At the southern end of the Hidaka Mountains (日高山脈, Hidaka-sanmyaku), on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, sits the massif of Apoi-dake (アポイ岳) and Pinneshiri-dake (ピンネシリ岳). Apoi- dake is of course well known for its variety of alpine flora; indeed, the vegetation along the ridgeline, together with the Horoman White Pine Habitat (幌満ゴヨウマツ自生地, Horoman Goyoumatsu-jiseichi) are nationally-designated Protected Natural Monuments (天然記念物). 'Unlawful removal of vegetation' (that is to say, people picking flowers), as well as overuse of the trail, is beginning to become a problem without obvious solution.
The mountain’s name comes from the Ainu ape-o-i, meaning ‘place where there is fire’.
In this guide you’ll climb the standard trail from the trailhead at Fuyujima (冬島). The variety of flowers on Apoi-dake make the flowering season quite long: from the end of May to October. For that reason, it’s a good idea to check at the visitor’s center beforehand what flowers you can expect to see on the mountain. Keep in mind that the mountain will also be quite busy on weekends; if you can manage it, hiking on a weekday might be more ideal. Obviously, it’s expected that you’ll pack out any trash you might produce, and take care not to step on any of the delicate alpine vegetation. And although Apoi-dake is a quite small mountain, Ezo bear (ヒグマ) sightings are quite common, so keep your wits about you.
From Apoi Trailhead bus station (アポイ登山口バス停, Apoi-tozan-guchi basu-tei) at Fuyujima on National Route 366 (国道366号線), you’ll head up the road towards the mountain and shortly come to the trailhead. There’s a campsite and an onsen here, so it’s a lovely place to spend the night before the hike itself.
You’ll start the hike along a wide forest road and come shortly to a junction where the New Trail (新道, shindou) and Old Trail (旧道, kyuudou) split; from here you’ll head up the Old Trail, as it’s likely to be less crowded. As you make your way upwards, you’ll climb through small marshes and groves of Mongolian oak and Japanese white pine. At a small stream you must cross, you might be able to see the small zarigani crayfish living among the sandy rocks. You can also fill up on water here.
After the trail reconnects with the New Trail, you’ll reach the 5th Station Marker Rest Hut (五合目の休憩小屋, Go-goume no Kyuukei-goya). On a clear day you can see the summit from here. As you continue, you’ll start to see dwarf stone pine along the trail; at your feet you’ll probably see a number of flowers growing in the shade. You’ll find Thunberg’s fleabane, Matsumura cinquefoil, and goat’s beard, varieties of which all grow on Apoi-dake and, in Japanese, bear Apoi-dake’s name. It’s likely that a flower-loving hiker will probably wind up stopping a good number of times through here. The flower 'hidaka-sou', which you can see for the first time along here, is currently endangered due to visitors picking the flowers and leaving with them. The fact that meadowflowers don’t generally grow here is quite a shame. At any rate, the hike through here is sure to make anyone who comes across the flowers stop and wonder.
From Uma-no-se (馬ノ背, lit. ‘the horse’s back’), you’ll have a great view over the Hidaka Mountains. From here you’ll pass a rocky outcrop, then climb a steep hill up to the summit of Apoi-dake. Here, among the dwarf stone pine, you’ll also find stands of Erman’s birch—trees that you don't usually find at summits of mountains. Their appearance here is one of the mysteries of Apoi-dake. From the summit, there’s also a trail that continues over Yoshida-dake (吉田岳) to Pinneshiri-dake.
You’ll head down the same way you came up.
One Point Advice
- A great deal of wildlife lives at the foot of Kanran-iwa (カ ンラン岩), the bluffs near Uma-no-se—so much that the mountain is quite famous for it. The name ‘kanran’ comes from the Chinese word 橄欖 ‘ganlan’, meaning ‘olive’. The bluff is so named because the face of the rock appears to be olive-colored. The bluff is composed of very basic (as opposed to acidic) rock, which allows particular plants to grow around it.
- Depending on circumstances, it is possible that the Horoman trail (幌満コース) may be closed, so if you’re interested, check at the visitor’s center beforehand.
- From the Pinneshiri trailhead (ピンネシリ登山口) to the summit of Pinneshiri-dake takes about 2 hours, 10 minutes. From Pinneshiri-dake to Apoi-dake takes about 2 hours, 20 minutes. From Apoi-dake to Pinneshiri-dake takes about 2 hours, 40 minutes, due to the grade. Few people attempt the traverse, so even on busy days this trail should be fairly quiet.
- At certain times of the year there may be a lot of ticks along the trail, so keep an eye out.
- If you’re looking for a hot spring after the hike, you can use the baths at Apoi-sansou (アポイ山荘).
As early as May you’ll be able to see Sakhalin violet, short- stipule violet, and Hidaka primrose; in June, Schmidt’s speedwell; in July, Japanese alpine forget-me-nots will dominate; in August you’ll see plenty of shrubby bushclover and threeleaf fellwort; and in October the Nippon daisy will be in bloom. The first snows will start to dust the ridgeline sometime in late October.