Resources for Exploring the Hokkaido Outdoors

Posted on Aug 1, 2018
Posted on Aug 1, 2018
0 23
Beyond the copious amounts of knowledge contained in English-speaking, professional Hokkaido backcountry guides’ heads, there exists very little information in English about backcountry ski touring, cycle touring, and hiking in Hokkaido. Despite the challenge in finding comprehensive information, there are nuggets of gold out there. Here, I list a few destinations that will help you get inspired for your next forray into the Hokkaido outdoors.

Last updated Jan 14, 2023

General Resources

Most of the resources I have used to date for planning my trips here in Hokkaido are in Japanese. Here are a few places to start if you’d like to have a browse.

  • Digital Topographical Maps – There are a few smartphone apps for displaying official Japanese topographical maps. Take a look at my blog post about the different options here. The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) also allows their maps to be printed out for free – instructions for doing that are here.
  • Paper Topographical Maps – GSI also produces paper maps. I buy all mine from Kinokuniya Bookstore on the west side of Sapporo Station. Location on Google Maps: They generally cost around 350yen each. GIS paper maps can also be ordered online using this amazing tool:,142.111145&z=7&mt=gsimaps. Check the individual ski touring and hiking route pages for specific map reference numbers.
  • – the definitive online community for the Japanese outdoors (in Japanese). It is one of the resources I go to first when researching a hiking or ski touring route in Hokkaido. Users upload GPX route files, photos, and route descriptions. Great for getting up to date trail conditions.
  • Yamap – another very popular online community for posting routes and trip reports in Japanese. They also have an English interface version:
  • Hokkaido weather forecasts: We rely almost exclusively on Their forecasts for most regions in Hokkaido are uncannily accurate.

Backcountry Ski-touring Specific Resources

  • Niseko Backcountry Ski Map: We published this 1:25,000 scale, waterproof, durable backcountry ski touring map for the Niseko region in December 2022. See the companion site here.  You can buy this physical map online at, Rhythm Japan Online, or Hokkaido Ski Club’s online store.
  • Japanese-language Backcountry Ski guidebooks: There is a deep history of ski touring in Japan. As such, there are a huge number of excellent guidebooks for ski touring and backcountry skiing across Japan. See our list here.
  • Hokkaido Hiking Logs: Check out Hokkaido Hiker for some winter and skiing-themed posts.
  • Leon Roode’s HIOC page: Leon Roode was a mountain guide in Hokkaido for 16 years, and is arguably still one of the most experienced non-Japanese people about the Hokkaido mountains. Before moving back to New Zealand, he wrote some backcountry trip reports on the Hokkaido International Outdoor Club (now defunct) blog here.
  • Strava: Strava is used prolifically for backcountry ski routes. Here is a search with ‘Hokkaido’ as the location: Click here. (HT: Essjaywhy).

Cycle Touring and Bikepacking Specific Resources

  • Japan Cycling Navigator: The people behind the Japan Cycling Navigator deserve a medal of honor. Their length of Japan route is very well curated, and their Hokkaido section takes in some great areas of the prefecture. If you’re planning to cycle Hokkaido, also consider joining the Japan Cycling Navigator Facebook group – there’s always someone knowledgable about Hokkaido lurking there to answer questions.
  • Bicycle touring, hiking and friends in Japan: This Facebook group is also very active, with over 3,500 members. James Oda, the main moderator of the group, is the man behind the invaluable Japan Free Campsites, Onsen and Michi-no-Eki Google Map.
  • Touring Japan by Bicycle Facebook Group: A relatively new group, but plenty of tidbits of information.
  • Paper maps: The best map book for cycle touring in Hokkaido is the Touring Mapple ( – ISBN: 978-4398656261). It is all in Japanese, but the icons (such as convenience store, campground, hotsprings etc) are self-explanatory. It marks gravel roads too.
  • Campgrounds: For campground information, we use the Hokkaido Campground Guide ( – ISBN: 978-4906740208). It is updated every year, and is super helpful, with details on the nearest onsen etc. All the campground info on my route maps is based on this book. It is also all in Japanese, and is unlikely to be any use unless you can read Japanese.
  • Official cycle touring information: Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau’s Hokkaido Cycle Touring Pamphlet has a good deal of information on cycle touring in Hokkaido (PDF)
  • Some videos: A great video series of two people cycling around old closed train lines in Hokkaido:

Hiking Resources

Michi-no-Eki, Free Campgrounds, and Free Onsen Map

Created by James Oda of the Free Camping and Hotsprings in Japan Facebook Group, this excellent map marks a great number of no-cost places to have a wash and a sleep in Hokkaido (and the rest of Japan).

Comments | Queries | Discussion

23 thoughts on “Resources for Exploring the Hokkaido Outdoors”

  1. We’re coming to Hokkaido in Mid September to cycle from Sapporo to Wakkanai.
    Our intended route is Sapporo-Bibai-Ashibetsu-Furano-Asahikawa-Shebetsu-Bifuka-Nakagawa-Toyotomi-Wakkanai.
    Looks like we’ll be on National Route 40 quite a bit – how safe to cycle will that be?
    Also, we’re aiming to find accommodation in each of the places we stop – which we presume will work out ok?
    Any comments on our route appreciated – we’re aiming to do about 60km per day only.

    1. Hi Richard, that’s a nice route! Plenty of accommodation. From Asahikawa to Nayoro though, Route 40 is a relatively busy road. That said, you’ll usually be able to find quieter roads running through farmland that run parallel to Route 40. From Nayoro to Horonobe, take a look at our Teshio River paddling guide for some hints on accommodation ( That section is more remote, with fewer accommodation options (all of the options are great though – some really nice onsens such as Teshio-gawa Onsen (, Bifuka Onsen ( and Nakagawa Onsen (

      1. Thanks for your advice. We were aiming to find accommodation (Ryokan/Minshuku/Hotel) as we arrive at each place.
        Our only concern is the weekend of Sept 14/15/16th appears to be a holiday weekend.
        Would it be advisable to pre-book accommodation for those days?

