Asahidake Ropeway to Asahidake Summit Hike

旭岳 | Nutap-ka-ush-pe

Posted on Sep 16, 2019
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Posted on Sep 16, 2019

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Reading time: 5 min
6km

Distance

4 hours

Time

660m

Ascent

2291m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jun-Sep

Best season

Asahidake (旭岳, 2291m) is Hokkaido's highest peak, and arguably one of the island's most accessible. It is the highest point on the expansive Daisetsuzan volcanic group, dominating central Hokkaido. For prepared hikers, Asahidake can be a great way to get a taste for the greater Daisetsuzan Range's alpine areas. Accessed from the upper station of the Asahidake Ropeway, if you're lucky enough to visit in clear weather, magnificent views across the northern Daisetsuzan Range and its impressive volcanic steam vents are only 2.5hrs away. At the foot of the mountain are a number of onsen to choose from for a post-hike soak, and plenty of trendy cafes further down the hills in Higashikawa Town.

This post was sponsored by Welcome-Higashikawa. Rick Siddle contributed research to this post.

Last updated Sep 22, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Asahi-dake is located in the northern Daisetuzan Range, about 30km east of Higashikawa Town in central Hokkaido. To get to the start of this hike, take a bus or drive to Asahidake Onsen, and take the Asahidake ropeway to the Sugatami Station (top of the ropeway). It’s also possible to hike from the bottom of the ropeway (add an extra 2 hours).

General notes

This is one of the most popular hikes in Hokkaido. It has everything – extremely easy access, amazing views, great alpine scenery, and the boasting rights of getting to the highest point in Hokkaido. The vast majority of people who hike Asahidake just do it as a quick half-day hike. It is possible, however, to extend it to a much more challenging hike for the more experienced and prepared. There’s the tough three-day Central Daisetsuzan Circuit, the classic two-day Asahidake to Kurodake Traverse, as well as a long one-day loop via Nakadake Onsen. Some people start their Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse hike from Asahidake too (see Mapping Lanes’ guide here).

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

Starting from the Sugatami Station on the Asahidake Ropeway, exit the main building and head right (south) along the short boardwalk behind the building. From there, follow the signposts to the Asahidake summit, via Sugatami Pond and the stone hut. Signposts are mostly in Japanese, sporadically marked with fading and temporary English labels. If you’re ever unsure of which way to go, ask one of the many other eager hikers who will happily point you in the right direction. The final 100m or so to the summit can be confusing in low visibility conditions. A false summit make it feel like the hike is over, but there’s a small ‘step’ before the final short push to the actual summit.

Route Timing
Up | 2.5hrs
Down | 1.5hrs

Bank on about 2-3 hours for the ascent, and another 1-2 hours back down to the upper ropeway station.

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
Official Topo Map: Asahidake (旭岳) – map no. NK-54-7-3-3

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

Overall the trail is well-defined and easy to follow, but this is not a mountain to be taken lightly. On a good day you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about, but signs and announcements warning hikers of the dangers are not exaggerating. When weather closes in, Asahidake is an extremely exposed place to be caught out without the right gear. Hypothermia is a real risk for unprepared hikers. Check the weather forecast, and only attempt the hike if weather is stable. Make sure to carry a navigation device such as a smartphone with maps pre-loaded.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Asahi-dake

Onsen nearby

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

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

This would be the last leg in the 2019 Sea To Summit event hosted by Montbell and Higashikawa Town. We’d already canoed Lake Chubestu and cycled from there to the Asahidake Ropeway. We’d just finished cycling from Lake Chubetsu down nearer to Higashikawa Town, and now we were immediately off the bike and onto the ropeway. The weather was average at best. There wasn’t any wind down at the bottom of the ropeway in Asahidake Onsen, but the Sea To Summit organizers had already officially shortened the hiking leg.

“You’ll only be going to the 7th station,” one of the attendants told us. “Beyond that, it’s too windy for the timing tent to stay upright.”

This was a little disappointing, as Haidee and I had summited Asahidake in May this year, on a springtime three-day ski touring trip. We had been looking forward to seeing the top of Asahidake in the ‘green season’.

We needn’t have been concerned, however. As soon as we stepped off the cablecar at the top of the ropeway, we were taken aback at how different the place looked in the non-snow season. “Where did this huge staircase come from?” Haidee exclaimed as we walked out of the ropeway building. Everything was completely different. The comparison photos below are taken from slightly different angles, but the location that Haidee is standing is more or less the same in both photos. In the winter photo, she’s about 5m above the actual ground – there’s that much snow.

Asahidake to Nakadake Onsen Loop Ski Tour (Hokkaido, Japan)Asahidake Halfday Hike (Hokkaido, Japan)

Today, however, there was just mist and an ever so slight misty rain. It was moody but beautiful, and the trail was in relatively good condition. At this point it was classic haimatsu low pine and every now and then some wild alpine flowers.

It didn’t take us long to get to the Sugatami Pond lookout area near the iconic Asahidake Ishimuro Stone Hut. We could hear the roar of Asahidake’s massive steam vents, but the mist wouldn’t let us see them. We took a short break, but had given up on seeing any view. Until, for just 5 minutes, the scene cleared ahead of us, allowing us a view across the pond and the Susoai Plateau to the north.

Being the hut fiend that I am, I was very interested to take a look at the Asahidake Hut. This hut is only available for visits during the day – overnight stays are only allowed in emergencies. In winter, the only entrance is from the second-floor window. With no snow on the ground, we were able to enter the hut from the first floor entrance. It was a basic hut, but it’d be a nice shelter if a hiker needed a break on the way up or down Asahidake. There was a rowdy group of elementary school kids when we were there, so we made a hasty escape.

Asahidake Refuge Hut (Hokkaido, Japan)Asahidake Halfday Hike (Hokkaido, Japan)

We left the hut and were once again taken aback at how different summer looks here, compared to winter. Today, we were clambering over boulder fields and weaving our way across picturesque sandy paths. We were once again in thick fog, so it was only the immediate sandy ridge that kept us entertained with its vibrant red tones.

Before long, we made it to the 7-gome (七合目, Seventh Station) on the climb. In Japanese mountain climbing language, this means we’re 70% up the mountain. Up here, it was already very windy, and the Sea To Summit organizers had chosen to make this the turn around point. This was a good call – it would only be even stronger wind further up, and it was very unlikely to be any view from the summit. The intrepid Montbell staff holding the ‘Goal’ sign were leaning into the wind, putting all their effort into making sure it didn’t fly into the abyss.

We quickly swiped our timing card, and started our descent into the mist. We vowed to come back in better weather!

Near the ropeway station, I saw a couple of Western-looking hikers with large backpacks. I struck up a conversation, as I was keen to hear where they’d got their information to do hiking in the area. “There’s this website we found, and we printed this map from it,” they said. To my delight, they produced a nicely printed Hokkaido Wilds TOPOMAP+ map, in a waterproof case. It was so nice to see the work we do here put to its intended use.

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