Cycling: Nomugi Pass & Mt. Norikura

It’s no secret among cyclists in Japan that Mt. Norikura (乗鞍岳) is the highest road passable by bicycle in the country. Some call it the Japanese Alpe d’Huez but I think comparing mountains is somewhat silly. All mountains differ, and all mountains have the potential to change character within minutes.

Cycling up Mt. Norikura -
Mt. Norikura from Nomugi Pass.
Cycling up Mt. Norikura -
Mt. Norikura

Most road bike cyclists start from the car park at the bottom of the Nagano side where you can expect to be riding for about 19kms and gain over 1200m until you reach the dizzing heights of just over 2712m at the car park near the summit. Starting from Matsumoto on the Nagano side, or Takayama on the Gifu side is also possible although both sides will add another 40+ kms to your climbing and the tunnels on the Nagano side are some of the worst I’ve ridden through in Japan. One other lesser used route is from Nomugi Pass (野麦峠) in south up and over Shirakabe Pass (白樺峠). It’s a fairly isolated road without much traffic but plenty of wildlife. I saw wild monkeys, native Japanese deer (Nihon shika /日本鹿), and I was given a bear bell at the local campsite to scare away any of the larger wildlife that roam the area.

Cycling up Mt. Norikura -
Mt. Norikura cycling summit (not the true summit).
Cycling up Mt. Norikura -
Norikura Skyline.
Cycling up Mt. Norikura -
Norikura Skyline – the Gifu side.
Cycling up Mt. Norikura -
Riding from the Gifu side in awful weather.

Camping, giant moths, Nomugi Pass – made famous in this old film – and the eery climb up Shirokaba Pass makes for a solid weekend of riding. I made a short film for my friends over at First Over Everything about a recent trip. You can watch it here.

Distance – 87kms

Total Elevation –  approx. 2400m

Campsite – Takasome Campsite  ¥1540


Want the files for any of our routes? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to send them.

Lived in central Japan since 2001 and spend free days exploring.

4 thoughts on “Cycling: Nomugi Pass & Mt. Norikura

  1. Hi Sean,
    I’m visiting the Matsumoto area in late May and would love a bike-packing adventure like this – two days of riding with a night in between seems about the right level. I was curious if you have some advice/recommendations for someone that doesn’t speak Japanese in terms of getting there (with a bike), and maybe staying at the Takasome Camping Ground? It looks like the start/finish of the route you posted is close to there, is that correct?

    Thanks in advance,
    Ola Strandberg, Sweden


    • Hi Ola, sorry for the late reply. I’m currently in Australia with a group of Japanese kids.

      Getting to Matsumoto is easy from Tokyo and Nagoya. You’ll need a bike bag to put your bike in when using the train though. The Takasome campsite is quite isolated but it’s close enough to the mountains and isolated enough to be a great place to sleep. I don’t think they speak English though.


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