Shikotsu–Toya 6 Day Winter Hiking Tour

The steaming fumaroles in Noboribetsu Hell Valley in winter.

Explore a land of ice and fire as we make our way through the snow-capped volcanoes of Shikotsu–Toya National Park. As well as the spectacular views, you can enjoy learning all about the indigenous Ainu and Hokkaido’s fascinating wildlife.

Shikotsu–Toya National Park lies close to Sapporo and is home to a number of spectacular caldera lakes and steaming active volcanoes. The volcanoes concentrated in the region have of course given rise to several natural hot springs, meaning that it is popular among domestic Japanese visitors for its many resorts. For us, however, it is not the resorts that we are interested in but the amazing landscape that makes this national park perfect for adventure travel.

As well as the warm hot springs, it is also home to rich forests, fascinating geological hikes and incredible wildlife. In winter, mountain trails open up as snowshoeing routes that allow the adventurous to experience the unique sight of fiery volcanoes capped with Hokkaido’s magical snow and pure blue caldera lakes surrounded by white mountain rings.

Tour Highlights

Get up close and personal with Shikotsu–Toya National Parks's active volcanoes

Explore active volcanic landscapes, seeing the power of our Earth in steaming fumaroles and bubbling boiling springs.

Enjoy breathtaking winter vistas

Donning snowshoes allows us to reach areas usually impassable in summer, offering unique views that can only be enjoyed in winter.

Warm your body with natural hot springs

In the volcanic circle of Shikotsu-Toya National Park, there's no shortage of hot springs to warm us up after our time out in the cold.

Keep your eyes peeled for Hokkaido's wildlife

Being a protected area, animal life is abundant and you may well meet with Japanese Deer and various species of birds on tour.

Itinerary

Day 1

The group assembles at Sapporo New Chitose Airport (CTS)

Our group will gather between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm either at New Chitose Airport or JR Chitose Station. As soon as everyone is here, we will hit the ground running and head to our first destination immediately, so please make sure you have eaten a good lunch before meeting us!

We’ll transfer by van to Lake Shikotsu, chatting and getting to know each other along the way. We will make a stop enroute, which will differ depending on the season. In January and March, we will enjoy a walk around Lake Utonai’s sanctuary, where we can enjoy the sight of winter migratory birds like Whooper Swans, congregating on the lake. In February, we will enjoy the sight of frozen waterfalls enroute to Lake Shikotsu.

Tonight, we will enjoy amazing onsen (hot springs) with a lake view, as well as a delicious dinner provided by our Japanese accommodation. You can also expect to see a number of Japanese Deer strolling through the area!

Walk 4.8 km with 30 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Lake Shikotsu
Day 2

Hike up Mt. Monbetsu

Today we will get accustomed to snowshoes and confront the first challenge of hiking up Mt. Monbetsu. 

This is a very popular route among local snowshoers with a steady gradient and a wide road. On the way up, we'll enjoy the incredible view of Lake Shikotsu, Mt. Fuppushi and Mt. Tarumae, all of which we can see across the lake. Crossing the tree line, we can even see as far as Mt. Eniwa, an active volcano, out in the other direction on a clear day. After our descent, we'll have a late lunch at one of the restaurants in the village. 

If you are travelling in late January through to late February, later today you can head to the shores of Lake Shikotsu to enjoy a fantastic Ice Festival! This is a chance to see some amazing ice sculptures perfectly preserved during Hokkaido’s frigid winters. 

Later, we’ll enjoy another delicious meal at our ryokan and you’re of course welcome to take another dip in the hot springs!

NOTE : There is a chance that Hokkaido's wild winter weather may make conditions unfit for us to head to the summit. If that turns out to be the case, we will instead snowshoe on a different trail at lower altitudes near Lake Shikotsu.

Snowshoe 7.9 km with 530 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Lake Shikotsu
Day 3

Visit the Upopoy National Ainu Museum & Noboribetsu Jigokudani

This morning we will leave Lake Shikotsu behind and travel south to Shiraoi along the Pacific coast. You can enjoy some wonderful ocean views as we go!

Our destination is Lake Poroto and the adjacent Upopoy National Ainu Museum, set in a large park. This is the first and only national museum in Japan dedicated to the Ainu and visitors can learn all about their culture and history. Entrance is included in the tour, but you will be left to explore the park completely at your leisure. 

We will regroup for lunch at a restaurant in the park before we head to Jigokudani in Noboribetsu Onsen. “Jigokudani” means “hell valley” and the name is very appropriate for this literal fire-and-brimstone area, home to many steaming volcanic vents! We will get as close as possible, observing the vents from the safety of a railed boardwalk. This is an area that is hugely popular during the autumn leaf season. However, it is quieter during the winter months and the valley looks incredibly pretty dressed in snow! The cold temperatures also make the rising steam all the more pronounced.