  2. I am very excited to have booked 10 days in Hokkaido at the end of June to go bike packing and will be flying into Memanbetsu. I will be bringing my own bike and need to store my bike bag for the 10 days. What is the easiest or most cost effective way to do this? I plan to book end my camping with a hotel stay in Abashiri are there any good options there please?

    1. Hi Emily, we don’t have any specific recommendations for hotels in Abashiri sorry…Google Maps is a good place to start with finding hotels in Hokkaido! Or any of the usual suspects – Agoda, etc. As for storing your bike bag, I would consider posting it to your final hotel. You can do this relatively easily at convenience stores. In Memanbetsu Airport, there’s a 7/11 convenience store where you can courier items using Yamato Kuroneko courier (details in Japanese). Just bring a bag to stuff your bike bag into, and you should be able to send it as-is. The Memanbetsu Airport Seven-Eleven has Yamato courier waybills (送り状 okurijo – these things) that you can request, fill out, stick to your package, pay (cash or credit card), and send. Hope this helps.

  3. Hello! Thank you so much for all this information, can’t wait to get out and explore! I was wondering if you can recall how dog friendly trails are in Hokkaido? I will be bringing my lab from Okinawa and spending a couple weeks hiking.

    1. Hi Sonia, the dog-friendliness of trails in Hokkaido really depends on the location. In Daisetsuzan National Park, for example, it’s officially prohibited to have dogs in the national park. The same goes for trails in the Shiretoko National Park. Less busy areas, you’ll have less of an issue. I haven’t looked into it in depth though, so can’t speak from experience. Sorry I can’t be of more help! I hear Tarumae-zan is a relatively popular place to hike with a pooch –

  4. Hi there, Thanks for making this content. I’m wondering how you might recommend bringing a bicycle from other areas of Japan like Tokyo? I’m flying to Chitose airport. Do you have experience with shipping your bike via 宅急便 or bringing it on a plane?

    1. Hi Caitlin. I’d usually recommend taking it on the plane – most Japan airlines will take a bicycle in a bicycle bag. I’ve found that within Japan, even putting the bike into a large thin bike bag is fine – the airlines here are so careful with bicycles! I’ve never needed to pack a bike into a bike box for domestic flights. Just check with the airline in advance of your flight, to see if they have any specific restrictions or requirements for bikes.

  5. Hi Rob – I think you mentioned somewhere that there are no English-language hiking guidebooks for Hokkaido, but is there a Japanese one you would recommend? Thanks, Ian.

  6. Hi Rob! This website is amazing! Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m planning on recreating the Central Daisetsuzan Trek you did over 4 days. Do you have any recommendations on where to purchase food in Sapporo (dehydrated, quick dinners for the trail). I’ll be coming from Tokyo and I don’t wanna carry so much stuff on the plane. Thank you!

    1. Hi Chris, if you want the standard dehydrated rice and pasta camping meals then the Shugakuso outdoor store a few blocks north of Sapporo Station has all that, as well as any other gear you may need! There are also supermarkets in the basement of Sapporo Station along with some import food stores (Jupiter, Kaldi), which is where I like to get dried pasta sauces and exotic noodles etc from.

  7. Thanks so much for this website. It’s going to help me out for my trip planning. I’m coming from Washington, USA and this is very comforting that there is an Ex-pat BC community out there!

    1. Hey Chris, your website is wonderful. I am planning a tour with a friend from NZ. We will have two weeks together before she leaves and I will have another 1. I was thinking of cycling from Sapporo in a clockwise direction south west. It looks like there is lots to see and lots of campgrounds. Have you cycled in this area? What did you think?
      Also travelling from Scotland so will have a bike box that I’m leaving at a homestay for the duration of the tour (they have said this is fine). Do you think it will be ok to travel from Chitose on the train (my stop is Eniwa) with my bike in a box as other people will also have lots of luggage from the plane.
      Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Sean, thank you for the kind words. I’ve added Yamap to the list – thanks! I’ve only used Yamap a couple of times, but we have our mountain rescue insurance through Yamap. Not sure why I gravitated towards Yamareko rather than Yamap. Good point about (kind of) being able to use Yamap in English. I did have a poke around in English a few years back…has it improved over the last few years at all? Many thanks again.

      1. I still find it easier to use in Japanese but obviously that’s not very useful for non-Japanese speakers. I think the English is adequate but only for basic information provided by the developers.

  8. Hi there,

    I was wondering if there is a specific resource for avalanches conditions on hokkaido..?
    Or you have to do the tests yourself?
    Your website is awesome btw. Keep it up.


    1. Thanks for that. Avalanche information in Hokkaido doesn’t really exist in any form useful to backcountry recreationalists. Niseko’s avalanche reports are the only exception, providing some daily insight in the immediate Niseko area:
      I’ll add that to the list. Thanks for pointing it out!

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REGION: The general mountain/geographical region the route is in.

BEST MONTH(S): Time of year a route is suited to visiting. Some pop all season, some are more limited.

DIFFICULTY: How strenuous a route is, and how technical it is. Full details here.

FREERIDE/SKITOUR: Very subjective, but is a route more-of-a-walk-than-a-ski or the other way around? Some routes are all about the screaming downhill (freeride), some are more about the hunt for a peak or nice forest (ski-tour). Some are in between. 

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Resources for Exploring the Hokkaido Outdoors 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.