Over the past few years, Hakuba has undergone a transformation from winter paradise to one of the top all season resorts in Japan. In fact, nowhere across the country can you find so many activities for those who want to get close to nature. One of our regular guests from Tokyo has written out their summer autumn family favorites. This family has active young children, and always looking to have an experience close to nature.
The options are divided into different parts of the day with enough to cover 3 days of activities or more. All of these activities can be gone full blast for young couples, families with teens or decrease the pace to accommodate toddlers and young children.
Start the morning out with coffee from the White Fox chalet’s coffee maker or for those who want something unique, take the first cable car up Iwatake mountain for a memorable coffee in the mountains of Hakuba. At the top of Iwatake, there is a large deck, overlooking the beauty of Hakuba. The world famous, City Bakery from New York City serves up massive oatmeal cookies, blooming muffins and all sorts of mouth-watering baked goods. Grab a coffee and sit outside, admiring the rainbow colored mountains and snow-covered alps behind.
After being awaken from the mountain air, next, how about a hike to see the natural fall colors all around? Each mountain resort around Hakuba has its own special way to enjoy. Iwatake has both some obstacle course type items (nets, balance beam, random fun wooden sculptures) and lots of trees for kids to get caught up in. There is an easy course to hike for 60mins and for those with dogs, Iwatake welcomes your dogs on a leash.
If after that hike or if you are looking for something more adrenaline-filled, head to the bottom of Iwatake and pick up a rental mountain bike for a crazy bike run down the mountain! Yes, you need to wear a helmet and gloves—this is the real stuff!
Tsugaike is another mountain resort which is famous for the retired folks to go hiking. Tsugaike Nature Park’s full course is about 3.5hrs, but 1 or 2 hours courses are options. The speciality with Tsugaike is the boardwalks over the 4 marshland areas, each with magnificent 360 views—even better during the fall season.
(a blog with very good pics and descriptions https://www.alpico.co.jp/en/travelog/post/a-day-filled-with-ropeway-rides-and-stunning-autumn-foliage-in-the-tsugaike-nature-park/)
With all the time outside, it might be nice to warm up inside with some Japanese soba noodles. It is said that soba noodles are the most delicious where the water is delicious, and nothing gets better than the snow-melted water from the Hakuba mountains! Fun fact: The bottled water sold around Japan at Family Marts are from the mountains around Hakuba.
Lunch at either Riki or Zen will fill your tummy, tempura soba cold dipping or hot with tempura on top are both tasty options. At Riki, they also have buckwheat (soba) crepes filled with sweet or savory fillings.
Take a drive to the A-Coop supermarket to buy your dinner and/or breakfast options for the next day. There is a large spread of locally grown produce, particularly in the autumn when everything comes into season. Mushrooms are a Nagano delicacy, apples are famous and grapes, sweet potatoes, green peppers and any other produce are always around.
Here is a recommended BBQ list if you are opting for an outdoor BBQ at our White Fox Chalets:
- Hakuba pork—this is truly famous and different from what you may have eaten
- Mushrooms, famous locally, try a few types on the BBQ
- Onions, pumpkin, green peppers, carrots
- Cabbage and yakisoba noodles for fillers
- Wine (White Fox staff can also arrange from a Sommelier!)
- Drinks, if you want something beyond the delicious water
A late afternoon BBQ outside the chalet can be arranged by White Fox staff and if you are not used to charcoal grills, they can help you ready that.
There are also great local produce outlets translated to “Road Stations” (Michi no Eki), halfway between Hakuba and Nagano, you will find massive apples, mountain-grown mushrooms, flowers and many vegetables, sweets and local gifts. The 20-30mins drive to these Road Stations is picturesque—keep a look out for the goats. [Michi no Eki pics]
Late Afternoon Energy
We have children and sometimes the hikes still leave them at the end of the day with remaining energy! We have recommendations for this.
AdventureEx at the base of Iwatake is an adventure in the trees, an endless challenge to test kids’ ninja skills while being safely harnessed. We recommend from 6yrs and above, but if some active parents want to join in, feel free to try with your 5yr olds with a lot of assistance.
Hakubounce has a new location near Iwatake, this is our personal secret in burning off the remaining energy and secret to a quiet, peaceful evening. Take your kids or the entire crew for a 1 hour trampoline experience. There are super trampolines, balls and areas to even practice your 360s for the winter snowboarding around the corner.
Onsen – Hot Springs to Freshen Up
So after the busy day, if you opt for it, pop by the Happo Bijin Onsen or Hakuba Highland Hotel for their hot springs. At Hakuba Highland, they have panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains. Of course, the baths and showers in the White Fox Chalets are sparkling clean and worth using too. Save the yen for a delivery meal!
Dinner in the Chalet or Around Town
Our favorite is to unwind in the White Fox Chalets in the evening. Usually we have been non-stop for most of the day and being able to enjoy the beautiful chalets. Just sitting on the sofa watching Netflix, Apple TV or listening to music over some drinks is bliss.
If there are games or you prefer a bar-scene, head to Tap Room for large screen sports viewing and the most beers on tap across Hakuba. Yes, there is a local Hakuba Brewing Company, producing various beers for the palette.
If you prefer more of a Japanese Izakaya adventure with many small dishes to share, Hie, Sarugaku or Zen will give you the traditional Japanese experience with local ingredients.
Still looking for more to do? Take a walk at dusk around Echoland and to the main road, Art Line to watch the mountains say good night. In the autumn, the sounds of crickets and frogs fill the air for an experience not found in the city.
Hakuba’s skies at night are famous for star-gazing. We have brought our telescope to the chalets and viewed the full moon—catching the craters. Our kids asked us, “why is the moon so bumpy?”. A hands-on learning experience. It is possible to drive up to the tops of the mountains to be closer to the skies and see the milky way. Friends have also commented seeing the milky way at night from the Green Sports Park, a 5mins drive from the chalets.
Apple Picking – On the Way Back
Whether you are heading back towards Nagano Station or towards Matsumoto, there are numerous apple orchards around welcoming visitors and apple outlets during the fall season.
On the way to Karuizawa, stop by Matsui Farm for the apple picking experience. http://www.matsui-farm.co.jp/ringo.html
On the way to Matsumoto, stop by Azumino Kato Farm and check the blog for their latest fruits in season—peaches & apples
Written by an amazing White Fox Guest
Thank you for this detailed write-up. We look forward to seeing you again!