Tokachi-dake and Biei-dake Horseshoe Route

Posted on Mar 11, 2019
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Posted on Mar 11, 2019

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Reading time: 2 min
16km

Distance

9 hours

Time

1590m

Ascent

2077m

Highest point

7/10

Difficulty

This is one of the best high mountain walks in Hokkaido, a classic horseshoe route taking in another of Hokkaido’s 100 Famous Mountains, Tokachi-dake (十勝岳, 2077m). The upper slopes of Tokachi-dake form a spectacular volcanic desert with a number of active craters belching out plumes of steam. It is a popular hike up and back in a few hours from the trailhead at Bogakudai, but it is well worth making a longer day of it and wandering along the high stony ridge that connects it to the sharp summit of its equally dramatic neighbor Biei-dake (美瑛岳 2052m). Volcanic Hokkaido at its best.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Tokachi-dake is located in the centre of the Tokachi mountain range in central Hokkaido, above the towns of Biei and Furano. This route starts and finishes at the car park (here) at Bogakudai (望岳台) below Tokachi-dake, a few kilometres above Shirogane Onsen (白金温泉).

General notes

Tokachi-dake is a very active volcano, with major eruptions in 1926 and 1962. The most recent eruption was in 2004. It is closely monitored and access restrictions may be imposed during periods of increased activity.

The best season for this walk is from July into September. The circuit can of course be done in either direction, but is here described clockwise as the steep rough track below Biei-dake feels easier climbing up in the morning rather than descending with tired legs after a long day. Of course it is subjective, but perhaps this direction also keeps the most spectacular views in front of you throughout the day.

Shirogane Onsen has accommodation, a campsite, hot springs and bus links to Biei Town but no scheduled transport up to the trailhead at Bogakudai, a few kilometers up the road.

Hut

Mt. Tokachi Emergency Shelter (full details here)

The Mt. Maetokachi Emergency Shelter Hut (十勝岳避難小屋, 1,300m) is a relatively new hut, built in 2008. It is a very basic shelter, however, built to eruption-standards – at least it looks like it is; it is a solid steel-beamed structure, with a very basic interior. There’s no heating or water at the hut, so it is only really suited for basic overnight stays.

Route markers

The trail is well defined lower down though rocky in places. On the upper slopes of Tokachi-dake and the ridge to Biei-dake it becomes fainter on the stony ground and is marked with occasional cairns and yellow paint marks. There are wooden or red signposts (in Japanese) at trail junctions. Times are approximate, do not include lengthy breaks for meals or frequent selfie stops, and will vary with conditions and fitness.

From the trailhead at Bogakudai (望岳台) walk up the broad open track to the junction at Kumonodaira Bunki (雲ノ平分岐) in about an hour. You can see the Tokachi-dake Refuge a little way above you but instead turn left along the trail to Biei-dake (美瑛岳). This climbs up then contours around to a gully with steep banks and a ladder, then another larger stream after a few minutes (1hr 20mins). Across the stream is a steep rough climb of half an hour or so through scrub birch up to the junction at Bieidake-bunki (美瑛岳分岐).

Take the path, now through scrub juniper, to the summit of Biei-dake (美瑛岳, 1hr – 1hr 30mins). Continue off the summit and drop down to the main ridge after 15 mins, here turn south to start the long traverse over Nokogiri-dake (鋸岳) to Tokachi-dake (十勝岳, about 2hrs 30mins). The trail descends the rocky ridge to a col, then rises up to Nokogiri-dake over broad and featureless terrain which could be tricky in bad visibility.

After Nokogiri-dake the ridge becomes a broad stony plateau leading to a short steep climb to the summit. From Tokachi-dake summit, take the well-used main trail that drops down northwest back to Bogakudai (望岳台) in about two and a half hours. Steep and rocky at first, it then crosses the desert-like shoulder of the mountain – again, take care in mist.

Route Timing

About 9-10 hours for the full horseshoe route via Biei-dake and Tokachi-dake.

Transport

Public transport:

To Shirogane Onsen, there are five buses a day running to and from Biei JR Station, run by Dohoku Bus Company (0166 23 4161). 650 yen one way. There is no public transport to the trailhead at Bogakudai. A taxi from Shirogane Onsen to Bogakudai would likely cost just under 2000yen one-way.

By car: 

There is a large free car parking area at Bogakudai, here.

Physical maps

Official Topo Map: Shirogane Onsen (白金温泉) – map no. NK-54-7-8-1

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

Tokachi-dake is a very active volcano. There may be access restrictions due to volcanic activity. Stick to the trail and don’t be tempted to look closer at the steaming craters and vents – the fumes are poisonous. The entire Tokachi range is 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. It is possible to become disoriented in mist, especially on the broad stony sections of the main ridge northeast of Tokachi-dake and the upper slopes of the trail between Bogakudai and the summit. Take care not to lose the trail, which can become faint in places on the ashy volcanic terrain.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Tokachi-dake

Onsen nearby

At Shirogane Onsen the Yumoto Shirogane Onsen Hotel (here) has a nice outdoor bath by the river (800 yen). Further up the road from Bogakudai is the wild open hot spring of Fukiage Onsen (no facilities, mixed, location here) near the Hakuginso Lodge (details), which also has a very nice onsen (800yen, here).

Extra Resources

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

I had done the ascent of Tokachi-dake from Bogakudai before and wanted to climb Biei-dake this time. I also remembered that coming down the steep rough section below Biei-dake on a previous trip had been a pain at the end of a long day and reckoned it would be easier going up. So it made sense to climb Biei-dake first.

 

After an early start from Sapporo we arrived at the trailhead around 8am on a clear summer morning. The broad track up to below the hut passed underfoot quickly enough, then we branched off left up the rocky trail that contours around to below Biei-dake. It was fairly early in the season so the steep sided gully with the ladder was still mainly under the snow. At one point I was startled by a rustling in the scrub above the trail but it wasn’t a bear, just a curious fox observing our progress before turning tail and disappearing into the bushes.

 

After crossing the larger stream we began the steep climb up the rough narrow trail through scrub birch, over boulders and tree roots. As I had suspected it was easier going up and we soon reached the upper trail junction. From here the path continued up through scrub juniper. A Siberian Bluechat darted along in front of us, in and out of the juniper at the side of the trail. The path then emerged at the rim of the large crater that makes up the south face of the mountain. Out of the shrubs now, we climbed the narrow crater rim along the rocky path lined with alpine flowers. The views opened up across the vast volcanic wasteland of Tokachi-dake on our right and we could see strings of tiny figures toiling up the main trail from Bogakudai.

 

After a break enjoying the 360 degree views from the summit, we carried on down the narrow crater rim to where it joins the main ridge, then turned south towards Tokachi-dake. The orange cinders and jagged weathered crags around the rim gave way to a more open stony landscape as we reached the col between the two peaks. From here it was a steady climb up back into the cindery wastes, crossing the odd snowfield. Nobody else was around.

 

After traversing beneath Nokogiri-dake we arrived at a flat stony plateau that reminded us of the surface of the moon. Wouldn’t be fun in mist, we thought to ourselves. The sharp summit of Tokachi-dake drew us onward and after a short climb we were on top and back among other hikers again. From here we dropped down the main trail through the broad volcanic landscape and past steaming craters to complete the circuit, anticipating a soak in a hot spring and a steaming bowl of ramen. A classic Hokkaido day out.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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