For high times at a relaxed pace, head to Kurobe Gorge. Traveling by a repurposed, vintage railway, you can take in sweeping vistas, hike along forest paths, and enjoy hot spring bathing.
Your journey on the Kurobe Gorge Railway begins at Unazuki Onsen Station, a short ride from the Kurobe Unazuki Onsen bullet train station.
Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo--2.5 Hours, 11,50 yen (covered by the JR Rail Pass) to Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station. Then take the Toyama Chiho Railway from neighboring Shin-Kurobe Station to Unazuki Onsen Sation--25 minutes, 630 yen (not covered by JR Rail Pass).
You can take the JR Thunderbird Limited Express from Kyoto or Osaka to Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station, changing at Kanazawa--approx. 3 hours, 11,000 yen.
You can get to Unazuki Onsen via the Hokuriku Shinkansen and Toyama Chiho Line from Toyama City.
Charting a course through 20 kilometers of lushly wooded mountain terrain, the Kurobe Gorge Railway combines spectacular vistas and a sense of dynamism unique to rail travel. During the peak period in October, bold swathes of yellow and red turn the hillsides into a giant tapestry of autumn colors. There’s plenty to see and do along the way with hot spring baths, hiking routes, and observation points providing fun diversions.
From the colorful resort town of Unazuki, board the railway en route to Keyakidaira Station at the other end of the line. Photo opportunities abound along the way whether you are on foot or on the train. The gorge itself is a geological wonder and, with the Kurobe River surging below and the mountain peaks towering above, presents majestic panoramas from April to November.
Railway aficionados will delight at the train’s unique observation cars as well as the towering rail bridges that span the Kurobe Gorge, themselves colorful monuments to human endeavor in a rich natural setting. But there is also a neat balance between the feats of engineering and the still largely untouched forests all around.
Highlights of the route include the Atobiki prospect that marks the highest point of elevation and commands great views and Sarutobi Gorge near the meeting point of the Kurobe and Babadani rivers. Near Keyakidaira is the Okukane Pedestrian Bridge, which you can traverse at your leisure while enjoying 360 degree panoramas of the ravine and surrounding peaks.
While the tourist season peaks in Autumn, the gorge is worth visiting any time between April and November when it is open to visitors. The still snowy scenes of early spring and the vivid green foliage of May and June both offer splendid variations on the familiar autumn season.
With hiking, sightseeing, and hot springs on offer, you won't run out of things to do. Unazuki has a beer hall serving local craft beers. So take some time out of your busy Japan itinerary to relax and reconnect with nature.
You can cover most of the gorge in a few hours, but you should really plan for a leisurely time taking photos, hiking, stopping for a dip in the hot springs, and tasting the local cuisine and craft beer.