Mount Norikuradake (乗鞍岳, Norikuradake) is a 3026 meter high, volcanic mountain along the border between Nagano and Gifu Prefectures. One of Japan's 100 famous mountains, Mount Norikuradake is the southernmost and third tallest peak of the Northern Japan Alps. It is a well known hiking destination, and an easy mountain to climb thanks to buses running almost as far as the summit.
One of Japan's highest roads leads to the Norikura Bus Terminal at 2700 meters above sea level, not too far from the peak. The road is closed to private cars, but buses and taxis carry hikers up from parking lots on both the Nagano and Gifu sides of the mountain. From there it is a 30 minute walk along a gravel service road to a mountain hut; and then a further 60 minutes along a hiking trail to Kengamine Peak, the highest point of Mount Norikuradake.
Mount Norikuradake is a popular autumn color spot and one of the first places in the country to see the changing colors. The alpine plants around the higher elevations usually change in mid September and peak later in the month, but the season lasts into October as the colors slowly make their way down to Norikura Kogen below. The high elevation also allows snow fields to remain on the slopes late into the summer attracting adventurous summer skiers who hike up and then ski down.
By bus from Norikura Kogen (Nagano side) (how to get to Norikura Kogen)
From July to October, buses depart every 1-2 hours from the Kanko Center (観光センター前) bus stop in Norikura Kogen for the Norikura Bus Terminal near the summit (50 minutes, 1450 yen one way, 2500 yen round trip). Alternatively, you can hire a taxi up the mountain (45 minutes, around 9000 yen one way).
By bus from Takayama (Gifu side) (how to get to Takayama)
From mid May to October, buses depart every 1-2 hours from Hirayu Onsen via the Honokidaira parking lot for the Norikura Bus Terminal near the summit (1 hour, 1420 yen one way, 2300 yen round trip). Alternatively, you can hire a taxi up the mountain (1 hour, about 8000 yen one way). Hirayu Onsen can be reached in one hour and for 1570 yen from Takayama by Nohi Bus.
Private cars are not permitted to drive up Mount Norikuradake. Instead, travelers have to transfer to a bus at the base of the mountain (see bus details above). On the Nagano side, cars are allowed as far as Sanbondaki in Norikura Kogen. There are multiple free parking lots in the area, including a large one at the Kanko Center. On the Gifu side, drivers can park their car in Hirayu Onsen or at the Honokidaira parking lot outside of the town.