kamimochi national park

Kamikochi – Hiking Trails + How to Visit Kamikochi

Hiking Kamikochi National Park is an easy way to spend a day in the Japanese Alps.  It’s an easy matter to combine several Kamikochi trails.  Kamikochi National Park is free to visit and a superb way to spend a day on some of the best walking trails in Japan.  I think it should be on every backpacking Japan itinerary, so welcome to the ultimate Kamikochi Guide to Hiking the Japanese Alps.

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In this article we’ll cover how to plan your Kamikochi itinerary, how to organize your Kamikochi walks, we’ll provide a Kamikochi Japan map and also what to do in Kamikochi.

EASIEST WAY TO GET TO KAMIKOCHI

Kamikochi

Guided Kamikochi Day Trip

This guided Kamikochi hiking experience takes you to the key parts of this glorious National Park, without the hassles of buses and trains. Perfect hiking experience!

It’s easy to hike Kamikochi ( 上 高地 ) in a single day.  You can combine several Kamikochi hikes to enjoy longer Kamikochi hiking routes, or simply explore a short route around Kamikochi.  Autumn is a great time to explore, it’s not too hot, not too cold and it’s generally clear.    The views are incredible, the walking easy, there are friendly Japanese walkers, great, helpful National Park staff, and hopefully fabulous views.

Kamikochi Valley Hiking Trail

How to Visit Kamikochi

We visited Kamikochi valley from our base at Matsumoto.  Matsumoto is the closest town to Kamikochi.  It’s a great place to be based to visit the National Park as well as other great spots.  We stayed at the ACE Inn, which is 15 SECONDS walk from the Matsumoto train station.  We highly recommend the hotel for its position, comfort, and breakfast – check prices and availability here. There are, however, some amazing places to stay in the park – see our section on where to stay in Kamikochi.

We undertook our Kamikochi day hikes during the week (hurray, it was generally peaceful and quiet!).  The weather was a little cold, but the forecast was for sunshine all day, it made for a glorious day.

If you plan on hiking, especially at altitude you should ensure that you have appropriate travel insurance – here’s our article on what that means in Japan.

You can hike Kamikochi even if you’re a complete beginner – here are some tips on how to get started.

How to Get to Kamikochi

Matsumoto to Kamikochi

This route involves taking a train from Matsumoto to Shin-shimashima and then from Shin-shimashima to Kamikochi.

We took the Kamikochi ALPINE train from Matsumoto to Shin-shimashima.  This train is not covered on the JR Pass. For us the cheapest way to get from Matsumoto to Kamikochi was to buy the combo return ticket.  This included the train from Matsumoto to Shin-shimashima and the bus from Shin-shimashima to Kamikochi.  The combo ticket cost us 4555 Yen per person.

In 2024 the option to buy a round-trip ticket is no longer available. You will have to buy a one-way combo ticket at a cost of 2570 Yen each way. However, there is now a twice daily direct bus from Matsumoto bus station to Kamikochi leaving Matsumoto bus station at 05:30 and 10:15, taking 90 minutes to get to Kamikochi. There is no return bus so you will need to take the bus/train option via Shin-Shimashima to get back to Matsumoto. The bus fare is also 2570 Yen each way and is run by Alpico which is the train company that does the train/bus combo. For most people the train/bus combo is still the best option as there are many more of these services that run each day.

Read our guide on what to do before you arrive in Japan – get your free Japan Travel Check List

Matsumoto to Kamikochi – How to Buy a Ticket

You buy the combo ticket from a machine in the Matsumoto Train Station.  All machines have options in English and the staff are very friendly and helpful if (and when) you get stuck.

Buy combined tickets from the JR Station
Kamikochi Line Train
TIckets Kamikochi Matsumoto

The Journey from Matsumoto to Kamikochi

The train was a pleasant ride and there were plenty of seats available.

As we arrived at the small station of Shin-shimashima it was obvious where we needed to go.  The bus is waiting for us as we get off the train and 99% of those of us on the train, just hop straight on it. You’ll want to try and get to the front of the line if there are a lot of people. There are fold-down seats in the aisle, so that when the permanent seats are full, the rest of the passengers just file in, flip the seat, and perch.

