Ashibetsu-dake Loop Hike


Posted on Mar 5, 2019
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Posted on Mar 5, 2019

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Reading time: 3 min


9 hours





Highest point



Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)

Best season

Ashibetsu-dake (芦別岳) is a fine rugged peak rising 1727m southwest of the small town of Furano. The pointed rocky summit has a 360 degree panorama across to the Tokachi range and beyond, and the surrounding crags provide a training ground for aspiring mountaineers with multi-pitch climbing in a wild location. Fit hikers can traverse the mountain in a long but interesting day via its roller-coaster ridges, starting and finishing at the convenient municipal campsite at the foot of the mountain.

Last updated Jul 20, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details


Ashibetsu-dake is the highest point of the mountain range running south from the internationally known ski resort at Furano City (a country town in reality) in central Hokkaido. This hike starts at a height of 330m from the municipal campsite at Yamabe (location), about 15km south of Furano town centre.

General notes

The main season for summer hiking on Ashibetsu-dake is from mid-June to the end of October. The trail starts and finishes at the municipal campsite at Yamabe (Yamabe Shizen Koen Taiyo no Sato Campground, 山部自然公園太陽の里キャンプ場, TEL: 0167-42-3445, free). The campsite has good facilities but there is nothing else around; the nearest base for other accommodation or supplies is Furano, 15km away. This route description climbs the mountain clockwise via the New Route (新道) and descends via the longer and more strenuous Old Route (旧道). If unsure about fitness or timing retrace your steps via the New Route. Be sure to carry plenty of food and water.

HUT: There is a basic stone hut located 1hr and 10mins from the Old Route trailhead a few minutes up a side trail. Yufure Hut (ユーフレ小屋, capacity 25) is a base for climbers and is free to stay. Water is from the stream and must be boiled or filtered. There is no warden. Contact: Furano City Office 0167-39-2312.



Route markers

The route is well defined through forest and dwarf juniper, with occasional markers and signs (in Japanese) fixed to trees, though trail junctions are obvious. Sections of the Old Route below the main ridge and along the river lower down have been washed out in past storms and are mostly marked with pink tape.

Starting at the New Route (新道) trailhead (330m) just south of the campsite, climb up through the forest onto a ridge with a steep drop off to your right. After a couple of hours a trail that links the New and Old Routes (旧道) joins on the right. The route continues up to a viewpoint at Hanmenyama (半面山1397m) in another 40 minutes or so. Here the trail turns west and climbs along a ridge, over a minor peak and up to the summit in another hour.

Descending the Old Route, after a few meters the path comes to a steep rocky step. From above it is difficult to see a way down but it can be downclimbed fairly easily, best facing inwards. From here the route takes the north ridge, weaving between pinnacles on a narrow path with a lot of energy-sapping ups and downs. After 2-3 hours you drop down east, past the large crag of Fufu-iwa (夫婦岩) on your right. Parts of this trail are washed out and rough.

After another hour or so you reach the river and the linking trail joins on the right; the Yufure Hut (ユーフレ小屋) is a few minutes up this path. From here there is still at least another hour or so of rough trail along the riverside that often drops down into the river bed itself, look out for pink tape and occasional markings. Finally the path re-enters the forest and joins a forest road that leads back down to the campsite.

Route Timing

Up  (New Route) | 4hrs

Down (Old Route | 5hrs

Down (New Route) 3hrs


Public transport:

The nearest JR train station is Yamabe (山部, here) on the line between Furano and Shintoku, from where it would be about a 3km hike up to the campsite and trailhead. However, services on this line are very infrequent and its future is uncertain.

By car: 

Easy road access from the Furano direction. There is ample parking in the large car park by the municipal campsite, here.

