Mt. Niseko Annupuri is the highest peak in the Niseko mountain range and popular with hikers throughout the year. The views across the valley towards Mt. Yotei are nothing short of magical.
The hike: Walk on the concrete road between Yama no Ie hut and the campground, where you’ll find the trailhead a short distance from the parking lot. Fill up on water at the campground, as there’s no water source on the mountain. The well-used trail crawls its way through a dense forest for the first half hour or so, before popping out of the trees onto the main ridge. About 15 minutes into your ascent, you’ll see an unmarked trail branch off towards the right. Ignore this path, as it leads to Mt. Moiwa and Niseko Annupuri ski resort. Stay towards the left and keep climbing. In clear weather it’s easy to see where you’re going, but if the cloud is in then be careful because there are no signposts or paint marks on the rocks. The views will start to open up when you hit the ridge, and you’ll see the summit peaks rising sharply across the col on your right. As you rise higher and higher above the tree line, the trail becomes much rockier. This is where the switchbacks start, making navigation a lot smoother than just shooting straight up the side of a steep mountain. After another 20 minutes of meandering towards your destination, the trail will flatten out, with the high point directly ahead. Continue straight ahead towards the summit of Niseko Annupuri, where you’ll be rewarded with a breaktaking view of Mt. Yotei across the valley. You can see whyYotei was nicknamed Ezo-fuji in the old days. There’s a concrete emergency hut here that smells of paint inside. Don’t stay here unless you have adequate water and want to have a chemical induced headache from inhaling all the harmful fumes. From the summit, you can either retrace your steps back to the hot spring, or take the trail directly in front of you that drops down into the ski resort. You’ll reach the ski lifts after about 10 minutes, where you can follow them all the way down to Hirafu. Another interesting option would be to turn left once you reach the top of Grand Hirafu Summer Gondola and follow the signs towards Kagami-ike (鏡池), which has beautiful mirror-like reflections of the surrounding peaks. From the lake, it’s another hour or so to the bus stop at Hanaen (花園), where you can take a bus back to Kucchan station.
When to go: This hike can be done year round if you approach from the top lift of the ski resort in the winter. Otherwise, aim to go when the road/bus to Goshiki Onsen is running between early July and late October. If you’ve got your own transport then you can go earlier in the season.
Access: From Niseko station (ニセコ駅), take a red-colored bus bound for Goshiki Onsen (五色温泉) and get off at the last stop. You can also take this bus from Kucchan station (倶知安). Please note that there are only 2 buses a day, one leaving Niseko station at 10:10am, and the other departing at 2:35pm. I recommend staying at the beautiful Goshiki Onsen Ryokan, where you’ll find 2 outstanding outdoor baths. The lodge across the street (Niseko Yama no Ie) is a bit run down but has a very friendly/helpful manager and a nice bath as well. Click here for the bus schedule.
Map: You can get a decent free map at the tourist information center at Kucchan station, or from the huts at Goshiki Onsen.
Live web cam: Click here
Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ～500m).