Distance: 10.4 km
Elevation change: 120 metres
Highest point: 1520 metres
Start: Ryuzu-no-taki Bus Stop
Finish: Yumoto Onsen Bus Stop
Explore Nikko’s Renowned Marshlands
If you’re looking to escape the crowds that converge upon Nikko’s famous sites this hike might be just the panacea. While the hike isn’t particularly long, your biggest obstacle if you plan to tackle this as a day trip will be getting to and from the trailhead. A more relaxing option would be to camp or stay overnight at one of the ryokans at Yumoto Onsen 湯元温泉.
The fastest transport to Nikko is by limited express train from Asakusa on the Tobu Nikko Line. I would also recommend purchasing the Nikko all area pass (4,520 yen) available from the TOBU Tourist Information Center which includes a 20 percent discount on limited express tickets and unlimited bus rides. The information centre opens at 7:20 am so make sure you’re first line if you’re planning on getting the 7:30 am express train. At Nikko Station hop on any Yumoto Onsen bound bus and get off at the Ryuzu-no-taki 竜頭ノ滝 bus stop.
After standing for the better part of an hour and enduring a long succession of hairpin turns it was nice to finally start hiking. From the bus stop make a beeline across the road to the small restaurant located at the bottom of the Ryuzu Falls. After skirting pass the large number of day trippers start heading up the stairs which shadow the Yugawa River 湯川. After 20 minutes, you’ll arrive at a road and the trailhead proper. Continue following the Yugawa River until it reaches the southern most extremity of the Senjogahara Marsh 戦場ヶ原. The most direct route to Lake Yunoko 湯ノ湖 is to continue onward through this major marshland.
Time permitting it’s worth making a detour at this juncture and heading for the Odashirogahara Marsh 小田代原 a further 30 minutes away. By taking this course, you’ll lose a lot of foot traffic and the scenery is comparable with its larger sibling. Odashirogahara was at one time a marsh none too dissimilar to that found at Oze, but over time it has become much drier and now resembles something more akin to a grassland or prairie. An increase in the wild deer population has also contributed to its environmental woes with the decimation of many wild flowers. To mitigate further damage authorities have installed fencing and gates around the marshland.
By any measure the Odashirogahara Marshland makes a strong impression on the surrounding countryside. Skirting around the outside of the marsh finds a network of judiciously placed boardwalks though at one point requires walking on a tourist road. The next objective is heading up to the Izumiyadoike Pond 泉門池 which doubles a pleasant rest spot. From here on you’ll return to the Yugawa River, following it upstream as it first passes the quaint Kotaki Falls 小滝 and a little further along, the soaring Yudaki Falls 湯滝. Whilst unquestionably beautiful the Yudaki Falls are sadly a bit of a tourist trap set next to a Yamazaki convenience store and some shops which encroach on this special place.
Heading up the stairs to the right of the falls brings you up to Lake Yunoko. From here it takes around 30 minutes to reach the Nikko Yumoto Campground on the far side of the lake. If you’re planning on camping here drop by the Nikko Yumoto Visitor Center where you can pay the 1,000-yen camp fee. The campground sits besides Yumoto Ski Area and there is plenty of open space to pitch your tent.