Posted on Jun 7, 2016
162 11

Posted on Jun 7, 2016
162 11
Reading time: 6 min
350km

Distance

7 days

Time

4110m

Ascent

760m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

100%

Paved

Easily accessible by Japan Rail train from Sapporo, this 350km Shiretoko cycle touring route around Hokkaido’s eastern reaches is world-class. World Heritage Site level, in fact. Enjoy the wide open coastal route from Abashiri to the Shiretoko Peninsula (World Heritage Site), before the grunt over the pass. Return via Lake Kussharo. Make it a two-week relaxing tour, or a week-long push. Best enjoyed in July or August.

Last updated Oct 26, 2018

Route Map

Route Overview

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would dispute that this eastern area is a gem in Hokkaido’s crown of natural beauty. For those cyclists with a month or so set aside for exploring Hokkaido, it should be a must-do on their itinerary. For cyclists with only a week or two, it may be a more difficult decision to make the trek out here.

For those shorter-term cyclists, the most convenient way to access this area is by Japan Rail. There are regular direct trains from Sapporo to Abashiri, which is what we used for our two-week meander around the area in 2012. Alternatively, a non-loop ride from Abashiri to Nemuro via the Shiretoko Peninsula could also be feasible; there are daily trains that will take you back to Sapporo from Nemuro.

Below, I outline a ride my wife and I completed around the area in 2012. Campsite information is up to date, however (as of June 2016), and during a cycle-and-drive trip out there in 2015, the views and natural beauty was still as gorgeous as ever. The Shiretoko Pass is a substantial one, but the views all the way up, and down, are spectacular on a good day. Absolutely worth the effort.

Note that the daily distances are fairly short in this route guide. Stronger riders on a tighter schedule could very easily merge many of the days below into longer one-day stretches.

Photo Gallery

Daily Route notes

↔ 42km | ↗ 200m | 🚵 100% paved | ↓ GPX file

With the Shiretoko Peninsula getting most of the attention, it is easy to underestimate this lovely section of coast. Make sure to drop in to the wild bird sanctuary, and head another 100m down the road to a small paddock where miniature horses are sometimes kept. Back on the main road and further along on the right side is a large paddock, home to larger horses. The wild flower covered sand dunes are said to be beautiful when in bloom, but we’ve always managed to miss them. Shari Town is a quaint little village, and the Soyokaze Campground is a worthy place to camp for the night. Approaching Shari Village, it is recommended to stay off the busy Route 244; the side roads are quiet and much more welcoming.

Onsen: Green Onsen (グリーン温泉) | 420yen | 4km from accommodation

Miniature horses at Lake Tofutsuko (Hokkaido, Japan)

↔ 37km | ↗ 560m | 🚵 100% paved | ↓ GPX file

Today’s ride thrusts you into the guts of the gorgeous Shiretoko National Park. Once you’ve conquered the 5km or so of narrow road at the very start of the peninsula, the route opens out to a wide, well kept road with a wide raised foot path on the ocean side. The old kissaten (cafe, location here) overlooking a little fishing port, just before the widened road is worth dropping into. The interior is dated, but the owner is lovely and they have a great view. The coffee is typical Japanese kissaten style: dark and strong.

The rest of the coast towards Utoro is pure bliss on a nice day. And at the end of it is the fantastic Shiretoko Campground. Run by the Japanese government, this campground overlooks Utoro, and is frequented by wild but surprisingly tame deer. They’ll quite happily curl up next to your tent for the night. There are plenty of onsen options nearby, and if you arrive early enough, you’ll have time to drop your gear at the campground and do an unloaded 15km sprint to the Five Lakes area.

