During the New Year holiday, I finally checked off another item on my adventure list: snowshoeing to Zengoro Falls in Norikura Highlands to see the waterfall frozen into solid ice. And I’m glad I did, because it was one of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen.
If you’re in Matsumoto in the winter, you should GO!
To see the frozen falls, get yourself to the Norikura Kogen Tourist Information Center (by bus or car), which is converted into a winter sports equipment rental center during the winter called Little Peaks.
If you’re confident to go out and explore by yourself, rent yourself a pair of snowshoes. I also recommend the snowshoeing poles, as they help you on the up- and downhills. If you don’t have good winter boots, you can rent those too! Half-day rental for a set of snowshoes and poles will only set you back 800 yen.
If you don’t have confidence in doing this yourself, there is an option to do a paid guided tour at Little Peaks (2-3 hour tour for 5,000 yen for adults).
If you don’t know the area, grab a map at Little Peaks. You can start on the trail directly from the rental shop (probably about 1 hour to the Zengoro Falls), or if you have a car, you can go up the road just a few minutes to the Zengoro Falls parking (small area of the side of the road). From the parking area, it’s only about 30 minutes.
The snow can be quite deep, but the trail should be well-trodden so you can find your way easily, even if you’re not on a tour.
Though the main attraction is Zengoro Falls, walking through the winter forest is a really beautiful experience in itself: deep, white snow; white birch trees; and on a nice day, Mt. Norikuradake towering above.
Right before reaching the waterfall, you also get walk over this snow-blanketed bridge.
And then, the frozen masterpiece will appear from the midst of the winter forest! Really, the photo doesn’t do the icy waterfall the justice it deserves, but it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen.
Since the water around the falls is frozen and covered in deep snow, as well, you can get right up to the waterfall and touch it. The icicles are enormous!
When I went to falls at the end of December, a small part of it was still flowing, but as winter goes on, Zengoro Falls will freeze completely. Interestingly, the flowing water was actually encapsulated by an icy shaft that froze around the falling water!
After snowshoeing to Zengoro Falls, if you have more time/energy, you can continue to Ushidome Pond up by Kyukamura. And, when you’re completely done with your snow adventure, don’t miss going to one of Norikura’s hot springs, either at the Kyukamura facility (map) or Yukemurikan near the Tourist Information Center/Little Peaks.