■The six sections of the Shin-etsu Trail
Section 1: Mt. Madarao to Akaike Pond (via Manzaka Gap and Mt.Hakamadake)
Section 1: Mt. Madarao to Akaike (via Manzaka Gap and Hakamadake) Section 1: Mt. Madarao to Akaike (via Manzaka Gap and Hakamadake) Section 1: Mt. Madarao to Akaike (via Manzaka Gap and Hakamadake)

6hr, 8.5km (highest point: 1382m, lowest point: 910m above sea level)

Rewards: Great views can be had to the north and west of Mt Madarao.
Challenges: The first part of section 1 has a long steep ascent & decent of Mt Madarao.
Access: Enter by walking up the ski-slope trail from Madarao Kogen Resort (or from forested trails to the south). Exit directly by road from Akaike Pond.
Alternatives: In the case of bad weather or poor visibility, consider just doing the second part of section one from Manzaka Gap, from the point where the trail crosses the road, providing access to Madarao Kogen. This could also suit less able walkers.
Accommodation: in from Madarao Kogen resort, out to Madarao Kogen resort
Tent site: Akaike Pond (end of section 1), Y1000 / person.

Although the official start of the trail is from the top of Mt. Madarao, you need to get there first. Most walkers access the trail from the Madarao Kogen resort side of the mountain. Be aware that this access trail is a ski slope, so it is not only exposed to the weather, it is also quite arduous taking more than 60-90min to ascend depending on your strength. However, there are also forested trails from the south and south eastern side of Mt Madarao, which afford more protection from the elements, but require transport to reach. When approaching from the ski slope, there are some great views to be enjoyed.

You will know that you have reached the start of the Shinetsu Trail when you hit a junction in the beech forests at the top of Mt Madarao (1382m) with some posts and signage. Take the short spur 10min west to Daimyojin Peak, which has great views of Lake Nojiri, the Five Peaks of Northern Nagano, and some of the Northern Japan Alps. Retrace your steps back to the junction at Mt Madarao and then take the Shinetsu Trail north, descending the switchback route to Manzaka Gap. Although you are walking down a ski slope, there are some excellent views and a few sheltered places on the way down where you can break for lunch.

When you reach the road at Manzaka Gap, the trail continues on the other side through beautiful Japanese beech and birch forests over a hill to the Hakama Wetlands, which you will pass through before talking a turn to the left to ascend Hakama Peak (1135m), which you should reach in less than 60min. From the summit of Hakama Peak, there is a great view of Mt Myoko to the west, and the space here makes it a great place to stop for a break. Next, descend to Akaike pond through a pleasant switchback trail. Keep following the signs to Akaike pond as there are a number of paths intersecting the trail in this area. There are bathrooms and a parking space at Akaike pond.

Section 2: Akaike Pond to Wakui (via Numanohara Wetland and Mt. Kenashi)
Section 2: Akaike to Wakui (via Numanohara Wetland and Mt.Kenashi) Section 2: Akaike to Wakui (via Numanohara Wetland and Mt. Kenashi) Section 2: Akaike to Wakui (via Numanohara Wetland and Mt. Kenashi)

5hr, 10.7km (highest point: 1022 m, lowest point: 563m above sea level)

Rewards: The walk through Numanohara wetlands and by Lake Nozomi are very pleasant.
Challenges: There are many intersections on the trail in section 2 so carry a good map.
Access: Enter directly by road from Akaike pond. Exit directly by road from Wakui Village.
Alternatives: Section 2 is the easiest of all sections, however, less able walkers may want to arrange for transport to collect you from Numanohara wetlands. It has good links to Madarao Kogen and Iiyama City.
Accommodation: in from Madarao Kogen, out to Togari Onsen
Tent site: None. Continue walking an additional 8km to Katsuraike Pond in section 3 (prepare for 18km total walk day).

From Akaike, walk over a small hill and through the beech forest to Numanohara Wetlands, which blossom with flowers after the spring thaw, but is very pleasant at any time of year. There are various trails through here, but once you have explored the wetlands, aim for the northern side, where there are bathrooms and a parking lot. Make your way up another small hill towards Lake Nozomi. From the top of the hill, Mt. Madarao, Hakama Peak and even Mt. Myoko can be seen on a clear day. Descending along the trail, you will pass through a lovely forest before coming to the boat pier of Lake Nozomi, from where Mt. Madarao can be seen casting a reflection over the water on windless days. This is a good place to have lunch.

