After a short bus ride from the Nagano station you will find yourself on the side of a hill with a sign depicting a monkey in water urging you upward. These signs will lead you on a short walk through a small town to a forested path that will end at the snow monkey park.The path is easy and well marked, surrounded by tall trees and vines and it is not hard to believe this is the home to the monkeys you are looking for. After about half an hour of walking you will see a geyser shooting water high into the air and a nearby onsen across the river that you are now next to. You will climb several flights of stairs on your side of the river to the small shack where you will pay your meager 500¥ to enter the Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Snow Monkey Park.
Once inside, you will follow a trail lined with warning signs about not feeding or touching the monkeys. This is no zoo with cages of animals brought to you. Instead you have come to their home so must watch your manners to avoid upsetting your hosts. The path is not long but follows a stream with some small waterfalls where you can see baby monkeys playing and trying to keep up with their parents. The path ends at a wall of large stones that the monkeys love to lounge on next to the hot spring bath. When they climb into the water and begin to relax and calm down, the monkeys seem even more human-like. You will want to join them but keep in mind they are wild animals.
While this trip will fill a day if coming from Tokyo, it is definitely worth it. Not only will you get to make your friends jealous of getting to see such a well-known Japanese attraction, but if you enjoy a relaxing hike through the woods and some beautiful countryside you will not be disappointed. For a taste of the experience a man from Google with a strange 360 camera backpack has made the trek and you can follow along with Google Street View. Then check to see who is currently in waters with a live camera feed from the parks website here.
Google street view