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Japan’s Own Long Trail: Shin-etsu Trail

Hike on the ridgeline surrounded by the virgin beech forest.
  • Duration
    5Days / 34Hours
    Highest Point
    1382m
    Elevation Gain
    819m
  • Skill Level
    Fitness Level
    Gear Level

Shin-etsu trail is a long trail that spans about 80 kilometers along the Sekida mountain range, which is located on the border of Nagano and Niigata prefectures. Crossing 16 mountain passes, the entire route of this trail was finally opened in 2008, as a result of a long period of surveys and development by the local municipality and residents. This route introduces a course that starts at Mt. Madarao (Madarao-yama) located at the southwest end of the trail, and heads for Mt. Amamizu (Amamizu-yama) on the northeast end.

On the first day, head for Mt. Madarao, where the Shin-etsu trail starts. From the Rest House Tyrol trailhead, hike straight through the ski slope of Madarao Mountain Resort, and proceed along the zigzag path through forest, the summit of Mt. Madarao is about 2 hours away. This is the western starting point of the Shin-etsu trail.

Descend along the beech forest ridgeline and the surrounding will soon change to larch forest. Manzaka-toge Pass is about an hour and 40 minutes away. Walk on the roadway from here and hike up through forest again. Pass through the wetland along a wooden walkway and hike up the beech forest ridgeline. You will arrive at Mt. Hakama (Hakama-dake) in an hour. Descend the steep slope from the summit and take a right at the fork of the Kashiwaga-toge Pass, and the trail becomes forestry road. About an hour and 20 minutes from Mt. Hakama, you will arrive at Aka-ike Pond.

The walking time for the first day is about 6 hours. From Aka-ike Pond, take a taxi and spend the night in the Madarao Highland (Madarao Kogen) area.

On the second day, take a taxi back to Aka-ike Pond. Proceed along a gentle slope in the forest, and you will arrive at Numanohara wetland in about 50 minutes. Walk on the roadway and descend along the stream, and Lake Nozomi (Nozomi-ko) is about 50 minutes away. From Lake Nozomi, hike up a larch trail for approximately 40 minutes and you will arrive at Mt. Kenashi (Kenashi-yama). Descend the steep slope and walk through countryside, and you will arrive at Wakui in about 2 hours. Pass through the village of Wakui, it takes about another hour to get to Tomikura-toge Pass. Continue hiking on the forestry path on the bank of the pond and hike up a steep slope, and you will arrive at Mt. Kuroiwa (Kuroiwa-yama) in about 2 hours. The view of the Iiyama countryside landscape can be enjoyed from the summit.

Descend the ridgeline for about an hour, and you will arrive at Katsura-ike Pond. Total walk time of the second day is about 8 hours. From Katsura-ike, take a taxi to Iiyama and stay overnight in the area.

The Third day starts from Katsura-ike. Hike past the pond and in about an hour and 40 minutes, you will arrive at Hotokegamine trailhead. Hike through the upper part of Togari Onsen Snow Resort and on the ridgeline, you will arrive at Ozawa-toge Pass in 2 and a half hours. Hike back up from the pass and on a narrow ridge, Mt. Nabekura (Nabekura-yama) is 2 hours and 30 minutes away. From Mt. Nabekura to Kuguno-toge Pass, and on to Mt. Kurokura (Kurokura-yama), continue hiking up and down for about an hour and 20 minutes and you will arrive at Sekita-toge Pass.

Total walk time for the third day is 7 hours and 30 minutes. From Sekita-toge, take a taxi to get to Nozawa Onsen or Togari Onsen hot springs and stay overnight.

The fourth day starts from Sekita-toge, and the hike continues to go up and down via Nashidaira-toge Pass. The virgin forest of beech trees with their trunks bent by the weight of snow shows how heavy the snowfall is in this area. Maki-toge Pass is about 2 hours away from Sekita-toge.

Proceed on a narrow ridgeline and hike over Mt. Hanatate (Hanatate-yama), and you will arrive at Utsunomata-toge Pass. Hike back up the steep slope, and you will arrive at a small pond known as Maboroshino-ike (literally, “pond of illusion”), surrounded by beech forest. After hiking along a path of ups and downs through the beech forest and then going down a steep slope, you will arrive at Busuno-toge Pass.