There is a bathroom near the entrance to the Mt. Kenashi climb. The climb to the top (1022m) takes about 30-40min and brings you to a superb view over the Iiyama Basin. You will then descend through the larch forest to the pond, known as Wakui Shin-ike. From there, continue down along the farm road. There is a small gully with some spring water off the trail, the perfect treat for an exhausted hiker. It is an easy walk down the farm road, where it comes out onto route 292 in Wakui Village, but it does take around 60min. There is a car park on the right.

Section 3: Wakui to Hotokegamine Tozanguchi
      (via Tomikura Gap, Lake Sobu, Mt.Kuroiwa and Katsura Pond)
Section 3: Wakui to Hotokegamine Tozanguchi Section 3: Wakui to Hotokegamine Tozanguchi Section 3: Wakui to Hotokegamine Tozanguchi Section 3: Wakui to Hotokegamine Tozanguchi

6hr, 12.7km (highest point: 938m, lowest point: 563m above sea level)

Rewards: There are various interesting historical and natural points of interest on section 3.
Challenges: The last part has a number of muddy gullies to cross and a short sharp ascent to the track head at Hotokegamine Tozanguchi.
Access: Enter directly by road from Wakui Village. Exit from Hotokegamine Tozanguchi by walking down the ski-slope trail to the ski-lift base by the Takahara Restaurant (open in winter only). You can arrange road transport from here.
Alternatives: Less able walkers may want to skip the last part, by arranging transport to collect you from route 411 at Katsuraike Pond. This road links well to Togari Onsen.
Accommodation: in from Togari Onsen, out to Togari Onsen
Tent site: Katsuraike Pond, Y1000 / person.

The trail starts from route 292 in Wakui with a 60min climb up to Tomikura Gap through a mixture of native forest and cedar plantation. It is a pleasant route, some of which is used by local people foraging for mushrooms and mountain vegetables. Tomikura Gap was once a well-used point of trade and commerce between Shinano and Echigo, and you can see stone remnants of the road where it crosses the Shinetsu Trail. Further up, there is a historical site called Taishojin, where Kenshin Uesugi (The warlord of Echigo in the 16th century) set up a lookout to keep an eye over Iiyama and Kita Gap territories. If you scramble up to the ridge above the trail, you will find a small shrine dedicated to the horses and cows that passed away helping Usesugi’s samurai army. The trail continues by a reservoir called Lake Sobu, where there is a small shrine by the water, and then onwards towards Mt. Kuroiwa. There is a sharp drop into a gully, and up the other side before reaching a shelter and view point that is ideal for lunch. The final climb up to Mt Kuroiwa (911m) is just a little further along, with a sharp ascent required.

The whole mountain is listed as a natural monument of Japan, being a rare habitat area for both Gifu Butterflies and Hime Gifu Butterflies, as well as the frog species, Rhacophorus arboreus (called “moriaogaeru” in Japanese). Within the beautiful Japanese beech forest, there is a vista that overlooks the Iiyama Basin. In the area surrounding Lake Katsura, where skunk cabbages bloom during springtime, there is a natural spring called, Taro Shimizu.

From Hiramaru Gap, walk along the western bank of Lake Nakafuruike. Walk past the Kitafuruike Wetlands on the forestry road, coming to an open space where you will find a Shinetsu Trail signboard. From this point, the trail enters a national forest, where there are many short ups and downs. Walk through the cedar forest, and cross over a few muddy gullies, to eventually arrive at the last steep ascent up to Hotokegamine Tozanguchi. This is the top of one of the slopes of the Togari Ski Resort and the end of section 3. A beautiful view opens here looking across to Nozawa Onsen, with the aging ski resort infrastructure providing novel foreground footage. Section 4 continues up from here, but to reach Togari Onsen, follow the gravel road 20min down the skip slope to the restaurant (closed in summer) and car park, from where you can be collected.

Section 4: Hotokegamine Tozanguchi to Sekida Gap (via Ozawa Gap and Mt. Nabekura)

6hr, 8.2km (highest point: 1288m, lowest point: 830m above sea level)

Rewards: There are excellent vistas off the ridge to the east and west.
Challenges: Section 4 begins with an arduous 2hr climb to Hotokegamine Peak. There are also many narrow sections of track along the ridge with steep drop-offs.
Access: Enter by road from the ski-lift base near the Takahara Restaurant, and walk up the ski-slope trail to Hotokegamine Tozanguchi. Exit directly by road from Sekida Gap.
Alternatives: There are no alternative access points into section 4, so if you are feeling tired, this section may be the one to skip.
Accommodation: in from Togari Onsen, out to Nabekura Kogen.
Tent site: Green Pal Kogenso, Y1000 / person (15min from Sekida Gap).

