Release | nobu Kawashima
Going around Hokkaido (13) Road to the Sky to Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall: Watch out for Ezo deers! I enjoyed the magnificent nature of Shiretoko
This article is the series to go around the coastline of Hokkaido. The thirteenth article visits Shiretoko!
I started from Road to the Sky in Shari-Cho, visited Oshinkoshin Waterfall, Shiretoko Goko Lakes, and Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall.
I often encountered with Ezo deers on roads and sides of roads. I felt both excited and scared. Driving this time made me enjoy the magnificent nature of Shiretoko.
Table of Contents- About the series: Going around Hokkaido
- About the route: From Road to the Sky in Shari-Cho to Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall in Shari-Cho
- Road to Sky to Oshinkoshin Waterfall: Passed across the river which salmons and pink salmons go upstream to the up-country of Shiretoko
- Oshinkoshin Waterfall to Shiretoko Goko Lakes: The center of sightseeing in Shiretoko
- Shiretoko Goko Lake walk: I felt healed from great nature of Shiretoko
- Shiretoko Goko Lakes to Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall: Watch out for Ezo deers!
▲Shiretoko Goko with colored leaves and Shiretoko Mountain Range with snow on top.
About the series: Going around HokkaidoThis is a part of the series of articles to introduce my journey to go around Hokkaido. I will introduce my relaxing trip about visiting cities and towns, enjoying beautiful views, having delicious foods, and encountering to fascinating people.
Below are the basic rules about the project:
- Basically, drive only National Routes or Hokkaido Roads along coastlines.
- I can use municipal roads near central towns, promontories, etc. However, I try not to use community roads and private roads.
- I only drive the mainland of Hokkaido. (I’m sorry to those live in islands!)
- I drive from the sunrise to the sunset to enjoy the views.
- I divide my journey into a few times according to the coverage schedule.
About the route: From Michi No Eki Ryuhyo-kaido Abashiri in Abashiri City to Road to the Sky in Shari-Cho
▲The route of this article (Google My Maps)
About the route: From Road to the Sky in Shari-Cho to Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall in Shari-Cho
Mileage: Approx. 55 kilometers
The time required: Approx. 1 hour 35 mins (except breaks, time to stop at sightseeing spots, and the detour)
Check the detailed map from the link below!
Going around Hokkaido (11) -
Going around Hokkaido (1) - (10)
You can find the previous article of the series here:
Going around Hokkaido (12) Ryuhyo-kaido Abashiri to Road to the Sky: To the scenic road through the lake with swans and uncrewed stations
▲Going around Hokkaido has come this much! (Google My Maps)
Road to Sky to Oshinkoshin Waterfall: Passed across the river which salmons and pink salmons go upstream to the up-country of ShiretokoRoad to Sky to Oshinkoshin Waterfall
Mileage: Approx. 24 kilometers
The time required: Approx. 30 mins
▲The starting point for this article is the parking of Road to the Sky, where you can look down the approximately 28 kilometers straight road.
Let’s go to the upcountry of Shiretoko Peninsula!
“Road to the Sky” is a straight road which continues far far away as if it continues to heaven.
You could reach Utoro, the center of sightseeing in Shiretoko if you turn right from the parking, but I took a detour and drove down the hill of the straight road towards Utoro.
▲I was driving down gradually, but I felt like I am driving up towards the sky when I see far away.
▲There is an observatory on the right, and you can get the view of the road up from the hill.
If you go down all at once, you won’t be able to see far away. Instead, it feels like the straight road continues forever.
I merged to the national route 335, which goes to the direction of Utoro when I reached the end of the hill. I took a sharp right turn there and kept driving the national route.
▲I had a lot of chance to drive along the coastline in this area. If it were winter, I would be driving along ice because there will be many drift ice by the sea.
After driving for about 15 mins from the Road to the Sky, I parked my car in the parking on the right. Take a look at the river from the bridge which crosses Onnebetsu River.
▲I saw a pink salmon going upstream!
▲When I took a look toward the sea, countless birds look like hunting.
I felt nature is very close to me.
After looking at them for a while, I drove for about 10 mins. Then I arrived “Oshinkoshin Waterfall” on the right side of the road.
