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Hokkaido Hike

Duration

10 Days , 9 Nights

Activity Level

Start / Finish

Lake Akan / Shikotsu-ko Onsen

Technical Level

A hike through beautiful and expansive mountainous terrain.

Guided hiking for strong walkers in Hokkaido’s spectacular National Parks. Vast mountainous scenery; volcanoes, gorges and lakes. Rugged landscapes decorated with delicate alpine flowers, top-class local cuisine and onsen thermal hot spring baths.

July, August & September.

The Hokkaido Hike is a fully-guided tour for those who exercise fairly regularly and can walk comfortably for up to eight hours a day. The route is largely on mountain trails and includes some long ascents and descents over rough ground. Please read more on Tour Levels here.

 

A 10-day, 9-night tour starting in Akan-ko and finishing in Shikotsu-ko Onsen. Accommodation ranges from comfortable mountainside lodges to 3/4 star hotels, most with their own onsen thermal hot spring baths or nearby facilities. Laundry facilities are available in most of the accommodation on this tour. Please note that traditional Japanese inns are uncommon in Hokkaido. The maximum group size for this tour is 12 persons. We have no minimum size. If we accept a booking we guarantee to run the tour.

 

The Hokkaido Hike explores the wild side of Japan on the sparsely populated, most northerly island of the Japanese archipelago. In winter, Siberian temperatures and powder snow have made Hokkaido a skier's paradise. In summer, with the snow gone, the weather is very comfortable and the hiking is some of the best in Japan.

 

The Hokkaido Hike takes us through Japan's largest wilderness. We pass through remote verdant forests, across wet lands, up spectacular volcanoes, past steaming vents and onto high plateaux. Panoramic views, which stretch for tens of kilometres across this beautiful land, are a reward when we reach the high peaks. Closer to us is the flora and fauna special to Hokkaido. We will see alpine flowers not just peculiar to Hokkaido but some that are so rare that they are found only on one mountain. In all there are about 500 different alpine flowers blooming through the summer season. These include minezuou (loiseleuria procumbens), meakan-kinbai (potentilla miyabei), kibana-shakunage (rhododendron aureum), ezo-kozakura (primula cunefolia), jimukade (harrimanella stelleriana), ezo-no-shigazakura (phyllodoce aleutica), tchinguruma (sieversia pentapetala), ezo-in-tsutsuji (ledum palustre ssp.diversipilosum), ukon-utsugi (weigela middendorffiana), iwabukuro (pennelianthus frutescens), and kokemomo (vaccinium vitisidaea).

 

Wildlife is in an abundance that many other countries today would struggle to equal. We are likely to see foxes, deer, eagles and many different aquatic birds. In essence, Walk Japan takes you to a natural wonderland that belies the usual image of Japan as a modern industrial nation.

 

The Hokkaido Hike offers a unique experience of Japan, with an additional emphasis on nature. Hokkaido was only settled by the Japanese in the nineteenth century and it shares little of the history commonly associated with Japan. Not that this matters, as Hokkaido more than makes up for its lack of cultural monuments with the grand scale and beauty of its scenery and quality of its food.

 

The tour begins at Lake Akan before journeying to central Hokkaido and the Daisetsuzan National Park, the largest and perhaps most beautiful such area in Japan. We spend the next five days exploring the park and hike some of Hokkaido's highest mountains, including Mt. Asahidake and Mt. Tokachidake. Our final few days are spent in the Lake Shikotsu area, where we take hikes to the nearby volcanoes and enjoy soothing baths in natural hot springs overlooking the lake.

 

In short, the trip reaches the natural highlights of Hokkaido while keeping transfers to a minimum. The distances walked and heights ascended are challenging, but do not require the stamina of a high alpine trekker. The maximum height we ascend is 2,290 metres. We have chosen hikes that generally include some 'horizontal' sections or rolling countryside. This is a good trip for those who walk regularly and enjoy spectacular sights.

 
This itinerary for the Hokkaido Hike tour is ground-only, beginning at Akan-ko (Lake Akan) and ending at Shikotsu-ko Onsen. Prior to the tour, Walk Japan will provide detailed instructions for travelling to the meeting point in Akan-ko.

 

Flights by JAL, ANA and AirDo depart to Kushiro from Haneda Airport, Tokyo's domestic airport, and Itami, Osaka's domestic airport. JAL also flies from Nagoya's Chubu Airport, which handles both domestic and international flights. Connecting express buses to Haneda and Itami run at regular intervals from Narita Airport and Kansai Airport, respectively Tokyo's and Osaka's international airports. Both journeys are approximately 60 minutes each.

 

Please note that the first bus to depart for Shin-Chitose Airport (Sapporo's main airport) leaves Shikotsu-ko Onsen at 09:45, arriving at 10:36. If you have an early morning flight, a taxi to the airport will be necessary.

