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A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

Yamanashi has some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the country, and it has the benefit of being within easy driving distance of Tokyo or accessible from highway buses and rail lines. One of several routes through the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park, the trail along Nishizawa Ravine is welcoming and well-maintained. The trail follows the Fuefuki River which carved through this section of northeastern Yamanashi millennia ago, leaving a thickly forested canyon. Nishizawa Ravine is well-known among hikers but still not incredibly popular, leaving it fairly peaceful, even in the high season.

A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine
  • A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    The trail begins at Nishizawa Ravine Entrance and heads out on a loop up one side of the ravine and down the other. All told, the loops takes about three and a half hours at a leisurely pace, with other trails leading from the main trail, as well. The route is forgiving, when it’s dry, at least, even for those with limited hiking experience—dress in layers, put on some comfortable shoes, and you’ll be good to go. In the chillier months, when rain is expected or snow is in the forecast, make sure you’re ready for mud and slippery conditions.

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    The entrance to the gorge is the Futamata Suspension Bridge, about twenty or thirty minutes down the trail. It is there that Nishizawa and Higashizawa split, and more challenging trails lead up toward Mount Tosaka—but you’re headed across the bridge! A sign beside the bridge warns hikers not to step onto the platform if snow is more than 20 cm deep, giving those unfamiliar with Yamanashi winters a hint of what the place looks like come January and February. The view from the bridge is one of the best on the trail, and it’s swamped in autumn with photographers snapping shots of the crimson foliage.

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    Rivers, creeks and streams run through the Nishizawa Ravine area, and there is the nearly constant sound of trickling water echoing up through the trees. The signs of civilization that creep into the ravine are part of the appeal, the weirs put up to tame the rivers, a century of trailmaking, and traces of the narrow gauge forest railways that ran through the area all the way out west to the Kiso Valley in Nagano.

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    The Fuefuki River and other streams splash into the ravine in stunning falls along the trail. Here and there, there are spots to descend from the trail and touch the ice cold water that cascades down from the mountains. The rock formations carved by the waterfalls over the millennia have been named by hikers over the years, so look out for the Fugu Rock and the Frog Rock, which bear some vague resemblance to the animals they’re named for.

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    The Nanatsugama Godan no Taki is the reason many take to the trail. The crystal clear mountain water of the famous waterfall crashes down the slope, resting in placid cauldrons along the way. When the leaves turn red in the autumn, this spot is particularly popular with daytripper Tokyoites.

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    A slice of heaven: Nishizawa Ravine

    Many of those taking a day trip out from Tokyo cruise down National Route 140 west from Chichibu and make use of the parking lot at the trailhead, but it’s easy enough to get there without a car. That sets the ravine apart from quite a few other spots in the Yamanashi wilderness, including a number of great trails. From Tokyo, it’s easy enough to get out to Yamanashi Shi Station on the Chuo Main Line, and hop a bus or a taxi up to the trailhead. Keep an eye on the time, to avoid missing the last bus back to the station!

    Nishizawa Gorge
    Address
    Yamanashi Prefecture Yamanashi-shi
    Phone
    0553221111
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