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Autumn Leaves

Mt. Midoridake

 

Description

The trailhead to Mt. Midoridake is located at the back of the Daisetsu Kogen Onsen, a place where steam rises from the ground here and there. After climbing a steep slope in the montane zone, you reach the 1st and 2nd Flower Meadows, where alpine flowers such as Aleutian avens and wedgeleaf primroses bloom in succession on snowbeds. After passing through a scree area and a tunnel of dwarf pines, the trail goes up a steep rocky slope, finally arriving at the summit of Mt. Midoridake. From here, you can enjoy an excellent view of Mt. Hakuundake, Mt. Asahidake, Takanegahara, and even the distant Mt. Tomuraushi.

Note: In early summer, the 1st and 2nd Flower Meadows as well as the scree area is still fully covered with snow. Be sure to have the proper equipment for snow hiking.

You can also enjoy a variety of flora along this trail. In the mixed forest zone up to 1,500 m, you can see Yezo spruce, Sakhalin fir, Erman’s birch, butterfly maple, and Ukurundu maple trees. From 1,500 m to 1,700 m, you can see pink mountainheaths, Aleutian mountainheaths, Aleutian avens, wedgeleaf primroses, and other snowbed flora. In the rocky slopes from 1,700 m to 2,000 m, alpine azaleas, clubmoss mountain heathers, pincushion plants, Oxytropis japonica and other alpine shrubs are the dominant species.

Animals such as chipmunks, pikas, Ezo stoats, and brown bears also inhabit this area. Brown bears are especially common around the Kogen-numa pond. To avoid attracting the bears, make sure to observe designated eating sites, and always take all trash with you.

 

Time Required

Kogen Onsen (1 hr 20 mins) → 1st Flower Meadow (1 hr 40 mins) → Mt. Midoridake summit

Mt. Midoridake summit (1 hr 10 mins) → 1st Flower Meadow (1 hr) → Kogen Onsen

 

Kogen Onsen Numa-meguri Hiking Trail

 

Description

Stretching below Takanegahara is a mixed forest that contains broadleaf trees such as Japanese rowans, Erman’s birches, and Ezoitaya maples, as well as conifers like Yezo spruce. The Kogen Onsen Numa-meguri Hiking Trail passes through this forest, with a roundabout course that goes around several ponds and swamps of various sizes. This trail is especially popular in autumn, when the trees turn their leaves red, orange, and yellow, painting the entire course in bright colors.

The area surrounding the trail is densely inhabited by brown bears. From late June to early October, park monitors patrol the trail daily to check for bears and confirm its safety. As a measure to prevent bear attacks or other incidents, hikers must hear a lecture at the Brown Bear Information Center before entering the trail, and must observe a time limit to return from the hike. Furthermore, the staff may close the trail partly or entirely depending on recent bear sightings.

One round along the 7-kilometer course takes around 3½ to 4 hours. From late June to early October, hikers may enter the trail between 7:00 and 13:00, and must exit it by 15:00. Accordingly, hikers must start heading back by a set time from each location on the trail (13:00 at Kogen-numa Pond, 13:30 at Daigaku-numa Pond, and 14:00 at Midori-numa Pond). Park monitors go around the trail to inform hikers of this time limit.

The trail is closed until late June, when the snow cover starts to melt. When hiking in the early summer, make sure to follow the stakes and tape that mark the trail. During this season, you can see white skunk cabbages grow from snowmelt.

 

Time Required

Trail entrance (20 mins) → Turn left at Yambe Junction (40 mins) → Midori-numa Pond (50 mins) → Daigaku-numa Pond (10 mins) → Kogen-numa Pond (15 mins) → Kara-numa Pond (40 mins) → Yambe Junction (20 mins) → Trail entrance

 

Mt. Akadake

 

Description

Ginsendai, situated at an elevation of around 1,500 m, is the starting point of the trail to Mt. Akadake. Ginsendai can be reached by car through an unpaved forest road. At the mountain trail, you will see an abundance of alpine flora, with several guideposts indicating key spots along the way. Visit in late summer or early autumn and you can experience a range of seasons, as you encounter both summer flowers and autumn leaves in your trek to the summit.

Note: When hiking in early summer, be careful of slippery areas due to snow, including the traverse point after the 1st Flower Field, and the slopes at the 3rd and 4th Snow Patch.

The trail to Akadake is known as the place to see Japan’s earliest autumn colors, with plenty of scenic autumn spots from trailhead to summit. The peak period for the autumn leaves varies slightly from year to year, but seeing how the condition of the leaf coloration changes every year is interesting in itself.

Note: During the peak season from mid to late September, the road to Ginsendai is closed to private cars. Please check the closure and transportation information in advance before visiting.

 

Time Required

Ginsendai (1 hr) → 1st Flower Field (50 mins) → Komakusadaira (30 mins) → 3rd Snow Patch (50 mins) → Mt. Akadake summit

Mt. Akadake summit (30 mins) → 3rd Snow Patch (30 mins) → Komakusadaira (30 mins) → 1st Flower Field (40 mins) → Ginsendai

 

Ginsendai

 

Description

Ginsendai is known as the place to see the earliest autumn colors in Japan, and is also the starting point of the trail to Mt. Akadake. To reach Ginsendai from Sounkyo, you take National Route 39, turn right to National Route 273 at Taisetsu Dam, then enter the Ginsendai access road going into the mountains. A 30-minute hike from the trailhead takes you to the 1st Flower Field, a popular spot in autumn where you can see an entire slope covered in patches of red, yellow, and green. In early mornings, you might also observe a sea of clouds covering the area.

