Mt. Kamuishiri-yama (神居尻山, Kamuishiri-yama) sits in the northern part of the Kabato Mountains (樺戸山脈, Kabato-sanmyaku). The name Kamuishiri comes from the Ainu word for ‘mountain of the Gods,’ and from the base you can certainly see why. Though the summit is less than 1000 meters above sea level, the sheer drop-off from the ridgelines give it the feel of a much larger mountain. It's a mountain of many faces, featuring three different trails to the top and countless flowers blooming across the whole summer. In this guide, we’ll climb up the B Trail and down the A Trail.
There is a campsite at Domin-no-mori Nature Park (道民の森, Domin-no-mori) so it’s possible to sleep at the base of the mountain before the climb itself. At the Information Center (総合案内所, sogo-annai-jo), pick up a trail map. From the B Trailhead, you’ll head up a thickly-wooded steep slope. If you’re climbing at the end of May, you’ll probably see trout lilies and Corydalis ambigua growing by the trail. The climb is long and trudging, but a good deal of it is stepped, so the going shouldn't be too rough. When you emerge onto the hump at 707 meters above sea level, you’ll find a vast vista looking over the whole mountain and surrounding countryside waiting for you.
From here onward you’ll walk through a forest of Erman’s birch, with the Mashike Mountains (増毛山脈, Mashike-sanmyaku) lined up behind you. The way along here is easy and pleasant, so take the opportunity to have a look about you as you walk. The nearby Mt. Shokanbetsu-dake (暑寒別岳, Shokanbetsu-dake) gets a ton of snow in the winter, so even into July you can expect to see the opposing mountain’s stripe-like snowy ravines shining in the sun.
Climbing up to 842 meters above sea level, you’ll encounter the C Trail Junction and head east towards the summit. To your right the mountain will drop off perilously to a ravine below. On the ridge to the summit you’ll be sure to see Thunberg’s fleabane, Chamisso’s lousewort, as well as Schmidt's veronica and Narcissus-flowered anemone. Under the snow the trail can be quite uneven, so be careful not to lose your footing around here.
At the top of the ridgeline you’ll arrive at the summit of Kamuishiri-yama. Note the compass plate at the summit—the 360-degree view will give you a good chance to learn to identify the surrounding mountains.
Continuing east from the summit, you’ll soon arrive at a mountain hut; and a little further on you’ll come to the traverse junction, where a trail from neighboring Pinneshiri (ピンネシリ) merges with the Kamuishiri-yama trail. Ahead of you lies the bulk of the A Trail, which rises and falls with the ridgeline but in general should be a fairly easy trek back to Domin-no-mori. You’ll feel cradled by the gnarled arms of the Erman’s birch; and beyond, the Mashike Mountains will rise before the horizon.
At about 692 meters above sea level, the trail drops steeply down onto an old forest road. When you reach the junction, it won’t matter which way you take—both trails are relatively similar and bring you back to the Information Center.
Continue down the A Trail, and you’ll pass through a forest of oak and lime trees and come finally to the A Trailhead. Head back down the road and you’ll arrive shortly back at the Information Center.
One Point Advice
- From JR Ishikari Tobetsu Station (JR石狩当別駅, JR Ishikari-Tobetsu-eki) on Sundays and holidays you can ride the Daiichi Kankou Bus (第一観光バス) to Domin-no-Mori. It takes about 1 hour. There are only two buses per day.
- On the signboards around the Information Center you’ll find placards with maps of the A, B, and C Trails. You’ll also see maps for smaller nature walks in the area. The campsite here is open from May to November.
- There is a place to fill up on water in the campsite, but along the trail there aren’t, save for what you can collect from snow.
- The mountain hut to the east of the summit isn’t manned and is open year-round.
- From the Pinneshiri traverse junction to Pinneshiri takes about 4 hours.
Hiking season starts here in mid-May. While the trout lilies will be in flower around the bottom of the mountain, up on the ridgelines there will still be a good deal of snow, so bring good boots and consider gaiters as well. By mid-June the ridges will be bursting with green and with flowers. The leaves will start changing color around the end of October.