Muine-yama Dayhike (Usubetsu Route)

Posted on Apr 2, 2019
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Posted on Apr 2, 2019

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Reading time: 6 min
13km

Distance

6 hours

Time

790m

Ascent

1460m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jun-Oct

Best season

Muine-yama (無意根山, 1,460m) is one of the more prominent peaks in the western Sapporo hills. It takes up a lot of real estate, with the summit-like ridge extending around 500m from where the track joins with it. There are two route options for getting to the summit of Muine-yama. The Usubetsu Route (薄別コース) via the Muine Hut (無意根尻小屋) or the Moto-yama Route (元山コース) which starts from the Toyoha Mine (豊羽鉱山) area. In this route guide, we approach via the Usubetsu Route.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Muine-yama is located about 30km southwest of central Sapporo City. The Usubetsu Route (薄別コース) up Muine-yama starts above Jozankei on Route 230 going towards Nakayama Pass. While the official trailhead is much further up the gravel forestry road (here), there are two possible start locations to this route. One is about 100m up the gravel access road, at the first locked gate (here). If you contact or visit the Ishikari Forestry Department (石狩森林管理署) in Sapporo (TEL: 050-3160-5710 | location on Google Maps), however, it is possible to obtain the numeric code to the lock on the first gate. This will allow access by car to the second locked gate (here), which will save 3.5km of walking along the gravel access road. It is, of course, perfectly possible to cycle to the official trailhead (here). A mountain bike is recommended.

General notes

Muine-yama has a long east to west summit ridge that actually has two summits – a new one and an old one. The new one is 4m higher than the old one, but the old one has more expansive views, as it is at the western end of the summit ridge. From the top on a good day Mt. Yotei will be staring you in the face with its conical slopes. The trail is in somewhat varied condition, with a few bridges currently washed out – they require either crossing a stream on stepping stones in the first case, and wobbling across the broken remains of the bridge across the swamp in the second. Beyond the hut you’ll be clambering up makeshift ladders, and the final approach to the summit ridge is on a slippery muddy track that cuts through high sasa bamboo grass.

A note about approaching the hut: If one was so inclined, and happy with multiple hike-a-bikes along the way, I’d even hazard to say that an experienced mountain biker or bikepacker would have plenty of ‘fun’ ‘cycling’ all the way to the hut (here). It is on my to-do list to try (please let me know in the comments below if you are gullible enough to try it out). From the hut there are multiple ladders, downed trees, and low-hanging branches along the way, so taking a bike further than the hut wouldn’t make much sense.

Hut

Hütte Muine (full details here)

The Mt. Muine Hut, or Hütte Muine (無意根尻小屋, 1,020m), is one of the huts owned by Hokkaido University. It is managed by the Hokkaido University Ski Mountaineering Club’s (北大山スキー部) and is one of the historic ski-touring huts built in the hills of Sapporo in the 1930’s. As such, it is most popular in the winter, but it can also be used in summer.

Route markers

The trail is not marked per se, but it is well defined. There’s only one major junction (here), where you should veer left in order to keep climbing up to the summit.

Route Timing

Up | 3.5hrs
Down | 2.5hrs

The route timing here is assuming you’re starting from the second locked gate on the gravel access road. If you’re starting from the first locked gate, then you’ll need to allow an extra two hours or so. It is 3.5km from the first locked gate to the second.

Transport

Public transport:

The start of the gravel access road is accessible by public transport and taxi. Catch one of the buses from Sapporo (options here) and then grab a taxi the rest of the way to the Muine-yama Trailhead (無意根山登山口 – むいねやまとざんぐち – muine-yama-tozan-guchi). It will be around 10 minutes by taxi (3km), and cost less than 2,000yen.

By car: 

There is parking at both the first and second gates for about 10 cars each.

Physical maps

Official Topo Map: Muine-yama (無意根山) – map no. NK-54-14-15-3

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

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Muine-yama

Onsen nearby

Hoheikyo Onsen (豊平峡温泉, location) with its massive outdoor pools is always high on the list of recommended onsen in the area (1,000yen per person). But if you’re traveling on public transport, then Yu-no-hana onsen (湯の花, location, 800yen) is a good choice – they have a free shuttle bus back to Sapporo, and their outdoor pools overlook the river below. If you are traveling by car back to Sapporo, the cheap and cheerful Matsu-no-yu (松の湯, location, 650yen) has pokey outdoor baths that overlook the river too.

