Daisetsuzan, the largest national park in Japan, is located in the centre of its northernmost island, Hokkaido. Measuring a gargantuan 2,267km² it is an expansive area filed with every biome imaginable; sprawling forests, marshland, snow drifts, shifting volcanic rock, bamboo forests, and the list goes on. The landscape, wild and stunning in its sheer size, gives a hiker plenty to enjoy.
Skip to the next page to begin the hike guide, or stick around for some general information on what type of hike The Grand Traverse is, and what you’re getting yourself in for. Or, jump to Part 2: The Gear for a 7 Day Hiking Kit List.
Suitably, the park’s name translated means ‘The Great Snowy Mountains’. However, before the Japanese populated Hokkaido it was known by a different name. The Ainu, the indigenous race of Hokkaido, had christened it ‘Kamuimintara’. Translated, it means ‘The Playground of the Gods.’ The name is a hint of the grand scale, and sheer playful variety, upon which the park’s monumental features are played out.
During the summer months hikers come to experience the Gods’ Playground, the peak hiking season being the end of July and beginning of August. Whilst you’ll run into many hikers on the northern trails between Mt. Asahidake and Mt. Kurodake, you’ll find this trickle down to the odd encounter now and again as you venture further south, and abruptly become desolate when you leave Mt. Tomaurashi camp grounds.
Daisetsuzan also has a reputation for wild bears. (Black grizzly bears, no less.) The manager of a hostel in Asahikawa, a friendly man who runs his business out of love, laughingly assured me that I wouldn’t see any bears, as they can’t be bothered with the noisy hikers parading through the park during peak season. And this was an excellent overview, until we reached the southern end of the park, which is much less busy, where we encountered a bear.
There are many routes to choose from throughout the park to suit your timings and prefrences, however the southern end is difficult no matter how you attempt it. The starting point is Mt. Asahidake, ending at Mt. Tokachidake, or vice versa. The hike can be achieved in 5 days but 7 days are recommended for those who don’t hike or exercise extremely regularly.
In August, due to an extreme lack of water in the southern end of the park, it is heavily advised you leave the park at Shirogane Onsen, just before Mt. Tokachidake. Or, not attempt the southern end at all.
Part 1 of this guide will take you through the seven days of The Grand Traverse route I took in August 2016. Be sure to check back for the other upcoming releases of this guide: Part 2: Gear, Part 3: Food, and Part 4: Daisetsuzan Rules, and When To Break Them, all to be released in the coming months.
In the meanwhile if you have any questions about the hike please feel free to comment below.