Distance: 75km | Ascent: 1300m | Paved: 15% | ↓ GPX file
Day One starts with some ‘bread and butter’ Hokkaido gravel, which begins about 10km north of Mukawa Town center. The first two sections of gravel are open to the general public. As of August 2018, the Tanko-atsuma Rindo forestry road (炭鉱厚真川林道) from just beyond the Atsuma Dam is gated and marked as closed to traffic, due to a missing bridge.
Also note that Mukawa Town was very close to the epicenter of Hokkaido’s largest recorded earthquake (a 7 on Japan’s 7-point scale) in early September 2018. The associated mass-landslides that occured in this region may have further damaged forest roads in the area.
- Supplies: Mukawa Town has a Seikomart Convenience Store; this is your best bet to stock up for the next three days. There are some basic supplies (snacks, maybe veges, instant noodles etc.) available at Hobetsu campground.
- Forestry roads used
- Tanko-atsuma Rindo forestry road (炭鉱厚真川林道)
Blog post: Day 1 – Mukawa to Hobetsu Campground
Accommodation: Hobetsu Campground (穂別キャンプ場) | 520 yen per tent
Onsen: Jukai Onsen Hakua (樹海温泉はくあ) | 520yen | 4km from accommodation
Distance: 75km | Ascent: 1343m | Paved: 50% | ↓ GPX file
Day Two takes a shortcut to Shimukappu Town via the now closed Route 610 via Niniu, and then takes in the Soshubetsu River valley on a circuitous route to the sleepy town of Tomamu. Route 610 is a curious one. One moment you’re on gravel, the next you’re on a beautiful (but abandoned) two-lane paved road with road lights, and then you’re back to gravel again. The incongruity of it all is quite fascinating.
If you’re into rock-climbing, you’ll be interested to know that the route goes past one of Japan’s premiere climbing spots, Aka’iwa Seigan-kyo (gorge of red boulders and greenery).
The Soshubetsu Rindo (双珠別林道) was open to the public until a few years ago, but is all but defunct now due to major typhoon damage to the road. There is at least no vehicular access possible, even by motorbike, even if you tried. It may be off limits – obey all signs posted.
- Supplies: Some shops in Shimukappu Village. Nothing in Tomamu.
- Forestry roads used: Soshubetsu Rindo (双珠別林道)
- Camping: There aren’t any campgrounds in Tomamu. You might want to try wild camping near the Tomamu JR Station.
Blog post: Day 2 – Hobetsu to Tomamu
Accommodation: Wild camp near Tomamu Train station (トマム駅付近で野宿)
Onsen: Tomamu Resort Kirin-no-yu (トマムリゾート木林の湯) | 800yen | 1.6km from accommodation
Distance: 55km | Ascent: 630m | Paved: 80% | ↓ GPX file
Day Three takes a circuitous route from Tomamu to Sahoro via a gorgeous (and as of August 2018 well-maintained and open) stretch of gravel between Tomamu and Minami-Furano. Beyond that it’s on pavement over one of two main road passes over the Hidaka mountain range, the Karikachi Pass. The top of the pass offers expansive and inspiring views across the Tokachi Plains to the east.
- Supplies: Minami-Furano Town has a small Coop supermarket (here) and a couple of convenience stores (Seikomart here and 7/11 here). There’s also a Michi-no-eki in town with a 24hr toilet (here). It is best to stock up in Minami-Furano for the next few days of riding, as there’s very little in the way of shops between here and Kamishihoro Town, at least two days riding away.
Blog post: Day 3 – Tomamu to Sahoro
Accommodation: Sahoro Resort Karikachi-kogen Campground (狩勝高原キャンプ場) | Free
Onsen: Sahoro Resort (サホロリゾート) | 900yen | 0.8km from accommodation
Distance: 67km | Ascent: 1300m | Paved: 20% | ↓ GPX file
Day four on the beta-version Trans-Hokkaido Bikepacking Route drives north into the roof of Hokkaido, the Daisetsu mountain range. Look forward to beautiful sub-alpine surroundings, with the Tokachi Range as a backdrop. You’ll start on pavement from the Sahoro Karikachi-kogen Campground, but soon veer off the main road onto the (in)famous Penke-nikorobetsu Rindo Forestry Road. The onsen at the end of the day at Tomuraushi Onsen is worth the effort you’ll put in – the open-air baths are right next to the river.
As of August 2018, the Penkenikorobetsu Rindo is officially closed to general traffic due to a few (navigable by hike-a-bike) washouts. When we were there in August 2018, the road clearly had not seen any vehicular access for at least a few years.
- Supplies: Tomuraushi Onsen has some basic foodstuffs, such as 500-600 calorie large-size instant ramen (the shop staff will supply hot water). Perfect for a post-onsen snack. The small shop also has snacks such as nuts, raisins, and cookies etc.
