A Free Practical Guide to Exploring Daisetsuzan National Park

From Ryan Libre, last updated 04-14-2013  Log of Updates

1)Why go to Daisetsuzan NP? Daisetsuzan, near Furano Dake
Alpine Wildflowers in S. Daisetsuzan National Park     More Daisetsuzan Photos
2) When to go?
3) Where to go?
4) Where to stay?
5) Getting There...
6) What to bring?
7) Weather
8) Safety
9) Daisetsuzan Maps
10) Guided Tours

11) Trail Conditions

12) Notes about hiking in Japan.
13) Japanese Hiking Phrases and Lingo
14) Daisetsuzan FAQ

1) Why go to Daisetsuzan National park?

Daisetsuzan National park is the largest National park in Japan. It has active volcanoes, beautiful alpine lakes and flowers, a 7 tier waterfall, Free huts to sleep in, lots of wildlife (including bears), relaxing natural hot springs and challenging back country wilderness.

 

 

2) When to go to Daisetsuzan NP?      

From early May to mid October it is possible to hike without special gear, in most places. Mid September is the peak of the fall colors and from late September it starts to snow in Daisetsuzan, be extra prepared for possible snow and -0c temperatures. That said, watching the change from fall to winter is one of the most magicial times of the year.

Spring has the most wildflowers & wildlife but also high chances of cloudy/rainy weather. (May & June)
Summer has generally better weather, but less flowers and more people. (July & Aug)
Fall has brilliant colored forests and the peaks look beautiful with the first snow on them. (Sept to mid Oct)
Winter (6 months of the year) has amazing winter wonderland scenery but is not easy to get to most places. The pay huts are free from late fall till early spring. But be prepared to dig your way in through the snow.


 

3) Where to go?    

I've made 2 new pages about the most popular places to enter Daisetsuzan, plus a page just about the traverse. Please click the links to see maps, ropeway info, bus times and much more.

Asahi dake Ropeway Area
Sounkyo Ropeway Area
Daisetsuzan Traverse Page

Daisetsuzan National park has many trails. I've been hiking in Daisetsuzan National Park for 7 years and I haven't hiked all the trails yet. Some good places to start are… 

"The Traverse"; if you have the time I highly recommend it. It takes about 5-7 days. There are several options. You can start at Furano Dake, Kuro Dake or Asahi Dake. There are many huts along the way, but camping at least once is necessary. The traverse covers a lot of the park and will be as challenging as it is beautiful. It goes over many of the peaks, however it only covers less then 1/2 the trails in Daisetsuzan NP. More about the Traverse...

Shorter options in Daisetsuzan National Park;

Most people hike Asahi-dake or Kuro-dake as day hikes using the ropeways. It is a good option for people with very little time and experience, but doing any of the hike below will be better if you have a 1 to 4 days and basic hiking experience.

2 days - Furano Dake to Tokachi Dake to Biei Dake and loop back to where you stated. This area of the park is very volcanic. Tokachi Dake has almost no plants on it, but there are many wildflowers on Furano Dake in the spring. There are 2 huts you can stay in for free ( Kami-horo & Biei-fuji).

1 day - Covering just 2 of the 3 peaks (Tokachi & Furano, Tokachi & Biei) above can be done in a full day, (starting at 4 to 6 am) and is also a very nice hike.

1-2 days - Asahi Dake to Kuro Dake. Easy access, Great views. You can camp just below the back side of Asahi Dake or there is 500Y camping outside the Kuro Dake Ishi-muro hut. You can stay in the hut for 1700Y. I suggest getting up to watch the sunrise. There are ropeways on both mountains and i have seen 6 year olds do this hike. That said it will be challenging, especially if you don't use the ropeways.

 

Best 3-4 day hike in Daisetsuzan NP: Asahi Dake or Kuro Dake to Tenninkyo. (I recommend that direction) There are 2 free huts (Chubetsu & Hisago-numa) and 2 pay huts (Ishi-Muro & Hakkun and both have cheap tent sites.) on this loop. This hike lets you see many of the more popular parts of the park but also gets you into the back country as well. The trail to/from Tenninkyo has a lot of water on it in spring/early summer, but is hikeable.

 

Asahi dake photos Tenninkyo photo

 

Looking for less challenging options?

Many people stay at the hotels in the park and go for short walks. I also have gone to Daisetsuzan National park for relaxing weekends where i spent more time eating and sitting in hot springs than hiking. If this sounds right for you, there are many options in Daisetsuzan National Park for you too.

There are 4 major parts of Daisetsuzan National Park with hotels: Asahi-Dake, Sounkyo, Tenninkyo and the Tokachi/Furano-Dake area.

Tokachi/Furano-Dake area is the least developed and most scenic. It also has the most options for day hikes. All the places to stay here are locally owned and operated. The best Hotel to stay at in this area is Ryounkaku.

