Asahidake and Nakadake-onsen Loop Hike

Posted on Jan 29, 2019
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Posted on Jan 29, 2019

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Reading time: 2 min
12km

Distance

7.5 hours

Time

815m

Ascent

2291m

Highest point

6/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jul-Sep

Best season

At 2291m, Asahidake (旭岳) is the highest peak in Hokkaido and one of the 100 Famous Mountains (百名山 | hyakumeizan) of Japan. Combined with amazing views over the rugged volcanic scenery of the Daisetsuzan range and relatively easy access via a ropeway it’s not surprising that it's one of the most popular destinations for local hikers and visitors alike. While it is a straightforward climb from the upper ropeway station and back, if the weather conditions are good and you have the time it is well worth dropping off the back of the mountain and returning via the wild onsen at Nakadake to make a longer day of it.

Last updated Apr 2, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Asahidake is the highest peak in the Daisetsu mountain range in central Hokkaido. This hike starts and finishes at 1600m from the upper ropeway station at Sugatami (here) on the western flank of the mountain above Asahidake Onsen spa.

General notes

The main season for summer hiking on Asahidake is July and August; before and after this you need to be prepared and equipped for snow on the ground and/or falling from the sky. The base for this climb is at Asahidake Onsen (here), a small collection of lodgings and hot springs below the ropeway up the mountain. It is a major tourist destination and can be busy with coachloads of sightseers from Japan and neighbouring countries, especially in summer and during the season for autumn colours. Accommodation options include a youth hostel and a campsite as well as local Japanese style pensions and hotels. The upper ropeway station at Sugatami has toilets and a small restaurant. There are no safe and/or guaranteed water sources beyond this point. In high season (June-late October) the ropeway operates every 15 minutes from 06:30 up to 17:30 down (08:00 – 17:00 later in the season – be sure to check the schedule) and costs 2900 yen round trip (asahidake.hokkaido.jp).

Hut

Asahidake Refuge (full details here)

The Asahidake Refuge (旭岳石室, 1,660m) is a basic but well-built stone hut on the western flanks of Asahidake, Hokkaido’s highest mountain, located in the Daisetsu mountain range in central Hokkaido. The hut is designated as an emergency-use only hut – non-emergency overnight stays are not allowed. The hut is only 20 minutes walk from the Sugatami ropeway station.

Route markers

The route is well defined, but if descending directly from the summit back to the ropeway in mist be careful not to lose the path (see Route Safety). If continuing on to Nakadake onsen (中岳温泉) the trail junctions are marked by large signposts (in Japanese). From the summit take the trail east heading to Mamiyadake (間宮岳, 2185m, about 1 hour) down past the Ura-asahi designated camping area (no facilities). Early in the season this descent will be over a large snowfield. From Mamiyadake head north to the Nakadake Junction (中岳分岐, 30mins). Here drop off the ridge to the west down to Nakadake onsen (40mins) and Susoaidaira (裾合平, 1hr). Then take the marked trail south back to the ropeway at Sugatami (姿見, 1hr 40 mins).

Route Timing
Up | 2.5hrs
Down | 2hrs

If doing the loop via Nakadake onsen expect to take around 7-8hrs in total.

Transport

Public transport:

From JR Asahikawa Train Station, there is a bus (Ideyugo, いで湯号), operated by the Asahikawa Denki Kido Bus company (tel: 0166 23 3355), that runs to the Asahidake-Onsen spa area. As of November 2019, there were four buses per day there (07:11, 09:41, 13:11, 16:24) and four returning (09:30, 12:00, 15:30, 18:00). The fare is around 1430yen one way, and it takes around 1 hour 40 minutes. See the link to the Ideyugo Bus timetable at the very bottom of this page: http://asahidake.hokkaido.jp/en/

By car: 

There is easy road access from the Asahikawa direction. There is ample parking in the large car parks by the ropeway station (around here), some may charge fees.

Physical maps
  • Asahi-dake 1:25,000 hiking map in English by Markus Hauser (buy on Amazon here).
  • Daisetsuzan 大雪山. Yama to Kogen Map Series No 3. Published by Shobunsha. 1:50,000. Includes course times and trail information (in Japanese). ISBN: 9784398766038
Official Topo Map: Asahidake (旭岳) – map no. NK-54-7-3-3
Official Topo Map 2: Aizankei Onsen (愛山渓温泉) – map no. NK-54-7-2-4

NOTE: The GSI 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

On a fine summer day with hordes of other walkers around you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about, but this is a dangerous place in bad weather with real risks of hypothermia for poorly equipped hikers. Conditions can change quickly, it is very exposed to the wind and the upper slopes can be much colder than down at the lower ropeway station. Carry appropriate gear. In poor visibility people have strayed off the path descending from the summit and wandered down the southern slopes of the mountain. This is the location of the (in)famous SOS Incident of 1989, in which a rough SOS sign made of lumps of wood was spotted from the air; human remains were later found nearby. The route on to Nakadake onsen tends to be much less busy and takes you into bear country. There are usually park rangers at the upper ropeway station who can offer advice.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Mt. Asahi-dake

Onsen nearby

This walk has the attraction of one of the highest and wildest hot springs in Hokkaido at Nakadake onsen. It’s small and pretty hot, though, and most people just soak their weary feet for a while. Back down at the trailhead are a number of hot springs that take day visitors, including the youth hostel Daisetsu Shirakabaso (here) a few hundred meters down the road (800yen per person).

Extra Resources
  • Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido 2, 北海道夏山ガイド 2 表大雪の山々 (Hokkaido Shimbunsha, in Japanese). These guides are updated every few years.

Guide Options

If you’d like to hike this route and/or explore other areas of central Hokkaido with a local certified guide, then contact Jun Ishiguro. He’s a JMGA (Japan Mountain Guides Association) mountain guide and Director of the Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA). As a senior figure in the Hokkaido guiding scene, and with extensive experience, he can tailor trips to your needs. 

Photo Gallery

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Route Trip Notes

I’ve only ever done Asahidake as a day hike once, the other times have been the start of multi-day excursions into the range. Although it’s a bit of a steady slog up the often busy route above the ropeway, you are compensated by the classic volcanic scenery, hissing steam vents and expanding views. The summit can sometimes be crowded and you might even have to queue for your turn for a selfie by the marker post.

The route down the other side varies with the time of year from a wide snowfield that is fun to slide down to a loose rutted track that isn’t. One time there was a guided group coming up the snowfield that reminded us of those pictures of the queues of climbers on the Lhotse Face of Everest. Well, almost.

At the bottom you pass by the Ura-asahi designated camping spot. It is an open col with no facilities but a few rock walls have been built to shelter tent sites from the wind. Then it’s a gentle climb up to Mamiyadake. This is one of the most scenic stretches of trail with lots of flowers blooming in July. Later in the season, as you look back to the small crater of Kumagatake on your left the snow patches form a smiley face to reflect your mood.

Once on the broad main ridge it’s a half hour walk north with expansive views into the large crater of Ohachidaira on the right and Hokuchindake, Hokkaido’s second highest peak, ahead.

At the signposted junction you turn left and drop down to Nakadake onsen. This is just a small pool in the riverbed. My companion and I refreshed ourselves by soaking our tired feet in the steaming tub. Then we carried on down though the increasingly green meadows and occasional marshy spots of Susoaidaira to the junction with the trail that took us around the flank of the mountain and eventually back to the ropeway at Sugatami.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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