Nikko National Park is located 77.7 miles (125 km) north of Tokyo in the northern part of Japan. The national park encompasses an area of 443.06 square miles (1,147.53 sq km). Oze National Park, originally part of Nikko, is an adjacent national park located on the western border of Nikko’s boundaries.
The historical Buddhist shrines and temples combined with the stunning landscapes of nature have earned Nikko a UNESCO World Heritage designation. A 2-day excursion out of Tokyo enables visitors to experience much of what the park has to offer. The people of Japan believe this is one of their most beautiful places of nature.
The park is comprised of rivers, lakes, waterfalls, mountains, forests, and plateaus. Shrines, temples, and bridges are dispersed across the park adding to the cultural and natural landscapes that draw many locals and international guests to the park.
Lake Chuzenii covers 4.49 square miles (11.62 sq km) of the area and offers picturesque lake landscapes. Kegon Falls reaches a height of 318 feet (97 m) and is one of Japan’s three highest waterfalls. Ryuzu Falls at 200 feet (60 m) is a sister waterfall worthy of the views.
Mount Nantai, with a summit of 8,156 feet (2,486 m) and Mount Nikko-Shirane, with a peak of 8,458 feet (2,578 m) are beautiful mountains both offering hiking trails up to the summit. The views out over the valleys and scenic landscapes of the park are worth the challenging endeavor.
The park is also famous for the abundance of plants and tree species. Maples, firs, white-skunk cabbage, and Japanese cedar are some of the more popular. Collectively, they also work together to create stunning fall foliage landscapes. This is one of the best times to visit the park when the colors of the trees change creating spectacular pallets of colors across the forested valleys and mountainsides.
Toshogu is renowned as one of the most breathtakingly decorated shrines. Along with this stunning work of craftsmanship, travelers can also see the Hall of the Medicine Buddha, statues of the three wise monkeys, and the intricately decorated Yomei-mon Gate. These cultural and historical features add to the park experience and help make it a destination for everyone.
The abundance of opportunities, both culturally and naturally, is one of the highlights of Nikko National Park. Kegon, Kirifuri-Kogen, and Ryuzu Falls along with river and lake landscapes all make for highlights for those that get out and hike.
Hiking is probably the most common and pursued activity within the park. It is a great way to experience the cultural and natural features of the park. The flowering months of April and May or the colored fall foliage are two of the favorite times to visit.
Trails of Nikko National Park
Nikko National Park is a great place to go walking and hiking with numerous trails. Some are more challenging than others, but there are options for everyone. Hiking around Nikko National Park is one of the best ways to experience the cultural and natural features of the park.
Ryuoky Valley Trail: Those that enjoy water should adventure into this easy 3-hour hike along the valley and river affectionately known as the “Valley of the Dragon King.” The river seems to change colors varying between blue, purple, and white. There is minimal elevation change as the trail covers a distance of 3.7 miles(6 km).
Kirifuri Kogen Trail: This is another trail for those that enjoy waterfalls and related water river landscapes. This is another trail with little elevation changes. The shorter part of the trail allows visitors to see Kirifuri Falls, however for those that adventure further, they can see three additional waterfalls. Choji, Makkura, and Tamasudare Falls await those that continue on for the 4-hour option.
Mount Nantai: The trail is more challenging as you ascend up the mountain. It covers around 3.5 miles (5 km) of distance and demands good footgear. It takes about 7 hours to make the round trip.
Senjogahara Trail: This is an easy walk with little elevation change that takes you along Lake Chuzenji and areas of the park. This journey takes about 3 hours.
Lake Chuzenji Trail: Although you can see the lake from Senjogahara Trail, this trail features picturesque views of Mount Nantai standing over Lake Chuzenji with various views as you trek around the lake. The journey is normal hiking covering a distance of 8 miles (13 km) and takes around 5 hours to complete.
Lake Yunoko Trail: This trail only takes a little over an hour to complete. It is the easiest and shortest trail in the national park. The ryokans with hot spring baths are something you can use to enhance your hike if you choose.
Lakes Kirikomi and Karikomi Trail: Although longer, there is little elevation change, making this another easy trail within the park. Along the way, hikers can visit the Yumoto hot spring as a place to stop and relax or rejuvenate. The two lakes offer beautiful landscape views as you travel the 5.9 miles (9.6 km) trail around them.
Mount Nakimushi Trail: This ascent up the mountain is challenging with steep slopes, however, if you make the ascent during the months of April and May, you will be blessed with amazing flowering slopes. Good hiking shoes are a must. This ascent takes around 5 hours.
Akagane no Michi Trail: This trail can be completed in 2 to 3 hours and is another easy hike for visitors. It is also one of the more aesthetically pleasing hikes with sights including the Ashio Copper Mine, Ashio Shinsui Koen Park, Ashio dam along with the natural features of the park.
- Senjogahara Plateau
- Lake Chuzenji
- Senjugahama Beach
- Kegon Falls and Kirifuri-Kogen
- Ryuokyo Gorge
- Setoaikyo Canyon
- Cultural Heritage (Toshogu shrine, Rinno-ji Buddhist temple)
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- Japan Travel, Nikko National Park, https://www.japan.travel/national-parks/parks/nikko/, retrieved December 2019.
- Ministry of the Environment, Highlights of Nikko National Park, https://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/nikko/guide/view.html, retrieved December 2019.
- Nikko Kinugawa Travel Guide, Go Hiking to the Nikko National Park and Enjoy a Cornucopia of Superb Views, http://nikko-travel.jp/english/topic/nikko-national-park.html, retrieved December 2019.
- UNESCO, Shrines and Temples of Nikko, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/913/, retrieved December 2019.