By Paul S Bryers, September, 2016
Daisetsuzan is Japan’s largest National Park. It is about 2-3 hours drive from Sapporo, dependng on your park entry point. We based ourselves in Sounkyo Onsen, which is on the North East border of the park. Highway tolls from Sapporo are about ¥3500 (~US $35) – yes, tolls are expensive in Japan, but roads are very well maintained.
The village itself is a bit tired, but the setting is terrific – right in the Sounkyo Gorge with the cliffs towering above and the river rushing through.
There are a number of hiking opportunities in the Sounkyo area, but the best idea for a day hike is to take the ropeway from the village to Kuro-dake “5th Station” (¥2200 ~ US $22 return) and then walk 10 minutes to take the chairlift to Kuro-dake “7th Station” Ski hut (¥600 ~ US $6 return) at 1520 m high, and then to follow one of the trails. We hiked up to the top of Mt. Kuro-dake (1950 m) and then to Ohachidaira viewpoint (2075 m) which offers incredible views of the Ohachidaira volcanic crater. It takes 3-4 hours to the viewpoint and then 2-3 hours for the return trip. And of course you have to have a good soak in the (very) hot springs after you get down from the mountain. The springs at our hotel (The Grand) were excellent.