Hiking Kamikochi National Park is an easy way to spend a day in the Japan 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 organise your Kamikochi walks, we’ll provide a Kamikochi Japan map. and also what to do in Kamikochi.
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.
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 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, we normally manage to do this sort of thing on a weekend!). 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 than 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. The cheapest way to get from Matsumoto to Kamikochi is to buy the combo return ticket. This includes the train from Matsumoto to Shin-shimashima and the bus from Shin-shimashima to Kamikochi. The combo ticket costs 4555 Yen per person. . (Youch! US$38, GBP 24). (This price is still valid in 2018).
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 staff are very friendly and helpful if (and when) you get stuck.
The Journey from Matsumoto to Kamikochi
The train is 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.
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.
As we drive into the park, it’s a similar feeling to driving out of the tunnel in Yosemite Valley, USA.
Arriving in Kamikochi – book your time out NOW!
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 in at the Kamikochi bus terminal at 10:00 and signed up for the 1645 return. That gives us 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’ve 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 travelling – it’s incredible and saves us a fortune!
Where to Stay – Kamikochi Accommodation
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 favourites below and you can also check out our guide to staying in a ryokan.
- Hotel Shirakabaso – fabulous location gorgeous luxury >> Check availability now
- Located in front of the Kappa bridge Kamikochi, Japanese style rooms
- Free wired Internet
- Public onsen bathing
- TV, fridge WC in the room. Western rooms have bathing facilities.
- Kamikochi Lemeiesta Hotel– Western rooms, very luxurious >> Check availability now
- A 15-minute walk from Kappa bridge
- Western-style rooms
- Free WIFI in public areas
- Fridge, mini bar, kettle and private bathroom in all rooms
- Indoor/outdoor hot spring pools
- Kamikochi Nishi-itoya Mountain lodge – 50 yards from Kappa bridge > Book now, not often available.
- Free WIFI in some rooms
- Shared bathrooms
- Some rooms with balcony
- Free sauna
- Stunning terrace
- Gosenjaku Hotel – facing Kappa bridge > Check prices and book now!
- Views over Kappa bridge
- Free wired Internet in rooms
- 24 hr reception, room service
- Western and Japanese style rooms
- All rooms with AC, heating, TV, seating area, safe, fridge and kettle
- Rooms include a private bathroom
this map is courtesy Kamikochi.org.
Planning your Kamikochi Hike
The information centre 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 centre to set off on a second trail, you’ll be able to see from the Kamikochi trail map the staff give you.
Once you have the latest Kamikochi hiking trails map you’ll easily be able to oganise your Kamickochi route.
Kamikochi Hiking Trails
Kamikochi is a valley, with a river pretty much down the centre. 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 in 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.
It’s a glorious and relatively quiet walk up through the woods, some of which is on boardwalk, some just in the woods.
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 centre 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 0600 until 1700.
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 boardwalk, which is well maintained.
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 centre 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 expensive, way to spend a day in the Japan 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, courteous hikers. I think these – along with the Magome- Tsumago hike – are some of the best hiking trails in Japan.
You’ll find mountain huts, coffee shops and plenty of spaces for picnics.
There are monkeys lazing in the autumnal sunshine, glorious fall colours and very few people.
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.
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.
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. The train and bus tickets from Matsumoto to Kamikochi cost us 4550 Yen each for the return train and bus ticket (US$38, GBP 24) but it’s been a great day, and a fab 6 hours of non-strenuous hiking with glorious views, friendly people and a great environment. .
Kamikochi to Matsumoto
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.
