Hiking at the bottom of Daisekkei (Big Snow) Gorge, which extends for 3½ km (2 miles), requires warm clothes even in midsummer, when temperatures can dip below freezing. More than 100 types of alpine flowers grace the nearby fields in summer. From the trailhead at Sarukura Village (reached by a 30-minute bus ride from Hakuba station), the hike through the forest takes 1 hour 45 minutes. If you're luck, you may spot a snow grouse, a protected species in Japan. For climbers
who want to scale Mt. Shirouma, which takes six hours to the top (two huts are on the way for overnight stays), proper equipment is necessary.
Yari Onsen. The trail from Sarukura to Yarigatake—a hike of three hours—leads to the area's highest outdoor hot spring, Yari Onsen. It's part of a lodge, but you can pay ¥300 to use the onsen. The lodge is open from mid-July to the end of September. Sarukura is a 40-minute bus ride from Hakuba Station. Equipment like snowshoes and crampons can be rented in Hakuba Village. Hakuba Village. 0261/72–2002. www.hakuba-sanso.co.jp. ¥300.