Senjogahara Plateau Hike – Nikko, Japan

Background

Take the Tobu bus from Nikko to the Ryuzu-no-taki bus stop. A bus timetable can be found on the Japan National Tourism Organisation website. There are a number of train, train/bus, and bus-only multi-day tickets offered by the Tobu railway company. If you are interested in visiting the temples in Nikko then one of these passes will suit you well. Alternatively, like us, if you are only interested in hiking and you have a JR Railpass, then you will be better off just getting the 2-day bus pass from either the JR or Tobu railways stations in Nikko for Y3,000. This will give you unlimited bus usage to and from Yumoto Onsen over a two day period. Please note that when we were there (Sept. 2012) you COULD NOT buy this bus-only pass from Asakusa Station in Tokyo.

The Hike

1. From the bus stop, walk back along the road (south) for about 20m and take the small road on the left hand side across the river towards the cafe.

2. The Ryuzu waterfalls are located in behind the cafe and are spectacular, particularly during the autumn when the surrounding foliage turns gold, red and orange. You can grab a meal, or use the toilet facilities (in the carpark) if necessary. As this is one of Japan’s most beautiful and well known waterfalls, be prepared for crowds! With patience though you will eventually get a good spot at the front where you can set up a tripod and take some great photos.

Ryuzu-no-taki (Ryuzu Waterfall)

3. Walk up the concrete path along the eastern bank of the Yukawa River for the next 300m alongside some very pretty rapids and small waterfalls until you get to the road. On the other side of the road you will see that the (dirt) hiking trail continues alongside the river.

4. Taking the dirt trail and duckboards along the eastern bank of the Yukawa River, you will pass through a mixture of Japanese stiltgrass, oak and larch trees, while also experiencing numerous views of the flat marshlands of the Senjo-ga-hara Plateau, with the imposing Mt Nantai in the background to the east. While beautiful at any time of year, the plateau is reputedly at its best during autumn. After re-entering the forest you will eventually reach the massive Yudaki waterfall approximately 1-1.5 hours after first setting foot on the dirt trail back at Ryuzu-no-taki.

Senjogahara Plateau

Mt Nantai and the Senjogahara Plateau

5. Yudaki waterfall is massive, with the Yukawa River descending 75m over the length of the falls. A viewing platform is located at the base of the falls where some great photos of the waterfall can be taken. Taking the steps up the eastern side of the waterfall, a short but very steep climb brings you to the top of the waterfall.

Yudaki-no-taki (Yudaki Waterfall)

6. Another 5mins of walking will bring you to the shores of Lake Yunoko where the path splits an you can either take the slightly longer, but quieter western path, or the shorter path alongside the main road on the eastern side of the lake. After only another 20 minutes or so you will emerge from the forest at the lake’s edge to be greeted by the township of Yumoto Onsen.

Lake Yunoko

7. In Yumoto Onsen there is a great cafe located on the shores of Lake Yunoko, while accommodation can be found at one of the many (expensive!) hotels. Alternatively, you can take the Tobu bus back to Nikko, perhaps stopping to view the stunning Kegon waterfall on the way through.

Kegon-no-taki (Kegon Waterfall)

Conclusion?

In total the hike from Ryuzu-no-taki to Yumoto Onsen took us around 2.5hrs. Bearing in mind that I was taking quite a few photos you could probably complete the walk quite comfortably in 2hrs. The trail is very flat for almost its entire length, making it very accessible for both young and old. The only steep section is found at Yudaki waterfall, but be aware that this is extremely steep!

For us, this was the perfect half-day hike, as we had travelled up to Nikko from Tokyo that morning. The numerous buses to Yumoto Onsen meant that we could stow our bags at our hotel in Nikko at midday, and still have time to get to Ryuzu-no-taki and complete the walk prior to the last bus leaving Yumoto Onsen back to Nikko in the late afternoon.

For a more casual perspective of the Nikko region, feel free to have a read of my travel blog entry.

13 Comments

  1. Hi guys! Thank you so much for this detailed article, it’s very clear and the photos are beautiful 🙂
    I’m doing this hike tomorrow, I hope there won’t be too much snow! (Dec 1st)
    Thanks again

  2. Hello,
    Thank you for sharing.
    Could you please to let me know do the hiking trail could be done in contrary route, From Yumoto onsen to Ryuzu no Taki? I would stay in hotel near Tobu Nikko Station and plan to do this hiking in Mid October.

  3. Hi Andrew! I was wondering if you reckon the trail is suitable for winter? I am planning to arrive in Nikko around January.

    1. Hi Lawrence! It’s really hard to say. I would suggest keeping an eye on the weather as you get closer to arrival, and if there have been no storms, and there are no storms forecast for the day you are there, then I would definitely give it a try (with good waterproof boots and cold-weather pants/jacket etc.). I haven’t been at that time of year, but it doesn’t seem to suffer from crazy levels of snow in winter unlike some other parts of Japan.

      Worst case…you should still be able to view the waterfall at the bottom end of the trail and explore the trail as far north as possible. As there are many visitors to that waterfall and surrounding region I suspect the foot traffic will have created a cleared path up along the riverbank.

      Cheers!
      Andrew.

  4. Thank you for providing all this information. I am traveling to Nikko this July and your shared Google map is very helpful!

  5. Looking for advice, do you remember if this hike would be ok for someone in a wheelchair to access? My bf is a veteran and lost his legs in afghanistan but is very strong. the only issue would really be steps for us. Any advice is appreciated! thank you

    1. Hi Marika, it’s a long time ago but I recall that the waterfall area at the start of the hike is very flat and has shops etc. From there it climbs alongside the stream up a well made path that may have had some shallow steps. I’m pretty sure these would be easily traversible though. Then it’s a really flat path through the forest for a long way. I recall that it eventually started to climb and got a but rough, but my recommendation would be to go as far as you can before turning back, because you still get at least a couple of hours of enjoyment out of it. It’s a beautiful corner of Japan!

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