Mt. Utsukushigahara (美ヶ原)

Utsukushigahara is the only Hyakumeizan that you can “climb” in sandals. Though not very exciting in summer, winter transforms the place into a truly beautiful plateau. My friends and I have nicknamed this place Utskushikunaikara (美しくない原), meaning “ugly plain”.


The hike: From either bus stop, follow the sign (and crowds) to the summit area, called Ougatou (王ケ頭), easily recognizable with all of the radio towers and antennae. The entire path is paved and quite overdeveloped, but if you’re climbing the Hyakumeizan you’ve got to come here to check it off your list. That’s why I recommend coming in the winter. The cows are gone, and the snow piles up over the fences, so you can roam anywhere. Plus, it’s deserted, there’s no avalanche danger, and it’s relatively flat. A good place to have a snowball war, practice making snow caves, and brush up on those snowshoeing skills. There’s a smaller, lesser known peak called Ougahana (王ケ鼻), which is about 20 minutes west of the high point. Follow the signs. If you go here, you have an outstanding panorama of the Kita Alps, no ugly towers, and much fewer people.

When to go: This hike can be done year round if you’ve got your own transport in the winter. Summer is crowded with tacky tourists, who come to view the cows. Go on a clear day so you can see the panoramic views.

Access: From Matsumoto station, take a bus bound for Utsukushigahara Open-Air Museum (美ヶ原高原美術館) and get off at Yamamotogoya (山本小屋). From there, it’s about an hour to the top. Click here for the schedule. Alternatively, from Ueda station, take a bus to Yamamotogoya (山本小屋). There’s one bus a day, departing Ueda station at 9:05am. Click here for that schedule. In winter there’s no public transport unless you stay at the expensive hotel on the summit, which offers shuttle service from Matsumoto station. Click here for the hotel website.

Level of difficulty: 0 out of 5 (elevation change 129m)

Explore posts in the same categories: Nagano hikes (長野県)

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3 Comments on “Mt. Utsukushigahara (美ヶ原)”

  1. Hey Wes – just wanted to show my support for what you are doing with this blog. You’re right, Japan has a dearth of good information in English on many of the hikes and climbs round this great country. Especially when it comes to winter conditions, so I am especially glad to see some commentary on conditions “out of season”.

    I started to write descriptions of a few climbs on my own blog (Takatsuma:, Tsurugi but too little time and too much inertia have kept me from writing up more than a couple so far, so I applaud what you are doing here.

    If you have any links to bus or train timetables, campsites, huts or webcams for the hikes you’ve done then I’m sure I am not alone in saying that these would be invaluable. I seem to spend most time figuring out how to get to a certain mountain than I do climbing it sometimes…

  2. Natika Says:

    Thanks for compiling all this information! Great tips!

    For others coming to this site five years after it was written, here are some updated links.

    1) A map in Japanese – (click the second button on the left or just click them all until you find a map.)

    2) The bus schedule –
    (the green days are when it runs – basically never!)

    3) To google the hotels at the top –
    Their names are Yamamoto Goya Furusato-kan, Utsukushi-ga-hara Hotel Yamamoto Goya and Ougatou Hotel. They are all very expensive.

  3. Ken Says:

    Thank you!
    I was at the Art Museum for 1 hour only 4 years ago, out of season! What an (enjoyable) adventure involving my Matsumoto hotel manager, a night’s stay at a Ryokan on the plateau and a carload of senior Japanese ladies out for a jaunt.
    I am arranging my trip around the schedule you posted.
    Ken from Vancouver ,Canada

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