Kimobetsu-dake from Nakayama Pass


Posted on Nov 26, 2020

Posted on Nov 26, 2020

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Highest point



Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)

Best season





On the map, climbing Kimobetsu-dake (喜茂別岳, 1177m) from Nakayama Pass (中山峠, 831) looks tempting, a chance to get into the high country with not much climbing involved as you wander up its broad and gentle east ridge. There is even a bike friendly forest road for the first third of the way. Unfortunately the summer trail has become badly overgrown and unless cleared is the preserve of committed masochists only. On a fine winter day, on the other hand, this becomes a good venue for snowshoes. While the forest sections might seem to drag on a bit, the open summit slopes provide a good viewpoint over the winter wilderness.

We visited this route on Sep 30, 2017


Route Map

Need to know details


Kimobetsu-dake lies to the west of Nakayama Pass, the high point on the Route 230, 20km south of the spa town of Jozankei 定山渓温泉, west of Sapporo.

General notes

Although not marked on the map, a summer trail exists and is described in the Japanese summer hiking guidebook (北海道夏山ガイド Vol.1, Hokkaido Shimbunsha, 2010). Since then, however, it has been neglected and when we went in 2017 was completely overgrown along most of its length once past the NTT radio masts at the end of the forest road. It is therefore not recommended (unless it has been cleared). The usual summer route (Kurokawa Route 黒川コース) approaches from the south west and is roughly the same as the winter ski route. From Nakayama-toge (pass) this route is best left for winter and snowshoes as described here. There may be snowmobiles around.

Nakayama-toge is often busy with tourists and has plenty of parking, a range of fast food outlets, souvenir stalls and toilets (though some may be closed in winter). There is also a ski slope behind the complex.

Route Timing
Up | 3.5hrs
Down | 2.5hrs

These times are for a winter snowshoe hike in good conditions. If mad enough to attempt it in summer it could still take as long to fight through the sasa dwarf bamboo unless the path has been recently cleared. Using a bike on the forest road to the radio masts will considerably shorten the time.


Under winter conditions there is no marked trail though there may be some pink tape on branches and cleared spaces through the trees where the summer trail ran. But it is best to assume you will be navigating by compass and/or GPS.

The entrance to the forest road leading to the NTT radio masts is on the west side of the road opposite the main parking and shops at the pass (831m elevation). From here it’s an easy walk along the largely level road for an hour or so to the fenced off facility. Go round the fence to the left and from here head off through the forest. The ridge is very broad and featureless so careful navigation is required – a compass bearing or GPS track is essential though you may come across the summer trail route. The terrain is mature forest as you head roughly northwest then turn west onto the broad ridge to the summit. Around 965m there is a more open marshy area, and from here the trees thin out and sasa takes over. At last the ridge narrows a bit and the summit marker is reached. Allow 2 to 2.5 hours from the radio masts, depending on conditions. The official summit is 1177m but the actual highest point is a a few minutes further on at 1183m. Return the same way.


Public transport:

Donan Bus Co (道南バス,, tel: 0143-45-2131) operates a service four times a day between Sapporo and Toyako Onsen 洞爺湖温泉 that stops at Nakayama-toge 中山峠. Note however that it is reservation only and the times are not convenient if coming from the Sapporo end.

By car: 

Take Route 230 south from Jozankei for 20km to Nakayama-toge (pass). There is plenty of parking at the main complex and also over the road.



Physical maps
GSI Topo Map: Nakayamatoge (中山峠) – map no. NK-54-14-15-4

NOTE: The GSI 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen each from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

This is high and exposed terrain and in bad winter weather there is considerable risk of hypothermia. Good winter equipment and emergency gear are required. Once past the radio masts the ridge is broad and featureless and good navigation skills are essential.  In early spring the bears will be out and about.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Kimobetsu-dake/Nakayama Pass

Onsen nearby

Jozankei Onsen (定山渓温泉) is back down the road to Sapporo and has a range of bath facilities open to day visitors from upmarket resort hotels to the more proletarian (and cheaper) Yu no Hana (湯の花, location, 850yen) complex.

Extra Resources

Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido Vol.1 北海道夏山ガイド1・道央の山々 (Hokkaido Shimbunsha, 2010), pp.132-5.

Guide Options

If you’d like to hike this route and/or explore other hikes in the central Hokkaido area together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Yasuko Kikuchi. Born and raised in Hokkaido, she’s a JMGA-certified guide now based in Sapporo. Her outdoor experience is broad and worldwide, having worked as a Canadian Ski Patrol member, and has sumitted a number of 6,000m+ peaks around the world. She speaks good English. In addition to Yasuko, also see a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

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Route Trip Notes

On the map this looks so easy – a stroll through wild high country with very little climbing required and a forest road to ease progress even more. On our multiple visits, though, it has been anything but easy.

The first time we turned back in a blizzard about two thirds of the way up after floundering around in unconsolidated early season snow laying loosely on the sasa. The weather was kinder on our next winter visit and we set off under a clear blue sky, at one point crossing the tracks of a bear that had clearly decided to ignore the urge to hibernate. It stayed clear all day and the summit gave us some good views in all directions. Jeff insisted on doing it on skis despite the almost complete lack of gradient and skiable terrain. I stuck to snowshoes and didn’t regret it – he only managed to get about five turns in and ended up walking most of the way back on a tiring day that ended in the dark.

We also tried it once in early autumn, following the description in the Japanese guidebook that waxed lyrical about the spacious and freshly cut trail. Big mistake. Reaching the radio masts was a breeze as we cycled along the forest road, but from then on it was a tortuous struggle through head high sasa that had completely overgrown the trail along most of its length. At times it was like fighting through a giant wire brush. Luckily the cooler temperatures meant that we encountered no ticks. We made it to the top, but then had to repeat the ordeal all over again to get back to our bikes at the radio masts. Classic type two fun.

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Kimobetsu-dake from Nakayama Pass Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



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GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.