Monday, September 24, 2012

Mt Usu-zan

Mt Usu-zan
Mt Usu-zan sits on the shore of lake Toya about 2 hours drive from Sapporo heading south near the Pacific Ocean.
Mt Usu-zan is an active volcano which has erupted 4 times in the 20th century, that last eruption being in 2000.

Mt Usu-zan #1 
Mt Usu-an #2 

There is only one hiking trail on Mt Usu-zan and it isn't that difficult. The hike to the peak can be done in under 1 hour & 20 minutes if you are in good shape and around 2 hours if you want to take your time.
The trail is well worn and well marked and looked after and can suit families with children over 7 years.

How to get there:
The place to start is Usu town (check Goggle Map below). This is a small town and can be reached by car or train.
You can catch a train from Sapporo, Chitose or Tomakomai.
How to get to the trail head:
From the train station it is best to catch a taxi which would be a 10 minute drive and cost about Y1,000 . You could walk which would take about 40 minutes (check Goggle Map below).
If you are going by car and you are heading north or south on route 37 and you are in Usu town  (check Goggle Map below) you want to look for a road sign on the mountain side of the road which say 'Mt Usu Trail'. The sign isn't that big and is blue & white. The sign can be easy to miss.
You follow the road that the sign is pointing down to about 4 km to you come to a highway overpass. Right before the overpass on your left is the car park. Do not drive under the overpass.

The Mt Usu-zan road sign
The car park with overpass in the background
The Mt Usu-zan car park.

The Trail Head:
At the car is a toilet but no running water so make sure you have to before you get there.
To reach the trail head you must walk under the overpass and up the road for about 200 meters.
To you come to the trail head which is well marked.

Walking under the underpass to the trail head
The trail head

The information sign at the trail head
The trail up is mark in green:
The Trail:
From the trail head you just follow the trail. The trail starts of easy, you go about 300 meters then you hit a road which is closed. you cross the road and hook up with the hiking trail again. The trail is marked with a sign so it easy to see.

The start of the trail
The sign when you cross the road

Once you cross the road you just keep following the trail which works its way into the trees and slowly starts to work it's way up. The trail goes up and down in places and there are a couple of stair sections (steps) and steep-ish climbs but nothing too serious.

The trail (one of the stair sections)
The trail
The trail (one of the steep-ish sections)
After about an hour you will climb out of the trees and come to a closed dirt road. At this point you can get a nice view of area below and the Pacific Ocean. Again you cross the dirt road and pick up the hiking trail again which is again marked and easy to see. From this point you have about 20 minutes to you reach the junction the outer rim boardwalk trail.

The dirt road

The view from the dirt road point
Where you pick up the hiking trail again
From this point on the trail really star,ts to open up and gets wider and easier .
to you reach the outer rim.

The trail to the top
The trail to the top
The top intersection
At the top junction the trail links onto the outer rim boardwalk trail which takes you to a couple of lookout points and the top observation deck (actually out rim boardwalk isn't a boardwalk at all and the name of the trail is misleading because the trail is just grass).
From the junction you can choose to go left or right. If you chose left this will take you to the Usu outer rim observation deck and rest/picnic area ( agan the name is misleading because it isn't a deck but an open grass area). From here you can get a good view of the Gin-numa Great Crater.  If you go to the wooden fence you can get a good view. This is a nice area to have lunch.

Usu outer rim observation deck
Usu outer rim observation deck
Add caption
Gin-numa Great Crater
Gin-numa Great Crater
Usu outer rim observation deck: great place for lunch

From the top junction and if you turn right and walk about 10 minutes, this will bring you to another rest area and another look out point and a toilet block. This is also another good spot to take a rest and have lunch. 

The 2nd rest area and toilet block
The 2nd rest area and toilet block
The lookout point at the 2nd rest area and toilet block
The lookout point at the 2nd rest area and toilet block
From the 2nd rest area it will take you around 30 minutes to reach the top and the 'Carter Basin Observation Deck' . The trail to the top observation deck consist of a group of long stair and which make for a steep climb. From the top observation deck you get a great view of the Gin-numa Great Crater.

The trail from the 2nd rest area to the to Observation Deck
The trail from the 2nd rest area to the to Observation Deck
The trail from the 2nd rest area to the to Observation Deck
The top Observation Deck
If you want to you can take a short 5 minute trail to the top gondola station where you can top up on water and there is a restaurant and shops and there is a lookout deck that give you a nice view of lake Toya

The hike out and down from the top observation deck should take you about an hour and 20 minutes back to the car park.

Hiking down and out
The end of the trail. from here is 5 minutes to car park

 The Sanroku gondola station:
The lookout point at the top gondola station
The easy way to get to the top observation deck is take the gondola from the Sanroku gondola station on the other side of Mt Usu-zan .If you want you can hike up Mt Usu-zan and then take the gondola down.
Link: Usu Gondola Offical Website:

Sanroku gondola station
Sanroku gondola station
Sanroku gondola
Mt Usu-zan is a great hike that is well worth doing. I hope you enjoy:
The bush Pig

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