HOME Tohoku Aomori Aomori, Hirosaki And Hachinohe Ultimate Aomori Fall Road Trip: 2-Day Drive Through 5 Gorgeous Fall Foliage Spots!
Ultimate Aomori Fall Road Trip: 2-Day Drive Through 5 Gorgeous Fall Foliage Spots!

Ultimate Aomori Fall Road Trip: 2-Day Drive Through 5 Gorgeous Fall Foliage Spots!

Date published: 2 November 2021

Aomori Prefecture, located in far north Japan, is renowned for its incredible collection of fabulous fall foliage sightseeing hotspots. Using a rental car, you can easily a road trip tour places filled with lush, seasonally changing nature like the World Heritage Site of Shirakami-Sanchi or the Hakkoda Mountains.

However, despite being all in the same prefecture, the distance between some of these locations is vast, making it difficult for those short on time. With this in mind, we present a two-day Aomori fall road trip that's perfect for a weekend getaway! Complete with access and parking information along with peak color dates, this is the ultimate way to experience the best of northern Japan’s incredible wealth of autumn colors.

Top image: PIXTA

Table of Contents
  1. Where to rent a rental car in Aomori
  2. 1. Oirase Gorge: Brilliant fall foliage amongst a treasure trove of nature
  3. 2. Tsutanuma Pond: Even better at sunrise!
  4. 3. Hirosaki Park: A castle town surrounded by gorgeous autumn foliage!
  5. 4. Nakano Momiji-yama: Idyllic scenery reminiscent of Kyoto!
  6. 5. Jogakura Ohashi Bridge: An epic fall panorama!

Where to rent a rental car in Aomori

Where to rent a rental car in Aomori
JR Shin-Aomori Station. Photo: PIXTA

As most people visit Aomori via airplane or shinkansen (bullet train), businesses offering rental cars are frequently found nearby or even inside many of Aomori’s major transport hubs.

This includes the car rental terminal at Aomori Airport and the multiple outlets outside the shinkansen stations of Shin-Aomori Station and Hachinohe Station. This makes renting a car in Aomori a breeze!

Photo: PIXTA

There are also rental cars available in major stations like Hirosaki Station and Aomori Station, making it easy for those coming by highway bus to find a ride. Most offer a wide range, allowing you to choose a make and price that suits your travel style.

1. Oirase Gorge: Brilliant fall foliage amongst a treasure trove of nature

1. Oirase Gorge: Brilliant fall foliage amongst a treasure trove of nature
The stunning mountain stream and autumn leaves. Photo: PIXTA

Located in Towada, Oirase Gorge is Aomori’s definitive fall foliage spot! Between late October to early November, the beech, rhododendrons, maples, and more adorning the gorge’s 14km track engulf the region in vivid colors.

Being just a 90-minute drive from both Aomori Airport and Shin-Aomori Station, Oirase Gorge is surprisingly easy to access and can be thoroughly explored on a short Aomori autumn road trip.

Yellow foliage surrounding the Choshi Otaki Waterfall, which is 7 meters tall and 20 meters wide. Photo: PIXTA

While driving through the tunnels of foliage is alone enough beauty for most, the true highlights of Oirase Gorge are the grand waterfalls and mountain streams dotting the riverside walking trails.

Of particular note is the “Ashura no Nagare,” a powerful stream flowing between rocks and trees, along with the Choshi Otaki Waterfall, which offers incredible sightseeing all year round. Encompassed by mystical fall foliage, you won’t be able to put your camera down!

The information boards have multiple languages.

Within the area’s roads are spaces to pull over and park, allowing you to effectively tour the area by car rather than solely on foot. For an encounter with some of Aomori’s best fall foliage, the easy-to-access and pristine beauty of Oirase Gorge is an extremely safe bet!

You can also take in the foliage via a boat cruise on the nearby Lake Towada Photo: Lake Towada Cruising
  • Oirase Stream
    • Address Okuse, Towada-shi, Aomori, 034-0301
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Hachinohe Station (Hachinohe Line / Tohoku Shinkansen / Hokkaido Shinkansen / Aoimori Tetsudo)
      90 minutes by bus
    • Phone Number 0176-75-2425

Recommended hotels nearby

  • Yachi Onsen
    • Address Horyo Yachi 1, Towada, Aomori, 034-0303
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Shichinohe-towada Station (Tohoku Shinkansen / Hokkaido Shinkansen)

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

2. Tsutanuma Pond: Even better at sunrise!

2. Tsutanuma Pond: Even better at sunrise!
Photo: PIXTA

Also located in Towada, Tsutanuma Pond is another of Aomori’s most celebrated fall foliage spots peaking between mid to late October. Tsuta Nananuma, one of the area’s many ponds, is particularly renowned for its jaw-dropping scenery as the surrounding primeval forest of Japanese beech trees turns bright red.

The foliage reflected in Tsutanuma Pond. Photo: PIXTA

While if the weather is nice, you’ll be able to relish stunning views at Tsutanuma Pond no matter what time you visit, we particularly recommend heading out during the early morning.

