Higashikawa Kitoushi-yama Hiking

岐登牛山 | Kito-us-nupuri

Posted on Sep 17, 2019
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Posted on Sep 17, 2019

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Reading time: 4 min
2.8km

Distance

2 hours

Time

102m

Ascent

457m

Highest point

3/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
May-Oct

Best season

Kitoushi-yama (岐登牛山, 457m) and the surrounding Kitoushi Forest Park is a real hidden gem in Higashikawa. Compact in size, the short sub-3km walk around the various lookout points packs in expansive views across to the Higashikawa plains, beautiful rock formations, deep woods, moss, wide vistas over the ski field, and of course the curious modern-day traditional Japanese building. It makes for an easily accessible side-trip when visiting Higashikawa for the more serious alpine offerings further south in the Daisetsuzan National Park.

This post was sponsored by Welcome-Higashikawa.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Kitoushi-yama is about 5km northeast of Higashikawa Town central, just south of Asahikawa City in central Hokkaido. There’s a couple of trailheads, either at the very bottom of the hill (here), or part way up, accessed from the parking area at the end of a lovely paved road (here). We opted to start the hike from the upper trailhead, but almost immediately regretted it – the forest between the lower trailhead and upper trailhead looks absolutely gorgeous, with lots of shirakaba white birch.

General notes

We’re pretty certain that even the local tourist association doesn’t realize what a gem they have in Kitoushi-yama. Tucked away in a far northeastern corner of Higashikawa Town, it doesn’t feature much in tourist information. This is understandable, considering that Higashikawa Town also encompassed the towering bulk of Asahidake – Hokkaido’s highest peak. Kitoushi-yama is also home to the local ski area, which initially put us off – we weren’t particularly interested in wandering around a bare, man-made grassy slope. But Kitoushi-yama, a modest hill surrounded by the Kitoushi Forest Park, offered inspiring views of the rice-growing region of Higashikawa, curious rock formations, and a real feeling of separation from the world when walking along the forest-lined walking trails.

  • Kitoushi Tenbo-kaku: Hikers will not miss the somewhat incongruous castle-like building near the upper parking lot. This three-story traditional Japanese-style building was built in 1975, and sits at 370m in altitude. Entry is free, and it offers great views from the top balcony. This building is closed in winter.
  • Trail condition: The trail is mostly well kept, but there are some rocky sections and steps to navigate.
Hut

None

Route markers

As mentioned above, there are a couple of options for hiking Kitoushi-yama and the Kitoushi Forest Park area. If starting from the lower parking area, walk up the road to the trailhead about 200m up the road. If starting from the upper parking area, head up the stone stairs past the castle and take a right, to start climbing up into the forest right away (around here). It is possible to walk straight northeast from the castle along a faint 4WD trail directly to the ski area, but a few of the hiking junction signs along the hiking trail seem to assume hikers will be going in an anti-clockwise direction – going in the opposite direction will give you signs telling you where you came from, but not which direction to go next. The trail is mostly well defined through the forest, and the two main viewpoints – the Southern and Northern viewpoints – will require a short backtrack to get back to the main trail. When crossing the ski field, the trail disappears completely, so you’ll need to follow your nose to some extent.

Route Timing
Up | 1hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

There isn’t really much climbing involved in this route – just some minor ups and downs. Bank on about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the full circuit.

Transport

Public transport:

There are no public transport access options for this route, but the Higashikawa Tourist Information Center (here) rents out bicycles, including e-bikes, for very reasonable rates. It is about 7km from the information center to the upper trailhead. Hire an e-bike for 1,000yen, and you could be at the trailhead in less than 30 minutes.

By car: 

There is ample parking at the lower and upper car parks.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Kitoushi-yama (岐登牛山) – map no. NK-54-7-6-4

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

Kitoushi-yama is a perfect low-altitude hill to explore when the weather has otherwise scuttled plans for the higher alpine routes around Asahidake. This walk would be fun even in driving rain (with a good waterproof jacket). The only bit that might increase anxiety levels is crossing the ski field – the trail disappears completely, so you’ll want to have some form of navigation. In the worst case scenario, hikers could just walk down the ski field, which would take them to the main lower park area.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Kitoushi-zan

Onsen nearby

Our recommended bathing for this route is the Kitoushi Kogen Hotel (キトウシ高原ホテル, location, 600yen). They don’t have a natural onsen, but their claim to fame is that the water for their hot baths is sourced from the natural spring water of the Daisetsuzan National Park. There’s no outdoor bathing area, but it’s a nice enough spot for a post-hike soak, very close to the lower trailhead.

Extra Resources

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

The grand plan for today was to packraft the Chubetsu River on Higashikawa Town’s western border. River levels were low though, so we had to look elsewhere for something to do close to town. I recalled that in winter this year I’d been scouting out places to ski tour around Higashikawa, and for some reason Kitoushi-yama appeared in a Google search. Someone had gone up there on a whim on their skis, and had reported good views but average skiing. So I had another scout out on the Internet, and discovered there were walking trails on Kitoushi-yama. This would be our relaxing alternative to the Chubetsu River.

As we were driving up the access road to the castle on the hill, we were in half a mind as to whether we should actually start at the bottom car park and hike the trail the whole way from the bottom. The forest was really quite gorgeous. A slight time pressure meant we pushed on in the car to the upper car park and started from there.

We’d already seen the curious castle-like building on the hill from far quite far away as we were driving towards the Kitoushi Forest Park area. Up close, it revealed itself as a relatively well-kept three-story building, with fantastic views from the upper floor balcony. We were here in Higashikawa at just the right season (August), with the expansive patchwork rice-growing plains turning a golden color, ready for harvest.

From the castle, we headed straight into the forest. A sign at the trailhead showed a general route to follow, but at that point it was a little confusing – it was a circular route, but there seemed to be some dead ends along the way…we decided to follow our noses and see where we ended up.

The trail was immediately relaxing. The woods were pleasant, and we were walking past red rock formations and other rocky outcrops. It didn’t take long to get to our first lookout of the route, thanks to some good dual-language signage.

We carried on, keen to get bag our next scenic viewspot. This took us past more interesting rocky outcrops…

And the upper station of the Canmore Ski Village ski lift.

The view from the northern observation deck was less inspiring than the southern observation deck, so we quickly moved on. This time we were cutting across the ski field in the open. We lost the trail a couple of times, but managed to spot the entrance to the forest on the other side OK.

Once back on the main trail, it was smooth sailing back to the castle and the upper car park.

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