If you prefer a little less touristic atmosphere to your outdoor adventures, then perhaps Takahagi’s Hananuki Valley would be just what you’re looking for. About an hour south of Daigo, the area is well known for its natural beauty, but has a far more sparing human presence.
The main draw of Hananuki Valley is a long suspension bridge crossing the narrow gorge, giving a lovely view of a small bubbling brook through the changing leaves. The best time of year to visit is clearly autumn, when the Japanese maple trees are in their full scarlet regalia; the other seasons have their own charms, but it’s hard to deny the stunning contrast that the colors add to the view. Once you exit the parking lot there is a bit of a walk to reach the bridge, and once on the other side there is a short hiking trail that winds through the woods around to the other side of the brook and back to the beginning. The bridge itself can be fun for those who enjoy a bit of a thrill; though not very high it does sway with each step and can make taking pictures a bit difficult.
Here, due to the southern location, the leaves reach their peak a bit later than their northern counterparts, closer to the end of November most years. But even without the majestic maple leaves in full force it is a nice relaxing walk through a picturesque forest with the pleasant accompaniment of the small stream’s chattering flow.
Although this spot is also quite popular with tourists, they mainly seem to cluster around the bridge itself, leaving the remaining areas quite empty, and excepting the short row of vendor stalls bordering the parking lot there is less environmental intrusion by business. On the plus side, after you have finished your hike through the mountains you can look forward to freshly grilled meats, local fruits, handmade snacks, and even a cold beer!
For those who want to extend their stay there is even a campsite on the grounds, with running water and bathrooms as well as bbq facilities. On a side note, the road linking Daigo and Takahagi is also quite spectacular, full of winding, hairpin bends bordered alternately by deep valleys and tall mountain forests, which is a nice way to transition between the two sites.