Physical maps
  • 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: 978-4398766649
Official Topo Map: Ashibetsu-dake (芦別岳) – map no. NK-54-8-9-4
Official Topo Map 2: 布部岳 (布部岳) – map no. NK-54-8-9-3

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

This is a high and wild mountain, particularly on the Old Route section, and can be 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 trailhead. Carry appropriate gear. Early in the season there is a steep snowfield near the summit on the New Route where care should be taken (almost gone by mid-July when we were there). The Old Route trail is rough underfoot and the ridge is steep and narrow in a few places, though never really exposed. A few meters below the summit on the Old Route there is a 10m rocky scramble, harder in descent (best downclimbed facing inwards). Like all high mountain areas in Hokkaido this is bear country.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Ashibetsu-dake

Onsen nearby

There are no onsen near the trailhead, you will have to return back to the Furano area or south over the Kanayama pass. The closest would be at the New Furano Prince Hotel (800yen, location), at the Furano Ski Area.

Extra Resources
  • See’s write-up of this route (in the opposite direction), here.
  • The Hokkaido Hiking Logs also has a description of the loop hike here, with photos. The author says “this hike was definitely… a bitch of a hike. In the best way possible.”

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

‘Well lads, what do you think?’

Dirk, Jeff and I are standing by the marker plaque on the pointed summit of Ashibetsu-dake, looking over the back of the mountain at the narrow north ridge, a roller-coaster of pinnacles and crags stretching enticingly before us. It’s a beautiful day. After an early start from the campsite we’ve had a great morning climbing up the New Route through bright green spring forest and the open upper slopes. The views over the Furano plain and to the Tokachi Range are inspiring. We’ve had lunch and it’s not even noon yet. Although we haven’t committed to descending by the Old Route, the full horseshoe is tempting. OK, so the guidebook says it takes at least five hours and the trail is rough and partly washed out, but what can possibly go wrong? We are about to find out.

Let’s go, says Dirk. After a few meters the path drops over a steep rocky section. Jeff and I downclimb carefully; Dirk simply bounds down like a mountain goat. From here the path skirts around the major gully on the west side of the mountain and we can appreciate the full scale of the summit crags. We pause to watch a couple of teams of climbers on the rock face. The path is narrow and weaves in and out of some small pinnacles, then continues north though juniper bushes along the ridge. There are a number of minor peaks and cols and by the time we get to where the trail drops off the ridge a couple of hours later we are starting to feel the exertion. We have a break, then head down with the massive crag of Fufu-iwa on our right. However, we have now all run out of water.

The trail drops down and down endlessly, in parts washed out and difficult underfoot. It is hot and sticky in the woods and Jeff begins to suffer from dehydration. His pace slows. In places water gushes out from the hillside – it is probably safe but ecchinococus is an unpleasant way to die so we daren’t risk it. Not for the first time I regret I didn’t bring a water filter.

By the time we get to the trail junction near the hut Jeff is in bad shape. We rest again and set off along the riverbed. The map says there is still over an hour to go. Dirk heads off and disappears, I stay with Jeff, who is getting slower and slower. You can almost see his batteries running down. The rough path follows the riverbank through and over boulders and small bluffs. It is hard work and beginning to get dark. I walk for a minute or so, then stop to wait for Jeff. Each time he takes longer and longer to catch up. Finally I decide I have to leave him and go ahead, get water and return. I set off and after a few minutes come across half an apple on a tree root across the trail. My dehydrated brain registers this odd sight but fails to grasp that Dirk has left it for Jeff; I just step over it and carry on. I reach the end of the trail and emerge onto the forest road.

A figure is coming up the road towards me. It is Dirk. In his arms he is carrying ice-cold bottles of Coke. He has rushed on ahead down to the trailhead, found the nearest vending machine and stuffed all his small change into it. I have avoided drinking this stuff for over 20 years, but now it is icy nectar. We turn around and head back up the trail into the increasingly gloomy forest.

A shadow moves in the woods. Jeff is coming slowly down the path; the half apple has kept him going. The first bottle of Coke goes down in about three seconds. The effects are miraculous. Within a minute speech has returned; after another bottle full mobility is restored. Whatever it is they put in that stuff I will never criticize it again. Five minutes later all the drama is behind us and we walk down to the trailhead. After a healing onsen and fortifying ramen we are back in Sapporo a few hours later.

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