Oshinkoshin Waterfall to Shiretoko Goko Lakes: The center of sightseeing in ShiretokoOshinkoshin Waterfall to Shiretoko Goko Lakes
Mileage: Approx. 20 kilometers
The time required: Approx. 30 mins
▲There were many tourists from Japan and abroad because tour busses stop by here often.
“Oshinkoshin Waterfall” is selected as one of the 100 best waterfalls in Japan. You can get close to about the middle of the waterfall by climbing the stairs so that you can get a very close look at the waterfall.
▲I looked up the waterfall in the middle of the stairs. You can go higher from here, too.
There are public restrooms and shops at the parking of “Oshinkoshin Waterfall” so it is also a great place to take a break from driving. I got relaxed from refreshing water splash and decided to continue driving again.
▲There was also another small waterfall called “Sandan Waterfall,” after driving a while from Oshinkoshin Waterfall towards Utoro.
I kept driving the coastline, and when I got out of the tunnel, there was a town. It was the center of sightseeing in Shiretoko, Utoro District.
There are many houses and large hotels, etc. There is also “Michi No Eki Utoro Shirietoku” on the left side of the road.
There will be lesser and lesser places to get foods from here, so I stopped by Michi No Eki and a convenience store to buy drinks and snacks.
Among them, Michi No Eki has shops and restaurants and also and tourist information center, so I recommend to stop by.
▲A strange-shaped rock in Utoro District called “Godzilla Rock.” Does this look like Godzilla to you? It may start moving if you keep looking at it!
After leaving Utoro District near the sea, I reached to an uphill after driving a long hill. I passed Cape Puyuni, where you can look down Utoro District and the Sea of Okhotsk, and a mountain path with hills and curves continues for a while.
You will discover Shiretoko National Park Nature Center, the starting point of trails such as Furepe Waterfall Trails, on the left, after driving for a while.
The national route continues to Shiretoko Pass. If you are going to Shiretoko Goko Lakes, take a left turn and drive Hokkaido Road no. 93.
Drive the downhill with curves from top of the cliff. You will reach to the valley of Iwaobetsu River. There will be a branch road. If you take a right turn and drive for approximately 4 kilometers, you will reach to Iwaobetsu Onsen “Hotel Chinohate.”
▲“Hotel Chinohate” is surrounded by mountains. There is almost no reception.
You may find this article interesting:
Hotel Chinohate - the mansion-type hotel in the up-country of Shiretoko, a World Heritage Site
After passing the branch road, an uphill appears again. Keep driving up the road with curves, and you will reach to a flat land on a hill. A straight road continues for a while, and there won’t be many up and downs from here.
Pass the branch road which on the right is an unpaved road. You will then reach to the parking of Shiretoko Goko Lakes.
Pay for the parking fee at the desk, park the car, and get ready for the hike. Head to the Shiretoko Goko Field House first.
Shiretoko Goko Lake walk: I felt healed from great nature of Shiretoko* The weather was not good on the day I visited for this article, so I use pictures from a different occasion for Shiretoko Goko Lakes.
Shiretoko Goko Lakes is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Shiretoko. There are five lakes in the wild forest, and you can hike around the lakes, etc.
There are two options you can take to see Shiretoko Goko Lakes.
One of them is to walk on the elevated wooden path.
You don’t have to worry about bears, and you can walk freely, anytime you want during their business hours, without any fees from Spring to Autumn.
It will be 1.6 kilometers (approximately 40 mins) round trip from the parking to the endpoint so you can enjoy seeing Shiretoko Goko Lakes as if you are taking a walk.
▲The view from the elevated wooden path is majestic! There are no steps so people with strollers or wheelchairs can enjoy the view, too.
Another option is to hike on ground pathways.
The rules of hiking changes depending on the season. During some periods, hiring a guide or getting a lecture is mandatory.
▲The route for ground pathways lets you walk around the lakes and in the woods of Shiretoko. You will be able to feel the nature of Shiretoko closely by listening to the sounds of winds and seeing different plants.
I visited Shiretoko Goko Lakes on October 19, 2018.