 

Day 1 Lake Akan



The tour starts at beautiful Lake Akan, a Ramsar Convention site. Our accommodation, which is close by the lake, includes an onsen thermal hot spring bath. Everyone meets at 6:00pm in the tour hotel lobby for a briefing and equipment check before enjoying the first of many sumptuous meals during the tour. Afterwards, we venture into Akan town to enjoy a performance celebrating the culture of the Ainu, Hokkaido's indigenous people.

 

Accommodation: Onsen hot spring resort.
Meals: Dinner provided.
Total hiking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A.

 

Day 2 Lake Akan – Sounkyo Onsen


We start early to begin our ascent of Mt. Me-Akan (1,499m), an active volcano. At the top we take in the views of Lake Akan and Daisetsu-zan, the mountain range at the heart of Hokkaido and our destination for the evening. We descend Me-Akan by a different route before transferring to Sounkyo Onsen, our gateway to the Daisetsuzan National park, and our base for two nights. Sounkyo is an impressive gorge, a hundred metres deep, that stretches for 24 kilometres. An abundance of onsen thermal hot springs, including at our accommodation, provide a plentiful supply of hot water to relax in.

 

Accommodation: Comfortable lodge with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 7.5km (4.7 miles) / 6 hours.
Total elevation gain: 784m (2,572ft).

 
Mt. Me-Akan (1,499m), Ainu name: Ponmachi-neshiri

Mt. Me-Akan towers over Lake Akan, affording views to its nearby 'twin', Mt. O-Akan and beyond to Daisetsuzan, the high mountain area at the centre of Hokkaido. Me-Akan is the first of several active volcanoes we climb on this tour.

 

Day 3 Sounkyo Onsen – Kogen Onsen – Sounkyo Onsen


A taxi ride takes us to the beginning of today's hike, the first of several we will enjoy in the spectacular Daisetsuzan National Park. We begin at Kogen Onsen, the trailhead of a popular circular hiking trail through an alpine wetland on a 1,200m high plateau. Even in July, snow remains in Daisetsuzan and we first encounter it here as we weave our way past the highland's myriad ponds. This area is also populated by brown bears, so we attend a safety lecture by park rangers before setting off. On our return from our five-hour hike, we relax in the onsen baths at the trailhead.

 

Accommodation: Comfortable lodge with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 6.5km (4.0 miles) / 4-5 hours.
Total elevation gain: 309m (1,014ft).

 

Daisetsuzan National Park & Mt. Kuro-dake (1,984m)

Daisetsuzan is Japan's largest national park, covering 230,000 hectares and containing 15 mountains that reach 2,000 or more metres in altitude. It is a rugged, beautiful area that the Ainu call Kamui-mintara, or 'Playground of the gods'. Here, the northerly latitude creates an alpine environment found only at an elevation of 3,000 metres in the rest of Japan. Snow lies near the mountain summits even at the height of summer, a season when many alpine plants bloom. The steep sided Mt. Kuro-dake is our first climb in Daisetsuzan. At its summit, we enjoy grandstand views of Ohachi-daira, the caldera at the centre of the Daisetsuzan National Park, and beyond to Mt. Asahi-dake.

 

Day 4 Sounkyo Onsen - Asahidake Onsen


We start early this morning. A cable car and chair lift take us up from Sounkyo to the beginning of our walk for the day. A steep one-hour climb brings us to the crest of Mt. Kuro-dake (1,984m). Here the landscape suddenly changes from the deep gorge of Sounkyo to the almost Shangri-la like land of Ohachi-daira, an enormous caldera ringed by a series of mountains. Our route takes us around one side of the caldera, still spuming smoke and steam, to Mt. Asahi-dake, Hokkaido's tallest peak. En route, we pass through alpine flower meadows. On the far side of Mt. Asahi-dake another cable car saves our energy and legs and brings us down to Asahidake Onsen and our onsen accommodation for the night.

 

Accommodation: Comfortable lodge with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 12km (7.5 miles) / 8-9 hours.
Total elevation gain: 1,220m (4,002ft).

 

Mt. Asahi-dake (2,290m), Ainu name: Nutakukamu-ushuppe

We climb the park's tallest peak, Mt. Asahi-dake, which is also Hokkaido's highest peak and an active volcano. Steam continuously venting from the side of the mountain provides a spectacular sight as we descend from the peak. On the lower slopes are covered by verdant forest that turn into rugged lava rock slopes carpeted by alpine flowers in full bloom from mid-June through the summer.

 

Day 5 Asahidake Onsen – Nakadake Onsen – Asahidake Onsen


Today we ride the cable car again to the high plateau at the foot of Mt. Asahi-dake. Our hike, to Nakadake Onsen, a ‘wild’ hot spring in the heart of the mountains, is a less demanding trek that takes us through fields of alpine flowers, over residual snowfields and past marshy ground. Many of the alpine flowers are in their full glory and are all the more striking with Mt. Asahi-dake, the smoking fumeroles and the snow providing a fabulous backdrop. We return to our accommodation at Asahidake onsen for less al-fresco bathing and dinner.

