Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park in the Nagano prefecture of Japan. The name Jigokudani means ‘Hell’s Valley’ due to the boiling water that bubbles out of the frozen ground, the formidably steep cliffs, and the cold, snow-covered forests. The park is famous for its population of Japanese macaques – known as snow monkeys – which descend from the forests to soak in the warm waters of the natural hot springs. The macaques are fed year-round so up-close sightings are pretty much guaranteed. This attracts large numbers of visitors from around the world. Depending on your perspective the park could be seen as an overcrowded, exploitation of wildlife or an inspiring example of how humans and wildlife can coexist through accessible wildlife tourism. Before we went we weren’t sure, but after our visit, we fall into the latter camp!
Average rating: 4.3 (very good)
Average cost: the bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano is around $115 for a return ticket. At Nagano you can buy a snow monkey pass which includes travel and entrance to the park for around $30. Entrance without the pass is around $7.
Best time to visit: the best time is November to March when there is snow on the ground. January and February, in particular, are the snowiest months.
How to get there: you can take a bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano. At Nagano station you can get a bus direct to the park or a train to the nearby village of Yudanaka. From here you can walk, catch a ride from your hotel, or take a local bus to the park. Check out this guide for more information.
Typical activities: animal watching, hiking
Number of reports: 3
WILDLIFE IN Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the species visitors most want to see here are:
Macaque – 100% OF VISITORS (3/3) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Japanese macaques are fed year-round so you are pretty much guaranteed to see plenty of them! Once you get to the park you can’t miss them scampering around. They are completely undaunted by the hordes of tourists and will happily jump and chase their way through legs and arms. They are at their most picturesque in the snow so check the forecast before you go and also take a look at the live webcam to see what the conditions look like. It can also get very busy at the park so WildSide recommends staying overnight at the nearby village of Yudanaka then getting to the park when it opens at 09:00. The park is located at the top of a 30-minute trail so leave around 08:30 to get there for opening time. The trail can be icy and muddy so take good boots and warm clothes.