From section 4, you are taken further away from civilisation into wilder terrain than the proceeding sections. To reach Hotokegamine Tozanguchi, where section 4 begins, you must first walk up the ski slope to the track head. It takes approximately 30min to reach this point, and then from there, the trail sharpens as it ascends through the beech forests to Hotokegamine Peak (1146m). It takes about 1hr30min to achieve the top from Hotokegamine Tozanguchi, so all up you have a spectacular yet arduous 2hr climb to start the day. Fortunately though, you will get a beautiful outlook over Nabekura Kogen and Iiyama Valley from here. After going up and down a few hills, you will arrive at Ozawa Gap. If you go down the Niigata side, you will come to Lake Yoshihachi, and if you go down the Nagano side, you will come to Tondaira Slope of the Togari Ski Resort.

The trail will then lead you through a beautiful 100 year-old beech forest, a lovely spot to break for lunch. The climb to Mt. Nabekura (1288m) involves many narrow ridges, so caution is needed, particularly in the case of bad weather. The climb to the top can be a bit strenuous, but the effort will be well rewarded by the view of Mt. Myoko, Mt. Hiuchi and the majestic Chikuma River winding through Iiyama Basin. It is just a short leap over to Mt. Kurokura (1242m), where you will see the Sea of Japan. Pass by Dogata Gap, and then finally descend to Sekida Gap where there is a parking space. On the Niigata side, there is a Shientsu Trail visitors center, called Green Pal Kogenso, where trail information is available. Near Sekida Gap, there is a pond called Chayaike. There is also a bathroom and a rest house.

Section 5: Sekida Gap to Busuno Gap (via Maki Gap and Utsunomata Gap)
Section 5: Sekida Gap to Busuno GapSection 5: Sekida Gap to Fushino GapSection 5: Sekida Gap to Fushino GapSection 5: Sekida Gap to Busuno Gap

6hr, 12.4km (highest point: 1140m, lowest point: 970m above sea level)

Rewards: The wild nature and beautiful forests of section 5 are very appealing.
Challenges: Section 5 has no significant mountains to scale, but it is quite long with a large number of short sharp ups and downs along the ridge. There are also many muddy mountain patches to cross.
Access: Enter directly by road from Sekida Gap. Exit directly by road from Busuno Gap.
Alternatives: For less able walkers, there is an access road with a car park midway at Maki Gap. This road links well to Nabekura Kogen “Mori-no-ie”, making it an excellent alternative start or finish point.
Accommodation: in from Nabekura Kogen, out to Nabekura Kogen
Tent site: None. Continue walking an additional 7km to Nonomi Gap in section 6 (prepare for 20km total walk day). Nonomi Kogen, Y1000 / person (20min from Nonomi Gap, 10min to Misaka Gap).

Section 5 is one of the wilder parts of the Shinetsu Trail. Although when taking first glance at a topographic map, it can look deceptively flat, your walk will reveal many short sharp ups and downs, making this section one of the toughest. However, it rewards walkers with its gorgeous bounty of nature. The area is dotted with seasonal flowers and fungi, as well as young beech trees bent by the weight of winter snow.

From Sekida Gap, it takes about 2hr15min to reach Maki Gap, and on a clear day, you can see the Sea of Japan and Sado Island. Maki Gap is also a well-known point from which to spot the rare Japanese Golden Eagle; and you are likely to see a number of photographers there set up with awesome kit. From Maki Gap, it is a relatively sharp 40min ascent up the ridge to Mt. Hanatate (1069m), where a breathtaking view unfolds and a great spot for lunch.

Continue on, walking past Utsunomata Gap to find Maboroshi-no-ike, Lake of the Phantom. Surrounded by a native beech forest, Maboroshi-no-ike is about 300m round and is a spawning ground for moriaogaeru (the frog species Rhacophorus arboreus) and Japanese black salamanders. You will start to see Mt. Hishigatake, a Niigata landmark, as you approach Busuno Gap with the walk from Maboroshi-no-ike to Busono Gap taking about 80min.

