The hike

Yubari-dake (夕張岳) is a mountain in the southern part of the Yubari-sanchi (夕張山地), a mountain range stretching south of Furano (富良野); it’s also here that the Yubari-gawa makes its headwaters. The name of the river comes from Ainu yuu-paro, meaning ‘mineral water at the river’s mouth’. Along the ridges you’ll find serpentine exposed bluffs but also a variety of alpine vegetation; however, human activity is quickly eroding away at the environment along the sides of the trail. The problem could have been much worse: plans for a large-scale ski resort were in the works, but were fortunately canceled before damage was done.

There are two trails up the western face of the mountain, both starting at the Yubari-hyutte, a small sidecountry lodge; on the eastern face there is a long climb up from Kanayama (金山) in Minamifurano (南富良野). The former of these (the western face) is better for seeing the flowers, but it’s also significantly busier. In this guide you’ll climb up the western face along the Hiyamizu trail (冷水コース) and then descend via the Uma-no-se trail (馬ノ背コース).

Day 1

The trailhead sits at the end of a forest road following the Penkemoyuuparo-gawa (ペンケモユウパ ロ川) from Yubari’s Akashi-cho (赤石町). Because it’s quite busy on the weekends, it’s recommended you climb on a weekday, if you can manage it. After about 20 minutes you’ll arrive at Yubari- hyutte, where you’ll stay the night before so as to have plenty of time to climb the following day.

Day 2

You’ll head back to the Hiyamizu trail junction (冷水コース分岐), then start climbing up through a dense forest. After an hour and a half or so, you’ll arrive at Hiyamizu-no-sawa (冷水ノ沢), a small stream where you can fill up on water. A little ways above this you’ll find Maedake-no-sawa (前岳ノ 沢), another small stream.

From here you’ll start climbing along a ridge, pass the Uma-no-se junction (馬ノ背コース合流点), and make a loop around the north side of Mae-dake (前岳). In the early spring the colors of the new growth on the Erman’s birch and the Japanese wood poppy will be stunning. From the lookout at Bogakudai (望岳台, lit. ‘mountain-viewing plateau’) you can see all the way to Ashibetsu-dake (芦別 岳) in the distance.

By the time you reach watering hole along Ikoi-zawa (憩沢), where marsh-marigold and white skunk cabbage bloom, the climb will have leveled out a bit. From here to the summit the trail will be lined with flowers.

You’ll walk for a little while along wooden platforms laid across Mae-dake Shitsugen (前岳湿原, ‘Mae-dake swamp’) before you see the strange form of the huge outcrop called Gama-iwa (ガマ岩) off to your right. Walking past the nearby pond Hyoutan-ike (ヒョウタン池), you’ll arrive at a swath of bare, exposed ground among which serpentine cliffs weave. Amid the bare earth and ropes strung across this part of the climb, Yubari primrose and Yubari violet, among other flowers characteristic of this mountain, have taken root.

You’ll pass between the cliffs of Kuma-ga-mine (熊ヶ峰) and Tsurigane-iwa (釣鐘岩) and come to Fuki-toshi (吹き通し, lit. ‘blowing relentlessly’). Here too, the earth is bare and the cliffs wind; here too, arctic sandwort, Japanese whitlow-grass, and fringed saxifrage bloom in the wind. Along here too are some flowers that don’t stand out as well, or flowers that haven’t bloomed yet, so take care not to step off the trail.

Shortly the Kanayama trail will merge from the left and after a short, steep climb, you’ll come to the summit of Yubari-dake. At the summit you’ll pass through a traditional torii gate and find Thunberg’s fleabane and Pennelianthus frutescens flowering, even though the trail is starting to encroach upon their habitat. The flowers at the summit make the views from here all the more refreshing.

On the way back, when you arrive at the Uma-no-se junction (馬ノ背コース合流点), you’ll head right down the Uma-no-se trail, descending through a quiet forest of Sakhalin fir, Jezo spruce, painted maple, and wedding cake tree. When you reach Yubari-hyutte, you’ll probably be quite glad of the stream of cold water running in front of the lodge. Past here you’ll continue down the trail to the trailhead.

Trail advice

  • You can take a taxi to the trailhead from the station Shimizu-eki (清水駅) on the Sekishou-sen (石勝線) rail line.
  • Yubari-hyutte can accommodate 80 people and it costs 1000 yen to stay the night. You can also camp in the field by the lodge.
  • The Kanayama trail starts in the Kanayama district of Minami-Furano Town; the trailhead sits at the end of a forest road following the Tonashibetsu-gawa. From the trailhead to the summit takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes.
  • Yuparo-no-yu (ユーパロの湯), a hot spring sitting between Shimizu-eki and Shika-no-tani-eki (鹿ノ谷駅), is a big, comfortable onsen and a great place for a post-hike soak.

Seasonal info

In early summer the contrast between the leftover snow and the bright green on the trees will be lovely; the flowers will bloom one by one as the snow melts. As weekends and holidays during the summertime can get quite busy, if you’re looking for a little peace and quiet it’s recommended you visit on a weekday or in the fall. The leaves start to change in late September. It’s possible that the gate on the forest road might be closed; check with the forestry service before heading out.