A highlight of our day is Oyunuma, a 50C steaming sulphurous pond. Although this temperature would be dangerous to humans, a river flows out of the pond and cools to safer levels a little further downstream. So, we can enjoy an ashiyu – a hot spring foot bath! This is entirely optional of course but you might enjoy the chance to warm up your toes in this freezing weather.

After the walk, we will check into our accommodation and enjoy a wonderful Japanese-style meal. You are also highly encouraged to take a dip in our ryokan’s onsen– though of course, they will probably be quite a bit cooler than 50C!

Walk 4 km with 80 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Noboribetsu Onsen
Day 4

Hike up Mt. Usu

Together with Lake Toya and Showa Shinzan on the northern side, Mt. Usu, an active stratovolcano, is another popular destination for domestic and international visitors. 

Today we'll hike up the mountain from the southern side through snow-covered old-growth forests. We will climb all the way to the crater rim, from where we will be able to see a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean on one side and Mt. Usu’s impressive, steaming crater on the other. We will continue our climb up to the crater observatory, where we can safely observe the crater itself. Afterwards, we will retrace our steps and descend the mountain.

We’ll stop by a local convenience store to stock up on food for lunch before we head to Showa Shinzan for a quick photo stop. Showa-Shinzan is a volcanic lava dome whose formation is quite recent– 1943~1945, in fact! It’s very humbling to witness a volcano so soon after its birth.

After our photo stop, we will travel inland to Jozankei Onsen. Fun fact– although Jozankei is technically within Sapporo City, it is still a part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park!

Dinner will be served at our accommodation this evening. As always, don’t forget to check out the facility’s attached hot springs!

Snowshoe 5.2 km with 380 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Jozankei Onsen
Day 5

Hike up Mt. Kokimobetsu

This morning we will drive for about 30 minutes to the Mt. Kokimobetsu trailhead. The drive will take us over Nakayama Pass, which links Sapporo and popular ski resort Niseko. 

When we reach the mountain’s car park, we will begin our ascent. Not long into the hike, we will be greeted by the magnificent sight of Mt. Yotei in the distance, also known as Ezo-Fuji due to its uncanny resemblance to Mt. Fuji (“Ezo” is the old Japanese word for Hokkaido).

Today’s trail is not too steep and the summit is below the tree line at 970m . However, copious amounts of snowfall, some of the highest in Hokkaido, along with good access make Mt. Kokimobetsu a popular spot for local snow hikers and skiers. 

As always, we will carry plenty of provisions with us for the day but after our descent, we will stop by Roadside Station Nakayama Pass to warm ourselves up with some hot drinks and food. A visit to a Japanese Roadside Station is quite an experience in itself! We recommend exploring the facility to see what unusual local souvenirs, specialities and goods you can spot.

Afterwards, we will hop back into our van and return to base at Jozankei Onsen. Tonight, we will dine together to celebrate the completion of our tour. 

NOTE : There is a chance that Hokkaido's wild winter weather may make conditions unfit for us to carry out today’s planned snowshoe hike. If that turns out to be the case, we will instead stay in Jozankei Onsen and spend a leisurely day enjoying the village on foot.

Snowshoe 6.2 km with 440 m climbing
Stay Ryokan at Jozankei Onsen
Day 6

Farewells in Jozankei

Otsukaresama desu! (Good job!) Our tour finishes after breakfast today. 

If you are returning to Sapporo, the handy highway bus “Kappa Liner” departs from Jozankei every couple of hours and can take you directly to Sapporo Station, Odori or Susukino. The journey is just 1 hour with no changes. Tickets cost 2,200 yen and need to be purchased online by 5 pm the day before. Make sure you discuss this with your guide after your Mt. Kokimobetsu climb if you wish to use this service and they can provide you with the web link.

An alternative to the mentioned bus is catching the No. 7 or 8 local express buses from Jozankei Onsen headed for Sapporo Station, although they may not have as much space for luggage. A reservation is not required for this local bus, so you can pay the fare when you get off at Sapporo. The journey takes 70 - 80 minutes and costs 790 yen.

Have a safe onward journey! Itterasshai!

Dates & Prices

  • 2024

    1. January 29, 2024 - February 03, 2024
      Closed
    2. February 25, 2024 - February 29, 2024
      Closed
    3. March 03, 2024 - March 08, 2024
      Closed
    4. March 21, 2024 - March 26, 2024
      Closed
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Travel Style

This tour includes a series of active experiences that while easygoing will still allow you to experience the great outdoors and work up a bit of a sweat! We will be outdoors in subzero temperatures for up to 4 hours at a time before returning to the van and travelling to the next stop. While it is cold outside, it will be warm in the van and indoors. This makes it easy to warm back up, but makes good layering important - make sure you check the packing list below. Your luggage will stay in our van, freeing you up to enjoy the day’s adventure with only a light day pack. This tour also gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in Hokkaido’s culture, from the history of the indigenous Ainu through to modern Japanese hot spring culture.