Nopporo Forest Park Snowshoe Birdwatching


Posted on Jan 21, 2018
45 2

Posted on Jan 21, 2018

45 2








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The Nopporo Forest Park (野幌森林公園) is a sprawling 20-square kilometer forest park on the eastern fringes of Sapporo City. It is well known as a birdwatcher's paradise, and in winter, a pair of snowshoes will allow visitors to wander as they please through un-tracked areas. Haidee recently got a new Hokkaido birdwatching information book that shows the general areas that owls are known to be seen, so we headed out with a birdwatching-master friend to take a look.

Last updated Jul 13, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details


Nopporo Forest Park (野幌森林公園) is a 10 minute walk southeast from the Shinrin-koen JR Station (森林公園駅), on the JR Hakodate Line. The route starts at the entrance to the Nopporo Forest Park Memorial Tower, here.

General notes

The world is your oyster at this large park. There are official tracks which should be kept to as much as possible, but with snowshoes, taking care not to fall into creeks or gullies, it is possible roam free. There is a nature center here, which is a great place to stop and warm up – the nature center allows the public to bring food into their large indoor free-space area.

Route Timing
Up | 4hrs

To complete this full meandering circuit, you’ll want to allow about 4 hours. That includes a 20 minute stop at the Naure Center.


There are plenty of signs to point you in all directions, but they are all in Japanese.


Public transport:

If arriving by public transport, you can access the start of the route with a 10 minute walk from the JR Shinrin-koen station on the Hakodate Line; about 15 minutes from central Sapporo station. Here’s walking directions from the station to the entrance of the park.

By car: 

If arriving by car, there is plenty of parking at the trailhead.



Physical maps
GSI Topo Map: Sapporo-toubu (札幌東部) – map no. NK-54-14-10-2
GSI Topo Map 2: Nopporo (野幌) – map no. NK-54-14-6-4

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

As mentioned above, this is a large park, with few defining features once you are in the woods. That said, by my reckoning the absolute farthest you could possibly walk in a straight line before hitting a track or road is about 3.2km. There are tracks crisscrossing the park fairly regularly, so it is unlikely you’ll be away from civilization for long.

  • Notify the police of your backcountry plans online using Compass – instructions here.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Nopporo Forest Park

Onsen nearby

The closest onsen is the Kiyora Forest Park Onsen (here), just a 10 minute walk from the trailhead. It is a nice new and clean facility with open-air baths.

Extra Resources
  • See the birding map (in Japanese) in the book A Guide to Bird Watching in Hokkaido (ISBN: 978-4894535572) from page 72-73.

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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Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

While Haidee and I had just intended to wander along the well-trodden paths, Rick was having nothing of it, and before long we were tramping through untracked snow on our snowshoes.

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

We continued on a round-about route to the northeast, trying to stay off the paths as much as possible.

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

By the time we had made it to the Nature Center, it wasn’t quite time for a break, so we pushed on into the forest proper. We were on hardpacked trails for a while that did not require the use of snowshoes. Then we decided to break our own trail into the woods to see if we could spot any owls. This was the area, so said the guidebook, so we had our eyes peeled.

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Alas, no owls were spotted. We did see a black woodpecker, as well as a couple of great spotted woodpeckers. With no luck in this area, we made our way back to the Nature Center to have some lunch and warm up.

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

With renewed energy, we took another quick look at an area where Rick had spotted owls previously, but to no avail. Back to the trailhead it was, via a vague route through the woods.

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

We were following our noses back to the Memorial Tower (or the “Tower of Mordor” as I like to call it). So we were happy to see it emerge in front of us as we finally exited the woods.

Thus ended out great owl hunt. No owls seen, but a great workout in the winter wonderland that is Nopporo Forest Park.

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Snowshoeing in Nopporo Forest Park (Hokkaido, Japan)

Comments | Queries | Reports

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2 thoughts on “Nopporo Forest Park Snowshoe Birdwatching”

  1. Hi Rob, I am currrbtly living in Niseko and am an avid bird / wildlife watcher and hobby photographer. It has been really hard finding locations and areas in Japan where wildlife frequent and which I have access too as I don’t have a car! I am planning a two day trip to Nopporo park in the hope of seeing a Ural Owl and otherwise wild critters in the park, is the path usually quite tracked out and would gumboots be sufficient or would hiring snowshoes be my best bet ? Is early January too early for wildlife to be roaming about ? I have been told they come out a lot more in Niseko once spring arrives so it’s going to be a long wait for me ! Lol any help is appreciated ! Thank you Priscilla

    1. Hi Priscilla, Nopporo Forest Park is usually just fine for walking if you stay to the beaten tracks – and there is plenty to see from the trails, so really there’s not much need to wander into the deeper snow. Gumboots would be fine. Early January is fine also – it is a great park all year round.

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Nopporo Forest Park Snowshoe Birdwatching Difficulty Rating





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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.