Daisetsuzan to Akan–Mashu 9 Day Hiking Tour

The blue crater pond on Mt Meakan in the Akan–Mashu National Park. Volcanic steam rises in the background.

Experience Hokkaido’s varied hiking and unique wildlife. This tour takes in high alpine plateaus, steaming active volcanos, clear caldera lakes and alpine wetlands home to the Hokkaido brown bear.

The Daisetsuzan National Park is the largest national park in Japan, it covers over 2,300 square kilometres (570,000 acres) making it larger than Tokyo! The mountains that form the backbone of the park are volcanos, some still active, and include Hokkaido’s highest peaks. The rocky volcanic soil combined with harsh alpine environment creates a landscape like no other.

Established along with the Daisetsuzan National Park in 1934, the Akan–Mashu national park is home to active volcanos and large caldera lakes surrounded by ancient forest. The area is also renowned for its onsen hot-springs thanks to the volcanic activity. Each hot spring has different qualities giving you even more reason to jump in for a soak.

Tour Highlights

Explore two of Hokkaido's National Parks

On this tour, you'll get to experience two of Hokkaido's oldest National Parks. As part of the experience, you'll be able to appreciate how vastly different the landscapes are.

Traverse across the roof of Hokkaido

Summit Mt. Asahidake, the highest peak in Hokkaido before traversing to Mt. Kurodake, skirting around a giant volcanic caldera.

Explore alpine ponds at Daisetsu Kogen

Daisetsu Kogen is a lush corner of the national park, home to a number of alpine ponds - and even more Brown Bears, who make the area their home due to the abundance of tasty plants.

Gaze down on Lake Shikaribetsu from Mt. Hakuunzan

The rocky summit is also home to Northern Pika, who occasionally pop out from their rocky home to take in the views.

Climb Mt. Meakan

Climb Mt. Meakan, an active volcano that is home to unique plant life.

Itinerary

Day 1

Meet in Asahikawa, Hike Sugatami Loop & Tennyogahara Marshland Trail

Your group will meet between 9:00 am and 9:30 am in central Asahikawa. Once everyone is together, we’ll spend some time getting to know each other and the programme for our upcoming adventure on the road to Mt. Asahidake.

Enroute we'll make a shopping stop to buy lunch to enjoy later on the trail. We will then get stuck into hiking with our warm-up day today. We’ll take the ropeway from the Asahidake Visitor Centre up to Sugatami Station at 1,600m . From here, we will enjoy the Sugatami Loop, an easygoing course that will take us around volcanic crater ponds dotted around the mountain. We’ll also have a chance to get close to Mt. Asahidake’s steaming fumaroles.

We’ll descend the mountain back to the Visitor Centre via the Tennyogahara Marshland Trail. The trail begins above the treeline, descending through bamboo grasses and mixed birch and fir forests. We’ll pass some beautiful open marshes along the way. This hike is a great warm-up and will give you a good idea of the trail conditions we can expect on later hikes on this tour.

Once we return to the visitor centre, we’ll have a short briefing before we head to our accommodation in Asahidake Onsen, situated at 1,100m above sea level. We stay the night here in the crisp mountain air enjoying the natural hot springs fed by Mt Asahidake.

Hike 5.2 km with 70 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Asahidake Onsen
Day 2

Hike from Mt Asahidake to Mt Kurodake

Asahidake Onsen is a popular entry point to Daisetsuzan National Park. The park is Japan’s largest in size, and one of the first designated as a National Park in 1934. While Daisetsuzan is typically known as the Roof of Hokkaido, in the Ainu world, it is known as ” kamuy-mintar ”, meaning the Playground of the Gods.

We make our way into this sacred location by cable car to Sugatami Station at 1,600m , then start climbing to the summit of Mt. Asahidake. At 2,291m , this is the highest you can get in Hokkaido. Our journey continues on the outer ring of the majestic Ohachidaira volcanic caldera, which was formed by an eruption about 30,000 years ago.

