Posted on Oct 31, 2019
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Posted on Oct 31, 2019

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Reading time: 6 min
3.8km

Distance

5 hours

Time

473m

Ascent

739m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jun-Oct

Best season

Kogane-yama (黄金山, 739m) in Hamamasu on the Japan Sea coast, packs an impressive punch. It's easily one of the most thrilling peaks in the greater Sapporo region. Despite it's sub-1000m height, this massive, ancient volcanic outcrop dominates the skyline when approaching from the Hamamasu Onsen Spa. Hikers walk through gentle-sloping forest before scaling an impressively-steep approach to the exposed-rock summit. The trailhead is accessed via a forestry road, which we chose to tackle on mountain bikes for an adrenaline-pumping descent.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Kogane-yama in Hamamasu Town is located about 2 hours drive north of Sapporo City, along the Rumoi Coast on the Japan sea. It’s a short drive (or mountain bike ride) from Hamamasu Onsen Spa. The trail head is about 4km up a gravel road, here.

General notes

This hike has to be one of Ishikari City’s best-kept secrets. “This has to be one of the most thrilling hikes in the greater Sapporo region,” I mentioned to Mike, another hiker in the group. Mike has hiked most peaks in the Sapporo area, and he heartily agreed. Bang-for-your-buck would be an understatement. There’s essentially two rocky, volcanic peaks at the top, connected by a narrow knife-ridge col, with mind-bending views and drops to either side. With good access on the approach via a gravel road, it’s only two hours return for fast hikers to the summit and back.

Hut

None

Route markers

The route is well defined throughout. Note that there is a ‘new’ route (新道) and an ‘old’ route (旧道) for the actual climb to the summit, after the 800m approach on a gently ascending track. At the spring (777m exactly from the trailhead according to the nearby sign), either take the track to the left (old route) or the one to the right (new route). Arguably, if you’re going to do a loop, it would be better to take the old route up, and the new route down. The old route is very steep. The old route has plenty of roots and ropes to assist hikers, but overall it’s a route better climbed than descended.

The hike starts at the well-kept carpark and public toilets, here. It’s possible to drive to the trailhead, but our group opted to cycle to the trailhead from the Hamamasu Onsen Spa – about 7km. This made for an exciting downhill ride on the way back. Good gravel-specific bikes recommended.

From the trailhead, the route climbs gently through gorgeous white-birch-lined forest. After about 800m, there’s a spring with drinking water. From here, take a left route for a steep, clambering slog up the old route. The first 750m or so of the old route is relatively mellow, before starting the final approach to the summit. Those with a fear of heights will spend the next 30 minutes with their heart in their mouth.

All of a sudden, hikers will find themselves spat out into a tree-less rocky false summit, and greeted with massive views across to the Hamamasu Township and the Japan Sea. Take care on this false-summit. It’s a long way down. Another 75m on is the actual summit, connected by a narrow col. Return via the new route, which is decidedly less vertical than the old route.

Route Timing
Up | 1.5hrs
Down | 1.5hrs

With a variety of hiking speeds in our group, we took a healthy 2.5 hours on the way up, and about 2 hours on the way down. Faster hikers would likely be able to complete the entire route in about 2 hours, but it’s best to allow at least three hours, in order to soak in the impressive views at the top.

Transport

Public transport:

There are no public transport options for this route.

By car: 

There is ample parking at the trailhead car park, here. Hamamasu Onsen also has a large car park with public toilets, here. The Hamamasu Onsen is a great spot to start from if you’ve got some bikes in tow.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Hamamasu (浜益) – map no. NK-54-13-11-1

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

The obvious, objective safety hazard on this route is the sheer exposure of some sections of the route. The false summit rocks can be slippery, and a fall would result in a long free-fall drop. The northern side of the actual summit is also free-fall territory, with a sheer cliff. Take care when traversing from the false to actual summits.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Kogane-yama

Onsen nearby

The natural choice for a post-hike soak is the Hamamasu Onsen hotsprings (浜益温泉, 500yen), about 3km down the road from the entrance to the gravel road. They’ve got a large outdoor bath area, as well as sauna and cold pool. There’s a restaurant attached for lunch meals. There’s often local produce for sale in the entrance area.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

“We’re heading out to Hamamasu for a hike-a-bike,” our contact at the Hokkaido Development Engineering Center said to me in an email. “We’re starting and finishing at the Hamamasu Onsen, so a hotspring soak is guaranteed!”