Accommodation: Shiretoko National Campground (国設知床野営場) | 400 yen per person

Onsen: Utoroonsen Yuhidai Hot Spring (ウトロ温泉夕陽台の湯) | 500yen | 0.3km from accommodation

Shiretoko Cycle Touring Route

↔ 30km | ↗ 600m | 🚵 100% paved | ↓ GPX file

This beautiful 30km return trip is well worth the climbs involved. Along the way, you’re very likely to see wild Hokkaido deer alongside the road, as well as bushy-tailed foxes. The road is in perfect condition all the way to the Five Lakes information center, where short (<1hr) hiking trails can be accessed in exchange for 500yen (and a mandatory 10 minute bear safety lecture). As of August 2012, the gravel road beyond the information center is unfortunately often closed to individual traffic during the day. UPDATE (2018/10/18): I have heard reports that it is now possible to walk/cycle the gravel road beyond the information center – inquire at the information center for up to date information.

  • Main attraction: Shiretoko Five Lakes hiking trails (info). Around 500yen to access the trails (500yen is the cost of the 10 minute, mandatory bear safety lecture).

Accommodation: Shiretoko National Campground (国設知床野営場) | 400 yen per person

Onsen: Shiretoko Yuuni-no-Ataru Ie (知床 夕陽のあたる家) | 1000yen | 0.2km from accommodation

Shiretoko Cycle Touring Route

↔ 34km | ↗ 800m | 🚵 100% paved | ↓ GPX file

On a good day, this ride over the Shiretoko Pass is spectacular. From the top you can see Russia, and the majestic mountains all around stand crisp and clear. We’ve cycled it in both brilliant weather and also when we had driving rain in our faces the entire way up and down. Either way, the road cuts through wild native forest, and the free outdoor kuma-no-yu (bear’s hot spring – location) just before Rausu should not be missed. The Rausu Onsen Campground is just over the road from Kuma-no-yu and while we’ve never stayed there, I hear it can be a nice place to stay (albeit busy in the summer season).

Onsen: Kuma-no-Yu Onsen (羅臼温泉 熊の湯) | 0yen | 0.3km from accommodation

Shiretoko Cycle Touring Route

↔ 60km | ↗ 400m | 🚵 100% paved | ↓ GPX file

As fast as the preceding days thrust you into the heart of Hokkaido’s natural gem that is the Shiretoko National Park, today takes you out of the area along a coast heaving with small-scale fishing and kelp-harvesting. The route is flat, and there are longer distances between supplies. The Odaito Fureai Campground is highly recommended – coin laundry is available, and the onsen at the Odaito Seaside Hotel, just 10 minutes walk away, is great for tired muscles.

Onsen: Odaito Onsen (尾岱沼温泉) | 400yen | 1km from accommodation

Big Clydesdale-ish horses south of Rausu (Hokkaido, Japan)_7798501912_l

↔ 30km | ↗ 100m | 🚵 100% paved | ↓ GPX file

Notsuke Peninsula is best known for its dead pines sticking out of the marshes. While that doesn’t sound like much (and doesn’t bode well for when they rot and disappear all together), this thin spit of land jutting out of Hokkaido’s eastern coastline is teeming with wild sealife. You can see Russia from here too. If end-of-the-world, remote scenery sounds appealing, then the ferry ride and cycle back around the spit is worth the trip.

  • Ferry information: Tourist ferries from the central Odaito Port leave irregularly during the summer months, so check with the campground staff or tourist info in town. Ferry takes 30 minutes and includes some pottering around looking for seals. Info in Japanese here. Ferry costs around 2,000yen per person, and you can take bikes on for free.

Onsen: Odaito Onsen (尾岱沼温泉) | 400yen | 1km from accommodation

Notsuke Peninsula cycle touring Hokkaido Japan

↔ 59km | ↗ 380m | 🚵 100% paved | ↓ GPX file

There are more direct routes from Odaito to Nijibetsu than the one linked to above. But it is worth taking the time to ride some of the secondary roads in this dairy-intensive area, to get a feel for the small-scale farming in this part of the country. Lush green grass, curious cows, and quiet roads. Watch out for appearances of the majestic red-crested cranes too; they seem to like to hang out in the fields.

