Like us, are you exploring Hokkaido and looking for some great hiking options? The area around Sounkyo is a hikers paradise, and the Momijidani hike is a great little walk for the whole family!
Finding the Momijidani hike
As with the Panoramadai hike, our discovery of the Momijidani hike was was quite accidental. We had planned a day trip down to Ginsendai but after arriving in Sounkyo we quickly realised that the last buses to Ginsendai had stopped a only a week earlier.
Google and some brochures from the hotel came to the rescue, with some obscure references to both the Panoramadai and Momijidani hikes.
This was our first exposure to the word ‘momijidani’, but we were to come across it again later in our holiday in its more famous setting on the island of Miyajima. As far as I can tell, momijidani translates to mean either ‘Maple Valley’ or ‘Autumn Valley’, and the name is quite apt as the entire valley is filled with maple trees. This walk is particularly popular in autumn when the maple leaves change colour from green to yellow, orange and red.
The Momijidani hike
1. Starting at the Sounkyo ropeway, follow the road to the east across the river. This sealed road will take you past a number of high end hotels and the Sounkyo Youth Hostel.
2. After about 10-15 minutes you’ll come to the start of the dirt hiking trail. It’s clearly marked and there is room for car parking if necessary.
This trail quickly enters the green, verdant forest that lines the banks of the bubbling stream on your left.
If you look closely you’ll see signs of woodpeckers in the pockmarked boughs of the tall maple trees along the trail.
At a number of locations the trail passes close to the bank of the stream, giving some great views of some small waterfalls.
At most of these locations access to the waterfalls is roped off as a safety measure, but it’s pretty obvious that they really want to keep traffic to the waterfalls at a minimum to prevent damage to the soil and vegetation lining the stream. Considering how popular this walk is in the autumn when the leaves are turning orange and red (a couple of weeks after we we there!) this is a pretty good move.
The trail itself is clearly marked the whole way. In the early stages it is fairly flat, but as you walk deeper into the valley the trail does rise sharply in sections, requiring a little bit of scrambling at times.
3. Around 30 minutes after passing the start of the trail you will reach the awesome waterfall called Momiji-no-taki at the head of the valley. The water here cascades down two large steps above you, before passing the viewing area and then dropping away over a series of steep ledges to the valley below.
If you look up to your left you’ll see towering hexagonal columns of stone rising from the valley up to the sky. A pretty incredible sight! In Australia these types of rock formations always get called some variant on ‘organ pipes’, but for good reason!
This was a fantastic walk to finish our last day in Sounkyo, with the reward-to-effort ratio being very very high!
You could quite easily finish this walk in 40 minutes (return), but with such incredible scenery along the way you really should slow down and absorb it all over at least 90 minutes if you can. It would be quite possible to spend a half hour or more simply sitting on the bench at the final waterfall it’s so beautiful!
Fitness levels don’t need to be high for this walk. As long as you’re reasonably mobile you should be able to complete this walk with ease.
If you’ve got a couple of hours spare in Sounkyo, or you’re simply at a loose end, we thoroughly recommend completing this hike, particularly in the autumn months as the foliage changes colours. It’s well worth it!
Have you walked the Momijidani trail? We’d love to know what you thought of it!
Looking for more hikes in Japan?
We spent 6 weeks travelling the length of Japan, hiking as much as possible. Click here for all our hikes in Japan:
If you’re looking for other hikes around Sounkyo, here are two others that we highly recommend: