Planning a hike in Hokkaido this May? We have a curated list of of the best trails for hiking in Hokkaido in May. Check it out!
Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Its diverse landscapes, ranging from rugged mountains to picturesque coastlines, make it an ideal destination for hiking.
May, with its pleasant weather and blooming flora, is an excellent time to explore Hokkaido’s hiking trails. In this article, we will guide you through some of the best trails to experience during this month.
Hiking In Hokkaido In May
Asahidake Summit Trail – Daisetsuzan National Park
Daisetsuzan National Park, known as the “Roof of Hokkaido,” offers a variety of hiking trails suitable for all skill levels. In May, the park’s valleys and meadows burst with vibrant colors as wildflowers blanket the landscape.
One of the must-visit trails is the Asahidake Summit Trail, which takes you to the highest peak in Hokkaido. The trail starts at Asahidake Onsen, a hot spring resort, and ascends through alpine forests and rocky terrain.
As you make your way up, you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery and the gentle sounds of nature. The trail offers stunning views of cascading waterfalls, meandering streams, and picturesque valleys.
Keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls this area home, including deer, foxes, and even rare bird species. The higher you climb, the more breathtaking the panoramic views become.
From the summit, you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring vistas of neighboring peaks, sprawling valleys, and the majestic volcanic landscapes that define the region.
It’s important to note that the weather can change rapidly in the mountains, so be sure to check the forecast and come prepared with appropriate clothing and gear.
Additionally, consider visiting the visitor center before your hike to gather any necessary information about trail conditions and safety precautions.
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Shiretoko Five Lakes – Shiretoko National Park
Located on the northeastern coast of Hokkaido, Shiretoko National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its unspoiled wilderness.
In May, the park comes alive with blooming flowers and lush greenery, creating a picturesque backdrop for hiking adventures. One of the park’s most popular trails is the Shiretoko Five Lakes trail.
This moderate-level trail takes you through a pristine landscape of dense forests, crystal-clear lakes, and cascading waterfalls. The trail meanders around five interconnected lakes, each offering its own unique charm.
As you walk along the well-maintained paths, you’ll be surrounded by the serene beauty of nature, with the towering mountains on one side and the vast Sea of Okhotsk on the other.
Keep your camera ready as you may encounter a variety of wildlife during your hike, including deer, foxes, and numerous bird species. The highlight of the trail is the opportunity to witness brown bears fishing for salmon in the lakes.
Though rare, these encounters add an extra layer of excitement and appreciation for the untamed wilderness.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, it’s important to follow the park’s guidelines regarding wildlife encounters and hiking etiquette. It is recommended to hike in groups, make noise to alert bears of your presence, and carry bear spray as a precautionary measure.
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Rishiri Island Loop Trail – Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island, located off the coast of northern Hokkaido, is a hidden gem for hikers. With its untouched natural beauty and unique cultural heritage, the island offers a rewarding hiking experience.
May is an excellent time to visit as the island is blanketed in vibrant alpine flowers, creating a picturesque setting for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Rishiri Island Loop Trail is a challenging but incredibly rewarding hike that circumnavigates the entire island.
This multi-day trek takes you through diverse landscapes, including dense forests, rolling meadows, and rugged coastal cliffs.
Along the way, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the island’s centerpiece, Mount Rishiri, a cone-shaped volcanic peak that rises majestically from the sea.
As you traverse the trail, you’ll also encounter quaint fishing villages, where you can immerse yourself in the island’s unique culture and indulge in fresh seafood delicacies.
Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate in the island’s hot springs, known as “onsen,” which offer a perfect respite after a long day of hiking.
It’s essential to plan your hike carefully, ensuring you have enough provisions, as there are limited facilities and services along the trail.
Checking weather conditions and obtaining up-to-date trail information from the local tourist center is highly recommended.
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Lake Mashu Trail – Akan-Mashu National Park
Akan-Mashu National Park, located in eastern Hokkaido, is known for its stunning lakes and volcanic landscapes.
In May, the park comes alive with vibrant colors as spring blankets the region, making it an ideal time to embark on the Lake Mashu Trail. This trail is perfect for hikers seeking awe-inspiring vistas and a tranquil hiking experience.
The Lake Mashu Trail encircles Lake Mashu, one of the clearest lakes in the world. The trail takes you through a diverse landscape, including ancient forests, rolling hills, and volcanic formations.
Along the way, you’ll be captivated by the beauty of the lake, its deep blue waters reflecting the surrounding mountains and sky. This mystical atmosphere creates a sense of tranquility that is unparalleled.
As you hike, keep an eye out for the park’s unique flora and fauna. The forests are home to a variety of bird species, and you may also spot deer or foxes.
The park is known for its volcanic activity, so you may even come across steam vents and other volcanic features during your hike.
To make the most of your Lake Mashu Trail experience, take advantage of the numerous viewpoints along the way.
These strategic spots offer stunning panoramic views of the lake and its surroundings, allowing you to capture memorable photographs and create lasting memories.
Before embarking on the hike, it’s essential to check the weather forecast, as the region can experience sudden changes in climate.
Additionally, ensure you have proper hiking gear, including sturdy shoes, as some parts of the trail may be uneven or slippery.
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Mount Rausu Trail – Shiretoko National Park
Another notable trail in Shiretoko National Park is the Mount Rausu Trail. This challenging trail is recommended for experienced hikers who are seeking a thrilling adventure and stunning panoramic views.
Mount Rausu, the highest peak in the Shiretoko Range, offers breathtaking vistas of the park’s pristine wilderness.
The trail begins at Iwaobetsu Onsen and takes you through dense forests, alpine meadows, and rocky terrain as you ascend towards the summit.
Along the way, you’ll encounter picturesque waterfalls, crystal-clear streams, and alpine flora that flourishes in the spring. Keep your eyes peeled for the park’s diverse wildlife, including Ezo deer and various bird species.
As you approach the summit, the landscape transforms into a rugged and rocky terrain, offering a unique and challenging hiking experience.
At the peak, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Sea of Okhotsk, the Shiretoko Peninsula, and the surrounding mountains. On a clear day, you may even catch a glimpse of the neighboring Russian Kuril Islands.
Given the difficulty of this trail, it is crucial to come prepared with proper hiking gear, including sturdy boots, hiking poles, and sufficient water and snacks.
The weather conditions can change rapidly, so it’s essential to check the forecast and be prepared for potential temperature drops and strong winds.
- Related: Where To Hike In Japan In March?
Furano and Biei – Lavender Fields and Rolling Hills
If you’re looking for a more leisurely hiking experience amidst scenic landscapes, the Furano and Biei regions in central Hokkaido are highly recommended.
May marks the beginning of the lavender season in this area, and the hills are adorned with vibrant shades of purple and green.
The Nakafurano and Biei Panoramic Trails are perfect for nature lovers who enjoy strolling through picturesque countryside. These trails meander through fields of blooming lavender, sunflowers, and other vibrant flowers, creating a stunning tapestry of colors.
As you walk along the well-maintained paths, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of rolling hills, quaint farmhouses, and idyllic landscapes.
Take the time to breathe in the sweet fragrance of lavender and soak in the tranquil ambiance of these rural areas.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the local farms and lavender gardens along the way, where you can learn about the cultivation of these fragrant flowers and even indulge in lavender-themed products and cuisine.
While the Furano and Biei trails are relatively easy and accessible, it’s still essential to bring comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
Sounkyo Gorge – Daisetsuzan National Park
Located in Daisetsuzan National Park, Sounkyo Gorge offers a picturesque hiking experience with its towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and vibrant foliage.
In May, the gorge comes alive with blooming flowers and lush greenery, creating a breathtaking backdrop for hikers.
The trail starts at the base of the gorge and winds its way up, passing by beautiful waterfalls such as Ginga no Taki and Ryusei no Taki.
The sound of rushing water and the cool mist in the air create a refreshing atmosphere as you make your way through the trail.
As you ascend, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the gorge and the surrounding mountains. The vibrant colors of spring and the contrast of the rocky cliffs make this hike a visual delight.
The Sounkyo Ropeway is also available for those who prefer a shorter hike but still want to enjoy the panoramic vistas from the higher viewpoints.
It’s important to note that some sections of the trail can be steep and require careful footing. Wearing sturdy hiking shoes and using trekking poles can provide stability and make your hike more comfortable.
Additionally, be sure to check the weather conditions, as the gorge can be prone to fog and rain.
Lake Shikaribetsu – Shikaribetsu-Kotan
For a unique hiking experience, head to Lake Shikaribetsu in the Shikaribetsu-Kotan area of Hokkaido. In May, the frozen lake starts to melt, revealing its stunning turquoise waters and creating a surreal atmosphere.
The trail around Lake Shikaribetsu takes you through a tranquil setting with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop.
As you hike along the shoreline, you’ll have the opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty of the area and witness the transition from winter to spring.
One of the highlights of this trail is the chance to visit the Shikaribetsu-Kotan, a unique ice village that is constructed every winter on the frozen lake. The village features igloos, ice sculptures, and even an ice hotel.
It’s a truly magical sight to behold and provides a fascinating cultural experience.
Keep in mind that the weather conditions in May can be unpredictable, and the trail may be muddy or wet due to melting snow. Wearing waterproof hiking boots and carrying extra layers of clothing is advisable.
Hokkaido’s hiking trails in May offer a diverse range of experiences, from challenging mountain ascents to leisurely walks through beautiful landscapes.
Whether you choose to explore the rugged beauty of Daisetsuzan National Park, the pristine wilderness of Shiretoko National Park, or the enchanting lavender fields of Furano and Biei, you’re sure to be captivated by Hokkaido’s natural wonders.
Remember to plan your hikes accordingly, follow safety guidelines, and respect the environment.
By immersing yourself in the breathtaking scenery and tranquility of Hokkaido’s trails, you’ll create unforgettable memories and forge a deeper connection with this remarkable destination.
Is it good to hike in Hokkaido in May?
Yes, May is generally a great time for hiking in Hokkaido. During this month, the weather in Hokkaido begins to warm up, and the snow starts melting, revealing stunning landscapes and vibrant flora.
Here are some reasons why May is a favorable time for hiking in Hokkaido:
- Pleasant Weather
May offers milder temperatures compared to the colder months, making it more comfortable for outdoor activities. The average temperatures range from around 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F) in Hokkaido during May, creating ideal conditions for hiking.
- Blooming Flora
Spring brings an explosion of colors as flowers and plants start to bloom across Hokkaido’s landscapes. Trails are adorned with vibrant wildflowers, including cherry blossoms, azaleas, lupines, and various alpine flowers. The scenery is truly picturesque and adds an extra charm to your hiking experience.
- Less Crowded
May falls between the busy tourist seasons, offering a more serene and tranquil hiking experience. The trails are generally less crowded, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of nature at your own pace and in a more peaceful setting.
- Wildlife Sightings
May is a great time for wildlife enthusiasts as many animals become more active after the winter months.
You may have the opportunity to spot various bird species, such as eagles and other migratory birds, as well as deer, foxes, and maybe even bears. However, it’s important to exercise caution and respect the animals’ natural habitats.
While May offers favorable conditions for hiking in Hokkaido, it’s essential to be prepared for potential weather changes, such as rain or sudden temperature drops.
It’s advisable to check the weather forecast before your hike, dress in layers, and bring appropriate gear such as waterproof clothing, sturdy hiking boots, and sufficient water and snacks.
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to research and gather information about specific trails, including their difficulty level, trail conditions, and any safety precautions.
This will ensure that you have an enjoyable and safe hiking experience in Hokkaido.
What to expect when hiking in Hokkaido in May?
When hiking in Hokkaido in May, here are some things you can expect:
In May, Hokkaido experiences a transition from spring to early summer. The weather is generally pleasant, with mild temperatures ranging from around 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F).
However, it’s important to note that weather conditions can be variable, and it’s advisable to check the forecast before your hike.
Be prepared for potential rain showers and sudden temperature changes, especially in mountainous areas.
- Blooming Flora
May is a beautiful time to witness the vibrant colors of spring in Hokkaido. The landscapes come alive with blooming flowers, including cherry blossoms, azaleas, lupines, and various alpine flowers.
Trails are adorned with colorful wildflowers, creating picturesque scenery along your hiking routes.
May marks the beginning of the snowmelt season in Hokkaido. While lower elevation trails may be clear of snow, higher-elevation routes, especially in mountainous regions, may still have patches of snow or icy sections.
It’s important to be cautious and prepared for potential slippery conditions, even if it’s not the peak winter season.
- Wildlife Sightings
Hokkaido’s diverse wildlife becomes more active in May. You may have the opportunity to spot various bird species, such as eagles and other migratory birds, as well as deer, foxes, and other small mammals.
If you’re hiking in areas known for bear sightings, it’s essential to be aware of bear safety precautions and follow any guidelines provided by local authorities.
- Trail Conditions
The trail conditions in May can vary depending on the specific location and elevation. Lower elevation trails are typically more accessible and may have well-maintained paths.
However, higher elevation routes may still have sections with lingering snow or muddy patches due to the snowmelt. It’s advisable to check trail conditions and closures before your hike and adjust your plans accordingly.
- Fewer Crowds
May falls between the busy tourist seasons in Hokkaido, resulting in fewer crowds on the hiking trails. This provides a more serene and peaceful hiking experience, allowing you to connect with nature and enjoy the scenic beauty without the hustle and bustle of peak tourist periods.
It’s important to prepare for your hike by checking the weather forecast, researching trail conditions, and ensuring you have appropriate gear, including sturdy hiking boots, rain gear, and extra layers for changing temperatures. Carry sufficient water, snacks, and a map or guidebook for navigation.
Always prioritize safety, stay on designated trails, and follow any regulations or guidelines provided by local authorities.
Overall, hiking in Hokkaido in May offers a wonderful opportunity to experience the beauty of spring, immerse yourself in nature, and enjoy the tranquil landscapes of this captivating region.