Posted on Jul 27, 2019
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Posted on Jul 27, 2019

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Reading time: 3 min
7.5km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

4/5

Remoteness

5/5

Water clarity

5/10

Difficulty

Jun-Oct

Best season

Lake Kuttara (倶多楽湖) is a perfect-circle caldera lake, situated in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. It's fed only by rainwater so the water is uncannily clear. There's a number of pristine, remote beaches far, far from any civilization, only accessible by canoe. Take a picnic lunch and enjoy being far away from the madding crowds for a bit. Despite its near-perfection for a canoe destination, you'll mostly find it devoid of other lake users. You'll have the place to yourself.

We visited this route on Jul 21, 2019

Last updated Mar 23, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Lake Details

This route is on Lake Kuttara (倶多楽湖), or Kuttar-us-to in the Ainu indigenous language. The lake is a natural lake, about 2.4km wide and 2.4km long. It has a shoreline of 8km and a maximum depth of 148m (105m average). The lake is at 258m above sea level and water visibility is 19m.

Location

Lake Kuttara is located just east of the bustling tourist trap that is Noboribetsu Onsen, about 60km south of Sapporo City. You’d hardly notice though – the 7km drive from the onsen resort area seems to be too much of an ask for any but the most intrepid of tourists. You’ll certainly have the lake to yourself. Park up at the Lake Kuttara parking lot on the left hand side of the only building on the lakefront. From there, it is a short portage down some steps to the shore.

General notes

The mind boggles a bit as to why this lake doesn’t feature more widely in guidebooks and canoe tour operations. The water is some of the most gorgeous we’ve seen in Hokkaido, varying between emerald green to deep turquoise blue, with a beautiful white sand lake floor to reflect all that colorful goodness. Perhaps it is the near perfect circular shape that puts people off – symmetry’s not everyone’s cup of tea, perhaps. Either way, the lake is a very worthwhile, remote destination for a morning’s paddle. With only one building on the lake, and extremely limited road access, this lake is relatively remote. Make sure you have some form of emergency contact with the outside world, such as a SPOT or inReach device – there’s no cell access on the lake or at the put in location. Also note that there’s no toilets available at the lake or at the Paddle Street lodge.

  • Ecosystem concerns: Lake Kuttara is a delicate ecosystem with no outlet waterways. To avoid cross-contamination from other waterways, all watercraft should be washed well, away from the lake, before putting in.
Route description

Put in at the main parking lot access area, and then choose your direction around the lake. The interesting cave-like rock formation in the cliffs is about 20 minutes paddle anti-clockwise around the lake from the lodge. The most interesting beach is about 4km paddle around the lake, directly opposite the lodge.

Route Timing
Trip time: 2hrs 30min

Take a picnic lunch and a cup ‘o tea and make this a leisurely three hour potter. There’s a number of beaches along the way, and an interesting cave-like rock formation to explore.

Transport

Public transport:

There’s no public transport to the lake. Noboribetsu Onsen, however, is accessible by public transport (Google Maps will assist). From there, expect about 3,000yen for a taxi ride to the lake – about 8km. Note that there’s no mobile reception at the lake, so you’ll need to arrange a time for a taxi to come pick you up at the end of the paddle.

By car: 

There’s plenty of parking on either side of the lodge at the lake.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Noboribetsu-onsen (登別温泉) – map no. NK-54-15-14-1
Official Topo Map 2: Tobiu (飛生) – map no. NK-54-15-13-2

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

As mentioned above, Lake Kuttara is close but very far from civilization – there’s no mobile phone reception at the lake at all, and the only road access to the lake is at the Paddle Street lodge at the main carpark. If you’re at the opposite side of the lake, it is a long way from anywhere. Make sure to be carrying some form of emergency contact, such as a SPOT or inReach device.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Lake Kuttara

CampSites

None
Onsen nearby

Noboribetsu Onsen is one of the most famous hotspring resort areas in Hokkaido, and is only 7km away from the lake. So naturally this is our first choice when it comes to a post-paddle soak. Note that all the main hotels in the Noboribetsu Onsen area are quite expensive. They’re all very full-featured, so expect about 1000yen per person. For a full blowout onsen experience, try the Takimotokan (第一滝本間, 2000yen, location). The outdoor baths have views over the main Noboribetsu Onsen geothermal area, and the indoor baths are huge, with three-story high ceilings. If you’re looking for a more reasonable down-to-earth soaking experience, try the Shiki Ryokan (四季旅館) to the settlement to the west, here (500yen per person).

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

It appears that there’s currently a guiding outfit in the old lodge on the lakefront. Try contacting them – Paddle Street – if you’d like to have a guided tour on the lake.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

It was a super last-minute decision to come to Lake Kuttara. We’d paddled Lake Eniwa in the morning, and were vaguely contemplating going for a bob on the Lake Chitose in the afternoon. But while the man-made Lake Eniwa was nice enough, I knew Lake Chitose was going to be only a very short 1km or so of paddling all up, with not a whole lot of scenery. A quick look on Google told me that we could be at the pristine Lake Kuttara in just over an hour if we used the expressway, so we decided to make the dash there instead. It was my second time to visit the lake (first time by canoe), and the other three had never been there before.

We arrived at around 1pm after making the drive along the expressway with canoes strapped to the top of the car. The quiet calm of the lake was in direct contrast to the relative chaos of this last minute decision to come here.

As soon as we were on the water, we were taken aback at how crystal clear the water was. Or should that be aqua-clear, or emerald-clear. It was difficult to put one’s finger on the exact color, as it changed so often.

It didn’t take too long to get to the larger of the beaches, about half way around the lake at the 4km point. We imagined this would be the perfect spot for a leisurely picnic lunch on a hot day. 

The highlight of the second half of the very circular journey was the interesting half-cave about 20 minutes from the lodge. There was water seeping through the rock, and moss clinging to the sides of the cave. 

We polished off the final few hundred meters of the paddle, finishing what was a very worthwhile and unexpected afternoon out.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Lake Kuttara, or other waterways nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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Lake Kuttara Canoeing 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.