Location: Minami-ku, Sapporo
Elevation: 1251m (~900m elevation gain)
Length: Half day+ (~17km roundtrip)
Hiked on: October 19th, 2016
As the crow flies, Soranumadake is one of the closest mountains to the centre of Sapporo, however due to the the somewhat inconvenient access depending on where you are coming from, it can feel like a bit of trek to get there (pun intended.)
The starting point of the hike is at the rock quarry run by Nittetsu Mining Company in the Tokiwa area of Sapporo. Access is gained from the long unnamed road off of Route 453 which connects Sapporo and Lake Shikotsu. A bit hard to describe where to turn off so best to use Google Map, searching directions for Soranumadake will take you straight to the trailhead. There is also a bus that runs from Makomanai Station during summer.
The actual trailhead can be a bit hard to find once you get to the rock quarry, but look for the signs that say “空沼岳” and you’ll eventually get to the parking lot with a small bridge at the end of it. You’re supposed to be able to drive in another ~2km or so to the actual trailhead but the bridge was roped off as of October 2016.
After crossing the bridge and walking along a gravel road for a while, you’ll see the actual trailhead with a small hut and some signage indicating you’ve entered the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The trail begins on the other side of the creek from where the signs are.
The trail rarely seems to climb for the first few kilometres, taking you through a pleasant, if a bit unimpressive, forest eventually reaching Bankeinuma, a small lake with an impressive hut, Bankei Sanso, next to it. The hut is open for use by anyone with a suggested donation of 1,000 yen.
The trail continues just to the left of the hut, and you’ll reach the much more impressive Mamisunuma, several times the size of Bankeinuma with a beautiful shore. It’s really the perfect place in summer to set up a tent, go for a few dips, and have a campfire, however somehow the Japanese have managed to restrain from ruining the place by doing so, and hopefully it will continue to be left undisturbed in the future.. (Note that camping in undesignated areas in National Parks is illegal in Japan.)
After Mamisunuma, the hike picks up the pace a bit, getting steeper in a few spots until you get to the final ridgeline leading up to the summit. On top of the ridge you’ll hit the junction to the traverse route to Sapporodake. The traverse will most likely be an overnight endeavour and the route is not maintained regularly so travel at your own risk.
From the junction it’s a few more minutes walk until you hit the summit, whre you just barely reach “alpine” level with dwarf pines making their appearance. Hard to believe you’re over 1200m high, but it’s pleasant in its own way.
The summit is long and narrow, with great views of Sapporo City and the mountains nearby, and views as far as the Hidaka Range. Unfortunately it’s a long way back once you decide to head home but for the distance it doesn’t feel that long.
Despite the big numbers on paper, Soranumadake is a nice hike suitable for even beginners and definitely recommended for those living in Sapporo.