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When To Visit The Alpine Route In Japan

when to visit the alpine route in japan

Wondering when to visit the Alpine route in Japan? We have listed the bets times to visit the Alpine route in Japan below! Check it out!

So, here is a fun question: Have you ever experienced winter during the summer? You may think this is next to impossible but let me tell you about an experience that has left an everlasting impression in my mind. 

Japan is known for its snow festivals during the winter, Gingko foliage in autumn and sakura season during the summer season. 

So, if you are a tourist wondering what you can do in the land of the rising sun and where can you go on your next vacation? Then there is just one answer-the Tateyama Alpine Route.

Also called, ‘The Roof of Japan’ is one of the most instagrammable and scenic beauties in japan and worth visiting. The route is located between the roads of Toyama and Nagano and consists of a snowy corridor. 

In this article, I will be breaking down the best time to visit and how you can get there.

Best Time To Visit The Alpine Route in Japan

If you just Google the place, ‘Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route’ you will come across stunning images of scenic and picturesque  mountainous scenery. Each season shows off its magnificent views of this beauty so visitors are welcome to enjoy the view during any season when it is open. 

The Alpine Route passes through the majestic scenery of Mt. Tateyama in the Japan Alps and is a part of the  Chubu Sangaku National Park. 

This versatile beauty remains open from April 15th to November 30th (Please note: dates may vary due to weather conditions). 

The best time to visit here will depend on certain factors like the weather you prefer, the season you like,the activities you enjoy and so on. To get a better perspective,  here are all the details about each season:

SUMMER (July to August): 

If I have to be a little partial, I would personally choose Summer because that is exactly what I did. If you are a sucker for outdoor activities, then this would be the best time to visit the Alpine Route. 

The temperatures are surprisingly quite plesant and you can challenge yourself by climbing the summit of Mount Tateyama or go on an easy trail around the Mikurigaike pond at Murodo. 

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Another tourist attraction is the Kurobe Dam filled with water melted from the snow walls. The great news is that you can still walk on the snow in July. So, make sure you get the proper gear for hiking and walking.

Pros:

  • Great weather
  • Outdoor activities

Cons:

  • Snow walls start melting

SPRING (April to June):

If you want to enjoy the snow, then this is probably the best time to visit. The most magical thing you can do during Spring while you are at the Alpine Route is walk through the snowy corridor as the entire mountain range is covered in snow. 

During this time, be sure to check out the high snow walls standing with all their  glory and the sunny blue skies, snow capped mountains and more.  Driving is more relaxing during this time as the weather is warmer and relaxing. 

If you are lucky you can catch a  glimpse of the beautiful alpine flower which starts to bloom around this time and the Japanese Ptarmigans and Ermines that are usually spotted on the snowfields of Murodo.

Pros:

  • Stable temperature
  • Best time for sightseeing

Cons:

  • Snow walls start melting to half its height

AUTUMN (September to November):

If you decide on a trip during this season, it is almost unrecognizable (in a good way of course).Without the signature ice walls, the leaves start changing colors from green to orange, red, yellow and all shades of fire  at the highest elevation. It takes about six to seven weeks to experience the vibrant colors of the mountain. 

At the top of any peak, there are three colors of the Alps witnessed- green, orange and red and the top is covered with milky white snow. During late September at Murodo and Daikanbo, the fall foliage is at its peak. 

During late autumn, you can view an amazing scene of Murodo, begin to witness the start of winter and probably this will be your last chance to visit the Alpine Route before the winter lockdown. 

The only problem during this time is dealing with the crowded tourists, the cold biting weather and most trails are closed.

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Pros:

  • Picturesque and breathtaking views
  • New snowfall during late autumn
  •  

Cons:

  • No ice
  • Bad weather during the end of autumn

WINTER (December to Early April):

Keep in mind that the Alpine Route is closed completely during the winter season. Just before the complete shutdown, you will be able to see a complete snow covered Alpine Route with bad weather, high winds and snowfalls. 

The Kurobe Dam is completely frozen and wildlife vanishes during this time. You can still experience the snowy world during November and take spectacular photos of the ice walls

How To Reach The Alpine Route in Japan

This depends on from where you depart. If you choose to depart from Toyama or  Nagano/Matsumoto, it is a one way route. 

Although the Alpine Route can be done within a day, most visitors choose to stay at least a day so a round trip is more feasible so you can start from Tokyo of the Kanto region to Osaka, Kyoto in the Kansai region which takes at least six hours.  

As a foreign tourist, you can get a free ride using your JR pass from Tokyo to Toyama City. But you cannot use this pass on the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route and will need to purchase a separate ticket. 

My family and I did the Alpine Route from west to East in a one day trip. So we started early in the morning from Dentetsu Toyama and at the end we rested and spent the night at Matsumoto. 

I highly recommend you start early and plan well in advance on your itinerary

Travel Tips When Visiting Alpine Route in Japan:

Start earlier in the morning if you can because the entire Alpine Route takes over eight hours. Do not be surprised with the hoard of tourists or locals as it is a very popular attraction. 

There is no big baggage permitted along the Route so you can drop off or pick up luggage either at the starting or end point of the Alpine Route. Due to limited time, most people travel to Alpine Route on a round trip so you can plan your trip accordingly either from east or west. 

Be sure to take note and track the bus schedules as the last bus will end in the evening so if you miss your transport, you will be in trouble. 

There are also different waiting lines for direct and midpoint stops, especially for the Tateyama Togen Highland Bus. The bus will not stop midway without reservation, so make sure you do so at the station. Lastly, you can always plan the length of your visit for each attraction to make sure you are on schedule.

Where to Stay Near Alpine Route in Japan

If you want to experience a more  luxurious stay or prefer hiking then opt for staying at the top. There are only a few accommodations that are available at the top so be sure to reserve it early especially during the peak season. 

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The Hotel TaHotel Tateyama located at Murodo, is one of the most popular stays as it is on the highest point of the Alpine Route. Another best choice by travelers is the Midagahara Hotel. You can also stay in one of the hotels along the Alpine Route ust like I did. 

The Comfort Hotel Toyama is personally recommended by me. Plus they help with your baggage delivery too. Another great stay is the Ace Inn Matsumoto.

Visiting the alpine route in Japan: FAQS

When is the most popular period to visit the Alpine Route?

The most popular period recommended for tourists is the Snow Corridor opening which is open for two months every year.

How can you save on travel?

The best pass for tourists is the Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Tourist Pass which costs around ¥17,830 and is valid for five days. It provides unlimited transportation within the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. 

What is another best option on travel without any planning?

If you wish to enjoy hassle free travel, then you can opt for the Alpine Route Tours organized by many travel agencies who will handle everything from your transport, ticketing and also arranging english speaking guides too.

How long does it take to get there ?

It generally takes around six to seven hours one way. Sometimes, it may take upto ten hours if it is a different route.

So, if you are an outdoorsy person, then the best time to visit is during July-August. If you want to bask in nature’s glory, then Autumn is the season to plan. But if you want to spot the ice -walls, then Summer is the way to go. Now that you are aware of all the seasons and what are the pros and cons, you can make a well informed decision before making a visit to the Alpine Route. Happy traveling!

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