Higashikawa to Asahidake Ropeway Cycling Route

Posted on Sep 15, 2019
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Posted on Sep 15, 2019

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29 0
Reading time: 3 min
63km

Distance

1 days

Time

1177m

Ascent

1104m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

100%

Paved

This classic road-riding route from the funky town of Higashikawa to the foot of Hokkaido's highest peak takes in lush rice paddies, wild rivers, massive alpine views, a lake, and pristine national park forest. For those doing the trip 100% under their own steam, it is a gorgeous, rewarding climb, with a number of onsen options at the Asahidake Onsen area, as well as a restaurant at the Asahidake Ropeway. If you'd rather take the sting out the ride, electric assist bikes can be hired from the Higashikawa Information Center for 1000yen for 6 hours.

This post was sponsored by Welcome-Higashikawa.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

This one day cycle route is located in Higashikawa Town, just south of Asahikawa City, at the base of Asahidake, Hokkaido’s highest peak. The ride runs through a section of the Daisetsuzan National Park in central Hokkaido. The ride starts and finishes at the Higashikawa Tourist Information Center, here.

General notes

As mentioned above, Higashikawa stands out among rural towns in Hokkaido as being progressive and modern, while maintaining a down-to-earth vibe. As such, you’ll find plenty of high quality good value restaurants and cafes along this route, particularly on the return via the main road into the town. There’s plenty of variety along the route too, with natural spring water, the Chubetsu River and lake, and of course the Daisetsuzan National Park.

  • Cycling the route in winter: This route is perfectly cycle-able in winter, for those with the appropriate bike and clothing. We recommend studded tires with a width of at least 2-inches. A studded cross-bike tire wouldn’t be impossible, but it’ll depend greatly on the condition of the road – i.e., how recently it has been ploughed.

Route markers

Starting from the Higashikawa Tourist Information Center next to the Montbell store (here), head southwest towards the Chubetsu River. Once you’re at the river, you’ll find a paved cycle path along the top of the stopbanks. Follow this till you can’t go any further. Turn left and then right, to take you towards the Chubetsu Dam. This is the first stiff climb of the route. After this, you’ll be cycling along a more or less flat road on the northern side of Chubetsu Lake. Consider this your rest before the proper climb starts. On this flat section, you’ll pass the Gensui Park – make sure to drop in here to fill your water bottles with pure, fresh spring water. Around the end of the lake it is time to drop the gears and settle in for a long gradual climb for 750 vertical meters to Asahidake Onsen. We’ve cycled much steeper paved roads in Hokkaido, so we’d rate this climb as a stiff moderate climb. Of course that’s with no luggage on the bike. Along the way you’ll probably see deer, foxes, and the odd fisherman wandering in the rivers as you pass high above on bridges across the gorges. Once you’re at Asahidake Onsen, keep plodding on till you get to the Asahidake Ropeway – this is the only place in town for lunch or snacks. There’s a restaurant on the second floor.

On the return, we suggest going via the southern side of the lake for a change of scenery. This side of the lake is in Biei Town. At the end of the lake, head back across the Chubetsu River and follow the main road back into Higashikawa Township, stopping in at any (or all) of the cafes and shops along the way.

Route Timing

Fit and strong cyclists will likely complete the climb in about 2-3 hours. With a roaring descent, you could finish this entire route in about 4-5 hours. Allow at least 6 hours though, in order to smell the roses and enjoy the scenery. If the thought of climbing for 3 hours entirely under your own steam doesn’t appeal, the Higashikawa Information Center hires out electric bikes for 1000yen for 6 hours. They’ll hold enough charge to get you up the hill, so long as you keep the electric assist set to the lowest setting.

Physical maps

Explore the official Japan topomaps online for the area around Asahidake Ropeway here. Follow these instructions to print out the area you would like as a hardcopy.

Route safety

From the 10km point all the way to Asahidake Onsen, there’s nowhere to buy food. Make sure to be well stocked with high energy snacks before you leave Higashikawa Township. Also note that the descent from Asahidake Onsen is fast. Keep speed under control, and be particularly vigilant when the road is wet. If attempting this route in winter, make extra sure to wear highly visible clothing, and choose a day with no snow or wind forecast – the road up to Asahidake Onsen is busier in winter than summer, and traffic won’t be expecting a bike on the road.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Asahidake Ropeway
Other resources
Do you know of any? Let us know in the comments.
Onsen nearby

In the Asahidake Onsen area there are a number of good onsen to choose from. Our pick of the bunch is Yukoman Onsen (湯元 湧駒荘, location, 800yen), with their massive, cathedral-like high-ceiling wooden onsen complex. If you’d rather leave the onsen till later in the trip, consider staying on the Biei Town side of Chubetsu River, and visiting Hanakagura (森のゆ ホテル花神楽, location, 650yen) – they have a good selection of baths, including good outdoor baths.

Photo Gallery

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Route Trip Notes

We did the climb from Chubetsu Lake to Asahidake Ropeway as part of Monbell’s Asahidake Sea to Summit event in August 2019. We’d heard that the event wasn’t a race, but after posting a pretty good time on the lake in our Canadian canoe, we were feeling confident we’d fly up the mountain too.

Reality soon hit, however, as we were passed one by one by people who had started the paddling section much later than us. It seemed we were the only ones not on sleek lightweight road bikes. Except perhaps the family on the e-bikes – their 12 year old kid flew past us about as nonchalantly as one could when ‘cycling’ up a 750m mountain climb. We were on our folding touring bikes though, so we settled in for a slow slog up the mountain in we foggy conditions. At least it wasn’t raining, we thought.

Along the way, we heard bells ringing. After a few confusing moments, we realized they were coming from the river below the bridge we were on. We took a look over the railing, and far below us were two fishermen wandering along a small stream, stopping every now and then to cast a line into a small pool. The bells they were wearing were, of course, bear bells. The Daisetsuzan Range is a prime habitat for the Hokkaido brown bear.

In a rather cruel twist of fate, after we’d done the hiking portion of the Sea to Summit event (post here), as per race rules we weren’t allowed to cycle back down. Safety first, so we got a motorized shuttle back down the mountain.  But not before we’d checked out the brand new Asahidake Visitor’s Center – a beautiful wooden structure with great hiking and national park information.

As mentioned above in the route guide, we’ve cycled a number of times in the Higashikawa area. In the lower plains near Higashikawa, we’ve enjoyed gorgeous rice-fields, quite unique to this part of Hokkaido. We’ve cycled on stop-bank cycle paths along rivers, completely separate from traffic. This trip to Higashikawa this time around was at the request of Higashikawa Town itself, but I can see us back there again some time to explore some more of its nooks and crannies.

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