Summer Outdoor Adventures in Niseko
The warm weather is here, and the cicadas start to sing as Niseko comes alive with greenery.
Read on for some suggestions of wild Hokkaido hikes, nature walks, and treks from the comfort of your village base in Grand Hirafu. Each trip will require sensible walking clothing and shoes, a water bottle and a packed lunch. We also recommend sunscreen, an insect repellent and of course your camera to capture all the beautiful views you will come across.
Hirafu Course: Kobo Course/Haru No Taki Course (No Car Required!)
From AYA Niseko’s front door you can set out down the main road and take a path uphill into the trees. This loop will take you through the woods in a circuit that leads back to the same path and you can walk it in either direction. You will find several Mount Yotei viewpoints, a waterfall that appears only in spring, many different flower and plant species, and trees that are bent to an odd shape due to the weight of heavy snow.
Time Required: 2.5 – 3 hours for the full circuit
Kagaminuma Marsh & Mount Annupuri
The same mountain that skiers and snowboarders flock to every winter, is now bare and green. Park your car at Hanazono Golf’s clubhouse and start your walk to the marsh. Late June and early July is the best time for this trek so that you can see the fluffy cotton sedge flowers, cranberry flowers, cloudberries and Isotsutsuji blooming in the wetlands. After admiring the reflections in the “mirror lake” you can make your way up the Mt Annupuri trail to the peak.
Time Required: 1 hour to Kagaminuma Marsh, a further 2 hours to Mt Annupuri. Allow 6-7 hours for the full hike up and back down returning to your car in Hanazono.
The "mirror lake" at Kagaminuma Marsh
Hangetsu Lake & Mount Yotei
Explore this half-moon shaped lake at the base of Mount Yotei and you might see ducks in the lake, chipmunks or a Spotted Woodpecker if you keep your eyes peeled. For those with a high fitness level, you might wish to tackle Mount Yotei! It's essential to start early to ensure you’re not returning in the dark but luckily the summer days in Hokkaido are long and you should have ample daylight. Mount Yotei is one of Japan’s top 100 mountains and has 3 different trailheads that will lead you to the summit.
Time Required: 1-2 hours (Lake Hangetsu course).
9 – 10 hours round trip, 2 hours extra for the crater loop (Mount Yotei trail)
Shirakabayama (Mountain Hike For Beginners)
A slightly less elevated climb that is lesser known than Annupuri and Yotei is Shirakabayama. The trail head is at Niimi Pass where there is a small parking lot. Inexperienced hikers can reach the summit in about 1.5 – 2 hours and in clear weather see Lake Toya and the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Niimi Pass also had the trailhead to climb the more difficult Mt Mekunnai with a rocky summit and views of the Sea of Japan.
Time Required: 3 - 4 hours round trip (up and back down)
For the Kids! Tree-hopping at the NAC Adventure Park
In the forest behind AYA Niseko is an elaborate combination of climbing equipment, ziplines, ladders and swings, allowing you to hop from tree to tree. Attach yourself to a harness and make your way through the course without worrying about falling. There are many courses available for beginners, and for those children who are very brave and not afraid of heights!
Price: Summer Day Pass 5,000 JPY (13 years+), 4.200 JPY (children 12 and younger)
NAC Adventure Park
Asahigaoka Park Course
Beginning in Kutchan, your journey takes you to the outskirts of town, past a park golf course, and to the base of the ski area. You can follow a loop trail starting at Daibutsuji Temple, see the 33 Kannon statues and stop at one of the clearings for lunch. If you are visiting in May, it is highly recommended to visit Mr Mishima’s shibazakura garden nearby to see the impressive pink moss with Mount Yotei in the background. Relax after your walk with a treat from Fuji Sweets and a coffee at Sprout just down the road from the train station.
Time Required: 1 hour for the loop course, allow an additional hour for walking within Kutchan, and longer for lunch.