Although most guides and tours will direct you elsewhere, i highly recommend this area for the casual visitor and serious hiker alike. There are 4 hotels in this area, all accessible by bus.

My second choice is Tenninkyo. Tenninkyo has a beautful 7 tier waterfall and 2 nice local hot spring hotels. The hiking options are quite limited with just one trail that cant be hiked in one day, but you can go 1/2 way up and back as a day hike.

Third is Asahi-dake. There are many large hotels and a few small ones too. From the base of Asahi-dake you can do a few day hikes or start a longer journey.

Sounkyo the most developed and least scenic of the 4, but not without its own charm.

 

4) Where to Stay in Daisetsuzan National Park.
While hiking -

Hisago-Numa Hut in Daisetsuzan
Yama-Goya - There are 9 huts (Yama-goya) in Daisetsuzan National Park. Only 3 cost money and 2 of those also have tent sites just outside. In the peak season (mid July to late August) most of the huts fill up quick. If you are alone you have a good chance a very kind hiker will find you a spot, but 2 or 3 people is more difficult. FYI someone is always snoring, ZzZzZz, just hope it's not your neighbor. All huts have water nearby for boiling or filtering.

Note: Hokkaido locals call them `yama goya` mountian huts but the main landers call them `hinnan goya` emergency huts, as they do not have the luxury or costs of the huts on Honshu island.

Click the hut name for photos and more info. (not all up yet.)

Huts (north to south) Price (per person) # of People Rentals Crowded? Scenic (1-5)*
Aizanke Ryokan & Hut- 愛山渓ヒュッテ Varies 100+ Blankets included During Fall 2
Kuro-dake Ishi Muro -黒岳石室 1700 80+ yes very 3
Asahi-Dake Ishi Muro  -  旭岳石室 Free 10+ no "emergency use" 5

Hakkun Goya - 白雲小屋

1000 35 no fills up often 4
Chubetsu Goya -中別小屋 Free 30 no usually space 2
Hisago-Numa Goya -ヒサゴ沼小屋 Free 40+ no fills up fast 5

Biei-Fuji Goya   -   美瑛富士小屋

Free 15 no usually empty 4
Kami-Horo Goya ー 上ホロ小屋 Free 15 some things avail. usually space 5

Tokachi-Dake Goya 十勝岳山小屋

Free 15 no

(Rebuilt! but not open yet)

5
Onuma Goya - 大沼小屋 Free 4+ no usually space 2
More to come          
           

*Note: 1-5 5 is most scenic

The Kuro Dake hut has food (500Y+), drinks ( 400Y+), Sleeping bags (1000Y) and blankets (300Y) for rent. All expensive but it is a good option if you don't have any gear and want to do more than a day hike.

The Tokachi Dake hut was blown apart a few years back, it has been rebuilt but with less sleeping space and charm.

Tent sites. There are many tent sites in Daisetsuzan National Park. They are clearly marked on Maps, but there are also a few not marked. Most notably “SanSenDai” a good place to camp if you are doing the traverse.

List of campsites and photos coming

While starting or ending a hike -

Campgrounds

There are pay campgrounds near the base of Asahi Dake and Tokachi Dake. Both about 500Y, at Asahi dake you can also rent a large tent for the night for 1000Y extra. There is also a campground near Sounkyo (I haven't stayed there yet). I have put up my tent at many trail head parking lots, before and after hikes. I have never had a problem. It is a good idea to pack up early in the morning. Trail heads don't necessary have water, so bring what you need.

Hotels

Ryounkaku, Southern end of the park


5)
Getting there...

There are many options.

The most popular way is the bus from the front of the Asahikawa Station to the Asahi Dake ropeway/trail-head. It costs 1000Y, the best time to catch it is 9:10am.

For people who have ample time and like a challenge try biking to the park. Hokkaido is perfect for cycling in summer and there are bike paths and beautiful country roads that bring you directly to many trail heads. Most notably the bike path to Sounkyo from Asahikawa. It's not even uphill!

Many books and web sites recommend renting a car to explore Daisetsuzan National park. Unless you are a group of 4 or more it will cost much more than public transportation. Unless you want to get to some of the more remote trail heads, public transportation is a good option for single hikers and small groups. 

Trains: Trains will get you close to Daisetsuzan National park, but if you are relying solely on public transport you will need to get on a bus or hitchhike. Check train times and prices.

I recommend local trains if you have the time, open windows and 1/2 the price.