Section 6: Busuno Gap to Mt. Amamizu (via Sugawa Gap, Nonomi Gap and Misaka Gap)
Section 6: Fushino Gap to Mt. Amamizu Section 6: Fushino Gap to Mt. Amamizu Section 6: Fushino Gap to Mt. Amamizu

7hr, 12.65km (highest point: 1151m, lowest point: 1015m above sea level)

Rewards: Section 6 is regarded as having the most delightful beech forests and views of the entire trail.
Challenges: This is one of the longest sections of the Shinetsu Trail, with some relatively short but steep sections where ropes are at times provided for assistance.
Access: Enter directly by road from Busuno Gap. Exit by trail to Matsunoyamaguchi (45min), or Tsunanguchi (1hr), or Sakaeguchi (2hr30min), from where transport can collect you.
Alternatives: At Misaka Gap, there is an access road crossing the trail that links with Matsunoyama Onsen on the north side, and Hirataki Station on the south side. From Misaka Gap, it is about 1hr45min walk to the end of the trail at Mt Amamizu.
Accommodation: in from Nabekura Kogen, out to various points: north to Matsunoyama Onsen (nearest), east to Tsunan, south to Sakae
Tent site: Daikonji Kogen, Y1000 / person (15min from Matsunoyamaguchi trailhead).

This is the final section of the Shinetsu Trail leading to Mt. Amamizu, the northern endpoint. It is also one of the most aesthetically rewarding. This part of the trail is almost entirely shrouded in beautiful beech forests, with many viewpoints over the Niigata Delta.

From Busuno Gap, you will make you way up to Sagawa Gap in around 45min. You will see the old Meiji period path crossing over here. Then continue towards Nonomi Gap. About 1km before reaching there, you will see the delightful Nishimado Wetlands just off the trail. Be aware that access to the wetlands is restricted due to the presence of protected wetland plants. From Nonomi Gap, a forestry road leads you past Lake Nonomi to Misaka Gap, which is a great rest spot with a nice view. The final 1hr45min to 2hr of walking between Misaka Gap and Mt Amamizu, taking you over Mt Sanpodake (1138m), is particularly pretty. The trail meanders in and out of the Beech trees with some great views to be had to the north and south. Reaching the peak of Mt. Amamizu (1088m), you can gaze out at the landscape of Tsunan, comparing it to that of Madarao from the first day of your trek. You have reached the end of your journey and if you started from Mt Madarao, you have accomplished the Shinetsu Trail in its entirety!

To exit the Shinetsu Trail, you have three options. The nearest transport point is at Matsunoyamaguchi to the north. it takes about 45min to reach, but you also have the option of heading for Tsunan in the east (1hr), or Sakae to the south (2hr30min).

■Visitor Centers

There are six visitor centers along the Shin-etsu Trail. Each center offers up-to-date, seasonal information on the condition of the trail.

Shin'etsu-shizenkyo Activity Center
Phone: 0269-62-7001
Open 8:30-18:00

By car: 15 minutes from the Toyota Iiyama IC of the Joshin-etsu Expressway.
By train: JR Iiyama Station 1F.
Parking lot capacity: 450 cars

This facility is directly connected to JR Iiyama station.
Here you can get the latest information on the Shin-etsu Trail and activity information in this area as well as events and book tours. You can also rent trekking supplies such as rainwear: ¥1000, trekking shoes: ¥1000, backpack:¥1000, poles: ¥500, purchase Shin-etsu trail maps, and have a certificate of completion issued.
Easy access to Madarao Kogen, the starting point of the Shin-etsu Trail, from the Iiyama station by bus is available.

Madarao Kogen Yamanoie
Madarao K?gen YamanoieMadarao Kogen, Iiyama-shi, Nagano-ken
Phone: 0269-64-3222
Open 9:00 - 17:00

By car: 25 minutes from the Toyoda Iiyama IC and Myoko Kogen IC of the Joshin-etsu Expressway.
By train: A 30 minute bus ride with on Iiyama-shi Community Bus from JR Iiyama Line Iiyama Station, and then a brief walk from Happozuka But Stop.
Parking lot capacity: 50 cars
Various eco-tours and outdoor events, equipment rental (Fees are charged by the day; rubber boots: ¥300, snow shoes:¥800, poles: ¥200).

This facility stands at the southern gateway to the Shin-etsu Trail, in Madarao Kogen. Information about the Shin-etsu Trail, as well as information on the various trails within Madarao Kogen, including accommodation and, places of interest, is provided here. It has a spacious lounge, and a terrace with a magnificent view.

