Mt. Tsubakuro

The trailhead begins from Nakabusa Onsen at an altitude of 1,462m. The trail continues through the forest for a majority of the climb before breaking through the tree line for the last hour or so. Rest areas are spaced evenly throughout the hike, with four bench areas in the woods followed by the Kassen-goya Hut and Enzanso Hut above the tree line. From the lodge, the peak is approximately 40 minutes.

The trailhead starts from Nakabusa Onsen at 1,462m.

Roundtrip, the hike takes about 9.5 hours (6 hours up, 3.5 hours down), with an altitude difference of 1,300m. Most people stay the night at Enzanso Hut, but it is possible to hike in a single day with the proper level of fitness.

In the distance you can make out the conical shape of Mt. Fuji and the Yatsugatake mountains to its right.

This hike’s amazing views begin around the fourth bench. From here, you can see the Yatsugatake mountain range and Mt. Fuji standing proudly in the distance. From higher still, you can see the Hakuba mountains and Mt. Tsurugi as well. Once you reach Enzanso, the landscape opens up and you can enjoy panoramic views of the Northern Alps as well as Mt. Tsubakuro’s magnificent features.

Most striking is the peak’s vivid collage of grey, green and white. The ridgeline is covered in granite outcroppings, verdant shrubbery and swaths of bleached gravel. Viewed closer, the rocks take on unique and recognizable shapes. Along the trail you can find a lounging gorilla, a breaching dolphin, and a pair of glasses pointed at Mt. Yari. At your feet, small, pink komakusa flowers.

Mt. Tsubakuro’s famous dolphin rock, breaching in front of Mt. Yari.

And from the top of Mt. Tsubakuro, one can see the most beautiful view of all: the tan ridgeline of Omote-Ginza zigzagging along towards the rest of the Northern Alps. On the right day, the clouds lap the gravelly slopes of the mountains, curling and twisting like the great waves off Kanagawa, and the distant Enzanso Hut appears to float in the sky.

The Omote-Ginza ridge is breathtaking on a clear day

Mt. Tsubakuro’s scenery is breathtaking and is a must-hike peak for any climbing enthusiast. Its safe trails, convenient rest areas, and fully-stocked mountain lodge make it a great climb for families as well. Enjoy unparalleled views atop the Roof of Japan!

Access to the Trailhead

By Train/Bus

Nakabusa Onsen can be reached by bus or taxi from JR Hotaka Station on the Oito line. From the Station, the ride to Nakabusa is approximately 60 minutes long. One-way bus fare is 1,700 yen, and one-way taxi fare 7,500 yen. You can see the bus schedule in Japanese here.

By Car

For drivers, there are three parking lots in the vicinity of the trailhead as well, and they have a total capacity of 120 cars. Because they fill up very quickly, you may want to park at the Ariakesan Shrine mountain climber's parking lot (“Ariakesan Jinja Tozansha Senyo Chushajo,” 有明山神社登山者専用駐車場) and take a bus (see bus details here) or taxi from there instead (around 6,200 yen).

Accommodation and Hot Springs

Nakabusa Onsen

Nakabusa’s hot springs are rich sources of minerals and bubble out from the ground at a scalding 90°C. The waters are naturally cooled without the addition of cold water and pumped into the baths at a comfortable temperature. Guests can spend the night in the hotel and make use of a variety of hot spring baths. Day-users can enjoy one of its outdoor baths for 950 yen. Open from late April to late November.

  • Half Board: from 13,020 yen*
  • Day-use hot spring hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (last entrance at 16:00)
  • Day-use entrance fee: 950 yen*

See Nakabusa Onsen's Japanese website for more information

Enzanso Hut

The Enzanso mountain lodge is one of the oldest lodges in the Northern Japanese Alps, originally built in 1921. It has since been renovated and can hold a capacity of 650 climbers with space for 30 tents. They have free restrooms, plentiful benches, and food and drink for guests and passersby. Reservations can be made online here or via telephone. Open from late April to late November

  • Half board: 15,000 Yen*
  • Room only: 9,000 Yen*
  • Tent space: 2,000 Yen*

See Enzanso Hut's English website for more information


The Yama-no-Takohei hotel and hot spring is located about halfway between Hotaka Station and the Tsubakuro trailhead. The day-use hot spring is open late, so people making their way down the mountain in the early evening can still take a dip. The hot spring water here comes from the same mineral spring as Nakabusa.

  • Half board: 11,000 to 15,000 Yen*
  • Day-use hot spring hours: 10:00-21:00
  • Day-use entrance fee: 600 Yen*

See more information at Yama-no-Takohei's Japanese website

*Prices are subject to change. Check each facility's official website for the latest information.