Kamikochi Bus

Shin-shimashima to Kamikochi

It’s a lovely ride up into the National Park. Autumn is beginning, and the low cloud that was covering the mountains is starting to burn away.

Entering Kamikochi Valley
Kamikochi Entrance

As we drive into the park, it’s a similar feeling to driving out of the tunnel in Yosemite Valley, USA.

Kamikochi

Arriving in Kamikochi – book your return bus as soon as you arrive!

As the only way out of Kamikochi for you is the way you came in, you need to book your return time as soon as you arrive.  We arrived at the Kamikochi bus terminal at 10:00 and signed up for the 16:45 return.  That gives us nearly 7 hours to spend on the Kamikochi walking trails. There won’t be much sitting around as it’s still pretty chilly and while the weather forecast indicated a nice day, it didn’t say warm! As it turned out, we kept fleeces on all day and wished we’d brought gloves too!

Be sure to take drinking water –  or take a filter water bottle – my guide to the BEST Filter Water Bottles is here – find out how it lets us drink TAP and STREAM and RIVER water while we’re traveling – it’s incredible and saves us a fortune!

TOP PRODUCT PICK

Best Filter Water Bottle

The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle has a 22-ounce capacity, it has a two-stage carbon filter that lasts for 100 liters of water and a membrane microfilter that lasts up to 4,000 liters of water.  The bottle itself is reusable, extremely durable, and BPA-free.  

Where to Stay – Kamikochi Accommodation

If you want to maximize your time in Kamikochi National Park you should stay at one of the hotels in the park.  There are a variety of accommodations in Kamikochi from lodges with dorm beds to onsen hotels and ryokans.

You can access some of the hotels at Kamikochi with a short walk from the bus terminal, other National Park lodges are further away.  Why not combine your visit to Kamikochi with a stay in a ryokan, we’ve listed our favorites below and you can also check out our guide to staying in a ryokan.

For a superb ryokan experience in Kamikochi look no further than the Kamikochi Onsen Hotel.  There are fabulous Japanese-style rooms here with the full Ryokan experience.  The Kamikochi Onsen hotel is very close to the Kappa Bridge, so it’s in a great location for hiking the park. There’s a natural outdoor onsen here and the hotel specialises in Azumino cuisine.  This is one of the most popular places to stay in Kamikochi and it books up fast.  Check availability and rates here.

For a great value stay in Kamikochi, head to the Kamikochi Nishi-itoya Mountain Lodge its just 50 yards from the Kappa Bridge and comes with great Japanese-style rooms and fabulous food. There are shared Japanese bathrooms and a sauna, and some rooms also have balconies (you’ll need to book early for them).  This is the best value stay in the Park.

For a western-style room (i.e. beds rather than futons), then head to the Kamikochi Lemeiesta Hotel.  This four-star hotel has all the amenities you could wish for.  There’s a hot spring onsen on site, massages available at the spa, and stunning dining facilities too.  The meal plans are a super deal here.

Kamikochi Map

Kamikochi_Map


Map courtesy of Kamikochi.org.

Planning your Kamikochi Hike

The information center is an excellent resource and a great place to start your visit to Kamikochi.  Staff will provide you with a Kamikochi hiking map and suggestions as to where you should hike.  Before giving you the Kamikochi walking map and marking on where you should hike they’ll ask you how long you want to walk for and perhaps how fit you are.  Most of the trails are loops and some link.  It’s easy to combine several hiking trails and not have to return to the information center to set off on another trail, you’ll be able to see this from the Kamikochi trail map the staff give you.

Once you have the latest Kamikochi hiking trails map you’ll easily be able to organise your Kamikochi route.

Riverbank Kamikochi

Kamikochi Hiking Trails

Kamikochi is a valley, with a river pretty much down the center. The day hike walking here is pretty much up one side of the river and down the other side. There are several bridges, so you can split the walks and take a circular route.

Our Route around Kamikochi Japan

We head north first to the Kappa-bashi bridge and the first viewpoint.

Japanese domestic tourists are really friendly. Everyone wants to take a photo with you, or of you.

ASocialNomad Kamikochi

It’s a glorious and relatively quiet walk up through the woods, some of which are on the boardwalk, some just in the woods.