Buses:

Buses to Daisetsuzan National park

( exact times and prices may change! )

departs from
arrives at
How Much
How long
Schedule & more
Asahikawa

Asahi Dake onsen

1000Y 1-2 hours bus times & more info
Eastern Daisetsuzan      
Tenninkyo 1000Y 1-2 hours  
Sounkyo 1900Y 1:50 bus times
Kami-Furano Tokachi Dake Onsen 500Y 1 Hour bus times
Fukiage Onsen
Kamikawa Sounkyo 770Y 30 Min bus times
Shintoku Tomuraushi Onsen   1:30

Peak season only

2 Per Day

Sounkyo Ginsendai 800Y 1 Hour bus times and more info
Biei Shirogane Onsen   1 Hour  

Hitchhiking: Hokkaido is very safe.  I often hitchhike to the trail heads. This is easiest to do early in the morning when other hikers are going too.  Hitching is not common in Japan, but near mountians it goes quite well. I rarely wait more than 15min for a ride if i choose a good place to start. 


6) What to bring?
This depends a lot on what you plan to do.
If you hike from Asahi Dake to Kuro Dake (2 days/ 1 night) and have a budget of at least 4000-5000Y, you wont need to bring anything except for a small bottle of water, rain gear and some snacks. If you are doing anything longer than that you will need to bring all the normal hiking gear required for a multi-day hike.

I have never used a bear bell and i don't think it is necessary in Daisetsuzan National Park.

Food ideas...

I make soba and pasta a lot while hiking because they are filling, easy to make and cheap.  Japanese grocery stores usually have dried tofu and shitake mushrooms, these are great to add to any dish.

 

7) Weather...

Mountains make their own weather and can be quite unpredictable, and Daisetsuzan National Park is no exception. Some ideas for checking the weather of Daisetsuzan National Park are...

 

The 3 day forecast for Hokkaido (English)

the Asahi Dake Live Webcam

can be useful when deciding to go that day.

Furano Weather and Webcam

This link is in Japanese, but is easy to understand the dates and symbols. Also be sure to click on the small photo to open a larger window of a time-lapse of the current weather in Southern Daisetsuzan. 

Thinking positive is good, but please plan for hard weather. Of the 40+ deaths in Daisetsuzan in the last 10 years many were due to being unprepared for weather.

8) Safety in Daisetsuzan…

At least 5 people per year visit Daisetsuzan and don't come home alive. It is a very beautiful, very wild and sometimes dangerous place.

Hypothermia - Many people arrive to the park in Sept or Oct expecting the mild fall of the main island. Then they arrive in Asahikasa and it is hot in the afternoon, they then go up the mountians with few warm clothes and the tempture changes dramaticlly. Remember it's most common to get Hypothermia is when it is about 50 F or 10 C.


Echinococcus - In Hokkaido, river and lake water may contain a very dangerous, sometimes fatal, parasite called Echinococcus. Be sure to boil or filter your drinking water while hiking in Hokkaido. 

You may notice some locals drinking water straight from the mountain streams.  I have asked why and got different answers,  such as, 

"There are no foxes up this high" ( I have personally seen foxes on top of some of the tallest peaks)

"It takes 10-20 years to die from it anyway" (Most japanese hikers are in their 50's so that is about their natural life expectancy anyway)

When in Rome, don't always do as the Romans...  is my advice.

Bears - You are very unlikely to see a bear and I've never heard of someone being attacked in Daisetsuzan. Just use common sense. I spent 2 months in Daisetsuzan National park before I saw a bear. When I finally saw some it was because I went looking for them. The last hiker killed by a bear in Hokkaido was over 50 years ago and it wasn't in Daisetsuzan National Park.

Getting lost – Some of the trails in the less visited parts of Daisetsuzan National Park have grown totally over and are not marked. Not much to worry about if you stick to main trails and have a map, but sometimes people do go missing and are never found. I've gotten lost myself before. There are no English detailed maps of Daisetsuzan National park that i'm aware of, but remembering a few kanji of the places you want to visit shouldn't be too hard.

9) Daisetsuzan Maps

I'm not aware of any detailed Daisetsuzan Maps in English.   I'm in the slow process of taking photo of the maps at some of the trail heads and putting them on this guide to give hikers an idea what to expect,  but there is no replacement for a good topographical map in you hand on the trail

Daisetsuzan Topo Map, Asahidake
Daisetsuzan, Asahidake topo map
Daisetsuzan Map, Hokkaido, Asahidake

If you are just climbing Asahi Dake or going to Naka Dake Hotspring this map should be enough.

          Here is a link to best Daisetsuzan map. However, the page is all japanese and if you want to buy it you have to register first.  

For those of you in Japan that want to find it yourself, get the map that looks like the image above. 

10) Guided Trips - Experienced hikers don't need a guide for most places in Daisetsuzan National Park.  Daisetsuzan may not be the place to try your first multi-day hike ( without someone experienced ). Every year several people die in Daisetsuzan National Park...  Hypothermia, Getting lost, Drowning, Falling off cliffs, Falling rocks, Avalanches, etc. Respect Wild Places.

