Posted on Mar 3, 2020
34 0

Posted on Mar 3, 2020

34 0








Highest point



Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)

Best season





Nishibetsu-dake (西別岳, 800m) is only a relatively small hill, but it rises abruptly out of the broad plain of eastern Hokkaido and feels much higher as you enjoy the gentle walk along its long open ridge, far above the fields below. Beyond the ridge lies the caldera lake of Mashu-ko (摩周湖), and indeed the walk can be continued in that direction if time and conditions permit. Situated within the Akan-Mashu National Park, the mountain is known for its wildflowers in spring. Despite an initial steep climb, overall this is a very relaxed day out. The trailhead boasts a well-appointed hut run by the local municipality.

We visited this route on Oct 12, 2019

Photos by Rob Thomson

Last updated Mar 10, 2020


Route Map

Need to know details


Nishibetsu-dake is in eastern Hokkaido, northeast of the small town of Teshikaga (弟子屈). It is accessed from the local Route 885 that branches off Route 243 a few km from Nijibetsu (虹別). The trailhead is at the Nishibetsu Hut (here), accessed via a gravel forestry road.

General notes

There are a various theories for the Ainu origin of Nishibetsu-dake that come from the river that flows from it, nu-ushi-pet. This has been interpreted, variously, as river full of fish, hot water spout, or dried-up river (Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido 6, p. 84). The summit can be linked with Kamuinupuri カムイヌプリ(Mashu-dake 摩周岳) by a path that drops off the summit to the northwest and joins the Kamuinupuri trail after 30 minutes (50min in the other direction). The summer hiking season is from May into November. Early in the season (mid-June into July) it is known for wildflowers.

Route Timing
Up | 1.5hrs
Down | 1hrs

The trail starts next to the hut and is well defined and signposted. After walking a short way through the forest the path begins to head upwards through sasa dwarf bamboo – when it gets steep a sign will tell you that this is gaman-zaka がまん坂, Endurance Slope. At the top of the climb it levels off and joins the main ridge in about an hour, where you can take the short detour to the top of Risuke-yama リスケ山 (787m). Here the main trail turns south along the broad and gentle ridge, then curves round to the southwest with a short climb to the summit of Nishibetsu-dake 西別岳, about 30 minutes from Risuke-yama. Return the same way.


Public transport:

No public transport access.

By car: 

If coming from Teshikaga, take local Route 885 that branches off Route 243 a few km before Nijibetsu. After 5km look for a sign that directs you to turn left, and follow dirt roads for 8km to the large parking area by the Nishibetsu Hut (here).


Nishibetsu Hut (full details here)

Nishibetsu Hut (西別小屋, 335m) is a hopelessly beautiful, immaculately upkept loghouse-cabin, situated at the trailhead for Mt. Nishibetsu in Eastern Hokkaido. In the non-snow season, the hut is accessible by car or bicycle via a couple of gravel roads. In winter, the hut is only accessible in winter on skis or snowshoes via a snowed in 5km forestry road. This free hut, unlocked and open for use, is the perfect base to explore the area’s winter or summer offerings.

Physical maps
GSI Topo Map: Mashuko-nanbu (摩周湖南部) – map no. NK-55-31-7-4

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

Although this route is short, the usual caveats about appropriate bad weather gear apply. The ridge is exposed to the wind. The usual bear precautions should be taken.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Nishibetsu-dake

Onsen nearby

A few km away is the well-known Yoroushi Onsen (養老牛温泉, location, 600yen) where you can enjoy the hotel spa as a day visitor (between 1-3pm), or head a little further on to the basic and free outside bath at Karamatsu no Yu (からまつの湯, location, free). This is a single stone tub by a small river with a basic hut for changing in, but no separate bath for women or any other facilities.

Extra Resources

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

Rob had stayed in the Nishibetsu Hut during winter on a previous trip and was keen to see it again in a different season, so we set off from Teshikaga one autumn day for the short drive to the trailhead. It was a weekday so we were not expecting to see many people, so were surprised to encounter a large group of schoolchildren being herded down the forest approach road by their teachers. They seemed surprised to see us too.

After looking around the lovely hut we headed on up the hill, enjoying the ever-expanding views over eastern Hokkaido as we tackled the steep climb up through the sasa. On the main ridge the wind was much stronger and we had to brace ourselves against it on the small rocky summit of Risuke-yama. Despite the cold wind, the gently undulating and open ridge on towards Nishibetsu-dake was a delight, dropping off on one side all the way down to the plain while looking over to the crater lake of Mashu-ko on the other. For a small mountain we felt we were getting a lot of bang for the buck, as our old friend and Hokkaido mountain guide legend Leon would have put it.

We only had the summit to ourselves for a couple of minutes before another party of schoolchildren materialized up the path that comes up from Kamuinupuri. They all seemed in good spirits and oblivious to the biting wind as they took pictures, ate snacks, and teased their teachers and each other. We gave them a good head start then followed them down back to the trailhead. After packing up we drove on to a farmhouse restaurant for a tasty curry, then to the open air ‘wild onsen’ by the river at Karamatsu no Yu. There were only a handful of people there, one of them a local who told us how community volunteers had rebuilt the bath after it was destroyed in the typhoons a few years ago.

It had only been a short day and an easy hill, but none the less worthwhile for that.

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Nishibetsu-dake 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.