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Home: Fall Colors in Yoro Keikoku Valley

Fall Colors in Yoro Keikoku Valley (養老渓谷)

On Sunday, December 5, 2010, I had the pleasure of hiking through the Yoro Keikoku Valley (養老渓谷) to view the gorgeous fall colors. The Yoro Keikoku Valley is one of the most spectacular places to view fall colors on the Boso Peninsula in Chiba, Japan.

Every year the local tourism association holds a festival in late November to celebrate the spectacular fall foliage, where you are certain to see a wide array of yellow, red, and orange leaves, but primarily the striking crimson red of the Japanese maple (momiji, もみじ) trees.

Japanese maple tree
Japanese maple tree (もみじ)

Route Description

This was my third time to take the Daifukuyama Observatory (大福山展望台) /Umegase Canyon (梅ヶ瀬渓谷) hiking course, which I think is the most popular route in the Yoro Keikoku area.

From Yoro Keikaku Station (養老渓谷駅) you'll walk a few minutes down a very pretty little path lined by maple trees before crossing the single train track of the Kominato Line (小湊鉄道線). On the other side of the train track, the road curves right and then you'll take the first left and walk down to cross the beautiful red Hoei Bridge (宝衛橋).

Yoro Keikoku Valley Hiking Map
Yoro Keikoku Valley Hiking Map
(view larger pdf map here)

From this bridge is a breathtaking view down to the Yoro River (養老川) in both directions. After a couple more kilometers and a short distance after passing through a tunnel, there will be a Y in the road. This point is called Megakura (女ヶ倉), where you can go left or right up to the Daifukuyama Observatory.

For some reason, I've always taken the left fork so that I could hike through the Umegase Canyon first. After what seems like forever, the road finally ends and you no longer have to contend with passing cars, and where a real hiking trail begins in earnest right before you enter Umegase Canyon.

The trail crosses the little stream back and forth a number of times where you can test your balance by stepping on strategically located stones which will keep your feet dry. The scenery through here is breathtaking, especially if you catch the fall colors at their peak.

And my friend and I were treated to a rather unique waterfall with little green drops of water which resembled little green twinkly lights you might see on a Xmas tree. I was able to capture a short video of it, which is shown below.

Green Drop Waterfalls, Umegase Canyon, Yoro Keikoku Valley
(if unable to view above, click here to view on separate page)

After hiking through the Umegase Canyon, about 45 min. or so, you want to take a steep trail that branches off into the forest on the right side. This section of the trail is the most difficult along the entire route, and will be a fairly good workout for beginners, as it was for my friend that day.

It should take at least 45 min. to get up to the paved road where there is a small picnic area with tables, a monument, and sometimes even food and drink vendors. Great place for lunch.

And just a few minutes down the road are the stairs that'll take you up to the Daifukuyama Observatory tower. The panorama view from there at elevation 285m is arguably one of the best you'll ever see of the beautiful greenery of the Boso Peninsula.

View from Daifukuyama Observatory
View from Daifukuyama Observatory (大福山展望台)

From the Daifukuyama Observatory back to Yoro Keikoku Station, you'll be hiking on a paved road, but you'll see some of the most brilliant red maple leaves anywhere on this course. From the observatory to the station, it should take you about an hour and 15 minutes. From Megakura (the fork in the road), it's the same route that you took previously when hiking from the station.

But for a little variety and an alternate course, before you get back to the Hoei Bridge, there's a small little street (not so clearly marked) branching off to the left that will take you across the brightly blue-painted Keikoku Bridge, which also has a fantastic view down to the Yoro River as well as of the brightly red-painted Hoei Bridge which you crossed previously. This scenic alternate route is less traveled and won't add much extra time to your hike.

Here's a summary of the above-described Daifukuyama Observatory/Umegase Canyon hiking course (12.1km, ~4 hrs.):

Yoro Keikoku Station (養老渓谷駅) -> Hoei Bridge (宝衛橋) (0.7km, ~15 min.)
Hoei Bridge -> Megakura (女ヶ倉) (1.8km, ~30 min.)
Megakura -> Umegase Canyon -> Maple Valley (もみじ谷) (2.7km, ~60 min.)
Maple Valley -> Daifukuyama Observatory (大福山展望台) (1.5km, ~45 min.)
Daifukuyama Observatory -> Megakura (2.9km, ~30 min.)
Megakura -> Hoei Bridge (1.8km, ~30 min.)
Hoei Bridge -> Yoro Keikoku Station (0.7km, ~15 min.)

My Yoro Keikoku Valley (養老渓谷) Photos

My Yoro Keikoku pics are hosted at Flickr, but you can view them sequentially in the slideshow player below. I hope you enjoy them !

Click above to view slideshow of my Yoro Keikoku Valley pics
(view all of them at a glance here)


Hiking courses in the Yoro Keikoku Valley can be accessed via Yoro Keikoku Station on the single-track Kominato Line. It takes a little over 2 hours and costs 2170 yen from Tokyo Station to Yoro Keikoku Station, as of Dec. 2010.

Here is a sample train schedule for a Saturday morning:

Leave Tokyo (東京) @ 8:21am
    via JR Keiyo Line (京葉線) express train (快速) for Soga (蘇我)
Arrive Soga (蘇我) @ 9:02am
Leave Soga (蘇我) @ 9:05am
    via JR Uchibo Line (内房線) local train (普通) for Kisarazu (木更津)
Arrive Goi (五井) @ 9:15am
Leave Goi (五井) @ 9:22am
    via Kominato Line (小湊鉄道) local train (普通) for Kazusa-Nakano (上総中野)
Arrive Yoro Keikoku (養老渓谷) @ 10:24am

Yoro Keikoku Valley Access Map
Yoro Keikoku Valley Access Map
(a more detailed access map in Japanese is here)

Links for more info  (English)  (Japanese)
Pics of my Nov. 2005 hike in the Yoro Keikoku Valley

Finally, I'd be remiss not to mention the numerous hot springs (onsen, 温泉) in the Yoro Keikoku area, some of the best in all of Chiba Prefecture. In fact, after your hike you should relax your aching feet in the free hot spring footbath at Yoro Keikoku Station. Enjoy !!

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Gary J. Wolff

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