- Forestry roads used
- Penke-nikorobetsu Rindo Forestry Road (ペンケニコロベツ林道)
- Shiitokachi Rindo (シイトカチ林道)
Blog post: Day 4 – Sahoro to Tomuraushi
Accommodation: Tomuraushi Campground (トムラウシ自然休養林野営場) | 250 yen per person
Onsen: Tomuraushi Onsen (国民宿舎 トムラウシ温泉東大雪荘) | 500yen | 1.1km from accommodation
Distance: 60km | Ascent: 1100m | Paved: 70% | ↓ GPX file
On day 5, you’ll have your sights set on arguably one of Hokkaido’s best wild onsen hotspring areas in the Shikaribetsu Gorge. Mercifully, the gravel-road shortcut (unmarked on Google Maps) connecting Route 718 and 1088 is (as of August 2018) open to general traffic, and in good condition. You’ll be cycling through quiet forest, with green ferns lining the road.
Below, I have set Gakeshita-no-yu Onsen (崖下の湯 | literally: Hotspring Below the Cliff) as the onsen of the day, which is an easy 1.5km ride along a gravel road upstream from the campground. There’s no vehicular access to this onsen, so you’ll likely have it to yourself. Really, you should make the effort – right next to the river, it is absurdly beautiful. The easier option is the Shika-no-yu (鹿の湯 | literally: Deer Hotspring), which is about a 1.5 minute walk from the campground (here).
The wild onsen here are mixed-gender (strictly no bathing suits allowed, according to a sign at the entrance of the campground), so if you’d rather not mix it up, then the Kanno Onsen about 750m from the campground (here) offers the usual onsen facility experience for 650yen per person. The paid option will also appeal during late July to late August to escape the biting horse flies.
- Supplies: There is a small shop in Tomuraushi Village (here) that also makes awesome fresh venison sandwiches. Order a few to go and you’ll be set for lunch. Otherwise, there’s nothing in the way of supplies today. The onsen at Shikaribetsu Gorge, just up from the campground, sells beer and potato crisps, so don’t expect anything there (they don’t offer meals to non-staying guests).
- Forestry roads used
- Usoushisaraunnai Rindo (ウソウシサラウンナイ林道)
Blog post: Day 5 – Tomuraushi to Shikaribetsu Gorge
Accommodation: Shikaribetsu Gorge Camping Area (然別峡野営場) | 250 yen per person
Onsen: Gake-shita-no-yu (崖下の湯) | 0yen | 1.5km from accommodation
Distance: 30km | Ascent: 610m | Paved: 70% | ↓ GPX file
Day 6 is somewhat of a moving ‘rest’ day. It starts with some varying-quality gravel connecting Shikaribetsu Gorge with the Horoshika Pass road. If you’re not strapped for supplies, then it’s about 30km from Shikaribetsu Gorge to Nukabira Onsen. If you’re in need of a full re-supply, then you’ll want to take the opportunity to do that in Kamishihoro Town (there’s a campground there, the Kamishihoro Park Campground | 上士幌航空公園キャンプ場 – here).
If you do choose to head to Kamishihoro Town, then make sure you don’t miss the ‘Siddle Sizzler’. This is a 620m vertical-drop, 12km stretch of consistently loose/deep gravel, possibly the longest and most sustained gravel road descent in Hokkaido (‘discovered’ by Rick Siddle, hence the name). It starts from the top of Hokkaido’s second-highest road pass, the Horoshika Pass (1,081m | here), which you’ll be going over regardless of whether you choose to go to Kamishihoro Town or not.
- As of August 2018, the following roads are closed to traffic, but otherwise navigable by mountain bike (pretty much the whole Day 6 route).
- Gravel road beyond the Shikaribetsu Gorge Campground (Route 1088) to the Horoshika Pass road.
- The gravel road leading down to Route 806 to Kamishihoro from the top of the Horoshika Pass.
- The Horoshika Pass (Route 85) is now open to traffic – it is a beautiful paved road, relatively quiet with not much traffic.
- Supplies: There’s a small souvineer shop in Nukabira Town, that sells basic supplies including large-sized instant cup-noodles. If you go into Kamishihoro Town, then there’s a large supermarket, as well as two drug stores (I bought fuel alcohol from Yamazaki Pharmacy here).
- Forestry roads used
- Shikaribetsu-kyou Minekoshi Rindo (然別峡峰越林道)
- Funigawa Junkai Rindo (不二川迂回林道) – a.k.a. The Siddle Sizzler
Blog post: Day 6 – Shikaribetsu Gorge to Kamishihoro
Accommodation: Nukabira Campground (国設ぬかびら野営場) | 350 yen per person
Onsen: Nukabira Nakamura Onsen (糠平温泉 中村屋) | 500yen | 0.8km from accommodation
Distance: 108km | Ascent: 2030m | Paved: 90% | ↓ GPX file
As of August 2018, Day 7 is a bit of a mess. On the original planned route (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28393345), Day 7 would have seen us cycle up and over the Oketo Lake pass road – a route I did with a full pannier-touring setup a few years back. Now, that route is utterly destroyed. Multiple apocalyptic landslides have destroyed the road in places, requiring very dangerous hauling of bikes over no-fall bluffs. We ran out of time and had to turn back (see this blog post).
