Bankei Sanso mountain hut is the largest backcountry hut in the Sapporo area. It is accessible either on foot on the Mt. Soranuma hiking trail, or a rough and steep forestry road. The latter makes for a perfect overnight bikepacking trip, easily accessed from central Sapporo City. From the hut, it is a short 1.5hr hike to the top of Mt. Soranuma. From the summit on a good day, Lake Shikotsu, Mt. Yotei, and Sapporo City are all well within view.
Route GPS File
- Distance: 32km
- Total climbing: 1,200m. This only includes the climb up to the hut. If you hike to the top of Mt. Soranuma from the hut, that will add on an extra 300m in vertical climb.
- Road surface: 100% gravel, rough and steep in places. Be prepared to push your bike if you’re not accustomed to rough forestry road riding.
- Staying at Bankei Sanso Hut: The Bankei Sanso Hut is managed by a volunteer group, and does not require any booking or reservation. The hut sleeps up to 80 people, and is never full to capacity. The volunteer association suggests a donation of 1,000yen if staying overnight – you can put this in the small donation box in side the hut. There is running water in the hut kitchen during the non-winter months, but this must be boiled before drinking. Heat is provided by a large wood stove, with wood provided. The stove tends to billow smoke out of the door of the stove when it is opened, so be quick with your re-fueling. The stove will bring water to the boil quite quickly. There is no bedding or mattresses in the hut. There are some basic pots and pans available for use.
- Hiking to the summit of Mt. Soranuma: Mt. Soranuma has a popular hiking trail to its summit, and on the weekends you’ll likely see a steady stream of hikers heading up the well-trodden trail. It can be a muddy trail, so boots are recommended. From hut to summit, it takes between 1.5 and 2 hours. The summit offers amazing views over Sapporo City, Mt. Yotei, and Lake Shikotsu.
Every now and then I get a hankering for an overnight trip into the hills. This weekend was one such occasion, so I set my sights on the Bankei Sanso mountain hut, near Mt. Soranuma on the outskirts of Sapporo City.
I’ve stayed in this hut before. Once on a spring-season snowshoe trip, and once on a ski tour (story here). The accessibility of the hut from Sapporo City, and the interesting terrain, makes it once of those places you can return to again and again.
This time I would be on a mountain bike, with the intention to cycle to the hut from Sapporo, stay the night, and hike to the summit the next day.
Because I live at the southern end of Sapporo, it was a two hour ride just to get to the Misumai area towards Jozankei. From the main road (Route 230), I would climb south along the forestry roads towards the hut.
There are two directions that the hut can be approached from on a bike. One is from the north, starting in Misumai. The other is starting closer to Makomanai in Sapporo City. I chose to climb up to the hut from the Misumai side, and descend down the other side (as marked on the route map above).
Just beyond the turn off on the Misumai side, there is a convenience store, so I stopped in there to replenish my water supplies and buy some snacks.
From there I started the rather slow process of climbing up to the hut.
The route from the main road starts out paved, passing some interesting, quiet homes along the way.
Before long, it is the end of the road for the general public in vehicles. A locked gate bars the way for all but forestry vehicles (and bicyclists). From there, the route winds up active logging roads, so keep your eyes out for trucks, and always yield to vehicles.
I had anticipated the ride up to take about 2 hours, so I was hoping to be at the hut before lunch.
The slow leak in my front tube, however, had other plans, and I had to stop to repair it. The steepness of the roads were also a surprise. For me it was a matter of cycling 30m, stopping to catch my breath, cycling another 30m, stopping, and repeating this process.
It was never so steep that it was impossible to cycle; a stronger, fitter cyclist (with less luggage) would do this much more quickly.
After a quick lunch on the road, I arrived at the hut at around 1:30pm, 3 hours after I left the main Route 230 road. It was a beautiful autumn day.
The hut is right next to Bankei Pond – very picturesque.
Bankei Sanso Hut is not the only mountain hut next to the pond. Hokkaido University also manages a smaller hut about 50m from the larger Bankei Sanso hut.
It was recently renovated, and in September this year re-opened for non-winter overnight stays. Call Hokkaido University to book to stay there – you’ll also need to visit the university to pay before using the hut.
During the summer months, members from the volunteer association which manages the hut stay overnight on Saturdays. Besides them, however, it was just me, Mike and Birget. Mike and Birget had also made the trek up to the hut on bikes.
The next morning we hiked up the well-trodden trail to the summit of Mt. Soranuma, via the gorgeous Mamisu Lake.
From the summit, we had spectacular views in all directions towards Sapporo City, Mt. Yotei, and Lake Shikotsu. We also had a very cute – and amazingly tame – Hokkaido squirrel visit us at the top.
The bike ride back down to Sapporo from the hut lived up to what I expected from the day before, lugging myself up those steep inclines. It was rip-roaring fun. Even, I hope, for first-time gravel-road rider Birget 🙂