Looking for an exciting hiking trail when visiting Kobe, Japan? Check out Nunobiki Falls and Nunobiki Herb Garden Trail.
Located nearby Mount Rokko, this easy-to-moderate hiking trail has everything that you’re looking for – free access to the trail, beautiful waterfalls and garden area, some stair climbing for exercise, and peace and quietness through the mountainous forest area.
Nunobiki Falls (布引の滝) is considered one of the top waterfalls in Japan. It has four waterfalls – Ontaki Waterfall, Mentaki Waterfall, Meotodaki Waterfall, and Tsuzumigataki Waterfall. Ontaki Falls is a popular waterfall to visit with 43 meters (141 feet) high cascades.
Nunobiki Herb Garden (神戸布引ハーブ園) is a pretty botanical garden to explore after seeing the waterfalls. There are over 75,000 herbs and flowers to see.
In this post, we’re sharing our insider tips and what to expect hiking through Nunobiki Falls and Nunobiki Herb Garden. The hike doesn’t take long – only a few hours. And if you’re not interested in hiking, there is a ropeway (cable car) option which we’ll describe more below.
Since we stayed in Osaka, this was a quick day trip to Kobe to check out this hike.
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Nunobiki Falls & Nunobiki Herb Garden Hiking Overview
Before visiting this place, we recommend that you buy a SIM Card at the Kansai International Airport.
You can also rent a wifi pocket device (pick up from Tokyo Airport), or have a pocket device delivered to your Osaka hotel or accommodation here. You can access data and maps on your phone.
This day hike is doable to complete for all ages. There are some steep stairs so if you have knee problems, you may consider staying in the lower sections of the trail.
- Challenging level: Easy to Moderate
- Distance: 4.6 miles (7.4 kilometers) round trip (Your distance may vary depending on the hiking route that you take
- Time to complete: 2+ hours round trip
- Helpful tips:
- Please do not litter and bring all trash with you.
- More information about the trail is here
It’s free to access the hiking trail.
If you don’t want to hike to Nunobiki Herb Garden, there is a round-trip ropeway (cable car) that starts from Shin-Kobe Station and will reach the top. Click here to buy tickets ahead of time.
If you plan to hike and explore the sections of the Herb Garden and not take the ropeway, then you’ll need to pay at least 200 yen ($1.40 USD) to explore. There is a kiosk to pay the admission fee on the Lower Level of the Herb Garden.
How to Get to Nunobiki Falls
If you’re already based in the Kansai area, the easiest way to get to Nunobiki Falls is to take the train and arrive at Shin-Kobe Station. The starting line for the hike is at the station.
It’s best to check Google Maps to determine the best way to get to Kobe and by budget.
From Kobe to Shin-Kobe Station
If you’re already staying in Kobe, then you need to head to Shin-Kobe Station (新神戸駅) (JR Line).
You can get to the station by walking, taking a bus, or taking the smaller train lines such as Kobe Municipal Subway via Seishin-Yamate Line to Shin-Kobe station.
From Osaka to Shin-Kobe Station
From Osaka Station (大阪駅) to Shin-Kobe Station, there are several options to take:
- Take the JR Haruka Limited Express train to Shin-Osaka, and then take the shinkansen to Shin-Kobe Station. This will be the more expensive option and is recommended if you have the JR Pass.
- Take the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Line from Osaka Station to Sannomiya Station (三宮駅
- ), and then transfer to the Kobe Municipal Subway Seishin-Yamate Line to Shin-Kobe Station. This will be a cheaper option since the route takes a local line. JR Pass will not work with the Kobe Municipal Subway line so you can use an ICOCA (or any Japan IC Card) or pay by cash for the second train.
Note: If you don’t want to take the second train on Kobe Municipal Subway, you can walk from Sannomiya Station to Shin-Kobe Station. It’s .7 miles (1.1 kilometers) away and takes 16 to 18 minutes depending on your speed. We walked it as we didn’t want to pay for a second fare.
From Shin-Kobe Station to Nunobiki Falls
Once you arrive at the Shin-Kobe Station, leave the station, and turn left. You’ll see a large “Nunobiki Falls” sign underneath the station pointing to the trail.
From there, follow the trail and start exploring and eventually reach Nunobiki Herb Garden. There are two areas of the garden – Intermediate Station and Top Station.
From Shin-Kobe Station to Nunobiki Herb Garden (Optional)
If you prefer to skip the hiking and go straight to the top area of Nunobiki Herb Garden, then consider taking the ropeway (cable car).
The starting location is at the Shin-Kobe Station and then take a 10-minute ride to the Herb Garden area.
When To Visit Nunobiki Falls & Herb Garden
You can visit the Nunobiki Falls trail at any time. It’s open all day long.
We do not recommend that you do this hike when it rains as there are stairs and it will be slippery during that time.
The Nunobiki Herb Garden is open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm or 8:30pm (depending on the season). Click here to see the hours of operation.
What to Wear
- Technical t-shirt – Wear a moisture-wicking t-shirt to absorb the sweat.
- Comfortable pants or shorts
- Comfortable walking shoes – Hiking boots are not necessary as the trail isn’t technical. We wore Nike Free shoes and they were fine for the stair climbing and walking through the forest.
- Comfortable socks
What to Bring
- Backpack (optional) – It’s recommended to bring a backpack to hold water, snacks, and other essentials.
