The 10 Best Hikes in Hokkaido

Hiking in Hokkaido

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Considered the ultimate destination for hiking in Japan, Hokkaido offers six expansive national parks, untouched nature, and the tallest peaks in Japan outside of Fuji. Whether you’re a beginner hiker or looking for a challenge, Japan’s northernmost island has the perfect destination for you. Due to the weather and climate of Hokkaido, hiking during the summer and fall seasons is advised. Get ready to see caldera lakes, rippling mountain ranges, active volcanoes, and rare flora and fauna that can only be seen here on these ten best hikes in Hokkaido.

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Mount Yotei

Mount Yotei Hike

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One of the most famous mountains in Japan, encircled by the towns of Niseko, Kutchan, and Makkari, this inactive volcano draws huge numbers of skiers and hikers alike. Situated in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, hikers have a choice of four trails ending with a circular walk around the crater rim. Along the routes, you’ll be treated to pine and silver birch forest and alpine plants with expansive views of the park and local towns from the top. 

Mt Yotei offers a reasonably challenging hike with steep terrain; it will take around five hours on a fine day and is generally not advised in the winter except for experienced hikers with the right equipment. Easier routes include the Kimobetsu route which is furthest from the city center and the Makkari route which is the recommended route for the average hiker. There are no facilities on the route so hikers should be prepared with drinks and snacks. 

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Mount Meakan Loop

Akan National Park

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Enjoy the splendour of Akan National Park from this dynamic route, suitable for all hikers. The trail takes you from Meakan Onsen to the summit of the volcano via spruce forest, and descends to Lake Onneto. At the summit itself, you can experience the sprawling views of Akan National Park forests, Lake Onneto, and the Daisetsuzan mountain range. Onneto Campground is available on the route as well as Meakan Hot Spring with the full route taking around five hours.

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Mount Mashu

Mount Mashu

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Offering panoramic views of Lake Mashu and Akan-Mashu National Park, this popular trail is suitable for casual hikers while offering rewarding views. The tree and alpine plant-covered trail begins at "viewing point one" at the rim of the caldera lake, which was formed over 7,000 years ago, and takes around two and a half hours in total. The first half an hour is primarily descending before gradually ascending with the last half an hour of the trail being the steepest. Along the route, you will also experience different views of the lake, Senkon Field, and Mount Nishibetsu. There are no facilities along this trail so make sure to bring everything you need for a comfortable hike. 

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Mount Kurodake

Mount Kurodake

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One of the more accessible hikes within Daisetsuzan National Park with continuing trails for avid hikers. This hike takes one to two hours and is one of the best spots in Hokkaido for fall leaf-peeping. The Kurodake Ropeway and lift connects Sounkyo Onsen at the start of the trail with the fifth station halfway up the summit where the hike to the "playground of the gods" begins. Reaching the summit grants views of the interior of the Daisetsuzan mountains with its interesting rock formations and expansive greenery in the warmer months. For longer, more advanced hikes, you are able to carry on from the summit to the peaks which surround the Ohachidaira Caldera including the two-day trail up to Mount Asahidake and onsen or the shorter hikes to surrounding mountains such as Hakkundake, Chudake, and Kaundake.

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Rebun Island

Rebun Hokkaido

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There are six trails across the magnificent Rebun Island, an island situated west of Hokkaido's northern tip. The longest route, starting at Hamanaka and continuing along the west coast takes eight hours to complete. The shortest trail, which takes you on a journey up Mount Rebun, offering unparalleled views of the island, takes around two hours to complete. A particularly popular trail via continuous rolling green scenery will take you to the grand waterfall Rebun-taki, the only waterfall on the island. Rebun is a perfect choice for relaxing hikes with some of the most sweeping landscapes on Hokkaido. Unlike other areas of the island, visitors don’t need to worry about snakes or brown bears, and the tourist information office at the port can provide everything you need with regards to maps and info.

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Mount Tarumae

Mount Tarumae

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A short and rewarding hike up an active volcano, the trail is primarily rock and ash and offers immense views of the smoking lava dome as well as views of the ocean and Lake Shikotsu. In the fall, the colors surrounding Mount Tarumae are spectacular. The hike to the peak will take around an hour and a half and can be extended by another hour if you can carry on the trail around the crater itself or carry on to Mount Fuppushi and down to the lake.

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Noboribetsu Jigokudani Loop

Hokkaido Hell Valley

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This 3.1-kilometer trail is ideal for any skill level and will take you through some of the lush forest scenery of Shikotsu-Toya National Park as you explore the famous caldera that makes up Hell Valley. The loop can be completed in an hour, but due to the geothermal activity and landscape that, at times, can seem otherworldly, it’s one of the most memorable hikes on the island. The trail starts at the viewing platform of the fuming sulfuric hot spring Jigokudani and carries on towards the boiling Tessen Pond. Guides to the trail will be available at most hotels and at the tourist information desk in Noboribetsu.

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Mount Rausu

Mount Rausu

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This Hokkaido hike will take you to the peak of the highest mountain in Shiretoko National Park found on the easternmost tip of the island and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As Mount Rausu is surrounded by the Shiretoko Five Lakes, the view from the top is breathtaking and also offers panoramic views of Kunashiri Island and Mount Shari. Mount Rausu has three trails up to the peak with the most popular beginning at Iwaobetsu Onsen taking you through thick forest with an average hike time of five hours to the top. There are lodges at the base of the mountain and trailhead available for the evening or you can set up camp at the top. Bear sightings are common on this hike, so hikers are advised to be prepared and wear bear bells to alert them to your presence; you’re able to rent bear spray from the lodge for extra security. 

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Mount Poroshiri

Hikada Mountain Range

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Considered one of the best, unspoiled hikes in Japan, though one of the most challenging, the trail is tucked in the Hikada mountain range. Poroshiri translates to "big mountain" in the Ainu language and it certainly lives up to its name offering dramatic views of the Hikada mountain range from the top. The hike is challenging, through virgin forest, bamboo grass, continuous stream walking, and occasional river wading; it’s recommended that you wear rubber-soled socks. You should not attempt this hike during periods of heavy rain as the river swells and there’s a high risk of drowning. There are various places to camp on the route and a lodge at the base with a shuttle bus to the trailhead. The hike to the top takes around six hours.

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Mount Tomuraushi

Mount Tomuraushi

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Associated with the endangered Japanese pika who live on the mountain in the center of Daisetsuzan National Park, Mount Tomuraushi offers a complex hike with rocky terrain. Its name translates to "place with many flowers" in Ainu, and this is just one of the reasons why it’s best to carry out this hike in the summer when you can fully enjoy the alpine plants and lake views. The public transport to the trailhead reflects this but you will have some flexibility if you have your own vehicle. The hike to the summit will take around six to eight hours but for a quicker hike, you’re also able to park at Onsen kousu bunki and start there. It’s best to complete this hike before dark due to the terrain and the wild bear sightings in the area.