Sahoro Bear Mountain Walking Course

サホロベアマウンテン

Posted on May 19, 2020
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Posted on May 19, 2020

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Reading time: 2 min

1.5km

Distance

1.5hrs

Time

15m

Ascent

435m

Highest point

1/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
May-Oct

Best season

This is an easy 1.5km elevated boardwalk through the center of Sahoro Bear Mountain (サホロベアムンテン), an expansive bear reserve next to the Sahoro Resort ski area. The 5m elevated walkway is easily accessible via gently sloping ramps, and is thoroughly suitable for wheelchairs. Part way along the boardwalk is a ground-level viewing area, with huge glass windows. While the resident bears are cajoled into the open with treats - adding to an air of artificiality - the Jurassic Park-like facility is home to around 13 free-roaming resident bears in 15 hectares of forest. This easily makes it the most humane bear park you'll visit in Hokkaido (and the only one we remotely come close to recommending). There's also the option to get deeper into the forest on a specially modified bus.

We visited this route on Sep 01, 2019

Last updated Jul 13, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Sahoro Bear Mountain is located next to the Sahoro Ski resort in the northern Hidaka mountains in central Hokkaido. This walking course through the reserve starts here, at the official entrance to the reserve. Pre-purchase entrance tickets at the ski area building about 200m south of the entrance, here.

General notes

As far as viewing animals in captivity goes, the Sahoro Bear Mountain reserve (サホロベアムンテン) is the most humane facility of any we’ve been to in Hokkaido. In general, we’ve found that zoos in Japan are a depressing experience. Bear parks in Hokkaido are usually the worst offenders here. Most of them are little more than concrete prisons for the poor creatures, forever destined to begging for food so that the tourist hordes can snap their photos (take a look at the negative reviews of one bear park here, and another here). The Sahoro Bear Mountain reserve, however, stands out among the pack here as the only one we’d recommend anyone going to. When the worst reviews are along the lines of ‘there are too few bears in the huge park’, then you know they’re onto a good thing. In fact, if you don’t go on the meandering bus tour – i.e., you just do the walking course – you may be lucky to see only one or two bears. Indeed, there’s only around 10-13 bears in a 15 hectare (37 acres) heavily forested park, so the bears have plenty of room to wander freely around. There’s plenty to be reserved about, of course. The bears are coaxed into the tourists’ view with watermelons, food pellets and other treats, and the park staff are continuously watching their movements so as to make sure they’re in prime locations for the tourist bus. But overall, the experience doesn’t leave you feeling guilty. Rather, you’ll probably come away feeling educated and more respectful of these giant gentle creatures.

  • Entrance fee: To access the park on foot, entrance is 1,870yen (1,320yen for children). To ride on the fortified Jurassic Park bus, entrance is 2,970yen (2,420yen for children). The bus is very much worth it, if your budget allows.
  • Bear Mountain Website: https://bear-mt.jp/
Route Timing
Up | 1hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

This walk is not particularly long, so take your time to wait patiently, looking from your elevated position to spot bears and the occasional fox.

Route

After picking up your entrance tickets from the ski area building, walk across the large car park to the north of the buildings to the entrance to the reserve. You’ll see Jurassic Park like double gates for the bus, but you’ll head up the gently sloping, zig-zagging ramp to the elevated boardwalk. From there, it’s about 600m walk to the very end of the boardwalk. Part way along the boardwalk, there’s a junction. Go left, and you’ll descend down to the central ground-level viewing area (highly recommended). Go right, and you’ll continue on to a central viewing platform. Return the way you came.

Transport

Public transport:

Sahoro Resort is not directly accessible by public transport, but it’s possible to take a taxi from JR Shintoku Station on the Ishikachi Line (JR石勝線新得駅). The taxi ride will take 15 minutes, and likely cost around 3,500yen.

By car: 

There is ample parking at the Sahoro Resort ski area parking area here.

Hut(s)

None

Physical maps
GSI Topo Map: Sahorodake (佐幌岳) – map no. NK-54-8-1-4

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 a very safe walk. If it looks like it might rain, umbrellas are available at the ticket office, as well as the central ground-level viewing area in the reserve.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Sahoro Bear Mountain

Onsen nearby

The Tokachi Sahoro Resort hotel (十勝サホロリゾート, location, 1000yen) just down the road has a nice onsen with subdued, relaxing forest views. For a more down-to-earth locals’ experience, try the JR Shintoku Station Onsen (新得町営浴場location, 420yen) – they ship natural hot spring water down in a tanker from Tomuraushi Onsen, deep in the Daisetsuzan Range.

Extra Resources

See the reviews and photos on Trip Advisor here.

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 on the board of directors 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. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Mum and dad were here in Hokkaido, visiting from New Zealand. It was September, and we were on our way back to Sapporo. Mum and dad had not seen a Hokkaido brown bear before, so we swung by the Sahoro Bear Mountain for half a morning’s walk.

We opted to get on the fortified bus for the ride into the reserve, and then because the weather was good, we walked back along the raised boardwalk. The bears seemed in good spirits, lazily wandering over to where staff dropped treats. Once again a pleasant enough captive-bears experience.

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Sahoro Bear Mountain Walking Course Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

D

Navigation

D

Totals

25/100

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.