5 best National Parks in Hokkaido Region

Outdoor adventurers will delight in the thrill of hiking amongst the breathtaking scenery of Japan’s most notable national parks. Incredible volcanoes, diverse wildlife, and feature-rich resorts await in lovely Hokkaidō

1. Daisetsuzan National Park

This national park’s exotic scenery makes it a prime location for hiking. Located at the center of Japan’s island of Hokkaidō and consisting of three active volcanoes, mountaineers will get their fill of adventure. Daisetsuzan’s highest peak reaches an astounding 2,290 meters, and has become a very popular destination for single or multi-day hikes.

Daisetsuzan is world-renowned for its powdery soft snow. With three striking volcanoes, a blooming array of flowers, soothing hot springs, and picture-perfect waterfalls, the scenery dazzles visitors each year. While the winter offers a silvery-white snowscape, autumn presents an array of vibrant red and gold leaves. Many visitors undergo a one-day hiking adventure at Daisetsuzan’s Mt. Kurodake, suitable for most hikers of all fitness levels. This hike will guide you to peak of one mountain during the course of a day. Multi-day hiking trips are also an option for more experienced hikers. 

2. Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko is easily one of the finest national parks in Hokkaido Region, and generally the least crowded. Shiretoko is found at the eastern tip of Hokkaidō’s peninsula. The park has several highly acclaimed local restaurants to enjoy during your trip. Their fresh seafood dishes are unparalleled- visitors rave about the decadent crablegs and delicious rice bowls topped with fresh uni (sea urchin) or ikura (salmon roe). 

Shiretoko National Park boasts a diverse ecosystem ripe with rare sea creatures and exotic wildlife. Due to its low latitude, it is home to a spectacular array of rare species like Stellar’s and White-tailed Sea-Eagles, Fish-Owls, brown bears and deers. Sightsee the area on a serene boat tour and search for dolphins and possibly encounter local sperm whales, seals, or orcas. Certain tours traverse the coast line, highlighting the exquisite Kamuiwakka Falls and the area’s dramatic cliffs. Sailing on your return boat tour, you can view the majestical Shiretoko mountains. Visit Utoro, Shiretoko’s top sightseeing location to complete your trip. Utoro offers a unique variety of accommodations, including quaint B&Bs and resort-style hotels. Several of the area’s resorts also have lovely hot springs to enjoy.

3. Shikotsu-toya National Park

The farthest east of any of Japan’s natural parks, Shikotsu-toya is a must-see. It is hailed as one of Japan’s great national parks in Hokkaidō Region. The wildlife (both on land and by sea) offer a mesmerizing peek into planet Earth’s beauty. While visiting, indulge the senses by booking a stay at one of the area’s highly rated resorts (onsen) such as Noboribetsu Hot Springs. The area is feature-rich with activities for all times of the year. Take an expedition on stunning Lake Shikotsu by way of glass-bottom boat. The lake’s crystal clear blue waters have become a national treasure, representative of Japan’s great beauty. Some of the most adventurous hikers in the world have enjoyed hiking the area’s two volcanoes – Mt. Tarumae and Mt. Eniwa. The first one is still in its active phase, while Mt. Eniwa has picturesque blowholes; both offer a unique volcanic experience. 

4. Kushiro Shitsugen National Park

One of Japan’s most biodiverse national parks. Japan’s largest wetland, Kushiro Shitsugen is defined more as an eco-region than an ecosystem. Take a stroll down the promenade to take in the wetlands up close and personal. Kushiro Shitsugen houses a marvelous array of more than 600 species of wildlife and plants. The endangered Blakiston fish owl graces the area, as well as rare aquatic wildlife like the Danube salmon. Hopefully you will encounter the Red-crowned Japanese crane (Tancho) and the enchanting Ezo deer. To more easily navigate and observe the sights, Kushiro Shitsugen offers convenient walk-thru observation decks (The Hosooka Observatory and The Sarubo Observatory) along with various scenic walking trails. The Hosooka Observatory overlooks the Kushiro River. Explore the wetlands by canoe with an experienced nature guide to fully learn about the park in depth. 

5. Akan National Park

A snowy white wonderland experience unlike any other in winter. Beautiful all year long, but most notorious for it’s icy landscapes in winter. This national park is located at the far northern part of Hokkaidō. The majestic Whooper Swan grace Lake Kussharo as a stop on their migratory path.

Enjoy the stunning landscape which completely transforms from winter to summer. Visitors travel from around the world to take in the unforgettable view from Mt. Meakandake and Mt. Oakandake. Volcanoes Oakan and Meakan are two striking stratovolcanoes found at Lakes Panketo and Akan. Also at Akan National Park is Lake Mashu, a large cadera (volcanic crater) with the clearest visibility in the world, from 20 to 30 meters. Visitors can admire the lake from one of its designated viewing platforms, as direct access is prohibited. Even so, the views are spectacular and certainly worth a visit. 

Enjoy mother nature’s exquisite beauty and create long-lasting memories at one the lovely national parks of Hokkaidō, Japan.