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Difficulty: 4/5

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Hiking Distance: 31km 

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Time: 2 days

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Elevation change: ➚1150m   ➘1150m

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Prefecture: Nagano

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Karasawa Cirque & the Byobu Ridge

涸沢

Elevation: 2565m

Prefecture

Nagano

Distance

31 km

Elevation Change

➚ 1150m    ➘ 1150m

Time

2 Days

Difficulty

3/5

Accommodation

Huts & Campgrounds

Overview

The Karasawa Cirque is perhaps the most popular hike in Kamikochi, it's especially famous for its autumn colours which reach their peak around the end of September and the start of October. During this time, the Karasawa campsite fills up with hundreds of tents, creating a colourful "tent city" that compliments well with the surrounding autumn colours. Although very busy, the large crowds and hundreds of tents add to the unique experience. It's most commonly done as an out-and-back hike through the valley, as this is the easiest trail. However, including the Byobu ridge adds more excitement and variety to the hike, with incredible views and fun terrain involving some ropes and chains.

 

The route described here includes the Byobu ridge, but you can easily skip this section for an easier hike which is accessible to all skill levels. The Karasawa Cirque is the easiest overnight hike in Kamikochi and a great way to experience the area without climbing any of the large mountains.

Access

Car

If using a car you'll also need to catch a bus from the Sawando Parking Area (Closer to Matsumoto) or the Hirayu Parking Area, the bus will take about 30 minutes from the parking lot.

Direct Bus

There is a direct bus from Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo. You can view all the details and make reservations here. The price ranges from ¥10,000 to ¥13,000.

Cheapest Option

For Kyoto and Osaka, there is a direct bus to the Shinhotaka ropeway which can also be used to access the mountains in Kamikochi. You can make reservations here, it's only ¥7500.

Train + Bus

You can also come from Matsumoto Station or from Gifu prefecture's Takayama Station. The official Kamikochi website provides a detailed overview of all the travel times and options.

Note: Kamikochi is closed from 15th Nov to the end of April

Maps

Accommodation

Karasawa has two mountain huts and enough space for hundreds of tents. If you're camping, no reservation is required. However, if you would like to stay in the hut, advanced reservations are required by phone. If you're unable to call the hut, contact us to make a booking.

It's also popular to spend a night in Kamikochi when hiking to Karasawa, booking.com have the best rates, click here to check availability.

Weather  and  Seasons

Summer and autumn, from June to October, are the best times for hiking Karasawa. There is likely to be snow hanging around until June. The autumn leaves will be colourful from mid-September to mid-October. Kamikochi is closed during winter, from November to April.

Useful links

Trail Description

Day 1

Time: 6.5 hrs

Distance: 14 km

Elevation change: 1100m gain  ➘ 250m loss

Once you get off the bus at Kamikochi, it will take about 2 hours of walking along the river to reach the beautiful Tokusawa campground. Shortly after Tokusawa, you'll reach the intersection for Shinmura bridge which marks the start of the trail to Byobu Ridge. From Shinmura, the trail gradually becomes steeper until you eventually reach the ridgeline. The trail up to the peak involves some steep scrambling and takes about 15 mins. Once you reach the top, don't get confused by the allure of another nearby peak known as Byobu-iwa Rock, the trail is not maintained and as it's primarily used by climbers with appropriate rock climbing gear.

 

From the Byobu-no-mimi peak head back down the way you came and continue along the ridge toward Karasawa. The trail between Byobu ridge and Karasawa is on the side of a modest cliff with chains and ropes to assist with climbing, it will take about 1 hour to reach Karasawa from the ridge.

Day 2

Time: 4.5 hrs

Distance: 17km

Elevation change:  50m gain  ➘ 900m loss

Your return journey takes you on the traditional Karasawa route, heading back this way will be easier as it's a nice gradual descent. Try to leave early to avoid waiting for large groups of people between Karasawa and Hontani Bridge. About 50 mins before you reach the Kamikochi bus stop you will come to the Myojin Hut, I recommend crossing the bridge here and taking the boardwalk back as it's a lovely way to end your hike.

Elevation Profile

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Cautions

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Altitude & Weather

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Monkeys

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Bears (rare)

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Gallery

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Difficulty: 3/5

Hiking Distance: 31 km 

Time: 2 days

Elevation gain: 1150m

Prefecture: Nagano

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