The alternative taken by us was the paved road (plus a token 10km stretch of gravel-shortcut) across Hokkaido’s highest road pass – Mikuni Pass (1,139m) – and the Sekiboku Pass (1,050m – Hokkaido’s third highest). The Mikuni Pass is worth the ride in its own right, with expansive views over a sea of green. On a good day it is really spectacular. This makes for a long day (110km) with plenty of climbing (over 2,000m).
- Possible alternate route: There is a gravel road that runs parallel with Route 88 between Kamishihoro and Oketo Lake. See that route here: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28607146. I haven’t done this route before, and can’t vouch for whether the road is intact or not, but it may be a feasible alternative to the Mikuni Pass route (if you really crave that gravel!).
- Supplies: Nukabira has some basic supplies at the local souvineer shop (here), and if you go an extra 7km at the end of the day, Onneyu Town has a convenience store (here).
- Forestry Roads used
- Rubeshinai River gravel road (ルベシナイ川林道)
Blog post: Day 8 – Horoka Onsen to Onneyu
Accommodation: Taki-no-yu Park with free foot spa (滝の湯ふれあいの里足湯)
Onsen: Shiobetsu Tsurutsuru Onsen (塩別つるつる温泉) | 500yen | 900km from accommodation
Distance: 31.4km | Ascent: 550m | Paved: 30% | ↓ GPX file
Day 8 of the Beta Trans-Hokkaido Bikepacking Route is relatively short, but involves a sharp grunt up and over Yu-no-yama Pass (840m, 湯の山峠) from the Yu-no-Taki settlement to Masuseppu Onsen. It follows the popular Shikerebetsu Forestry Road and Joburi Forestry Road.
Note that as of August 2018, the Shikerebetsu Forestry Road is closed to general traffic, due to complete destruction of the road. There is one section in particular where the river has reclaimed the road. The road does not exist, and instead has been replaced by the valley’s river, which now runs along bed-rock.
On a bicycle, you’ll need to expect up to 1km of pushing your bike along the river, and in places, bush-bashing through thick, 1.5m high bamboo grass. The typhoon of early September 2018 may have added more obstacles.
- Supplies: The only supplies for Day 8 would be at the convenience store at Onneyu Town (here), about 7km east of the start of the day.
- Forestry roads used:
- Shikerebetsu Forestry Road (シケレベツ林道)
- Joburi Forestry Road (上武利林道)
Blog post: Day 9 – Onneyu to Engaru
Accommodation: Maruseppu Forest Park Ikioi-no-mori (丸瀬布森林公園いこいの森)
Onsen: Maruseppu Onsen Yamabiko (丸瀬布温泉 やまびこ) | 500yen | .5km from accommodation
Distance: 30km | Ascent: 100m | Paved: 100% | ↓ GPX file
Day 9 is simply a quick blat on paved roads down to the end of the Beta Trans-Hokkaido Bikepacking Route, to the sleepy town of Engaru. An extra 20km east would get you to the Sea of Okhotsk, but Engaru is where the Sapporo express train leaves, so it is a convenient end to the route.
In reality, it would be possible to combine Days 8 and 9 into one.
- Supplies: Engaru has all you need. It is a large town. Unfortunately it has no onsen or public bath (sento, 銭湯).
Accommodation: Taiyou-no-oka Engaru Park Campground (太陽の丘えんがる公園キャンプ場) | Free
10 thoughts on “Trans-Hokkaido Bikepacking Route (beta)”
Hey there Rob!
Nice work mate! I just moved to Japan and have plans to give this route a go in August. Do you have any beta on sections that clearly impassible and still need a detour? If so, any recommendations on which detour to take?
Hey Mike, I would 100% assume that all washed out sections are still washed out. We don’t have any beta on recent conditions…it would still be a true adventure!
Thanks for the reply. Want to join me on it? I’ll be up there around August 10th most likely. I have my gravel bike, which might be a bit less than what I want, but I love a good sufferfest. I’ll be riding up there from around the Tokyo area so I should have my cycling legs by then. Let me know mate!
Tempting Mike! But we’ll be somewhere up in the alpine in the Daisetsuzan on a traverse hike then. Enjoy!
Let me know if you change your mind! Also, it might be earlier than that so let me know what time in August you’re free! The Daisetsuzan looks tempting.
did you manage to do this trip Mike? I’m thinking of giving it a crack in September this year (2023)
Will be going on a 3 week bike packing trip in Japan in April 2020 was wondering if there is any updates on this route? Thanks
Hey Dan. Most damage that we experienced will not be repaired for the forseeable future. Cyclists need to be prepared to pioneer the way and be ready to turn back if necessary. Either way, the route is impassible in April – still huge amounts of snow until well into May on this route, and the gravel roads are not cleared in winter. All the best for researching a good bikepacking trip!
Do you know if there has been any improvement in the condition of that gravel road up to Tomaurashi Onsen?
Hi Jim, sorry for the delay in reply! If you’re talking about the gravel section of Route 718 from the Tokachi River bridge to Tomuraushi Onsen (ie., this bit), then this road is still nice gravel – although they were working to pave it when we were there, so you may discover more pavement.
If you’re talking about the Penke-nikorobetsu Rindo Forestry Road (i.e., this bit, on Day 4), then this road still has massive washouts – it won’t be fixed for a very long time, if ever.