Location: Zenibako, Otaru (Shiribeshi)/Jozankei, Sapporo
Altitude: 907m (750m elevation gain)
Length: Half-day+ (12km roundtrip)
Hiked on: June 2th, 2013
A popular hike with Sapporo locals, and very easily accessed if you have a car. The hike starts from Zenibako, right between Sapporo and Otaru. From the National Road 5 (国道５号線), take the a left (if you’re coming from Sapporo, right if you’re coming from Otaru) at the intersection between a 7-11 and a Ralse Supermarket. The road goes through a residential area, and at the end you’ll get to gate in front of which you can park your car. The hike begins there.
The trail goes past a small dam and down a service road. After about 5~10 minutes you get to a fork in the road. Go right for Harukayama. Soon after the junction, you’ll be walking up a big, wide, gravel road. Every once in a while you’ll see a path going off the road, which are just shortcuts cutting through the corners. Either way you’ll eventually get into the woods onto a proper hiking trail. There are pretty signs all the way up to the top, so just keep following those.
Just before the final climb up to the summit, there is a big hut called Ginreisou, which is run by the Tokai University Hiking Club. Apparently you can get food and drinks and stuff there. The area around the hut can be a bit confusing as there’s not a whole lot of undergrowt, especially when there’s still snow on the trail. I don’t really know what kind of advice to give, just look for a big building in the woods? Once you get to the hut, it’s pretty straight forward where you need to go.
The last bit up to the summit is quite steep. When I was this part was completely covered in snow, so you’re pretty much just zigzagging up without following a path. Eventually you’ll see the summit sign peaking out and you’ll get to the spacious summit. You get nice views of Ishikari Bay and Sapporo, and even Mt Yotei on the other side.
Harukayama’s got a really nice “local” feel to it, and you’ll see people of all ages coming from nearby Sapporo, dressed up in brightly coloured hiking clothes. Nothing is too strenuous but it’s still a decent length and feels like a “real” hike, so it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. It’s also a big backcountry skiing destination in winter.