One of the things I love about Hokkaido is its abundant natural landscape and within this, the varied hiking trails and treks.
During the summer trip with my family to Hokkaido, we spent the first few days in the Furano-Kamifurano-Biei area which is near to the immense Daisetsuzan National Park 大雪山国立公園. Aside from visiting flower farms and eating lavender ice-cream, we also did some walking/hiking.
As I was travelling with my family, I searched specifically for day trips that either my parents could join or would have something else that they could enjoy while my sister and I were sweating it out.
With my parents, we took it easy. We went up Mount Asahi 旭岳 – the highest mountain in Hokkaido – via cable car and had a leisurely walk around the crater ponds amid dense mist.
For something more vigorous, I zoomed in on the Tokachi / Furano-Dake area as it offers many options for day hikes. Amongst the four main areas within the national park, this is apparently the least developed, which appealed to me as this probably means that there would be less people.
After getting some helpful advice from Mari at Furano Tourism Board, I decided to try the round-trip hike to Mt. Furano 富良野岳 which starts and ends at Ryounkaku Tokachidake Onsen.
- The 12-kilometre walk to and from Mt. Furano from Ryounkaku Tokachidake Onsen takes around five and a half to seven hours in good weather
- Mt. Furano is 1,912 metres above sea level but because Hokkaido is at the northern end of Japan, the climate surrounding the mountain is similar to that of a 3,000 metre tall mountain in Honshu.
- It is recommended to bring wet weather gear as the weather can change quickly up in the mountain
- Walking season is from July-October; the first snow usually falls here in the middle of September
- Ansei Crater is an easy 30-minute walk from Ryounkaku. If you’re lucky, you might spot a pika or two. According to Mari, pikas can be heard chattering around the crater!
After our walk in Mount Asahi 旭岳, my parents decided that my idea of an “easy walk” didn’t match theirs. So they decided to relax in the hotel instead of joining me for a walk after we had checked in.
Fortunately, my sister was game for it. Before we set off, we had some of the complimentary tea and snacks.
Alright, now we’re ready!
The initial part of the walk was a breeze and mostly over flat terrain. We reached Ansei Crater but didn’t spot or hear any pikas. It was striking to see how barren yet verdant the area is.
Here’s a view of our hotel from around the crater:
I spoke too soon. The climb had only just started.
The rocky terrain was moderately sloped but still was manageable for both of us (and we didn’t exercise regularly).
Throughout our ascent, we met people who were coming down from the peak of Mt. Furano. Not surprising considering that it was already mid-afternoon and we had a late start.
Usually I would follow AB’s lead whenever we went hiking. Fortunately, this route was clearly marked and you really can’t get lost.
Unless you’re like me and don’t always follow the obvious directions… For instance, I was scrambling up a rocky slope with a small stream of running water when my sister called out to me from below and pointed out the correct, and gradual, path in another direction. Oops.
Back on the right track, we continued our climb. I was glad my parents were more sensible than me and opted to pass on this walk which would have been too strenuous for my mum and maybe my dad too.
It was a scenic walk and we were lucky that it was a warm, clear day. As we got higher, the terrain changed and was covered with green alpine plants.
The path became steeper with wooden blocks for steps. We started counting the number of steps that we took but lost count after 1,000. Better save our breath for more of that crisp, thin mountain air!
While we were walking up the steps, we met a lone hiker on his way down. In halting English, he told us that the peak of Mt. Furano was far away and at least another one and a half hours away.
As it was getting late, plus we were getting hungry, we decided to turn around after walking for another 30 minutes.
Along the way, we spotted an adorable Siberian chipmunk foraging for food.
While we didn’t make it to the top of Mt. Furano, this was an enjoyable and picturesque walk, and I would strongly recommended it.
It was also nice to spend some quality time with my sister who was a great sport.
Once we got back to the start of the trail, we made sure to sign out.
I’ve only seen such a system of checking in/out of a hiking trail in Japan. Not sure if this is done anywhere else?
If you’re interested to go hiking in Daisetsuzan National Park, here are some useful sites:
- Japan Guides: Overview of the national park
- Ryan Libre’s hiking tips and recommendations
- Hokkaipedia: Walking in Mt. Tokachi
- This video, filmed in autumn, makes me want to return to do the walk again
- Contour map of the national park
- Visual representation of the times and distances for the different routes: I added the English names of the key landmarks for those who can’t read Japanese. Not that I can either, but at least I read some Kanji. I also verified the names to be sure that I’ve got the names right 🙂
Back at the hotel, we had a hearty hotpot dinner in the communal dining hall.
After dinner, it was time to try the onsens. This was the first time for both of us in a Japanese onsen and it was exactly as what we imagined it would be – lots of hot water and steam, and all clothes off!
We were in the outdoor onsen briefly as it was cold. As it was pitch dark outside, we didn’t see any of the fantastic view from the onsen. Another reason to return to Mt. Tokachi and Daisetsuzan National Park!
Back in our room, we laid our futons on the tatami mats and sleep came quickly after the afternoon walk in the mountain.
Next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast in the dining hall, looking out to the Daisetsuzan National Park.
During which, my mum demonstrated how to eat natto (fermented soybeans). An acquired taste, I say.
Ryounkaku Tokachidake Onsen 十勝岳温泉 凌雲閣
Phone: +81 (0)167394111
Accessibility: By car or 50 minutes by bus from Kamifurano station
Good to know: 1,280 metres above sea level. Wi-fi is available. 13 rooms, no air-conditioning (not that you’d need any). Serves a hearty hotpot dinner and buffet breakfast
Don’t miss: Indoor and outdoor onsens, the latter comes with a gorgeous view.
To see where the hotel is located, refer to the Google Map that I created for this trip.
Pictures on this post were taken by my sister and me