Hangetsu Lake Circuit: A fun side-trip on skis

The circuit track around Lake Hangetsu, at the foot of Mt. Yotei, is hardly the place for alpine skis. But with an abundance of bird-life at the trailhead, good views, and just enough elevation gain to make the second half fun, this is a great spot for honing the kick-and-glide skills.

Handetsu Lake ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Essential Info

  • Route GPS log: GPX file download
  • Route timing: Around one hour at a very leisurely stop-and-look-at-the-birds pace.
  • Topographical maps: For topographical maps, you can either print out what you want from the Geospacial Information Authority of Japan here (Lake Hangetsu is in the cross-hairs), or buy the following 1:25,000 paper topo map (for 350yen) from a bookstore in Sapporo (such as Kinokuniya next to Sapporo Station).
    • Niseko Annupuri (ニセコアンヌプリ) – map no. NK-54-20-7-2
  • Getting there and away: Access by local bus is possible either on the Niseko Bus (Otaru-line from Niseko JR Station – ニセコバス小樽線) or on the Do-Nan Bus (Kutchan-Toya Line from Kutchan JR Station – 道南バス倶知安~洞爺湖温泉線) – you’ll want to get off at the Yotei-tozan-guchi bus stop (羊蹄登山口). From there it would be a 20 minute walk to the carpark next to the lake.
  • Onsen neaby: The closest onsen are all in Niseko Hirafu.
  • Date visited: Dec 26th 2016

Route Map with GPS Trace (GPX file)

Skinning Report

The Hangetsu Lake circuit track is a popular spot for snowshoe tours – for the throngs of Southeast Asian visitors to Niseko who have never seen snow before, it is the perfect spot to experience Hokkaido’s winter nature. It is also a fun circuit to do on skis, in order to kill some time when Mt. Yotei may not be suitable for climbing, or the weather is otherwise inclement at higher altitudes.

Hangetsu Lake ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The track itself will likely be hard-packed, having had at least a few snow shoe tours across it per day. Best to forge your own route through the trees. You’d have to try very hard to get lost.

Hangetsu Lake ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The track climbs slightly towards the northeast of the lake, before heading down again towards the carpark. Be ready to jump out of the snowshoe track as you’re racing down the roller-coaster.

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