Kamikochi Hiking Trails

FAQS about Kamikochi

When is Kamikochi open?

Kamikochi is open from the middle of April until November.  While the park is open during the winter months none of the hotels, shops, or National Park visitor centers are open.

When is the best time to visit Kamikochi?

It’s nicest to experience Kamikochi in the spring and autumn.

Can you take pets to Kamikochi?

No. No pets are allowed at Kamikochi.

Are there ATMs at Kamikochi?

No.  There are no ATMs in Kamikochi.

Is there baggage and luggage storage at Kamikochi?

Yes.  There is a baggage room at Kamikochi.  The luggage service at Kamikochi is located in the Kamikochi bus terminal.  There are NO coin lockers here.  Luggage storage at Kamikochi costs (per day) Small: ¥350 / Medium: ¥400 / Large: ¥500 (¥600 for oversize).   The baggage storage service is open from 06:00 until 17:00.

What are the Kamikochi trails like?

All the Kamikochi trekking routes that you can do during a single day are easy.  The trails are well formed through the woods, there are ways to avoid any pooled water.  Occasionally there is the boardwalk, which is well-maintained.

Do you need hiking poles at Kamikochi?

It depends on which trail you plan to take. If you’re staying in the valley bottom, then all the trails are easy, relatively flat, and with good tracks. If you head upwards, then I’d recommend taking hiking poles with you.

TOP HIKING POLES PICK

Most Popular Trekking Poles

These fabulous budget trekking poles are the best buy and the most popular poles for hiking.

What are the facilities like at Kamikochi?

There are several places to get a drink, snack, or more substantial food.  There are also places to sit and picnic.  Toilets are also available, although the toilets near the bus stop and information center do ask you to leave a donation to help keep them clean.   There are no garbage bins in Kamikochi (apart from the ones for paper in the toilets).  You will need to pack your trash out.  This is a general rule in Japan – you have to take your rubbish away with you and dispose of it at home.

We packed lunch. We’re getting really good at boiling eggs in the kettle and making sandwiches without butter while on the train, much to the amusement of fellow passengers. I do believe the small plastic chopping board that we bought in Mongolia now stars in a few locals photos, along with the spork and the Swiss army knife.

Hiking in Kamikochi is a fabulous, if an expensive way to spend a day in the Japanese Alps.  There are food and drink facilities in the park, but you can save money by packing your lunch like we did.  Drinking water is available for free, although there is a charge for using the toilets.   Get out and enjoy the Japanese Alps at least for a day, you won’t regret it!

What’s the hiking like in Kamikochi?

It’s a peaceful, friendly place to hike.  There’s so little noise – the Japanese are such quiet hikers.  Hiking in Japan is such a pleasure – peace, friendliness and courteous hikers.  I think these – along with the Magome- Tsumago hike – are some of the best hiking trails in Japan.

Kamikochi Painters

You’ll find mountain huts, coffee shops, and plenty of spaces for picnics.

Huts in Kamikochi

There are monkeys lazing in the autumnal sunshine, glorious fall colors, and very few people.

Fall in Kamikochi

There is a small store where you can buy souvenirs, and we also found a few painters not only capturing the National Park but also selling their wares.

Kamikochi Souvenirs

We hiked rather faster than anticipated and so swapped our reservation on the later bus for the earlier 16:00 bus back to Shin-shimashima.

Kamikochi Valley Views

The Cost of Hiking Kamikochi

It’s not a cheap day out, but a Kamikochi day trip is an excellent day out. The cost is your transport, not the entrance fee – as it is free to enter Kamikochi National Park.  Although the train and bus tickets from Matsumoto to Kamikochi are quite expensive, it’s been a great day, and a fabulous 6 hours of non-strenuous hiking with glorious views, friendly people and a great environment.

Kamikochi River View

Travel Tips for Exploring Japan

Final Words on Visiting Kamikochi

We were hiked out by 4 pm.  We’d done the trails that we planned to – our walking pace was faster than that suggested by the Information Centre staff.  So we headed to the bus stop and were lucky that there were two available seats on the 4 pm return to Shin-shimashima.  The buses from Kamikochi to Shin-shimashima connect in time to meet trains heading back from Shin-shimashima to Matsumoto.

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