Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido Prefecture is the largest and most mountainous of Japan's 34 national parks. It spans approximately 2,268 square kilometers and has a wide variety of flora and fauna, including numerous rare species. The Daisetsuzan volcanic group includes Hokkaido's highest peak, Mount Asahidake (2,291 m), and other active volcanoes. While snow and ice hold sway most of the year here, during the short summer months, colorful alpine plants carpet the vast treeless plateaus of the alpine zone. Hokkaido's indigenous Ainu people refer to Daisetsuzan as Kamui Mintara, meaning "playground of the gods."

Don't Miss

  • Breathtaking autumn colors—the earliest in Japan
  • Rare alpine plant communities around Sugatamiike Pond
  • Rare flora and fauna, including some species endemic to the park
  • The polygonal-pillared walls of Tenninkyo Gorge and Sounkyo Gorge
  • Japan's longest ski season—from November to early May

Park Overview

Daisetsuzan National Park sits in the heart of Hokkaido, Japan's second-largest main island. The park has thick forests, sprawling marshlands, mountainous terrain and an alpine belt. A wide range of animals adapted to different environments live here. The Daisetsuzan area has more than 16 peaks over 2,000 meters high, and is often called “the roof of Hokkaido.” Hokkaido's two longest waterways, the Ishikari River and Tokachi River, originate within the park. The park includes both long and short courses to suit all levels of hiking experience (although heavy snowfalls close the trails during the winter months). The park also boasts numerous hot-spring resorts. The Daisetsuzan area has a long winter and a very short summer—roughly July to August. The autumn foliage reaches its colorful peak in mid-September, heralding the first winter snows in October. Consider a late August or early September visit if you want to see the park at its stunning, colorful best.

Omote-Daisetsu Area

The Omote-Daisetsu area, in the park’s northern end, draws the most visitors. Asahidake Onsen is the main access point here, sitting at the base of Mount Asahidake, which is an active volcano. A 10-minute ropeway (cable car) ride takes you from the hot-spring resort of Asahidake Onsen up to Sugatami Station, which sits near Mount Asahidake’s foot. From here, you can follow a trail to the summit in around 2 hours 30 minutes. For a less strenuous hike, consider the Sugatamiike Pond walking path, which in around 60–90 minutes takes in Mount Asahidake's fumaroles, three lovely ponds, and the chance to spot rare animal and plant life.
Hiking enthusiasts should also enjoy the challenge of summiting Mount Kurodake: Take the ropeway from Sounkyo Onsen, and then climb around 1,500 meters to reach the summit (around 60–90 minutes). Hardcore trekkers may wish to tackle the Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse, a multi-day route covering about 80 kilometers.
The Numa-no-Hara High Moor sits around 1,440 meters above sea level in the central part of the Daisetsuzan mountain range. The area is a designated National Natural Monument, and its scenery and peaceful atmosphere attract nature lovers from all over. 
Sounkyo Onsen is central Hokkaido’s largest hot-spring area, and many visitors use it as a springboard to explore Hokkaido’s multiple other attractions. It also serves as a popular base for climbers tackling the mountains in the Omote-Daisetsu area.
Daisetsu Kogen Onsen is another favored outpost, situated at the head of a hiking route. Be sure to visit the Brown Bear Information Center to learn about how to handle possible bear encounters.

Mount Kurodake

Other Areas

The southern part of the park is also popular with hikers and climbers. Mount Tokachidake (2,077 m), for example, is an active volcano. It’s the highest mountain in the Tokachi volcanic group, which also includes Mount Bieidake (2,052 m) and Mount Furanodake (1,912 m). The foot of Mount Furanodake offers splendid views of the Genshigahara Wetlands. The slopes of Mount Tokachi have Tokachidake Onsen, a three hot-spring ryokan complex.
The Higashi-Daisetsu area, meanwhile, includes the Ishikari mountains, two large freshwater bodies—Lake Shikaribetsu and Lake Nukabira—and sprawling, primeval woodlands. The headwaters of the Tokachi River (at the eastern foot of Mount Tomuraushi) are a designated Wilderness Area—one of only five such protected places in Japan. For in-depth insights into the surrounding area, visit Higashitaisetsu Nature Center.

Mount Tokachi Observatory


Sounkyo Onsen hosts the Sounkyo Onsen Fire Festival, which every summer celebrates the culture of the Ainu—Hokkaido's indigenous people. The event includes a centuries-old ceremony called the Fukuro (Owl) Ritual, featuring fireworks and traditional music and dance. The festival, which includes taiko drumming and a spectacular fireworks display, is a great way to learn more about the region’s deep history and rich culture. The Ice Fall Festival from midwinter to mid-March is also a huge draw, presenting fireworks, an ice shrine and a frozen waterfall.