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.