- Reusable Water Bottle – You must bring a water bottle as there aren’t any water fountains in the park. These are our favorite reusable water bottles to bring with us everywhere.
- Hat – The trail has a mix of sunny and shaded areas. Cover your head to protect yourself from the sun. Buy this hat.
- Sunscreen – Protect your skin from the sun. Check out this sunscreen.
- Headlamp (optional) – If you plan to hike at sunrise or sunset, then you’ll need a source of light.
- Trash bag – Trash cans are rare in Japan, so bring your trash with you back to your hotel to dispose of properly.
Our Hiking Experience
The hiking route that we did started from Nunobiki Falls to Nunobiki Reservoir to Nunobiki Herb Garden (Intermediate Station) to Nunobiki Herb Garden (Top Station) to Ichigahara Dam to Shin-Kobe Station.
We did a longer hike as we wanted to explore more of the area, but you can easily return the same way after reaching the Herb Garden Intermediate Station.
As mentioned earlier, you need to exit the Shin-Kobe Station and then follow the signs to Nunobiki Falls. It’s easy to find the signage.
Stop 1: Nunobiki Waterfalls
As mentioned before, there are four waterfalls to check out.
As a heads up, the hiking route splits to two ways – whether you want to see Mentaki Falls or Ontaki Falls. Here is a photo of what to expect.
Mentaki Waterfall – This is the first waterfall that you’ll see. It’s a two-tiered waterfall. During our visit, the tree branches cover the waterfall so it’s not a clear view of the falls.
Tsuzumigataki Waterfall – To be honest, we missed this waterfall on our hiking path.
Ontaki Waterfall – This waterfall requires a short walk up a steep staircase. This two-tiered waterfall has cascades that are 43 meters (141 feet) high. The first part of the cascade falls into a pool, and then the water rushes down to the lower level.
Meotodaki Waterfall – This is a smaller waterfall with gentle cascades leading to a large pool of water. This waterfall is nearby the reservoir.
Stop 2: Nunobiki Resevoir
This large reservoir is also called Nunobiki-Gohonmatsu Dam and is considered one of Japan’s top 100 dam lakes. There are seats around the dam so you can enjoy the peaceful waters. It’s a pretty sight at sunset with the reflection of the trees in the dam.
Walk along the walking path until you you’ll reach a fork in the road.
Head left and you’ll go to Ichigahara Dam (市ヶ原 堰堤) or head right and take the path up the mountain to go to Nunobiki Herb Garden. We went the mountain way to go to the herb garden.
Stop 3: Nunobiki Herb Garden (Intermediate Station)
The path to reach the Herb Garden goes through the forest. It’s not too technical but you need to be careful with the tree routes.
The path leads to a road and then you’ll need to head right to go to the entrance of the Nunobiki Herb Garden.
The gate to the Herb Garden will be closed, but don’t let that fool you. You need to pull the lever of the gate to open it and then you can walk up to the lower level of the Herb Garden.
There is a nice garden area to take a photo. If you don’t have a tripod, you can use the garden’s podium to prop your phone and snap a photo.
You can also check out Kaze no Oka Lawn (風の丘芝生広場). It’s a rest area in the lower Herb Garden area. You can sit on hammocks and see the views of Kobe City.
- If you go beyond and explore the lower level of the garden, you’ll need to pay at least 200 yen per person to explore.
- Or, if you bought a one-way ropeway ticket, then you can explore this area.
- If you want to end the hike at this location, you can return in the same direction.
Stop 3: Nunobiki Herb Garden Summit (Top Station) (Optional)
To continue with the hike and reach the top station, follow the signs for “Hiking Path.”
You’ll reach a gate that has a sign in Japanese and English. The sign states that the Garden area closes at 5:00pm. After 5:00pm, the Garden and main gate will be locked. If you plan to do an out-and-back loop, you’ll need to finish hiking before 5:00pm.
Otherwise, you can continue the trail which will lead to the Top Station. Unlike the Lower Station, the Top Station is gated so you cannot cross (unless you pay a small fee similar to the lower station).
You can either turn around once you reach the top area or continue walking through the forest (which is what we did).
Stop 4: Ichigahara Dam (Optional)
To be honest, we somehow went down the hiking path to the forest and ended up walking to Ichigahara Dam. There wasn’t a sign in English but I remembered what the characters of Ichigahara Dam looked like in Japanese (市ヶ原 堰堤).
Once we reached the dam area, the water level was low. The area wasn’t impressive as it was mostly rocky. It looked like some people set up a campfire in the area as the ground had scorch marks.
We’re glad that we didn’t make the extra trek out here in the first part of the hike.
We continued the path and eventually reached the reservoir and back to the original starting spot at Shin-Kobe Station.
Stop 5: Reach Shin-Kobe Station
Congratulations! You finally reached the end of the trail and back to the starting spot.
If you have the chance to hike Nunobiki Waterfall and Nunobiki Herb Garden, then go for it. It’s a nice place to see waterfalls and hike through nature. Plus, it’s easy to get here if you’re in Osaka for a few days.
We would love to come back to hike Mount Rokko and the surrounding area. There are many hiking trails to explore from half day to full day of trekking.
Check out other posts that we’ve written about for Japan’s Kansai region: