Daisetsuzan to Akan–Mashu 9 Day Hiking Tour

The blue crater pond on Mt Meakan in the Akan–Mashu National Park. Volcanic steam rises in the background.

Experience Hokkaido’s varied hiking and unique wildlife. This tour takes in high alpine plateaus, steaming active volcanos, clear caldera lakes and alpine wetlands home to the Hokkaido brown bear.

The Daisetsuzan National Park is the largest national park in Japan, it covers over 2,300 square kilometres (570,000 acres) making it larger than Tokyo! The mountains that form the backbone of the park are volcanos, some still active, and include Hokkaido’s highest peaks. The rocky volcanic soil combined with harsh alpine environment creates a landscape like no other.

Established along with the Daisetsuzan National Park in 1934, the Akan–Mashu national park is home to active volcanos and large caldera lakes surrounded by ancient forest. The area is also renowned for its onsen hot-springs thanks to the volcanic activity. Each hot spring has different qualities giving you even more reason to jump in for a soak.

Tour Highlights

Traverse across the roof of Hokkaido

Summit Mt. Asahidake, the highest peak in Hokkaido before traversing to Mt. Kurodake, skirting around a giant volcanic caldera.

Explore alpine ponds at Daisetsu Kogen

Daisetsu Kogen is a lush corner of the national park, home to a number of alpine ponds - and even more Brown Bears, who make the area their home due to the abundance of tasty plants.

Meet and learn about the Ainu

The Ainu are indigenous to Hokkaido and have lived here for thousands of years. We will learn first hand about how they coexist with nature.

Gaze down on Lake Shikaribetsu from Mt. Hakuunzan

The rocky summit is also home to Northern Pika, who occasionally pop out from their rocky home to take in the views.

Climb Mt. Meakan

Climb Mt. Meakan, an active volcano that is home to unique plant life.


Day 1

The group assembles in Asahikawa City

Your group will meet between 9:00 am and 9:30 am in Central Asahikawa. Once everyone is together in Asahikawa, we’ll spend some time getting to know each other and the programme for our upcoming adventure before heading off to Arashiyama to warm up our legs.

Arashiyama is an urban forest park, popular with Asahikawa locals for its accessibility and the panorama of the city from the top. For the local Ainu ( the indigenous people of Hokkaido ), this is a special place known as ” ci-nomi-sir ” in their language. They perform an annual ritual at the end of May here, thanking the Gods for their blessings and praying for another year full of peace and happiness.

After our hike, we will have lunch with the Ainu in a replica of a traditional house known as a ” cise ” and learn about their culture, history and how they relate to nature in their beliefs and lifestyles. In the late afternoon, we will travel by van for approximately one hour to Asahidake Onsen situated at 1,100m above sea level. We stay the night here in the crisp mountain air enjoying the natural hot springs fed by Mt Asahidake.

Hike 2 km with 120 m climbing
Day 2

Hike from Mt Asahidake to Mt Kurodake

Asahidake Onsen is a popular entry point to Daisetsuzan National Park. The park is Japan’s largest in size, and one of the first designated as a National Park in 1934. While Daisetsuzan is typically known as the Roof of Hokkaido, in the Ainu world, it is known as ” kamuy-mintar ”, meaning the Playground of the Gods.

We make our way into this sacred location by cable car to Sugatami Station at 1,600m , then start climbing to the summit of Mt. Asahidake. At 2,291m , this is the highest you can get in Hokkaido . Our journey continues on the outer ring of the majestic Ohachidaira volcanic caldera, which was formed by an eruption about 30,000 years ago.

In the afternoon, we set foot on the summit of Mt. Hokkai ( 2,149m ) and Mt. Kurodake ( 1,984m ) before descending into Sounkyo Gorge with the help of a chair lift followed by another cable car. Sounkyo Gorge is a picturesque onsen village nestled between the mountains and the cliffs, making it a popular destination for onsen, hiking and skiing. It will be our welcome home for the night.

Alternative Route

This is our biggest hike of the tour and it is almost entirely on exposed ridgelines. Depending on the weather and group dynamics, we may change the traverse hike to a loop hike, returning via Nakadake Onsen after summiting Mt. Asahidake. This hike still takes you to the outer rim of Ohachidaira Caldera but lets us drop down to lower elevation sooner, avoiding spending the whole day on the exposed caldera rim. The distance and the duration are similar to the traverse and we will transfer by van to Sounkyo.

Hike 12.5 km with 860 m climbing
Day 3

Hike amongst the Daisetsu Kogen alpine ponds

Today we will have an early start and drive over to Kogen Onsen which is 1 hour away from Sounkyo. Daisetsu Kogen serves as a trailhead for the popular Kogen Numa (alpine ponds) hiking trail. This area is far from civilization and home to a great number of native brown bears, higuma , which are occasionally spotted by hikers in early summer. After arriving we have a briefing at the Higuma Information Centre about the bear activity and the latest sightings before we hit the trail.

Situated between 1,230m - 1,460m above sea level, the Kogen Numa provides opportunities to observe alpine flora and over a dozen alpine ponds of various sizes scattered along the trail. Once we return from our hike, we board our van to transfer to Nukabira Onsen, a hot spring village situated by Lake Nukabira. We overnight at a historical hotel that has been renovated into a modern Japanese-style inn and is run by a friendly local family.

Hike 8 km with 260 m climbing
Day 4

Hike up Mt. Hakuunzan

We’ll kick the day off with a drive along Lake Shikaribetsu on a road only open during the snowless months from April to October. After approximately 30 mins, we’ll arrive at the start of the trail to Mt. Hakuunzan on the shore of Lake Shikaribetsu. We will take a loop walk to the top of Mt. Hakuunzan ( 1,186m ) and back on the lakeshore trail, which usually takes about 3 hours to complete. From the summit there’s a stunning view of Lake Shikaribetsu and if we are lucky, a chance to spot the Northern pika (rock rabbit) in their rocky dwellings.

After our hike, we’ll have a lunch at cafe on the lake side, and then drive 2.5 hours to our accommodation near Lake Akan, a scenic caldera lake in the Akan–Mashu National Park. Enjoy bathing in the outdoor onsen, or rotenburo, right next to the serene river.

Hike 5 km with 280 m climbing
Day 5

Rest day at Akan Onsen

Today you are free to rest and/or explore Lake Akan at your leisure! 

Our recommendations are to visit the Akankohan Eco Museum Centre and set off for a short forest hike to the bokke , where you can observe volcanic mud bubbling up from underground. 

Lake Akan is also home to many Ainu families and artisans, whose workshops and galleries are found along the street at the Lake Akan Ainu Kotan.

Breakfast & dinner are included in your accommodation booking.

Day 6

Hike up Mt. Meakan

After breakfast at hotel, we drive half an hour to the trailhead of Mt. Meakan. As before we will call by a store in the village to shop for lunch. 

Mt. Meakan (1,499m) is an iconic mountain in the area, providing spectacular views of steaming vents and a little blue lagoon on the summit. 

The loop hike takes you through a diverse landscape, ancient conifer forests, dwarf pine trees and rocky alpine slopes. Hardy alpine flowers make this volcanic environment home, the colourful patches lifting your spirits as you climb. Some of these flowers are even named after the peak, such as Meakan-fusuma, a type of sandwort. Towards the end of the hike we find ourselves on the shore of Lake Onneto, a tranquil lake nestled in the old-growth forest.

After completing our hike, we return to our accommodation in Akan Onsen.

Hike 10 km with 840 m climbing
Day 7

Hike up Mt. Nishibetsu

After breakfast at our accommodation, we check out and drive 1.5 hours to the trailhead of Mt. Nishibetsu. We start with the gentle and steady uphill in the forest. We will soon reach the short steep climb over Gaman-zaka (translates as "endurance hill”), which pushes us above the tree line with an open panorama. The first peak, Mt. Risuke (787m), gives us our first glimpse of Lake Mashu. From there the pleasant ridgeline takes us onto Mt. Nishibetsu (800m), from where we can admire the steep cliffs of the caldera encompassing Lake Mashu, part of the Akan–Mashu National Park.

We leave the mountains behind and return to the trailhead about noon. It is a 1 hour drive to Teshikaga Town where we will have a late lunch at our favourite local restaurant.

For a group who would like to hike more, there is an option to extend the hike all the way to Lake Mashu, which makes for a total day of 10.4km with 840m of ascent. This extended day would take 7 - 8 hours.

After lunch we drive to another Lake Mashu viewpoint to see the dramatic caldera lake from another angle. We then continue to Lake Kussharo, also in the Akan–Mashu National Park. 

Lake Kussharo is Japan’s largest caldera lake with grand views from the lakeshore differing from its neighbour. We stay in a family-run lodge in the quiet forest of the National Park with hot springs on site.

Hike 6.4 km with 440 m climbing
Day 8

Explore Lake Kussharo & Hike up Mt. Mokoto

This morning we check out a couple of places of natural interest. The hot sand beach of Lake Kussharo and the active volcano Mt. Io (Iouzan) are easy to access stops that let us experience the area's volcanic activity first hand. 

Then, to round the tour off, we hike to the summit of Mt. Mokoto (1,000m/3,281ft).

We will pick up lunch at a store in Kawayu Onsen before driving 20mins to the trailhead at the north end of Lake Kussharo. 

The Mt. Mokoto trail is easy going yet has fantastic views of the lake and Nakajima island in the middle of the lake. On a clear day we can see back across to Mt. Meakan, which provides a fitting finale to conclude our hiking & wildlife adventure in Eastern Hokkaido. We will drive for an hour to a traditional Japanese inn by Lake Notoro.

Hike 4 km with 220 m climbing
Day 9


Our tour finishes in the morning in Abashiri. After breakfast, we check out of our accommodation. We will drop you off at either JR Abashiri train station or Abashiri Memanbetsu Airport (MMB), depending on your onward travel.

From the train station you can catch a Limited Express train to Sapporo. From the airport you can fly directly to Tokyo Haneda (HND). We will bid our farewells as you set off to your next destination in Japan. Itterashai!

Dates & Prices

+¥65,000pp for single room
  1. June 17, 2024 - June 25, 2024
    from ¥522,000pp
  2. July 16, 2024 - July 24, 2024
    from ¥522,000pp
  3. August 01, 2024 - August 09, 2024
    from ¥522,000pp
  4. September 03, 2024 - September 11, 2024
    from ¥522,000pp
  5. Enquire About a Private Departure

Travel Style

This hiking tour is a series of day hikes; either return, loop or traverse routes. We always come back to our van at the end of the day and transfer to our accommodation. This means your overnight luggage can stay in the van and you can experience the best of the Daisetsuzan and Akan-Mashu’s hiking with just a light day pack! Even on Day 2, the longest day where we traverse across the roof of Hokkaido from Asahidake Onsen to Sounkyo, your luggage will be transferred by van, ready to meet you at the end of the day’s hiking.

Forest Hiking to Mt Arashiyama in Asahikawa
Forest hiking at Mt Arashiyama in Asahikawa
Lookout deck on the top of Mt Arashiyama
Lookout deck on the top of Mt Arashiyama
Two people walk past a reconstructed Ainu Cise house in Arashiyama park, Asahikawa. The houses walls and roof are all is made out of thatched bamboo.
A replica of a "cise" Ainu house at Mt Arashiyama
Ainu host Hisae san at Ainu Museum in Asahikawa
Ainu host Hisae-san at the Ainu Museum in Asahikawa
Group photo at the fifth stage of Mt Asahidake
Group photo on the climb of Mt Asahidake
Alpine flowers in bloom
Alpine flowers in bloom
At the summit of Mt Asahidake, Hokkaido's highest peak
At the summit of Mt Asahidake - Hokkaido's highest peak
A group of hikers walk along the edge of Ohachidaira. In the background the caldera is filled with green trees and behind that, Mt. Hokuchin rises amongst the clouds.
Hike along Ohachidaira, an ancient volcanic caldera
Hiking to Kogen Numa, Daisetsuzan National Park
Hiking to Kogen Numa, Daisetsuzan National Park
Ezo Numa
Snow lined Ezo numa pond
River crossing at Yanbe Onsen on Kogen Numa trail
River crossing at Yanbe onsen on the Kogen Numa trail
Hiking to Mt Hakuunzan in gentle mist
Hiking along the ridge of Mt Hakuunzan in gentle mist
At the peak of Mt Hakuunzan
At the peak of Mt Hakuunzan
A northern pika calls out from a rocky perch.
Northern Pika calling out from it's rocky perch
Lake Onneto is seen from high on Mt. Meakan
View of Lake Onneto on the descend from Mt. Meakan
Purple and white Pennellianthus flowers are seen on Mt Meakan
Alpine flowers growing strong in the harsh volcanic environment
A sign written in Japanese marks the summit of Mt Risuke. It shows the elevation is 787m. Lake Mashu can be seen in the distance.
View of Lake Mashu from the top of Mt. Risuke on the way up to Mt. Nishibetsu
Steaming Mt Io in Summer
An active volcano Mt. Iō, Akan–Mashu National Park
Nakajima island floats in the middle of Lake Kussharo on a calm day. Viewed from high on Mt Mokoto, the lake seems like a mirror, reflecting the other peaks of the Akan–Mashu National Park
View of Lake Kussharo from the top of Mt. Mokoto in late autumn