A Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Daisetsuzan National Park’s The Grand Traverse – Part 1

Daisetsuzan, the largest national park in Japan, is located in the centre of its northernmost island, Hokkaido.  Measuring a gargantuan 2,267km² the expansive area hosts every biome imaginable; sprawling forests, marshland, snow drifts, shifting volcanic rock, bamboo forests, 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.

The path we were taking when 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. Check out Part 2: Gear for an in depth look at what I took with me.

In the meanwhile if you have any questions about the hike feel free to post them below.

19 thoughts on “A Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Daisetsuzan National Park’s The Grand Traverse – Part 1

    1. Hi! Thank you so much, I’m really happy it’s useful for you. Although, I’m also a bit jealous that you’ll be doing this hike, it’s so ridiculously magical and stunning. If you have any questions, feel free to throw them at me. Also, I’ll be posting up Part 3: Food, and Part 4: Daisetsuzan Rules in the coming weeks. Hopefully that will be useful for you too. Enjoy the hike!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. freshcoffeestains

    Awesome post and so helpful! It’s hard finding enough information on the hike… one that I hope to tackle one day. I love Daisetsuzan (the little bit I’ve seen) and Hokkaido in general. Hope you don’t mind but I linked your blog on my own about why everyone should visit Hokkaido 🙂

    Tam @ http://freshcoffeestains.com/hokkaido/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Tam! I don’t mind at all, thanks very much for the link. And nice blog! Yeah, finding info on The Grand Traverse was incredibly difficult, I hope this helps out a bit. Enjoy the hike, whenver you manage to set out.



  2. Leigh

    Your post is extremely helpful! I’m contemplating doing the traverse in a few weeks … do you think there will be too much of a lack of water by then to do the northern portion of the hike (as you did) or is it worth an attempt? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Leigh! Thanks so much!

      Well, I did the traverse from north to south, and left one day early, so the route listed covers risky dry southern sections later on. It was after Tamaurashi Camp Grounds, in the south, that we couldn’t find much water in August. We managed to push through for the next two days but it was difficult and we had to ration and take from questionable water sources.

      The northern section should have some by my estimates but the only people who can tell you for sure are the park rangers at Mt. Asahidake base, as the park can vary a lot from year to year. Everything north of hakuun hut should
      be okay, even going down south to Chuubetsu and Tamaurashi if the rangers say it’s okay. Any further south than that will put you in a questionable situation. If you do go further south I would consult the rangers first and make provisions to carry a lot of water at once, up to four liters at all times, and be ready to exit the park should you need to.

      Also bear in mind hiking in the park past September is only recommended for very experienced hikers, because of the typhoon season and because of water shortage. But within the next few weeks should still be okay.

      I hope this helps, if not then ask away. Enjoy your hike!


      1. Leigh

        This was extremely helpful, thank you!! We will talk with the rangers then to figure out what is possible, did they speak English (or at least some English)?
        Thanks again !


  3. Leigh

    I have one more question in regards to exiting the traverse — is it possible to exit at any point before Shirogane onsen or would it be easiest/quickest to turn around and head back to where we started (Asahidake onsen)?


    1. Hi Greg! Thanks very much! I hiked in August 2016 and although I can’t remember the exact dates I do know it was in the latter half of August. It was though to be honest, the lack of water in the southern half of the park was pretty difficult.

      Liked by 1 person

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  5. Arthur

    Hi Denica Shute,

    First thank you for all this previous information ! I was wondering if you have a scan of the map your are illustrating on your article. I don’t find any relevant map with all the hut on the traverse.

    Best regards,


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Arthur,

      I’m afraid I don’t as I gave the map to a friend who was going hiking there.

      The pictures of the map on the article are ones I took using my iPhone and are only of small sections. It’s very important you get the whole map, just incase you need to exit in a hurry. However, Montbelle releases updated maps each year, so it would be worth dropping by Montbelle for an updated copy when you land in Japan.

      Happy hiking!



    1. Hi! So you could do this cycling course but you’d have to do a shortened Daisetsuzan route. Definitely not the whole thing as it takes a full 7 days unless you’re a very experienced hiker and very, very in shape. Some people enjoy doing the Northern end of the park only, which is a 2 day hike, but I’m afraid I don’t have any information on it as I didn’t do that course.


  6. Pingback: The Daisetzusan Grand Traverse and the forces of nature [Hokkaido] | Best regards from far,

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