In the afternoon, we set foot on the summit of Mt. Hokkai ( 2,149m ) and Mt. Kurodake ( 1,984m ) before descending into Sounkyo Gorge with the help of a chair lift followed by another cable car. Sounkyo Gorge is a picturesque onsen village nestled between the mountains and the cliffs, making it a popular destination for onsen, hiking and skiing. It will be our welcome home for the night.

Alternative Route

This is our biggest hike of the tour and it is almost entirely on exposed ridgelines. Depending on the weather and group dynamics, we may change the traverse hike to a loop hike, returning via Nakadake Onsen after summiting Mt. Asahidake. This hike still takes you to the outer rim of Ohachidaira Caldera but lets us drop down to lower elevation sooner, avoiding spending the whole day on the exposed caldera rim. The distance and the duration are similar to the traverse and we will transfer by van to Sounkyo.

Hike 12.2 km with 1080 m climbing
Stay Hotel at Sounkyo Onsen
Day 3

Hike amongst the Daisetsu Kogen alpine ponds

Today we will have an early start and drive over to Kogen Onsen which is 1 hour away from Sounkyo. Daisetsu Kogen serves as a trailhead for the popular Kogen Numa (alpine ponds) hiking trail. This area is far from civilization and home to a great number of native brown bears, higuma , which are occasionally spotted by hikers in early summer. After arriving we have a briefing at the Higuma Information Centre about the bear activity and the latest sightings before we hit the trail.

Situated between 1,230m - 1,460m above sea level, the Kogen Numa provides opportunities to observe alpine flora and over a dozen alpine ponds of various sizes scattered along the trail. Once we return from our hike, we board our van to transfer to Nukabira Onsen, a hot spring village situated by Lake Nukabira. We overnight at a historical hotel that has been renovated into a modern Japanese-style inn and is run by a friendly local family.

Hike 6.4 km with 290 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Nukabira Onsen
Day 4

Hike up Mt. Hakuunzan

We’ll kick the day off with a drive along Lake Shikaribetsu on a road only open during the snowless months from April to October. After approximately 30 mins, we’ll arrive at the start of the trail to Mt. Hakuunzan on the shore of Lake Shikaribetsu. 

We will take a loop walk taking in the summits of Mt. Hakuunzan ( 1,186m ) and Mt. Tenbou ( 1,174m ) before returning along the lakeshore.

From the summits there’s a stunning view of Lake Shikaribetsu and if we are lucky, a chance to spot the Northern Pika in their rocky dwellings. We’ll eat lunch on the trail, enjoying tasty rice balls made by our hosts at Nukabira Onsen. Enroute we will also pass Shinonome Lake, a small but beautiful alpine lake nestled in the mountain’s highlands. The full day of hiking takes about 6 hours to complete.

After our hike, we’ll return to our base at Nukabira Onsen, where we’ll have the chance to enjoy their wonderful hot springs once more.

Hike 8.4 km with 740 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Nukabira Onsen
Day 5

Rest day at Akan Onsen

This morning we will have a lazy start then check out of our accommodation and drive 2.5 hours to Lake Akan, a scenic caldera lake in the Akan-Mashu National Park. Along the way, we will stop into the Akankohan Eco Museum Centre and enjoy a short forest hike to the bokke, where you can observe volcanic mud bubbling up from underground.

After arrival, you are free to rest and/or explore Lake Akan at your leisure for the rest of the day! 

Lake Akan is home to many Ainu families and artisans, whose workshops and galleries are found along the street at the Lake Akan Ainu Kotan. We highly recommend going for a wander around the Kotan and visiting the Ainu-run shops.

Stay Hotel at Akan Onsen
Day 6

Hike up Mt. Meakan

After breakfast at the hotel, we will drive half an hour to the trailhead of Mt. Meakan. As before, we will stop by a store in the village to shop for lunch.

Mt. Meakan 1,499m is an iconic mountain in the area, providing spectacular views of steaming vents and a little blue lagoon at the summit.

The loop hike takes you through a diverse landscape, ancient conifer forests, dwarf pine trees and rocky alpine slopes. Hardy alpine flowers make this volcanic environment their home, the colourful patches lifting your spirits as you climb. Some of these flowers are even named after the peak, such as Meakan-fusuma, a type of sandwort. Towards the end of the hike we find ourselves on the shore of Lake Onneto, a tranquil lake nestled in an old-growth forest.

