Hiking Distance: 4 - 13 km
Time: 1-2 Days
Elevation Gain: 220m - 610m
A complete guide to hiking in Hokkaido
July - August - Sept.
Hokkaido is an alluring destination for those seeking to escape the human influence that's found on most of mainland Japan (Honshu). It contains the highest amount of natural forests in all of Japan, unspoiled by the cedar plantations that cover much of the mainland. It also contains more wildlife than the rest of Japan, with regular sightings of foxes, deer, squirrels, and sometimes even brown bears. The hiking trails often provide more peace and fewer people than the popular hikes back in the Japanese Alps. And although its most famous attraction is the huge amount of snowfall, the 3 warmest months in Hokkaido offer the most comfortable climate for summer hiking in Japan. If you desire a change of pace from the other incredible mountains near Tokyo and Osaka, Hokkaido is the perfect option, with its own unique landscape and environment.
There are many amazing hikes in Hokkaido, a truly complete guide would be far too big for one webpage, so this guide will only focus on the Hyakumeizan. There are 9 Hyakumeizan in Hokkaido and these mountains are the most common reason for hikers to visit during the summer.
In This Article
1.1 - Access
1.2 - Weather & Seasons
1.3 - Cautions & Bears
1.4 - Useful Links
2. Featured Hikes
2.1 - Daisetsuzan
2.2 - Mt. Tokachi and Biei
2.3 - Mt. Meakan
2.4 - Mt. Shari
2.5 - Mt. Rausu
3. Remaining Hyakumeizan
3.1 - Mt. Poroshiri
3.2 - Mt. Tomuraushi
3.3 - Mt. Yotei
3.4 - Mt. Rishiri
Climbing the river on the trail to Mt. Shari
Flights are the best option from major cities and relatively cheap, often costing less than ¥10,000 one-way. The airport is located in New Chitose which is 40 min from Sapporo by train. You can compare prices here.
To The Hiking Trails
Renting a car is the best and sometimes the only option for accessing the hiking trails in Hokkaido. Although it can be expensive, you can offset the cost with car camping if you choose a vehicle with foldable rear seats. This can be requested when you go to pick up your car. You can compare prices and make reservations here, prices can be as low as ¥4000 – ¥6000.
Cycling around Hokkaido is quite popular, like most of Japan there can be a lot of rain during summer so some preparation is needed.
Public Transport in Hokkaido is not ideal for most of the hiking trails. But if you don't mind multiple connections and the odd taxi fare then you'll be fine. Hitch-hiking is legal in Japan and safer than other countries, but there are laws against disturbing traffic so be respectful when choosing this option.
Weather and Seasons
Summer and autumn, from July to September, are the best times for hiking in Hokkaido. There is likely to be snow hanging around until July. The autumn leaves will be colourful from late-September. The first snowfall usually occurs in Daisetsuzan in October.
For weather forecasts, mountainforecast.com and the nearest town's forecast are a good combination for a fairly accurate picture. The weather is quite unpredictable though, so the forecast is only a guide, you should always be prepared for rain or storms.
This need for adequate preparation for storms in Hokkaido is painfully evident by two incidents involving hyperthermia in summer, one involving a hiker in Daisetsuzan (full story here) and the other involving 8 people on Tomuraushi (full story here).
Cautions & Bears
One of the things you'll notice when travelling Hokkaido is the wildlife, and especially foxes, they're everywhere. For hikers, this means we can't drink any water from rivers and streams. Why? There is a risk of Echinococcosis, a potentially fatal parasitic disease that comes from fox poo, which is carried into the rivers after rainfall. So all water from these sources needs to be boiled or properly treated (adequate filter).
Occasionally, you might encounter ticks while hiking in Japan, and due to the wildlife in Hokkaido this can be a bit more common. Although rare, three tick-born diseases have been slowly growing in the last 15 years: Lyme disease, Japanese spotted fever, and the SFTS virus. The later two are quite rare, however, Lyme disease is somewhat common if you happen to be bitten by a tick and don't remove it promptly. Make sure to check yourself regularly, and see a doctor if you're concerned after getting bitten. There is no cure for Lyme disease once it's established, but antibiotics are an effective method of treatment if taken early before the disease takes hold. You can read more about Lyme disease and it's prevention here.
There are more bears in Hokkaido than anywhere else in Japan, but luckily, it's unlikely you'll see them while hiking unless you're in the back country or hiking up Mt. Rausu. Hokkaido is also the only place in Japan where you'll find large brown bears, which require more caution than the smaller black bears. They're most active from September when they start preparing for hibernation. The effectiveness of bear bells is questionable (read an analysis here), but the effectiveness of bear spray is well documented. Standard bear safety should be practised while hiking in Hokkaido, including carrying bear spray. You can read an overview of bear safety tips here.