Posted on Feb 8, 2014
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Posted on Feb 8, 2014

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Here, we outline a fun route for cycling on the Ishikari Beach in winter. During Sapporo's -10°C winter, Ishikari Beach to the north of the city freezes solid like concrete. This is perfect for winter beach cycling in Sapporo. Wildlife loves the beach in winter, because normal people tend to stay away. Even on a bike, you'll need to wade through thigh-deep snow just to get to the clear beach at the water's edge. You'll see eagles, foxes, and perhaps a Hokkaido snow rabbit.

Last updated Feb 19, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details


This winter cycling route along the Ishikari Bay beach from the Ishikari Bay Shinko Port (石狩湾新港) to the Ishikari River river mouth is about 20km north of central Sapporo City. The start location on Google Maps is here.

General notes

The biggest highlight of this route is the Ishikari River river mouth. Tons of river ice per day pours out into the sea, only to be promptly washed back up onto the beach near the river mouth. It really is a sight to see. The best season for seeing this, and ensuring a well-frozen beach, is the mid-winter months of late January to mid-February.

  • What bike to bring? In the non-snow months, cycling on Ishikari beach generally requires a very fat fatbike. In winter, a mountain bike with relatively wide tires (anything above 2 inches) will suffice. There’s generally no need for studs on the tires because the sand gives plenty of grip.
  • Tides: At high tide, there will be very little room between the sea and a fair amount of snow above the high-tide line. Best to time this trip for low tide (check times here).
  • Accessing the beach: From the road to the beach is a 800m post-hole trek to the sand below the high tide line. You might want to bring snowshoes to make this section more bearable. Or at least gaiters to avoid filling your boots with snow.

Route markers

This not a marked route.

Route Timing

This route is a there-and-back-again route, as the Ishikari River banks are generally impassible by bike in winter. Including the trek through the snow to the sand at the beginning, bank on about 1 hour to the Ishikari River mouth, and 1 hour return, plus some extra time for sightseeing stops along the way.

Physical maps

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

Route safety

Notify the police of your backcountry plans online using Compass – instructions here.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Ishikari Beach
Other resources
Do you know of any? Let us know in the comments.
Onsen nearby

You’ll be relatively close to Banya-no-Yu Onsen, right next to the beach, further down towards the river mouth, here. 650yen per person, and they have a good restaurant too.

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Route Trip Notes

Upon Alex’s invitation, I went for a bike ride on Ishikari Beach today. In winter. Alex rides a fatbike. That means his tires are huge; made to float over soft stuff like sand. And snow. The only issue is access to the beach. This consisted of about 15 minutes of tough pushing through deep snow. The hope of clear, wave-washed beach further down kept us going.

On the upper end of the beach, there was a person on a snowboard using a kite-surfing kite on the beach, on the snow.

After some hefty pushing, however, a glorious sight greeted us. Little to no snow on the beach. And even better, the sand was frozen solid like concrete. With my skinnier 29×2.25 tires, this was a relief! It was a beautiful day for it. Sun, clear visibility, and around -5 degrees C.

Alex was on 4.8-inch tires. I was on 2.25-inch. Quite the difference in terms of float: The wider the tires, the less they sink into soft stuff. But when everything’s frozen (and so long as there wasn’t too much snow), my bike handled it OK.

It was amazing to see wild foxes, and even more amazing to see Hokkaido sea eagles. Massive majestic creatures.

We cycled all the way from Ishikari Port to the end of the beach at the north end, where Ishikari River meets the sea. The further we got north, the more ice we saw. And a fascinating phenomenon: small slithers of ice washing up on the beach like pebbles.

It was a hard slog back the way we had come; the afternoon sun had softened the beach a little. Or was it just my tired legs?

All in all, it was an amazing morning/afternoon out. Thanks for the idea Alex!

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, and hiking route guide published on, should you choose to follow the information on this page, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road/track closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow leave-no-trace procedures. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this information, associated GPS track (GPX, KML and maps), and all information was prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed., its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following the information contained in this post.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route up to Ishikari Beach? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback or queries here. Thanks!

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