I followed the rules: I filled in the application form and attended on the lecture at Shiretoko Goko Field House before hiking.
▲The certification like this will be passed to attendees of the lecture.
When I left the room for the lecture, the entrance of the ground pathway was in front of me. I followed the route: Hiked from Lake Goko, Lake Yonko, Lake Sanko, Lake Niko, Lake Ichiko, then walked the elevated wooden path and then went back to the parking.
This place is really amazing, and I would like to introduce more, but I assume it will be too long that I could make one whole article about Shiretoko Goko Lakes hike. So let me at least introduce each lake I saw with pictures.
▲Lake Goko appears first.
▲Lake Yonko. Trees look like a natural frame for the lake.
▲You will get to walk more than half around for Lake Sanko so that you can enjoy from different angles.
▲Lake Niko. Mountains with colored leaves and snow on the top of mountains between the clouds look beautiful!
▲Lake Ichiko can be viewed from the ground path and elevated wooden pathway both.
I took about 1.5 hours to walk approximately 3 kilometers as I took pictures. I felt majestic nature very close to me. I was delighted with just walking here! It was worth a trip to Shiretoko.
You may also find this article interesting:
Snow hike around Shiretoko Goko Lakes in winter
Shiretoko Goko Lakes to Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall: Watch out for Ezo deers!Shiretoko Goko Lakes to Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall
Mileage: Approx. 11 kilometers
The time required: Approx. 35 mins
Leave the parking of Shiretoko Goko Lakes and drive back the road you came. An unpaved road will appear on the left after a while.
Take a left turn here.
▲The unpaved road continues to Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall from here. (The way may regulate private card during busy seasons. In such case, there will be a shuttle bus to Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall from Shiretoko Nature Center.)
The unpaved road had lots of curves and up and down.
The road was wide enough to pass oncoming regular cars, but there were narrow parts, and sides of the road were steep. I kept driving carefully.
Since I couldn’t see well, I was careful about oncoming vehicles. However, a car did not appear near the curve. Ezo deers appeared instead.
I drove slowly and reencountered Ezo deers. After that, I encountered a red fox. I did not see it in my eyes, but probably brown bear must also be near here.
It was more common to encounter wild animals than oncoming vehicles. It was like a safari park in the north!
Well, for them it’s just a place for their daily lives. We are the one who entered their territories.
As I encountered Ezo deers many times, I kept driving the unpaved road and arrived at Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall.
There is no road to reach to the tip of Shiretoko Peninsula such as Cape Shiretoko, so I could not go around the peninsula with a car.
Also, although there is a road to the middle of the Shiretoko Peninsula, regular cars can’t enter further than Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall.
▲I had to go back to Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall. This is the tip of the Shiretoko Peninsula on the Utoro side.
Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall is where hot spring from the middle of Mt. Shiretoko-Io flows into the river. It is a very rare place since the whole river is an onsen.
▲I put my hand; the temperature was moderate! And I was not sure because of the onsen components, but I felt a little stimulation.
I licked the water a little bit. It was very sour! It was very bitter and sour that I almost choked. (Do not ever drink the water of river!)
▲There is no fish in the river with slightly acidic onsen water; only some microbes live here. The colors of the bottom and the sides of the river had changed to green or yellow because of bacteria.
You cannot bathe here, but dipping just a hand or a foot would be interesting here. Also, the setting here in the middle of nature is more than amazing! However, you have to be careful because it is the habitat of brown bears.
▲The parking of Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall. There were a few cars when I came here, but I was the only one when I was going back!
Without realizing, I was all alone in the mountain of Shiretoko where many brown bears live. My cellphone had no reception, and it was almost sunset.
If I take it nicely, it was the ultimate private natural onsen (natural foot bath?). In reality, being alone here is not a very good idea.
I was very scared, but two or three cars came after a while. I was relieved. Does this mean to miss people? What? Is it different?
This is it for today.
In the next article, I will head to Rausu-Cho by passing the Shiretoko Pass after staying a night at Iwaobetsu Onsen “Hotel Chinohate.” I will get to Aidomari District, the tip of Rausu-Cho side of Shiretoko Peninsula.
Text, photo/Hokkaido Likers photo writer nobu Kawashima