From the pass, hike up a steep slope and proceed on with the view of wetland on the right-hand side, and the final stop of the day, Nonoumi-toge Pass is about an hour and 20 minutes away. The total walk time of the fourh day is about 8 hours. From Nonoumi-toge, take a taxi to hot springs around Sakae Village, such as Nakajo Onsen or Kitano-Tenman Onsen, and stay overnight.

On the fifth day, start the hike on the gentle road from Nonoumi-toge and past the northern edge of Nagano prefecture. Fukasaka-toge Pass is 45 minutes away. This pass has a stone monument that commemorates it being the oldest in the entire Shin-etsu trail, which is believed to have had the traffic of people since the 6th century.

Hike up the steep slope from the pass for about 40 minutes, and you will arrive at Mt. Sanpo (Sanpo-dake). Proceed on the ridgeline with a cliff on its left side for about an hour, and you will start to see terraced rice fields in front left, and that is where Mt. Amamizu (Amamizu-yama), the end of Shin-etsu trail is.

Take left at the fork on the ridge and descend and take a left again at the next fork, and you will arrive at Matunoyama trailhead (the end of the trail). Total walk time for the fifth day is about 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Though this route suggested using taxis to get to accommodations in the foothills, it is possible to traverse using tents to camp out. Camping areas are available near each daily goal area: Hikarigahara Highland (Hikarigahara Kogen) below Aka-ike, Katsura-ike and Sekita-toge, which is accessible via a forestry road; Ton-daira located below Hotokegamine trailhead, accessible via gravel path; Nonoumi Highland (Nonoumi Kogen) below Fukasaka-toge, accessible via a forestry path; and Daigonji Highland (Daigonji Kogen) below Matsunoyama trail end, accessible via a promenade. Camping out in Aka-ike, Katsura-ike, Hikarigahara Highland and Nonoumi Highland makes it possible to traverse the route in 5 days.

Reservations are required to use camping sites on Shin-etsu trail. In addition, although camping sites are usually equipped with water, it is recommended to use a water purifier before drinking.

Other Info

The attraction of Shin-etsu trail is the beauty of the beech virgin forest along the trail. The best hiking season would be from mid-to-late October when the beech tree leaves turn to autumn colors. However, the season coincides with the earlier sunset time. Hikers are encouraged to be cautious about their time of activities. Though late May to June when beech trees are covered with fresh green buds is another attractive season for hiking, there may still be snow left on the route, which requires attention of hikers.

Notes

Shin-etsu trail is managed and maintained by an incorporated NPO, Shinetsu Trail Club Office. Be sure to submit a hiking registration to the office prior to start hiking.

Route Map

Elevation Map

Height (m)
Horizontal Distance (km)

Spec

Duration
5Days / 34Hours
Highest Point
1382m(Mt. Madarao)
Elevation Gain
819m
Horizontal Distance
63.6Km
Skill Level
Fitness Level
Gear Level

On the Trail

Sleeping

Nabekura Kogen Morino-ie, Green Pal Kogen-so, Daigonji Kogen Rest House Kibo-kan

Eating

Nakajo Onsen Tomatono-kuni

Hot-Springs

Nakajo Onsen Tomatono-kuni

Instagram

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Access

Shin-etsu trail is located on the border of Nagano and Niigata prefectures. Take Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo station, which takes approximately an hour and 50 minutes to get to Iiyama station.

From Iiyama station, take a taxi run by either Nagano Kotsu or Iiyama Kanko Hire, and it takes approximately 30 minutes to the Rest House Tyrol Trailhead on Mt. Madarao, where Shin-etsu trail starts.

From Matsunoyama Trail end on Mt. Amamizu where Shin-etsu trail ends, take Moriyama Kotsu Taxi to get to Morimiyanohara station of JR Iiyama Line in approximately 30 minutes. From there on JR Iiyama Line, it takes approximately 50 minutes to Iiyama station.

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