Despite my recent post where I talked a bit of well deserved shit about some middle-of-nowhere nature being cemented up for no reason in Nikko, the trip is actually well worth it.
Unryu Valley. The valley of the cloud dragon. Though less than a dozen kilometers from the station, we only passed about 5 or 6 people the whole day. You see, for this hike you will actually need some gear. Crampons, strap on spikes for your boots. You can get away with some simple 4 point crampons, which will run you $20 at any decent outdoor supply store.
But... this is Japan. People don't come half-assed. They don't even come 100%. Fools always come at nature with triple the necessary gear. So everyone we passed had full on ice climbing gear, with lightweight carbon ice axes and thousand dollar North Face summit parkas.
Maybe they were actually doing some serious ice climbing, but I doubt it.
You should do this hike. You can even take a taxi for $30 from the station to the trail head to save time. Or walk through the World Heritage temple site on your way. We reached the start at about noon, and that was perfect timing, though by the time we got back, had a soak in an onsen, had a few beers, and made our way back to the station, we had missed the final 7:30pm express train to Tokyo. Plan accordingly. Nighttime trains up in the countryside are sparse.
To access the hike, look for 雲竜渓谷 to the NW or the Tobu-Nikko station. Go there. I know those are about the worst directions ever, but it's pretty simple. You can find more info on the internet probably. I used the free Nikko map from the station's information center.
You can grab a bento from the station to eat on the hike. Local food and beer is always the way to go.
Though the brewery was closed this time around.