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

Ever since staying over at the Muine Hut during a ski tour last season, I was keen to head back to this area in the non-snow season. Even prior to that, I had been interested to see if it would be at all possible to cycle all the way to the hut. I knew from other blog posts and reports on the Internet that it was possible to cycle from the main paved road (Route 230) along the gravel access road to the official trailhead, but it wasn’t quite so clear as to whether it would be possible to cycle from there up to the hut.

So when Saoka offered to organize a trip to Mt. Muine this autumn, I was keen (thanks for organizing Soaka!). The night before, we all camped at the Jozankei Nature Village (winter report here) and made wood-fired pizzas in their pizza ovens. Saoka called ahead the previous week and got the combination code for the lock on the first gate on the access road, so we were able to drive the 3.4km to the final locked gate. We parked up and got on our way at around 9am.

It was a typical long-shadows sort of autumnal day.

Much of this road was familiar from the ski tour. The big shirakaba birch there, the exposed rock there, and the small hut at the start of the official trail (almost completely buried in winter). We filled in our party’s details in the logbook, and started on up the track.

It became clear pretty quickly that the track must have seen some fairly heavy flooding this season. Boardwalk boards were strewn about along the track, and the two bridges along the way were completely washed out. The first bridge was no problem – it crossed a small stream shallow enough to walk through. The second bridge, however, straddled a boggy marsh. If the remaining remnants of the bridge get damaged any further, this section will be impassible.

Before long, we arrived at what is perhaps the most beautiful part of this hike: the Orochichi-ga-hara marsh (大蛇ヶ原湿原). It seems we experienced it at its best too. The grass was a gorgeous, golden brown. Autumn colors at their best. There are boardwalks that go into the marsh, and really give an amazing view of this unusually clear area.

This area is curious in winter too. All of a sudden you pop out into this clear snowfield after being surrounded by trees.

Mt. Muine Usubetsu Route dayhike (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)Mt. Muine ski touring route (Hokkaido, Japan)

From the marsh, it is only a few hundred meters to the Hutte Muine. Even in the non-snow season, the hut is unlocked and available for use by the public (reservation required). For a paltry 140yen a night, you to can sleep in style (no toilets included). We opted to take a short break here before tackling the more strenuous climb up to the summit ridge. This was also an eye-opening spot for me, because I’d only previously seen the hut almost completely buried in snow. Amazing how much snow falls here!

Mt. Muine Usubetsu Route dayhike (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)Mt. Muine ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

From the hut, the climb starts in earnest up towards the summit ridge. First up is a flight of stair-ladders. Then more marshy boardwalks, and then more ladders. This area doesn’t get much sun, so the entire forest seemed to be coated in beautiful lush moss.

It’s not long before the route climbs above the treeline. We were now climbing along a slippery dirt track cut through towering stands of sasa bamboo grass. It was not until I was most of the way up this section that I turned around and noticed how high we’d climbed. It was a somewhat subdued autumnal scene, but the hills of Jozankei and beyond just seemed to be endless.

Once on the summit ridge, it was just a matter of ducking and dodging our way under and over trees, past the new summit (1,464m), and on to the rocky clearing at the old summit (1,460m). It was rather curious to see two ‘summits’ on a mountain. A little research afterwards gave me the answer to this riddle. Apparently the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912) was a time of intensive surveying in Japan. Lacking sophisticated tools, however, apparently the triangulation points that were used and marked as the summits of a number of mountains in Japan are not the true summits. This is one such mountain. The true summit is actually 4m higher than the ‘common’ summit.

In any case, the old (incorrect) summit actually gives much better views than the actual summit. We got slight glimpses of Mt. Yotei, and could see all the way down to Sapporo City below.

After gobbling down some delicious left over pizza from the night before, we started our descent. There were a few slips and tumbles on the way down. The dirt track through the sasa was very slippery, as were the wood ladders on the way down. Haidee had a particularly spectacular fall, only made good by the fact she didn’t hurt herself. 

On the descent from the hut back to the trailhead, I couldn’t help but survey the track from the point of view of a bikepacker. I am still convinced that this would make for an excellent overnight bikepacking hut trip. There were just enough clear sections of trail that it would make it faster on a bike going down than on foot. Yes, there’d be some pushing involved over roots and up and over some lumpy rises. But I think it would be doable. I’d have to double check the legality of it first though.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route up Mt. Muine-yama? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback or queries here. Thanks!

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