After completing our hike, we will transfer to Kawayu Onsen, a charming hot spring town nestled between Lakes Kussharo and Mashu where we will stay tonight. We’ll dine at our accommodation and we highly recommend enjoying Kawayu Onsen’s famous hot spring baths to soothe your body after today’s hike.

Hike 10.4 km with 920 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Kawayu Onsen
Day 7

Hike up Mt. Mokoto

After breakfast at our accommodation, we will check out and drive 1hr 15mins to the trailhead of Mt. Mokoto. We will hike to the summit of the mountain today and we will pick up lunch at a store in Kawayu Onsen before arriving at the trailhead at the north end of Lake Kussharo.

The Mt. Mokoto ( 1,000m ) trail is easygoing yet has fantastic views of the lake on a clear day and Nakajima island at its centre. On a clear day we can see back across to Mt. Meakan, which we conquered yesterday!

After we descend the mountain, we’ll make our way to a local restaurant where we can enjoy a tasty late lunch. As our cool-down, we will take a relaxed, flat stroll around the active volcano Mt. Iozan. The walkways allow us to get close to the area’s unique plant life and we have the chance to take a look at volcanic fumaroles up close (though not too close– that steam is hot!) 

After we are finished marvelling at the power of the Earth, we will return to our accommodation in Kawayu onsen. You can once again soak in the famous hot-spring baths, this time with first hand knowledge of where that hot water is coming from.

Hike 8.3 km with 655 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Kawayu Onsen
Day 8

Hike up Mt. Nishibetsu and Mt. Mashu

This morning, we will have an early breakfast and pick up something for lunch before we head to the trailhead of Mt. Nishibetsu, our hike for today. 

The hike starts with a gentle and steady uphill through the forest. We will soon reach the short steep climb over Gaman-zaka (translates as "endurance hill”), which pushes us above the tree line with an open panorama. 

The first peak, Mt. Risuke ( 787m) , gives us our first glimpse of Lake Mashu on a clear day, part of Akan-Mashu National Park. From there, the pleasant ridgeline takes us onto Mt. Nishibetsu ( 800m) , from where we can admire the steep cliffs of the caldera encompassing Lake Mashu. We’ll continue to a fork in the road where we will stop for a picnic lunch in the mountains. 

We’ll then take a trail branching off all the way to Mt. Mashu ( 857m ), from where we can see incredible views of the caldera lake it shares its name with on a clear day. We will drive for an hour to a traditional Japanese inn by Lake Notoro.

Hike 14.2 km with 840 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Lake Notoro
Day 9

Farewell

Our tour finishes in the morning in Abashiri. After breakfast, we check out of our accommodation. We will drop you off at either JR Abashiri train station or Abashiri Memanbetsu Airport (MMB), depending on your onward travel.

From the train station you can catch a Limited Express train to Sapporo. From the airport you can fly directly to Tokyo Haneda (HND). We will bid our farewells as you set off to your next destination in Japan. Itterashai!

What Guests Say

Adventure Hokkaido guests and guides Richard & Yuka at Midori Pond, Daisetsu Kogen.

Everywhere we went we were made to feel welcome.


The tour was a great balance of picturesque walks, excellent food, different accommodation and cultural immersion. Our guides worked really well as a team, worked hard to ensure we got the most out of our trip and were great fun to be with. The walks were through a variety of terrain and our guides knew the tracks very well. Everywhere we went we were made to feel welcome. Adventure Hokkaido is a great way to visit this lesser travelled part of Japan.

Geoff from Australia

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Travel Style

This hiking tour is a series of day hikes; either return, loop or traverse routes. We always come back to our van at the end of the day and transfer to our accommodation. This means your overnight luggage can stay in the van and you can experience the best of the Daisetsuzan and Akan-Mashu’s hiking with just a light day pack! Even on Day 2, the longest day where we traverse across the roof of Hokkaido from Asahidake Onsen to Sounkyo, your luggage will be transferred by van, ready to meet you at the end of the day’s hiking.