ADVENTURES AROUND THE WORLD© Christopher Earls Brennen
Hike C11. Mount Tarumae, Hokkaido
- Hiking time: 3 hours
- Estimated hiking distance: 4.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 1110 feet
- Topo Map: Geospatial Authority of Japan Online Map
- Difficulties: Some danger from poisonous volcanic gases.
- Permit: None
Mount Tarumae is an active stratovolcano in Hokkaido’s Shikotsu-Toya National Park. It was formed by an eruption in the Shikotsu caldera roughly 9000 years ago, followed by a cave-in that created today’s crater. This hike starts at the popular parking lot and climbs 1000 ft to a junction where it meets the loop trail that proceeds around the rim of the crater.
The trailhead is a busy parking lot at 42o41.93'N 141o23.43'E , elevation 2168 ft at the end of an approach road that leads south from the shore of Lake Shikotsu, first on route 141 and then a right fork to the often-crowded parking area (about 50 km south of Sapporo). During the peak hiking season, a long line of cars forms as hopeful climbers wait to drive to the small parking lot at this trailhead half way up the mountain.
Mount Tarumae being an active volcano, its slopes mainly consist of volcanic ash and rock. There are no trees, affording great views across Lake Shikotsu, the Chitose Plains, and the Pacific Ocean. The hike to the summit takes less than about an hour. It is a steep ascent leading first over uneven stairs and then through the open volcanic landscape. There is a small risk of brown bear encounters; the visitor center at Lake Shikotsu has information about recent sightings in the area. Climbing above the treeline, the path continues up the eastern flank of Mount Tarumae for 0.8 mi to the crater's edge at 42o41.37'N 141o23.22'E and 3138 ft. Here, the path splits, leading all the way around the crater in 2-3 hrs. To the right is Higashi-dake, the conical volcano's eastern and highest peak (42o41.52'N 141o23.20'E and 3291 ft and 0.95 mi from the fork). The loop distance around the crater is about 2.0 mi and provides lovely paroramas of Shikotsu-Toya National Park and Lake Shikotsu. Inside the caldera is the unique lava dome of Mount Tarumae, created by an eruption in 1909. Smoke rises from the unstable lava dome; while impressive to see the emissions are poisonous and can be life-threatening when inhaled in large portions. It is highly advisable to stay on the trail and resist the temptation to get a closer look at the dome. The latest eruption of Mount Tarumae was in 1981, and the volcano is still very active. As you near the end of the loop, you will encounter the small Tarumae Shrine at 42o40.60'N 141o22.83'E .
On the crater rim of Mount Tarumae
The crater rim trail and volcanic cone
Last updated 1/27/23.
Christopher E. Brennen