At the entrance to the highland resort area which is Tateshina there is a beautiful gorge crossed by a creek, famous for its kaleidoscopic whirlwind of colors in Autumn and glacial blue icefalls in Winter.
Yokoya Gorge is a great hiking spot with a pleasant (mostly flat) trail which coasts the river for6km. The unrivalled protagonists of this hike are the waterfalls, four limpid cascades which mark the path until its culmination at the impressive two-tiered Outaki fall.
Once you reach Outaki fall, you can retrace your steps or proceed further to Oshidori-kakushi fall and the mirror-like water pool which is Mishaka pond. *This last section of the course is not a proper trail and can be slippery at times, so you should be especially careful if you choose to take it.
The lively river which carves its way through the gorge appears an earthy shade of red because of the iron sediments lying beneath the mountain. As it happens, the nearby hot springs share the same characteristic and, if you have time, we recommend soaking in their healing reddish waters after the hike.
In Autumn the gorge looks like an impressionist painting with the foliage turning myriad hues of red, orange, yellow and green. The best spot to admire this explosion of colors is the observatory spot of Yokoya Kannon, which you can reach by climbing a flight of stairs located near Outaki Fall, or alternatively by getting on a bus at the starting point of the trail.
In Winter the waterfalls freeze and a glimmering layer of ice covers the rocky walls of the gorge. With the right shoes you can still hike most of the trail and the icefalls make for some great winter photography.
A bit of trivia: one of the waterfalls is actually man-made. It is part of a greater waterway network implemented by the locals more than three centuries ago to bring water to the rice fields. Do you think you can spot it?
*The dates below are approximate and may slightly vary depending on the weather.
Green season_ From Mid-May to early October
Autumn colors_ From Mid-October to late October
Winter season_ (Icefall season) From January to late February
*In winter the trail might be frozen and slippery. In order to prevent accidents, we recommend using crampons or snow shoes.
Course 1 - Yokoya-kyo Iriguchi (trailhead) 50min → Outaki fall 45min →Yokoya-kyo Iriguchi
Time required: about 1h40min
Course 2 - Yokoya-kyo Iriguchi (trailhead) 50min → Outaki fall 15min → Yokoya Kannon Observatory Spot 1h → Yokoya-kyo Iriguchi
Time required: about 2h
Course 3- Yokoya-kyo Iriguchi (trailhead) 50min → Outaki fall 25min → Oshidori-kakushi fall/ Mishaka Pond 25min → Outaki fall 45min → Yokoya-kyo Iriguchi
Time required: about 2h40min
Yokoya Gorge Hiking Map