Ginsendai derives its name from its role as the source of the Ginga-no-Taki waterfall that flows at the foot of Mt. Akadake (Ginsendai can be roughly translated to “the deck from which the Ginga flows”).

Note: During the peak season from mid to late September, the road to Ginsendai is closed to private cars. Please check the closure and transportation information in advance before visiting.

 

Time Required

Sounkyo (20 mins by car) → Ginsendai access road entrance (30 mins by car) → Ginsendai (1 hr on foot) → 1st Flower Field

1st Flower Field (40 mins on foot) → Ginsendai (30 mins by car) → Ginsendai access road entrance (20 mins by car) → Sounkyo

 

Mt. Kurodake

 

Description

Climbing Mt. Kurodake can be made faster and easier by riding a ropeway and chair lift up to its 7th Station. From the summit, you can enjoy an impressive panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, with most major peaks of the Omote Daisetsu area visible. On especially clear days, you can even see the distant Akan, Rishiri, and Shiretoko mountains.

You can also observe a remarkable change in the flora from the trail to the summit, with small, wind-resistant shrubs becoming the prevalent species near the top. These alpine shrubs form large communities which bloom into vast flower fields in the summer. In fact, Mt. Kurodake is known for displaying a distinct altitudinal zonation of vegetation: a mixed forest zone from 600 m to 900 m, a coniferous forest zone from 900 m to 1,300 m, a transition zone from 1,300 m to 1,500 m, an Erman’s birch zone from 1,500 m to 1,800 m, and a dwarf pine zone from 1,800 m to the summit at 1,984 m.

Kurodake accumulates a large amount of snow in winter, which becomes a rich water supply for the vegetation in summer. Its steep gradient also prevents the formation of stagnant groundwater. This gives rise to an abundance of mesophytic flowering plants on the mountain.

 

Time Required

Kurodake Ropeway Sounkyo Station (7 mins) → Kurodake Ropeway Kurodake Station (5 mins on foot) → 5th Station Chair Lift (15 mins) → 7th Station (1 hr 20 mins on foot) → Mt. Kurodake summit

Mt. Kurodake summit (50 mins on foot) → 7th Station Chair Lift (15 mins) → 5th Station (5 mins on foot) → Kurodake Ropeway Kurodake Station (7 mins) → Kurodake Ropeway Sounkyo Station

 

Sugatami Pond

 

Description

The Sugatami Pond area is a place to see not just the earliest autumn leaves, but also the earliest snowfall in Japan. At an elevation of 1,600m, it is relatively low within Daisetsuzan, but its climate is comparable to a 2,500-meter class mountain in the main island of Honshu. If you visit at the right time of the year, you might get to see the first snow on the summit of Mt. Asahidake simultaneously with the autumn leaves of the Sugatami Pond area.

Here you can enjoy autumn as early as late August, when the Japanese rowans start to turn red. The Aleutian avens, which just bloomed with beautiful white flowers in the summer, now captivate hikers with their deep red foliage. The autumn colors gradually spread down to the foot of the mountains, closely pursued by the snow front descending from the mountain peaks. By October, the short autumn season ends, and the Sugatami Pond area becomes a landscape of snow, marking the arrival of another long winter.

Snow can sometimes fall even during the height of autumn in mid-September, so you should be prepared with the appropriate clothing and equipment for the cold weather.

 

Time Required

Asahidake Ropeway Sanroku Station (10 mins) → Sugatami Station (30 mins) → Meoto Pond Junction (30 mins) → Sugatami Pond (30 mins) → Sugatami Station (10 mins) → Asahidake Ropeway Sanroku Station

 

Note: It takes about 1 to 1½ hours to take the Asahidake Ropeway (round trip) and hike around the Sugatami Pond walking course.

 

Susoaidaira

 

Description

In the autumn season, the leaves of the Aleutian avens at the Susoaidaira plateau and the Urashima-tsutsuji bearberries at Toma-nokkoshi turn red, spreading like vast red carpets across the highlands. One of the most spectacular autumn sights in this area is the view of the Numanotaira marsh from Toma-nokkoshi.

In recent years, the autumn colors at Susoaidaira and the rest of Daisetsuzan are said to have somewhat diminished due to the proliferation of the evergreen Chishima-zasa dwarf bamboo, but the breathtaking beauty of the place during this season still attracts countless numbers of hikers.

To reach Toma-nokkoshi from Susoaidaira, you must wade across the Piukenai Swamp on the trail. This swamp becomes very difficult and dangerous to cross when its water level rises, so you should avoid this trail after heavy rainfall. Furthermore, snow can sometimes fall in this area even from mid-September, so you should be prepared with the appropriate clothing and equipment for the cold weather.

 

Time Required

Asahidake Ropeway Sanroku Station (10 mins) → Sugatami Station (1 hr 30 mins) → Susoaidaira Junction (30 mins) → Piukenai Swamp (30 mins) → Toma-nokkoshi (1 hr) → Susoaidaira Junction (1 hr) → Nakadake Onsen (1 hr) → Susoaidaira Junction (1 hr 30 mins) → Sugatami Station (10 mins) → Asahidake Ropeway Sanroku Station

Note: It takes about 7 hours to do a round trip from the Asahidake Ropeway to Susoaidaira and Toma-nokkoshi.