The fall foliage bathed in the intense morning sun makes the forest seem like it's on fire, creating an even more vivid reflection on the pond’s surface. You’ll see many passionate photographers braving the morning chill to capture this marvel on film.

As the sun rises, the fall foliage of Tsutanuma Pond increases in beauty. Photo: PIXTA

You can explore the area and all the other tiny hidden ponds on the “Numa Megurino Koji” trail (except Akanuma Pond).

After snapping the perfect photos, we recommend slowing down and leisurely strolling to soak up the autumn atmosphere fully. Be aware that the temperature can drop significantly, and the trail may even freeze during the early morning, so be careful and wear the appropriate shoes.

Photo: PIXTA

You can get to Tsutanuma Pond after a 60-minute drive from JR Aomori Station. Park at the free car park in front of the Tsuta Onsen Ryokan inn and walk 10 minutes to find the pond.

However, the car park may become full during the early morning, so if you really want to see the sunrise during the peak foliage season, we suggest spending the night at the Tsuta Onsen Ryokan or another nearby accommodation facility and heading out early the next day.

Furthermore, to prevent overcrowding on the observation deck, roadside parking, and traffic jams, along with the spread of COVID-19, the local management office asks visitors to respect the following:

1. Early Morning: Permission to enter the Tsutayacho no Mori forest will require advanced reservation. Entrance capacity will be limited.
2. Early Morning/Daytime: A fee will be levied against visitors to assist with environmental preservation and traffic management.

  • Tsutanuma Pond
    蔦沼
    • Address Tsutanoyu, Okuse, Towada, Aomori Prefecture, 034-0301
    • ・TEL: 0176-24-3006 (Travel Towada)
      ・Access: A 60-minute drive from JR Aomori Station or a 60-minute drive after exiting the Kuroishi IC on the Tohoku Expressway.
      ・Parking: In front of Tsuta Onsen Ryokan

Recommended hotels nearby

  • Hotel Jogakura
    • Address Arakawa Hakkodasan-chu, Aomori, Aomori, 030-0111
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Tsutsui Station (Aoimori Tetsudo)

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

3. Hirosaki Park: A castle town surrounded by gorgeous autumn foliage!

3. Hirosaki Park: A castle town surrounded by gorgeous autumn foliage!

For those wanting to enjoy autumn scenery without straying too far from the city, then Hirosaki Park in Hirosaki is your best bet!

Peaking between mid-October to early November, this conveniently located park can be reached after just 10 minutes by car from JR Hirosaki Station. Here you can relish the rustic atmosphere of a quaint 400-year-old castle town illuminated by fiery fall foliage.

The fall foliage framed by the Hirosaki Castle Ninomaru Inner South Gate. *The Ninomaru Inner South Gate will be under scaffolding for maintenance work from November 8th, 2021.

The park’s lavish collection of maple and cherry trees radiate with shades of red and yellow, making for enthralling strolls alongside a plethora of highlights like the castle’s turret and gate.

In addition, the “Hirosaki Castle Chrysanthemum and Autumn Leaves Festival” is held from early November, lighting up the park after dark to form an entirely different beauty from the daylight scenery.

The fall foliage during the night time illumination event.
Autumn leaves reflected in the water of the Hirosaki Castle Middle Moat. Photo: Hirosaki City

When coming by car, you can park at the opposite-facing Hirosaki City Hall Parking Lot (first hour free) or the parkside car park (costs a fee).

Those without time for a stroll can still drive around the park and see plenty of fall foliage surrounding the castle’s outer moat. Plus, autumn is apple season, so if you find yourself with extra time, we strongly recommend trying apple picking or treating yourself to a helping of apple pie!

You can join an autumn-only apple picking experience at the Hirosaki Apple Park, just a 10-minute drive from Hirosaki Park.

Recommended hotels nearby

  • Hirosaki Park Hotel
    • Address Dotemachi 126 , Hirosaki, Aomori, 036-8182
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Chuohirosaki Station (Konan Tetsudo-owani Line)
      5 minutes on foot

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

  • Dormy Inn Hirosaki
    • Address Honcho 71-1, Hirosaki, Aomori, 036-8203
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Chuohirosaki Station (Konan Tetsudo-owani Line)
      8 minutes on foot

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

4. Nakano Momiji-yama: Idyllic scenery reminiscent of Kyoto!

4. Nakano Momiji-yama: Idyllic scenery reminiscent of Kyoto!
Photo: Kuroishi Tourist Association

Nakano Momiji-yama, located in Kuroishi roughly 40-minutes by car from Aomori Airport, is one of Aomori’s most esteemed maple leaf sightseeing spots.

The park’s vermillion bridge, torii gates, and promenades of stone steps bring to mind the rustic atmosphere of ancient Kyoto.

In the past, Isabella Bird, a prominent British explorer and writer, remarked that “everything here is beautiful!”