Cycle touring in eastern Hokkaido, Japan

↔ 56km | ↗ 800m | 🚵 100% paved | ↓ GPX file

To visit Lake Masshu or not to visit…that is the question. It is a stiff climb up to the rim of the caldera, and in all reality, it is only worth doing if the weather is perfect and clear. Which doesn’t happen all that often around Lake Masshu. If the weather looks iffy, then just head straight to Lake Kussharo from Teshikakga Town. With plenty of camping and hot spring options around Lake Kussharo, Lake Kussharo is a very worthy place to spend a night.

  • Campgrounds near Lake Kussharo: There are a couple of campsites at Lake Kussharo, all within about 5km of each other. The Sunayu Campground on the eastern shores of the lake (400yen per person, location) is fun – you can camp in front of a hot-spring you dig yourself in the sand. At the southern end, on the Wakoto Peninsula, are two campsites (location), one is free. Don’t miss the free outdoor onsen here. There’s also a 1000-yen a night Riders’ House at the end of the lake (location).

Accommodation: Sunayu Campground (砂湯キャンプ場) | 500 yen per person

Onsen: Kotan Outdoor Bath (コタン温泉露天風呂) | 0yen | 7.2km from accommodation

Lake Kussharo Cycle Touring

↔ 62km | ↗ 740m | 🚵 100% paved | ↓ GPX file

There’s not much to say about this last day. The last-hurrah grunt up and over the pass out of Lake Kussharo is short but sharp, and beyond that it is a flat day onwards to Abashiri.

If you really want a wash in Abashiri before getting on the train back to Sapporo, try the cheap and cheerful Tokiwa-yu Sento in the middle of town (here).

Accommodation: ()

Onsen: Tokiwa-yu Sento (ときわ湯) | 440yen | km from accommodation

Cycling from Lake Kussharo to Abashiri

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, and hiking route guide published on hokkaidowilds.org, 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. hokkaidowilds.org, 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.

hokkaidowilds.orgに掲載されるすべてのスキールート、自転車ツーリングルート、ハイキングルートと同様に、本ページに掲載される情報を利用し行動する場合、必ず自己責任で利用することを条件とします。出発する前に現地の天候や状況、通行止め情報などを確認しましょう。行動中は、公有地/私有地に関係なく必ず現地の利用条件を守るようにし、適切な安全装置や、コンパスや地図などのナビゲーション道具を身に着けてください。いうまでもありませんが、自然に与える人間の影響を少なくし、ゴミの持ち帰りをはじめ環境を傷をつけない(Leave No Trace)ようなアウトドア行動にしましょう。本サイトに掲載される情報はあくまで計画を立てるための一つの情報源に過ぎなく、行為者の先んじて払ってしかるべき正当な注意義務及び努力と合わせて利用することを条件とします。本ページのGPSトラック(GPXとKMLと地図)を含む情報は提供者のできる限り正確な調べにより提供しているものの、その情報の正確性や、提供者の行動判断は、hokkaidowilds.orgは一切の責任を負いかねなく保証できません。また、本ページに掲載される情報を利用することによるいかなる怪我、器物損壊等、その他事件 ・事故等においてhokkaidowilds.orgや本サイトの関係者は一切の責任を負いかねます。

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route or parts of it? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback or queries here. Thanks!

11 thoughts on “The Shiretoko Loop”

  1. Hi Rob,

    I messaged you about this time last year about doing this trip with our then 2 year old son. We didnt end up doing it but are now booked to go over in August, thanks to all the information on your website! (Since having our son, we are less likely to wing it on cycle tours, bit more planning and safer roads required!). I have a few questions if that’s ok…

    -last year we couldnt find a bike trailer to hire there, and bringing ours would have been a pain (part of the reason we didnt quite make it across), but now he’s bigger we may bring a more compact bike seat. My friend told me about the ‘mami chari’ there, not sure of your experience with these, but are there any for hire that you’ve seen? Are they the sorts of bikes that would be ok to use on a tour? However due to the costs of hiring bikes, we may end up just bringing our own gear anyway…. but your thoughts would be great anyhow…

    -there’s a whole other level of luggage required if camping, which is our preference, but just in case, are rider houses as regular as campgrounds? Just working out the camping vs. non-camping options (just due to the gear carrying….)

