Japan boasts 34 beautiful national parks, with the first one being established in 1934. Six of the nation’s national parks are located on the northernmost island Hokkaido. Hokkaido is known for its rich nature, volcanoes, hot springs and excellent ski areas and the national parks welcome visitors with a variety of scenic spots, extraordinary wildlife, and adventurous experiences. Visiting them gives you great opportunities to explore the beauty of nature that can be spotted only here in Hokkaido as well. Let’s learn about the features and highlights of each national park that enrich your time in Hokkaido!
1. Rishiri Rebun Sarobetsu National Park
Rishiri Rebun Sarobetsu National Park is the northmost national park in Japan. It covers 24,000 hectares, including Rishiri and Rebun Island both of which are widely famous for its scenic spots nature. Mount Rishiri is a beautiful mountain on Rishiri Island that stands 1,721 meters tall at the center of the island. The park features great hiking courses that offer impressive sceneries created by alpine plants and several ponds.
Sarobetsu-genya is a coastal plain situated in the northern part of the mainland of Hokkaido. The plain boasts a vast wetland home to a variety of flora and beautiful plants. Spring and autumn are the best season to enjoy a refreshing stroll while admiring marsh plants and watch the migrating birds like ducks, geese, and swans
2. Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko National Park is located in Shiretoko area, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shiretoko Peninsula sticks out into the Sea of Okhotsk, and it offers a suitable environment for both the land as well as marine ecosystems. This is where you can experience the untamed nature that remained the same over centuries without any human activities.
One of the biggest characteristics of the park is the unique geography created by volcano activities and glaciers. Also, if you want to see drift ice, Shiretoko National Park is a must visit! The dynamic landscape allows visitors to experience the beautiful nature closely through a range of activities such as trekking and sea kayaking. Joining a guided tour also helps you get a better understanding of the extraordinary wildlife, including brown bears, as well!
3. Akan Mashu National Park
Akan Mashu National Park is a symbolic scenic spot created by the contrast of greenery forests and three clear blue lakes. This park can be divided into two areas: one that is characterized by Lake Akan, and the other around Lake Kussharo and Mashu. Lake Akan is famous for Marimo, a small, fluffy-looking moss ball, formed by the motion of the lakewater.
Lake Kussharo is the largest caldera lake in Japan and also home to refreshing hot springs. These caldera lakes were originally formed by volcanic activities. Many visitors enjoy visiting the iconic mountainous area, popular outdoor activities include lake cruising, BBQ-ing, camping, hiking, and much more!
One of the unique ways to enjoy your time in the area is to experience the Ainu culture. Ainu refers to an ethnic group that is indigenous to Hokkaido region. They developed a unique culture throughout history, and there are still amazing spots that offer Ainu culture experiences. Ainu Kotan is a popular tourist attraction located near Lake Akan, where visitors can learn about the indigenous culture through a range of exhibits and hands-on experiences! Ainu people of Hokkaido and the surrounding areas celebrate a 2-3 day long Marimo Festival, each year in October.
4. Kushiro Shitsugen National Park
Kushiro Shitsugen National Park is based in Kushiro Shitsugen, the largest wetland in Japan, and its surrounding areas. In 1980, it was registered as the first wetland under the Ramsar Convention. It’s located between Kushiro and Akan Mashi National park and it’s known as the only location in Japan where the endangered Japanese crane also known as the Red-crowned crane is living. The park doesn’t receive much snowfall in winter and many people visit the park for bird watching and other outdoor activities. The scenery is spectacular each season and the cranes can be seen all year round. Kushiro River is an iconic river running through the vast area while offering suitable habitats for a range of species such as fish and waterfowls.
Taking a refreshing stroll is one of the most popular way to explore the scenic park while observing the diversity in wildlife. There are six boardwalks for visitors to walk around the wetland while enjoying birdwatching or wetland ecosystems safely. If you want to enjoy the stunning landscape from a high point, walk up to the five observation decks offering impressive sceneries from different locations. Or joining an exciting canoe tour in Kushiro river is another highlight to spend a memorable time surrounded by untouched nature!
5. Daisetsuzan National Park
Daisetsuzan National Park is known as the largest national park in Japan covering about 230,000 hectares. It features a number of large mountains and ranges, creating a breathtaking view, referred to as “garden for Gods to play” by indigenous people. Mount Asahi is the tallest volcanic mountain in Hokkaido at 2,291 meters. You can easily access to the 1.600 meters point by ropeway, where the beautiful lake, Sugatami-no Ike reflects the magnificent scenery. It shows beautiful bright colors changing from lush green in summer to red and yellow in fall.
Tenninkyo is a scenic gorge located in the northwestern part of the park. The unique rock formation and steep cliffs were formed by volcanic eruption over 30,000 years ago. It is also a home to a number of natural hot springs where travelers can relax. Hagoromo-no Taki, the tallest waterfall in Hokkaido with the height of 270 meters, is another highlight of the park. Fall is undoubtedly the best time of year to explore the hidden spots in deep forests to catch a glimpse of stunning autumn colors!
6. Shikotsu Toya National Park
Shikotsu Toya National Park is the last of the six national parks in Hokkaido, located in the southwestern part of the island. Thanks to the convenient location, near Sapporo and New Chitose Airport, it is visited by a number of tourists all year round. It features several caldera lakes and volcanic mountains, and is generally divided into five areas with different tourist spots.
Shikotsu-ko and Toya-ko are the two symbolic caldera lakes that are widely known for the quality of water and scenic spots around. Giant volcanic peaks such as Mount Usu and Mount Yotei embrace the beautiful lakes and create a breathtaking view especially in autumn and winter, when they are snow-capped. Noboribetsu Onsen is one of the three greatest hot spring resorts in Hokkaido that boasts nine different water sources bringing a range of health benefits. It’s convenient location in combination with its amazing natural features, makes Shikotsu Toya National park the perfect destination as your first step to explore the national parks in Hokkaido!
Don’t forget to check out our private tour
If you need some help to organize your trip to Hokkaido, you should definitely check out our concierge service. We can help you arrange your trip, give you travel advice or arrange a private tour with a local English speaking guide. We’d be happy to make your trip to Hokkaido a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!
1. Hokkaido 1–Day Highlight Tour
If you visit Hokkaido, join our private tour that takes you to the popular tourist attractions in Sapporo. It allows you to experience the large city by visiting famous shrines, museums, architectures, and peaceful parks!
2. Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Tour
Join our private walking tour to explore the highlights in Tokyo!
Hokkaido offers a wide range of adventures and natural experiences that most tourists from other countries never expect to have in Japan. It will surprise you how well nature and habitats for wildlife are preserved in Hokkaido, but at the same time cater for a number of tourists as a popular tourist attraction. After enjoying the refreshing time at any of the parks we mentioned above, don’t forget to visit other tourist attractions, relax at one of the many onsen and try the great local gourmet as well!
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