 

Accommodation: Comfortable lodge with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 13km (8 miles) / 6-7 hours.
Total elevation gain: 462m (1516ft).

 

Day 6 Asahidake Onsen – Mt. Tokachidake – Furano


An early morning transfer to the start of today's climb of Mt. Tokachi-dake (2,077m), another volcano and one of the most active in Japan. It most recently burst into life in 1988, whereupon climbing was prevented until 1990. At the top, on a clear day, we will be afforded views right across the Daisetsuzan National Park to Mt. Asahi-dake. We descend to our accommodation for a second night.

 

Accommodation: Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 11km (6.8 miles) / 6-7 hours.
Total elevation gain: 1,147m (3,763ft).

 

Day 7 Mt. Furano-dake


Today we continue our exploration of the south-western part of Daisetsuzan National Park, including a climb of Mt. Furano-dake (1,893 metres) before returning again to our accommodation in Furano. In contrast to the volcanic scenery of Tokachidake, Mt.Furano-dake is covered with alpine flowers during the summer months, the scenery and fauna providing a pleasant distraction from some demanding hiking.

 

Accommodation: Comfortable lodge with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total hiking: 9.8km (6.1 miles) / 6-7 hours.
Total elevation gain: 682m (2,238ft).

 

Day 8 Furano – Shikotsu-ko Onsen


Today is a recovery day and we have time to relax until mid-morning when we begin our transfer to Lake Shikotsu-ko, the deepest and one of the most beautiful lakes in Japan. We spend two nights here.

 

Accommodation: Onsen thermal hot spring resort.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total hiking: N/A.
Elevation gain: N/A.

 

Day 9 Shikotsu-ko Onsen – Mt. Tarumae-zan


We make an early morning taxi transfer (30 minutes) to the start of our hike. Today, we climb either Mt. Tarumae-zan or Mt. Fuppushi-dake, depending on conditions; if the weather is propitious and our energy levels high, we may tackle both. At the end of our walk, we are collected by minibus to return to our accommodation in Shikotsu-ko Onsen. Tonight is the last night of our tour and we enjoy a delicious dinner together as we reflect on all that we have seen.

 

Accommodation: Onsen thermal hot spring resort.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total hiking: 8km (5 miles) / 4-6 hours.
Total elevation gain: 568m (1,863ft).

 

Mt. Tarumae-zan (1,041m, climb to 1,023m) and Mt. Fuppushi-dake (1,102.5m). Ainu names: respectively, Taoro Mai and Fuppu Ushi.

Tarumae-zan is on the south side of Lake Shikotsu-ko, a 360m deep, sparklingly clear lake formed in a caldera that was created by a gigantic volcanic explosion over 30,000 years ago. Its beauty is enhanced by being ringed by three active volcanos, including Tarumae-zan. This mountain was most recently active in 1981. Another explosion in 1909 created Tarumae-zan's lava rock dome, an impressive and imposing sight that distinguishes the mountain. A relatively easy walk and climb over volcanic rock. The lower slopes are particularly abundant in alpine plants and flowers.

 

Adjacent to Tarumae-zan is Fuppushi-dake. Unlike the former, Fuppushi-dake is dormant and has not been active since ancient times and its slopes are covered in forest. Given enough time and energy we can walk over both peaks of Fuppushi-dake and Tarumae-zan. Both mountains offer spectacular views over Lake Shikotsu to Mt. Yotei-zan, and across the low lands to Sapporo, Chitose Airport and the North Pacific Ocean. There are a number of routes between and around the two mountains and our route will reflect the interest of the group, the weather, time available, and so forth.

 

Day 10 Shikotsu-ko Onsen


The tour finishes after breakfast in Shikotsu-ko Onsen. Travel to Shin-Chitose Airport, Hokkaido's main airport, is by direct express coach from Shikotsu-ko Onsen. Onward travel can be made from here to elsewhere in Japan by air or, in Hokkaido, by rail. Please note that the first bus to depart for the airport leaves Shikotsu-ko Onsen at 09:45, arriving at 10:36. If you have an early morning flight a taxi to the airport will be necessary.

 

Accommodation: N/A.
Meals: Breakfast provided.
Total hiking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A.

 

This itinerary is subject to change.

 
Map image
The itinerary for the Hokkaido Hike tour is ground only beginning at Akan-ko and ending at Shikotsu-ko Onsen.

 

The nearest airport to the meeting point at Akan-ko is Hokkaido’s Kushiro Airport, with domestic flights departing frequently from Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport.
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FROM KUSHIRO AIRPORT (KUH)
From Hokkaido’s Kushiro Airport shuttle buses depart to Akan-ko. The journey costs about JPY2,090 per person and takes approximately 1 hour 20 minutes.
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The Pre-tour Pack includes detailed instructions, including a map, for travel to the accommodation at the start of the tour.

 

Tour participants are advised not to book themselves out on an early morning flight from Sapporo’s Chitose Airport at the end of the tour, as the earliest bus from Lake Shikotsu-ko does not arrive until approximately 10.40 am.

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