Summer vacation has finally began! It was a long time coming, with many days of hard work, but it’s such a relief to have some time off! What does one do with time off? Well, this girl gets in her car and drives, drives, drives.
I drove about 6 hours northeast to Hakuba, famous for hosting the downhill ski event in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Hakuba means “white horse” as those who first came saw the mountains and thought of a white horse. It’s a small village that for most of the year is fairly quiet. However, come winter it is normally crawling with ski and snowboard enthusiasts from all over the world. My travel buddy, Kris, and I decided to try out this winter wonderland in the summer to see what we could see.
The mountains of Hakuba are covered in manicured ski slopes, which is always a strange sight in the summer. That said, in place of skiing, there is plenty of hiking to do. We grabbed our cameras and hiked Mt. Happone. In the winter, this mountain is one of the hardest ski slopes. In the summer, it’s a relatively easy but scenic hiking route with a lake up near the summit. The gondolas and lifts to the hiking start add up to a heft 2,600yen, but once you get to the top and see the view of Hakuba and the surrounding mountains, you’ll forget all about that.
Hakuba is also known for the mountain flowers that bloom this time of year. There we many fields just covered in lilies of all different colors. Most travel adds you see for Hakuba summertime feature this incredible sight. The Flower Festival lasts from late May to late August, so there is a nice long window to catch the flowers in bloom.