One of the world’s wildest mountain drives, Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in Japan has reopened to tourists for another season. Stretching across the Toyama and Nagano prefectures north of Tokyo, the 90-kilometer sightseeing route — dubbed the “Roof of Japan” — offers incredible views of the 3,015-meter Mt. Tateyama and 2,478-meter Mt. Akazawa-dake peaks, while providing access to everything from Japan’s highest altitude hot spring to the country’s highest waterfall. But the route’s biggest attraction when you travel here is the unbelievable Snow Wall Walk, located along the pathway in Yuki no Otani (or Great Valley of Snow).
The corridor features walls of snow that tower as high as 17 meters over the road, the result of months of strenuous work by snowplow truck drivers. The walk takes around 50 minutes and stays open until June 22, when the walls recede as the weather warms. It’s expected the route will receive more than 5,000 visitors daily in April and May.
Other highlights along the Snow Wall Walk include Panorama Road (which offers views of the Tateyama peaks), a snow hut, snow maze and a snow slide — each with different opening periods. The Snow Wall Walk may close during adverse weather condition. Visitors should check the official website, Alpen-route.com, before making the journey.
The entire Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route can easily take more than six hours to drive. The starting points are Tateyama Station in the west or Ogizawa Station in the east, while the Great Valley of Snow can be accessed from Murodo station, which at 2,450 meters high is the highest station of the route. Some of the most scenic trekking routes include Bijodaira, a primeval forest that’s home to 1,000-year-old cedars and beech trees, and Murodo (near the Snow Wall Walk), where visitors can find the photogenic volcanic crater lakes of Mikurigaike and the oldest mountain hut in Japan.