Hakuba is at the foot of the mountains, so you can see them from all over town. However, you’ll often have buildings, telephone wires, signage, and other things in the way. You can get uninterrupted views using the ski lifts, but you have to go up and pay for a ticket. The round trip can also take a long time. Here is a list of great Hakuba views you can visit by car without spending any money. They’re great for families and groups who are just hanging out. None of these places are served by public transport. You can cycle between them, but it’s a lot of steep climbing.
Remember that these are just photos on your screen. The views are way bigger in real life!
For ease of access – it is just behind the station – Oide is Hakuba’s number one viewpoint. A common sight is artists on the riverbank recreating the landscape in oils or watercolours. The view features the Himekawa river, the Oide footbridge, and a hamlet of traditional houses in the foreground. The three Hakuba peaks provide a spectacular background. For full value, walk up to the (poorly marked) viewpoint in the woods above the river. It only takes a minute. There is also a cafe there, albeit with irregular hours.
This (non-winter) viewpoint at Happo One Ski Resort can be accessed by a ski lift from the Sakka area, but you might as well drive up when the road is open. Like most roads up a ski resort, it is steep, narrow, and winding. When you get there, there is a wide play area for kids, a free foot bath, a small regular onsen that faces up the hill, a cafe with good pizza, and lots of deckchairs for lounging about. The main area has great views up and down. The best view (above) is at the end of the natural trail through the woods. It looks up to the three Hakuba peaks with their huge drainage in the foreground.
This spot is near the top of Donguri, the south face of the mountain that is home to Iwatake Snow Field. It has no signposting, so please consult the map below. Go up the main Donguri road and turn right at the lodge “Peter Rabbit”. In this satellite photo, the viewpoint is the clearing on the lower right. You have to keep going up to get there.
Once there, there is a statue of a man and boy looking to the mountains and some benches with a sweeping view across town. You also get to see Happo from an unusual angle. The road up here is very steep, so may be difficult in midwinter.
A well-known spot on Route 406, the smaller of the two roads east to Nagano City. The viewpoint is a clearing just before a small tunnel, and gazes over forested hills to the distinctive “diamonds in a diamond” shape of Mount Goryu. This view is the first glimpse of the Kita Alps when approaching from the east, and screams “Welcome to Hakuba!” Beyond the tunnel, the road narrows and winds around cliffs down into Kinasa. It’s a nice drive, but watch out of oncoming traffic, especially bikes and motorbikes.
Tenjin no Yu Onsen
Hakuba is close to the mountains, but there aren’t so many places, e.g., restaurants, cafes etc., where you can sit and get a full view of the scenery. The hot spring with the biggest view of the mountains is Tenjin no Yu at Hakuba Highland Hotel. Its outdoor baths open to the west, offering a similar panoramic view of the Japan Alps as Oide above. The bonus here is that you also get to soak in relaxing mineral water.
Honourable Mentions (roadside views)
- Hakuba O-hashi – the bridge between Happo and Iwatake on the Matsukawa river. The riverside is also walkable and lovely. We prefer Oide though.
- The second floor cafe at The North Face Gravity Store. It has a huge panoramic window facing the main Hakuba peaks.
- Route 148, just north of the 7-11 at the Tsugaike turnoff. The same mountains, but a different angle.
- Olympic Road, anywhere near Color Sports. Please don’t copy some Japanese tourists and just park on the road.This is a main thoroughfare, not some sleepy country lane where you can do what you like.
I’ll list on-mountain views in another post!