Mt. Tokachi (十勝岳)
Mt. Tokachi is an active volcano, and one of the great symbols of Daisetsu-zan National Park. The image of the peak hovering above the clouds from Mt. Biei is a memory I’ll cherish forever.
The hike: From the bus stop, take the gravel road that starts next to the hotel. The initial trail is pretty easy going, but soon you’ll reach a trail junction, where the real climb begins. Take the trail going to the right, towards Kamihoro Bunki (上ホロ分岐). It should take about an hour before reaching the junction. Turn left here and climb up the wooden steps. There must be at least 5 or 6oo steps built into the volcanic landscape, but eventually (with enough perseverance) you’ll reach the rocky ridge line. Turn left once you do reach it and make your way to the summit of Tokachi. It’ll take about an hour or so to reach the top, where you’ll have outstanding views of the rest of Daisetsu-zan Nat’l Park. Tokachi is a very shy mountain, so consider yourself lucky if the cloud isn’t in. From the peak you’ve got several options. You can either take the trail to the left, which will take you to Bougakudai (望岳台) in about 3 hours. This is in fact the most popular trail to the summit, but there’s no public transport, so you’ll have to either hitch or take a taxi if you go this route. The trail to the right makes its way through a massive scree field before leading up to Mt. Biei (美瑛岳) and the main trekking route to Asahidake. You could also retrace your steps all the way back to the hot spring and reward yourself with a bath. Whichever route you choose to take, you should definitely consider stopping by Fukiagerotenburo (吹上露天風呂), an wonderful, free, mixed, outdoor bath located in the Tokachi vicinity. Click here for some English information. It’s by far one of the best hot springs in Japan.
When to go: This hike can be done from late May to late September without too much trouble. The winter starts early in Hokkaido, and a winter ascent is also possible, but only with the proper avalanche training. 4 people were killed in an avalanche on November 23, 2007, so please heed the warnings.
Access: From Sapporo (札幌) station, take the JR limited express ‘Super Kamui’ to Asahikawa (旭川) station. From there, change to the JR Furano line (富良野線) and get off at Kami-Furano (上富良野) station. At Kami-Furano, take a bus bound for Tokachi-dake Onsen (十勝岳温泉) and get off at the last stop. Click here for the bus schedule. As of 2009, it appears that the bus departs from the town hospital (町立病院) instead of in front of the station. It’s best to ask the tourist information center at Kamifurano station. They definitely speak English there and will be able to get you sorted.
Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~1100m).