If any of these apply to you, you should consider getting a guide.

1) You want to make the most of your few days in Daisetsuzan.

2) Want someone to go with you to teach you about Daisetsuzan and for extra safety.

3) You are not confident that your experience is up to the task.

4) You want to go into the remote back country. (There are several amazing places in Daisetsuzan NP where a guide is a very good idea for even experienced hikers).            Click here for more info about my custom tours

hiking guide for daisetsuzan


 

11) Trail Conditions in Daisetsuzan

are probably not as good as you are used to, but don't let that keep you from hiking. Below i'll list common difficulties you may run into and how to prepare to minimize problems from them. 

If you are just climbing one of the popular peaks as a day trip you won't have to worry too much about these.

Problems
Area or Time to Watch Out For
Solutions
Lost gear off the outside of your pack the from the overgrown trails. Things like hats, rain covers, cell phones, etc. that can attach to the outside of your pack have a way of disappearing in Daisetsuzan. Especially between Biei-Fuji and Tomuraushi, and around Chubetsu. Put all your things inside your pack, or in deep external pockets that close well.
Very tired & painful feet. The rampant erosion on the trails has left little but large rocks and roots left to walk on.  The uneven walking surface puts extra stress on your feet. most everywhere Wear good hiking boots with stiff soles. These help take some of the stress off your feet. 
Getting soaking wet on sunny days! The plants that have overgrown onto the trails sometimes have morning dew or last night's rain on them and can get you very wet. Especially between Biei-Fuji and Tomuraushi, and around Chubetsu. Bring rain gear and use it in the mornings, even if its not raining.


12) Notes about hiking in Japan.


You may be surprised that most of the hikers are in their 50’s or older. The youngest (except for a few college students) tend to be about 35 or 40 and the oldest almost 80!
Westerners tend to think of hiking as a time for solitude, but for most Japanese it is a very social activity, going in medium to large groups, lots of conversations, greeting everyone, etc. This can be fun and festive.

 

Ropeways: There are 2 ropeways in Daisetsuzan NP, Asahi dake and Kuro dake. They are quite expensive and there are decent trails that run parallel to both of them. So i don't use them unless really pressed for time. Both trails can be done in an hour, (at a fast pace) or 2+ hours if you have lots of gear or are out of shape.

A good option (for multi-day trips) is to ask a nice person to bring your gear on the ropeway and leave it at the top. This way you can enjoy the walk up with just water and some snacks. Hokkaido is very safe and i've never had any problems.

13) Japanese Hiking Phrases and Lingo

Diffrence between -San 山 & -Dake 岳 for example Fuji-san 富士山 & Asahi-dake 旭岳. -san 山 indicates a lone mountain as where -dake 岳 indicates a peak within a mountain range. 

14)  Daisetsuzan FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions -

Q - Can I hike for a few days without a tent?
I mean, is it safe to just sleep outside, just with a sleeping bag?

Dvir from Israel

A -
sleeping outside...    i'm also a fan of sleeping under the stars.  However, it's always a good idea to have a tent pitched next to you in case of bad weather.  Or at very least have some kind of emergency shelter with you.    Weather aside, i have woke up with a mountain lion sniffing me (in California) once.  Had i panicked, it could have had a tragic ending. 
          In short, i don't recommend going without any kind of shelter and exercise due caution sleeping outside in the mountains without a tent.  Sleeping under the stars is better suited for sleeping in your backyard or a front-country camp site than above the tree line the middle of a National Park.

Q - What filter system do you recommend for the water conditions found in Hokkaido?

Christian & Isabel from Switzerland

Most any filtration system will take out what is dangerous in Hokkaido, Echinococcus. As Echinococcus eggs are filtered by any 3 micron or less filter.

Q - I'm not sure whether it's a good idea to hike alone, especially in the wilderness/bear area that is Hokkaido.  Is it safe?  Will I get lost? I can only speak basic Japanese sentences and recognize really obvious kanji like "kawa" and popular kanji used in train station names. 

Jonathan from Canada

You should be fine. If you're not confident stick to main trails. Like ashi-dake to kuro-dake trail. 

Q - Just curious, given only one day, which would you personally choose to visit, Sounkyo or Asahidake?

Jiahui from Indonesia

i guess asahidake, and hope for clear skies! start very early. it is usually clear skies till 8 or 9am then often clouds up. hike from the bottom before the rope way starts is my advice. start at like 4 or 5, should be worth it!

 

 

This guide is always being added to and updated.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact me.

Please visit my new photography site www.ryanlibre.com

If you've found this guide useful please consider making a donation. As little or much as you like ^_^  It will help to keep this guide improving.