With a full three-day weekend on offer, and it being the height of the autumn leaves season, Saoka (one of the most prolific outdoors-people I know) had proposed a two-night excursion to Mt. Furano. The idea would be to head from Sapporo to the Shirogane Campground (白金キャンプ場 | location) below Mt. Tokachi, and set up camp there for two nights. On the second day we’d do an 8-hour hike connecting Mt. Furano, Mt. Sanpo, Mt. Kamifurano, and Mt. Kamihorometokku, with a stop in at the Kamihorometokku Hut.
So we left Sapporo City around 9:30am on the Saturday, hoping to make it a leisurely drive to Furano, stopping at cafes and sights along the way. First stop was the icecream shop next to Nanporo Onsen (location). I have a personal rule not to drive past there without trying a flavour I’ve not tried before. Next was the Sandan Falls on the back-blocks Route 452 (location). This is a regular stop for us, whether we’re on bikes or in a car. Then lunch was at the awesome Goryo Cafe (location). We’d vaguely thought that we’d have lunch somewhere near the Furano Jam Garden (location), but the drive up there ended up being plentiful in jam but not so fruitful for a solid lunch.
With all this tough travelling, we only just made it to the campground before nightfall. We’d stopped in at the supermarket in Furano City (location) so we’d lost some time there too. We hastily set up camp, ate dinner, and headed down to the local onsen for a soak (location). The citizens’ onsen was basic but cheap and cheerful.
The next day we woke to a misty low cloud. The campground itself is at around 650m in altitude, so we were well situated to be in the clouds. We were hopeful that they’d clear for some good hiking conditions. We gobbled some breakfast, downed coffee, and got on our way.
By the time we arrived at the Mt. Furano trailhead, there were about 20 cars in the large parking lot. Despite the misty weather, this was still obviously a popular spot. We signed the trailhead logbook, and started up the wide track.
I’d been up this way quite a few years prior, when we stayed at the Kamihorometokku Hut. I remember then too, the crossing of the Nukkakushi-Furano River (no more than a stream at this point) just below the Ansei Crater. The entire area is a barren but beautiful volcanic wasteland, with bright oranges and whites all around. Large yellow arrows, spray-painted onto the boulders lead the way.
Once across this beautiful rocky gully, the climb starts in earnest. This is no smooth, flat path. It is more of a continuous clearing along a rocky mountain face. In places the path evens out a little, but most of the way consists of plenty of stepping up and over rocks. There’s nothing technical.
Before long the trail topped out onto the main ridge to the summit, but not before passing through a final section of beautiful autumn colors. This ridge is one that stretches the entire length of the Daisetsu Range. If you have four or five days or more on your hands, then it is possible to hike the entire length of the range, camping and staying in huts along the way. We were hoping to stop in at one of those huts – the Kamihorometokku Hut – if we had time.
The cloud didn’t clear for us at all as we approached the summit of Mt. Furano. We were shrouded in an atmospheric, beautiful mist.
From the summit we walked back the way we came to the junction to Mt. Sanpo and Mt. Kamifurano. Just as we were descending the stairs to the junction, the clouds allowed us a fleeting glimpse at the Daisetsu Range ahead of us. We would get rained on multiple times along the ridge, but never for too long. We were never feeling cold – it seemed like the perfect temperature.
When we arrived at the Mt. Kamifurano junction, we had to make a decision. We could push on for another 30 minutes to the hut, or we could start our decent. We’d need to to return to Mt. Kamifurano in order to descend from the hut, so that would be a total of an extra 1 hour on the mountain. In the end it was less time that forced our hand but the wind. I’m not sure if it is this particular spot, but the last time I was up here it was howling a gale also. Perhaps the wind is funneled up the valley, but today it was really blowing. We decided to head down, as it was already getting relatively late.
For the post-hike onsen, we chose to drive 500m down the road from the trailhead to the Kamihoroso Onsen (location). I’d been to the Ryounkaku Onsen in winter (report here), so I knew about its amazing vews up towards Mt. Furano. Kamihoroso Onsen gave a different view – down to the Furano plains below.
The next day we woke to beautiful clear skies. If only we’d been hiking today. We took a wander around the expansive campground instead. A large Hokkaido black pine had been felled by a recent typhoon, and had landed squarely on top of a toilet block. Saoka entertained with some tunes on her ukelele.
After packing up camp, we had a leisurely sight-seeing trip back to Sapporo. We went via the ever so slightly touristic Shorogane Falls – definitely worth a visit (location). The waterfall flows out of the cliff face about 1/4 of the way down. Really quite gorgeous and worth it to face the hordes of tourists.
On Saoka’s suggestion, we also went home via the less well-known but still lovely Shorogane Fudo-no-taki (location) and the Shikisai-no-oka flower fields (location). Coffee and cake at the restaurant Niji (here), and lunch at a bog-standard but delicious Nepali curry restaurant in Kami-Furano (here). All off the beaten track and all worth the stop to stretch the legs on the way back into the big city.