Nabekura Kogen Morinoie
Nabekura K?ogen MorinoieNabekura K?gen, Iiyama-shi, Nagano-ken
Phone: 0269-69-2888
Open: 9:00 - 19:00

By car: 40 minuntes from the Toyoda Iiyama IC of the Joshin-etsu Expressway.
By train: A 20 minute taxi ride from JR Iiyama Line Togari Nozawa Onsen Station.
Parking lot Capacity: 40 cars
Various eco-tours and outdoor events, 10 cottages for lodging, a cafe, equipment rental (Fees charged by the day- rubber boots: ¥100, winter boots: ¥500, snow shoes: ¥2,000, poles: ¥500, spats: ¥300).

Located near Maki Gap, this visitor center is also the official office of the Shin-etsu Trail Club. Information about the trail as well as Mt. Nabekura is available here. Nature guides are dispatched through this site.

Green Pal Kogenso
Green Pal K?gens? Hikarigaoka Kogen, Itakura-ku, Joetsu-shi, Niigata-ken
July-October: Phone: 080-8858-9776;
Winter season: Phone: 0255-78-2141 (connects to the Joetsu-shi Itakura-ku General Office)
Hours: 10:00 - 16:00 (from May 30th to October 31st, 2009)
Open: Daily through July and August, Friday to Monday in September and October.

By car: 50 minutes from the J?oetsu IC of the Hokuriku Expressway.
By train: A 35 minute bus ride on the Keinan Bus from JR Shin-etsu Honsen Line Arai Station, then a 2 hour and 30 minute walk from Kamisekida Bus Stop. (Or, a 40 minute taxi ride from Arai Station)
Parking lot capacity: 70 cars
Cafeteria (open in July and August), 4 cabins, a camping site, a kitchen facility.
*A reservation is required for use of the camping site, and must be made at least one week in adviance. Contact Eshin-no-Kinenkan at (Phone: 0255-81-4541).

This center is located in Hikarigaoka Kogen, 1,000m above sea level. Located near Sekida Gap and just off of a prefectural road connecting Nagano with Niigata, near , Joetsu Iiyama Line, it allowsi easy access to the Shin-etsu Trail by way of anthe approach trail.

Cupid Valley Center House
Cupid Valley Center HouseSugawa, Yasuzuka-ku, Joetsu-shi, Niigata-ken
Phone: 025-593-2041
Open: 9:00 - 17:00 (during Golden Week and summer holidays only)
*Office is open throughout the year, for inquiries made by phone or e-mail.
By car: 90 minutes from the Rokkamachi IC of the Kan-etsu Expressway, or 40 minutes from the Joetsu IC of the Hokuriku Expressway.
By train: A 25 minute bus ride on the T?kei Bus from the Hokuhoku Line Mushigawaosugi Station, and then a 5 minute walk from Sugawa Bus Stop.
Parking lot capacity: 120
*Nearby facilities offer additional parking.
A public hot spring area for day trips (Yukidaruma Onsen and Darumatei Japanese Restaurant), Lodgings (Onsen-no-Yado Kubikino).

Located near Busuno Gap, with its comfortable hot springs and lodgings, this center provides a perfect start to the Shin-etsu Trail from the Niigata side. It is a ski resort in the winter, and provides a habitat for many valuable mountain plants from spring to autumn, which can be viewed along Hishigatake Peak.

Daigenji Kogen Compsite
Daigenji K?gen Resthouse, Kibokan Daigenji Kogen, Amamizugoe, Matsunoyama, Tokamachi-shi Phone: 025-596-2994
URL: http://daigoji.com
Open: 8:30 -17:00 (from May 25th to November 3rd, 2009).
By car:60 minutes from the Joetsu IC of the Hokuriku Expressway, the Toyota Iiyama IC of the Joshin-etsu Expressway, and the Shiozawa Ishiuchi IC of the Kan-etsu Expressway.
By train: A 25 minute bus ride on the Tokei Bus from Hokuhoku Line Matsudai Station, then a 20 minunte taxi ride from Matsunoyama Onseniriguchi Bus Stop.
Parking lot capacity: 100 cars
A cafeteria, an onsen with adjacent accommodation facility, two cottages, five cabins and a camping site with an adjacent camping facility.

This facility sits at the eastern gateway to the Shin-etsu Trail. You can relax in the surrounding pastures or enjoy a dip in the Matsunoyama Hot Sping, which is famous for its medicinal effects. There is a young, beautiful Japanese beech-tree forest on the route to Mt. Amamizu.

Nabekura Kogen Mori-no-Ie. 1571-15, Teruoka, Iiyama, Iiyama-city, Nagano, 389-2601.
TEL:0269-69-2888 FAX:0269-69-2288 E-mail: office@s-trail.net
エコツーリズム特別賞 森林管理所と協定・森林技術交流発表会 観光交流推進協議会