The vermillion bridge and autumn foliage. Photo: PIXTA

The fall foliage at Nakano Momiji-yama peaks between mid-October to early November, and there are numerous photo spots set up to capture this phenomenon fully.

This includes “Kanpudai,” where the fallen leaves form a flashy carpet of red, along with Fudo Falls, which boasts crystal clear water surrounded by 200-year-old maple trees. The forest is also lit up at night during this time, allowing you to rediscover its beauty again after sunset.

*The 2021 autumn light-up has been canceled.

200-year-old maple trees. Photo: PIXTA
Nakano Momiji-yama lit up at night. Photo: Kuroishi Tourist Association.

While there is a free parking zone around the car park entrance, it will likely be busy during the peak fall foliage season, and you may not be able to enter. In this situation, we suggest using the free car park at the nearby Tsugaru Traditional Craft Center and walking to Nakano Momiji-yama.

Nearby is the Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen hot spring inn, a hidden gem encompassed by rugged greenery, allowing one to escape the modern world and stay amongst the nature of Kuroishi.

The outdoor rotenburo hot spring bath at Lamp no Yado. Photo: Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen.
  • Nakano Momiji-yama
    中野もみじ山
    • Address Fudodate−27, Minaminakano, Kuroishi, Aomori, 036-0405
    • ・TEL: 0172-88-8815 (Kuroishi Tourist Association)
      ・Illumination Event: Canceled in 2021
      ・Access: Take the Ou Main Line from Aomori Station to Hirosaki Station. Change to the Konan Railway and get off at Kuroishi Station. Take the Konan Bus and get off at “Nakano Jinja-mae” and walk 1 minute. If coming by car, it’s a roughly 10-minute drive after getting off at the Kuroishi IC on the Tohoku Expressway.
      ・Parking: The park entrance is a 12-minute walk from the Tsugaru Traditional Craft Center carpark. There is also parking available closer to the park.

Recommended hotels nearby

  • Kazennosyo
    Kazennosyo
    花禅の庄
    • Address Fukuro Tomiyama 64-2, Kuroishi, Aomori, 036-0412
    • Nearest Station Tsugaru-onoe Station (Konan Tetsudo-konan Line)

5. Jogakura Ohashi Bridge: An epic fall panorama!

5. Jogakura Ohashi Bridge: An epic fall panorama!
Photo: PIXTA

Located in the southern region of Aomori City, Jogakura Ohashi Bridge can be reached after a 50-minute drive from JR Aomori Station.

Spanning 255m, it is one of Japan’s largest bridges and serves the important role of connecting Tsugaru with Nambu. It is also celebrated as one of Aomori’s best sightseeing spots, offering an incredible 360° panorama of intense fall colors around mid-October.

Brilliant autumn scenery right in front of your eyes. Photo: PIXTA
Overlooking the Jogakura mountain stream from the Jogakura Ohashi Bridge. Photo: PIXTA

Free parking is available at both ends of the bridge, allowing you to stop your car and walk across at your own pace. The jaw-dropping tapestry of reds and yellows attracts photographers from across the country, with the Jogakura mountain stream flowing 122m below creating a stunning yet somewhat terrifying sight!

Autumn foliage on the Hakkoda Gold Line. Photo: PIXTA

After crossing the Jogakura Ohashi Bridge and heading towards Hakkoda, you’ll also be treated to a corridor of fall foliage on the Hakkoda Gold Line road. Further on is Sukayu Onsen, famous for the “Hiba Sennin Buro” bathhouse, where you can stop to relax and heal in its nourishing waters.

Hiba Sennin Buro in Sukayu Onsen. Photo: Sukayu Onsen
  • Jogakura Ohashi Bridge
    城ヶ倉大橋
    • Address Minamiarakawa, Arakawa, Aomori, Aomori Prefecture, 030-0111
    • ・TEL: 017-728-0200 (Aomori Prefecture Tosei Area Prefectural Office)
      ・Access: Take the JR bus heading to Towada-ko from JR Shin-Aomori Station and get off at Jogakura Onsen. Walk a further 20 mins from there. If coming by car, it’s a 35 min drive after getting off at the Kuroishi IC on the Tohoku Expressway.
      ・Parking: Parking is available at each end of the bridge.

Recommended hotels nearby

  • Hotel Jogakura
    • Address Arakawa Hakkodasan-chu, Aomori, Aomori, 030-0111
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Tsutsui Station (Aoimori Tetsudo)

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

To fully enjoy autumn in Aomori, we strongly recommend making the most of your time by renting a car and driving. With this autumn road trip itinerary, you’ll be able to witness a wide range of different autumn sights combined with delicious local dishes, onsen hot springs, and fascinating cultures.

But don’t feel that you need to rush - take your time, thoroughly soak in the scenery, and plan an Aomori autumn foliage trip that suits you!

Text by: Ringoame inc.
*The information presented in this article is accurate as of October 2021. For the latest information, always confirm on the official sites.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

Share this article.

Recommended articles for first-time visitors to Tohoku
Search