This sounded pretty good for Haidee and I. We were keen to get on the bikes after almost a full season of no cycling trips (apart from cycling to work every day). As testament to our shunning the bikes for canoes this summer season, Haidee’s bike still had her studded tires on it. I switched them out for some knobblies, threw the bikes in the back of the car, and we drove north from Sapporo along the coast to Hamamasu.

Once on the bikes, we were on the main paved road for a few kilometers before turning off onto a gravel road. The colorful sign pointing the way told us this was a well-loved local trail. Even from the main road, the prominent peak of Kogane-yama dominated the skyline.

Once on the gravel road, we had a gorgeous 4km ride to the trailhead. We were at the peak of the autumn leaves. And this year was a bumper year for autumn colors. We’d had very few typhoons or other tough weather that otherwise strips the trees. 

Along the way, we stopped in at Japan’s 18th largest tree, the 5th largest in Hokkaido. The tree which holds this special status as Japan’s 18th largest tree is a Japanese yew.

It was kind of big. It looked old. It was a nice enough walk.

I can now say I’ve laid my eyes on the grandeur of Japan’s 18th largest tree. Bucket list officially one item shorter.

Back on the bikes, we made the last few hundred meters to the trailhead. The fact that we’d now have a sweet downhill mountain bike ride dampened the minor sting of seeing about five cars parked at the carpark – this is a hike that certainly doesn’t require a bike ride up the gravel road.

The trailhead toilets were nice. A generous porch area would be a very nice place to hang out if the weather was rainy. We locked up the bikes and got on our way in earnest up the trail.

The trail was impeccably cleared of sasa bamboo grass for at least 4m either side of the center of the trail. The autumn colors were well in force. The bare trees gave us glimpses of the sheer climb awaiting us up ahead.

Soon enough we got to the steep scramble section. Some in the group bounded up like mountain goats. Others were more calculated, taking their time to check footing and keeping their center of gravity low.

This steep climb section of the route very quickly gave us grand views through the trees to the coast, and across to the hills on the other side of the valley. This is a spectacular route, very quickly giving hikers rewards for their efforts.

The email inviting us to come on this hike had a pretty clear warning. “If you’ve got a fear of heights, then the upper section might be quite scary – there’s always the option of not going all the way to the top,” the email stated.

As soon as we broke beyond the treeline, I could see what this was all about. The false summit just before the actual summit was a spectacular, high-consequence rocky outcrop. A gorgeous, exposure-inducing thrill. From a vantage point on the actual summit, the other hikers on the false summit looked like they were on top of the world.

I fired up the drone to grab some quick shots of the false summit. It was windy enough that I didn’t want to get the drone too high, but still, the rocky precipice contrasted against the valley floor in the distance was amazing.

“What is it about this summit?” asked one of our group. “This is so much fun right now,” he said. He was right. There was something about this summit that made the 20 minute stop for lunch here feel relaxing and special. Perhaps it was the cramped, isolated quarters. There’s only one trail to the summit, with steep drops on all sides. It was just us and the sky.

We eventually had to get going. This time, we’d return across the false summit, and descend via the new route – a less steep option, more suited to descending than the old route.

Once back at the spring junction, it was smooth sailing and fast hiking back to the trailhead. We were all looking forward to the speedy, adrenaline pumping descent on the gravel road with our mountain bikes. And thrilling it was. We finished off with a long soak in the Hamamasy Onsen – luckily, we were there on the last weekend for the outdoor bath. They close the outdoor rotenburo baths for winter (the inside baths are still open).

Many thanks to the Hokkaido Development Engineering Center for the invite to come along on this fun, varied route!

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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