    -maps- i’m pretty old school with maps when riding and havent really dabbled too much in gps routes when riding….i will print your cue sheet as a guide but is there also an awesome detailed map i can print somewhere? I’m not sure the one ive seen on here is detailed enough… then again, maybe i should take the plunge into gps, ha ha!! I still like to have a hard copy in front of me…

    -if we end up putting bikes together at airport and catching train to Sapporo, do you think cycling around Sapporo with child is do-able/ safe? Might check it out a bit before heading to Abashiri..

    Thank you, still working on all our logistics of trip, your site is amazing and incredibly detailed, helpful when travelling with child 🙂
    Bianca (Australia)

    1. Hi Bianca, sorry for the delay in response.

      Mamachari. These are are certainly not condusive to comfortable touring, and I don’t really know of anywhere that hires them out.

      Rider houses shouldn’t really be relied on soley for accommodation. They can be few and far between, and some marked on the map may not be open.

      For maps I recommended the Touring Mapple. It is all in Japanese though. http://www.japancycling.org/v2/info/map.shtml

      Yes, Sapporo is great for cycling. Wide roads and generally forgiving traffic.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Oh wonderful! Thanks (sorry for my long essay questions…). Leaving next week 🙂 and will be camping and taking our trailer from home, which may be a pain on the train to Abashiri, we’ll just roll with it.

        Many thanks for such as super informative blog and for your help…. Bianca

  2. Hi Rob,
    Sending you a BIG THANK YOU for your website, and this trip route in particular. My partner and I just completed a 9 day version of this loop and really loved it. Your website helped us decide where to go and made me feel confidently prepared for my first bike touring trip!
    FYI We hired our bikes from Shiretoko Cycling Support (which we found via this page, another thing to thank you for) and we were really happy with the hire. Shigeo who runs the shop was so friendly and helpful, he even met us in Abashiri at both ends of the trip so we could do the full loop from Memanbetsu airport.
    Thanks again for this detailed site! If you ever need a place to crash or a bike to borrow in Sydney we would be happy to help you out.
    Jennifer and Neil

  3. Thank you for all the lovely details. I will be heading here during the last week of August. Since it is high season, do you think it is necessary to try to book the campgrounds ahead of time somehow, or will I be able to find a spot somewhere if I just show up?

    1. If you just show up, you will always be able to find a spot at campgrounds, even in the high season. You may be right next to someone else’s tent, but it is very unlikely that you’ll be turned away.

  4. Looks fantastic, thanks for such a greatly documented website ! We will head to Shiretoko this coming August and do the loop. As we have 2 children (one child per carriage) and our camping stuff, the passes might be quite tough but we will try and do our best 😄
    One question pls Rob, when arriving to Sapporo by plane from France, our bikes will be in packages (long flat cardboard boxes). Would that be accepted in the train to Abashiri, or do we have to look for specific bike bags? Would be definitely easier for us to keep them in the cardboard boxes… Any idea / advice ?

    1. Great to hear you are heading over this way. Your bike boxes will be fine on the train. When you board the train to Abashiri in Sapporo, I recommend you try to find where the very front or very end of the train will be. Put your bikes there, because then they won’t get in the way of others, and also there tends to be some extra room at the end or front. You can then go and find your seat once you have the bikes secured at the front or back.

  5. This is great,Rob! We are heading up to Shiretoko, early August to do some camping. I’ll be using your blog as a guide.

Comments are closed.

See More Like this