Posted on Aug 31, 2019
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Posted on Aug 31, 2019

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Reading time: 2 min
11.3km

Distance

6.5 hours

Time

763m

Ascent

1759m

Highest point

6/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jun-Oct

Best season

Muka-yama 武華山 (1769m) sits just over the Sekihoku Pass 石北峠 that divides Daisestuzan from the plains around Kitami to the east. It forms a high ridge with great views across to the northern Daisetsuzan range. Despite relatively easy access and a fine horseshoe route taking in the flat-topped rocky bluff of Lion Rock ライオン岩 it has always been much quieter than its more famous neighbours. This is now even more the case since the access road and one of the trails were destroyed in the 2016 typhoons. However, although now a bit longer the route is still very worthwhile, especially for those seeking solitude in the high hills.

Last updated Nov 13, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Muka-yama is in the Kita-Daisetsu range of mountains in central Hokkaido, just over the Sekihoku Pass if coming from Sounkyo on the main west-east Route 39. This hike starts and finishes at about 1000m elevation a short way up a forest road off Route 39 just east of the pass, here.

General notes

The Ainu origin of the name Muka is unclear: the river that flows from the mountain is the itomuka river, possibly blocked river or river that doesn’t freeze. ( Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido 3, 北海道夏山ガイド 3 東・北大雪、十勝連峰の山々 Hokkaido Shimbunsha, p.166).

The main summer access route was affected by the 2016 typhoons and the forest road now terminates about 2km short of the original trailhead. The remains of the road can be walked from here though it is very rough in the washed out sections and could be dangerous if the river level is high. The western trail leading to Lion Rock was also destroyed so it is now only possible to hike up and return via the East Ridge Course 東尾根コースand Mae-Muka-yama 前武華山.

The main season for summer hiking on Muka-yama is mid-June into October; before and after this you need to be prepared and equipped for snow on the ground and/or falling from the sky. The nearest facilities are at Sounkyo 層雲峡.

Hut

None

Route markers

From the old trailhead at 1140m the route is mostly well defined throughout, with a signpost (in Japanese) at the main trail junction near the start. Before you reach there, though, it is necessary to walk around 2km along the abandoned forest road past some washed out sections that are full of debris and difficult in places. At the trailhead there is the usual box containing a logbook to record your details, and a spring (though to be completely safe water should be boiled or filtered). About 15 minutes further on the trail divides, though the left fork is now impassable and was taped off in 2018. Take the right branch, signposted 東尾根コース, and climb up beside a stream though an area that has been previously been logged, then head up more steeply to join the ridge at 1570m. From here head up the ridge through occasionally rough haimatsu creeping pine to join the summit ridge at Mae-Muka-yama 前武華山, in all about 1 hour and 20 mins from the trail junction. From here follow the main ridge as it turns left (west), ignoring the unsigned faint trail branching off right to Muri-dake, to reach the summit in another 30 or 40 minutes. Return the same way.

Route Timing
Up | 3.5hrs
Down | 3hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport access.

By car: 

Take the signposted forest road north off Route 39 about 1.5 km east of Sekihoku Pass. Note that unless it’s been recently updated, as of 2017, the sign says Muka-dake 武華岳 instead of Muka-yama 武華山. The road ends after a few km before a washed out section. There is parking space for a few cars.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Muri-dake (武利岳) – map no. NK-54-1-14-2

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 route traverses exposed alpine terrain and can be a dangerous place in bad weather with real risks of hypothermia for poorly equipped hikers. Conditions can change quickly, it is very exposed to the wind and the upper slopes can be much colder than down at the trailhead. Carry appropriate gear. The river crossings in the washouts lower down could be dangerous after heavy rain. Like all high mountain terrain in Hokkaido it is bear country so take the usual precautions. Water obtained en route should be boiled or filtered.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Muka-yama

Onsen nearby

Sounkyo has the nearest onsen including Kurodake no Yu (黒岳の湯, location, 600yen). This place also serves delicious Italian food (pasta and pizza) in the ground floor restaurant.

Extra Resources

Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido 3, 北海道夏山ガイド 3 東・北大雪、十勝連峰の山々 (Hokkaido Shimbunsha). In Japanese. These guides are updated every few years.

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

Jeff slammed on the brakes. Ahead of us the gravel road disappeared into a massive hole about 40 meters across. It was clearly yet another victim of the typhoons that had destroyed so many of the forest roads in the interior. Jeff reversed back a bit to where we could turn around and park in an open area. A notice pinned to a post informed us that from here on the access road was impassable – we could see that – but also that the western trail leading up to Lion Rock had been destroyed. We had a quick rethink. Although the full loop was now impossible and it would be a longer and rougher walk in (and out), we still had plenty of time to get up and back on the eastern trail. Boots on, and off we went.

Much of the road was still walkable, though becoming overgrown. But where it had been washed away the devastation was spectacular, witness to the ferocity of the typhoon induced flash floods of summer 2016. For one stretch of a few hundred meters there was no indication that a road had ever existed, just a tangle of smashed driftwood that we had to maneuver our way through and around. But soon enough we reached the original trailhead. The logbook to enter party and route details lacked a pen, but a glance at the neglected book gave us the impression that few hikers had visited recently anyway.

The fresh bright green of spring lit up the forest as we climbed steadily alongside a stream and then up the ridge more steeply to a viewpoint on a shoulder. From here we could look back to Otofuke-yama and Ishikari-dake. As we got higher and into the shrub birch and haimatsu creeping pine all of the northern Daisestuzan range came into view, still holding massive amounts of snow. Eventually the haimatsu pine became sporadic and we emerged onto the more open main ridge, passing a trail branching off to the north and Muri-dake. There was plenty of snow on the lee of the ridge which gave much easier walking than battling through the rough pine on the path itself so we were soon at the small rock outcrop of the summit. A few hundred meters further the ridge dipped down to continue on to Lion Rock. It made a great viewpoint so we decided to stop there rather than continue all the way to the rock itself. I basked in the sun while Jeff picked some of the wild berries growing in profusion at the side of the trail.

All that was left was to retrace our steps, though first we took a short detour down the faint trail leading to Muri-dake to check it out for another time, before dropping down to the trailhead and back along the washed out road. We had not seen a single person all day. It was then a short drive to the onsen and Italian restaurant at Sounkyo to round off another wonderful day in Hokkaido’s high hills.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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