Resources for Exploring the Hokkaido Outdoors

Posted on Aug 1, 2018
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Posted on Aug 1, 2018
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Reading time: 3 min
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 Mar 12, 2020

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: I rely almost exclusively on Their forecasts for most regions in Hokkaido are uncannily accurate.

Backcountry Ski-touring Specifc Resources

  • Hokkaido Backcountry Skiing Guidebook – Most of the of the backcountry ski touring routes on The Hokkaido Wilds can be found in the Hokkaido Yukiyama Gaido (ISBN: 978-4894538047), a backcountry skiing guidebook (in Japanese) published by Hokkaido Newspaper (Hokkaido Shimbun). All routes in this guidebook were produced by members of one of Hokkaido’s oldest mountaineering email mailing lists (The Hokkaido Mountain Mailing List).
  • 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).
  • Hidden Hokkaido: A well-documented array of onsen, food places, and other tips and tricks for planning and enjoying a Hokkaido backcountry ski vacation.

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

11 thoughts on “Resources for Exploring the Hokkaido Outdoors”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 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.

  4. 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. 

MAIN ASPECT: Which cardinal direction the primary consequential slope is facing, that you might encounter on the route. More details here.

ROUTE TAGS: An eclectic picking of other categories that routes might belong to.

SEARCH BY LOCATION: You can find routes near your current location – just click on the crosshairs (). You may need to give permission to to know your GPS location (don’t worry, we won’t track you). Or, type in a destination, such as Niseko or Sapporo or Asahikawa etc.

Please let us know how we can make it easier to narrow down your search. Contact Rob at [email protected] with your suggestions.

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.