Travel Tips for Exploring Japan
- Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
- Download and install a VPN BEFORE you travel to Japan > discount coupon here
- Buy your Japan Rail Pass before you arrive in Japan
- You can buy JR Passes from Klook > check details here
- Or buy JR Passes from JRailPass here. (delivery in 24-48 hours including to your hotel in Japan)
- Book the best tours and guides in Japan on Civitatis, GetYourGuideand Klook
- Learn to cook Japanese food in Chef’s kitchens in Japan
- Save money in Japan with a Wise debit card
- Find the right accommodation for you via Booking.com
- Book an incredible ryokan experience in Japan
- Where we stayed in Matsumoto – the ACE Hotel
- Using a Japan Rail Pass in Japan
- Our Guide to What to Eat in Japan
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11 thoughts on “Kamikochi – Hiking Trails + How to Visit Kamikochi”
hi, just found your blog while looking for info. on kamikochi. could you please tell me when you were there-not sure if the dates you posted coincide with the actual trip. we live in nagoya and am planning a trip to kamikochi this fall. i was planning on mid october because that’s when it says on some sites that the leaves are at their peak. just want to make sure we pick the right time.
thanks for any help you can give me and happy travels to you.
Hi Teresa – yes it was October- dates per tix as you mentioned. I always date the blog from the time of the visit! Enjoy we had a wonderful time there!
i just noticed the dates on your tickets-so it looks like mid october is right. your pictures are awesome by the way-we will definitely go there. i’d like to read about the rest of your travels so i signed up for your posts.
teresa in nagoya
This was great advice! Thanks!
Hello and good morning. Thanks for your blog.
If i am not wrong I notice the date on your ticket indicate 26th Oct. 2017.
That would be end Oct already. We are planning to visit Kamikochi in mid Oct.
say, Oct 18-20th . Would we be too early to enjoy the peak autumn leaves there?
That is our main purpose.
One more question is : we are also planning to visit Norikura Kogen as well as Hirayu Onsen and Shin Hotaka Ropeway. Need to do that over 2-3 days.That seems to complicate the purchase of tickets from
Matsumoto (our base). We can stay a night in Kamikochi and another night in Hirayu onsen instead of going to and from Matsumoto.
Would greatly appreciate your advice.
We do not intend to hike. Just going for the views.
Many thanks in advance.
Hello, we visited Kamikochi national park on the 17 of October, it looks like the exact timing of your visit. I think for your itinerary staying in Kamikochi and Hirayu sounds perfect. There are some lovely places to stay in Kamikochi.
Hi Sarah..great information indeed! may I know what time did you start to get the train from matsumoto? you arrived at kamokochi at 10 am. so to reach at kamikochi at 10 am, what shd be the start time from Matsumoto to Shin-shimashima?
Many thanks in advance. we are planning our hike on 1st week of july 2019
Hi there and thank you! – we bought our tickets at 0745 and got on the train straight away – Hyperdia will be able to advise on the latest train times. The train is quite short, we were boarding the connecting bus at 0830. Hope this helps and yuo enjoy the park!
Hi Sarah. We live in England. We love walking and plan to visit Kamikochi area for two days 2nd and 3rd October. Your hotel recommendations are fully booked so we have booked to stay at Hakuunsou Hotel (3 nights) in the next valley, alongside the Takahara River. It’s about 5 miles as the crow flies from Kamikochi 15 miles by road maybe. We are thinking of doing one day (12+ miles) walking near Takahara River and one day near Kamikochi. Do you know anything about:
– transport (e.g. buses) from Takahara River area to Kamikochi?
– trekking alongside the Takahara River, how does it compare to Kamikochi?
– how long was your trek? (you said 6 hours but how many miles)
– what was the weather like in October?
Enjoying your posts. Very helpful.
Hi Ian – We didn’t hike the Takhara River, but the best place to ask about transport is your accommodation. Kamikochi in the valley floor is relatively flat, and easy, well formed trails, good signposting. Looking at the route we did, it was about 16km, combining a few of the trails together, lots of photo stops. ALl the photos on this post are from when we were there in October. Glorious sunshine, a little mist that cleared early in the morning, but chilly, definitely layers and we took waterproofs more as wind breaks than anything else!
Thanks Sarah. That’s very helpful.