Release | nobu Kawashima
A casual hike to Mt. Esan! Enjoy the magnificent view with strangely shaped rocks and ocean at an active volcano with an easy hiking trail in Hakodate
Mt. Esan in the southeast end of Hakodate City is an active volcano with steams and gasses. You should see great craters and strangely shaped rocks!
You can reach the summit in about an hour from the parking at halfway up the mountain. Hikers can get the view of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan (Tsugaru Strait) near the summit.
Mt. Esan is famous for azaleas and colored leaves, but I can recommend this place as a casual hiking destination!
▲You can get the panoramic view of oceans on the way and near the summit! (Hakodate City Esan Branch provided the picture)
Table of Contents- Mt. Esan is approximately an hour from central Hakodate
- From the parking to the starting point of Gongendo trail
- 1,979 meters more: Many rocks, entering the hiking trail
- 1,640 meters more: The fumarole in front is magnificent
- 1,000 meters more: Walking up and up while looking down strangely shaped rocks along the mountain slopes and the ocean
- 230 meters more: The summit is almost there!
- Mt. Esan is recommended to hiking beginners!
Mt. Esan is located at the southeast end of the Oshima Peninsula and sticking out to the Pacific Ocean.
Mt. Esan is approximately an hour from central Hakodate
The elevation is 618 meters, which means it’s not a high mountain, but you can get the view of rocky mountains and beautiful ocean! The mountain is very attractive.
▲The rocky landscape of Mt. Esan is quite impressive. (Hakodate City Esan Branch provided the picture)
You can reach approximately an hour by car from central Hakodate to the foot of Mt. Esan. It would take around 2 hours by bus. From there, you can drive to Kakogen Parking Lot, which is located at about halfway up the mountain, near 300-meter elevation.
▲Mt. Esan, seen from Kakogen Parking lot. (Hakodate City Esan Branch provided the picture)
There are promenades near Kakogen Parking Lot where people who are not hiking can also enjoy the view of the mountain closely. The mountain trail continues from the paved walks. You should change to hiking outfits, such as hiking shoes, from the hiking trail.
▲Wear hiking shoes and clothes that are easy to take on and off. Please don’t mind that the color of my hat not matching my outfit…
It would be approximately one hour hike from the Kakogen Parking lot to the summit. I used the hiking trail called Gongendo trail.
Well, let’s start walking to the summit!
* The day I visited (early July 2019) was sunny, but it was foggy near the summit. Therefore, I will introduce the trail mixing pictures I took on other days and that I borrowed from Hakodate City Esan Branch from here.
From the parking to the starting point of Gongendo trailThe staff of Hakodate City Esan Branch took me from the parking to the summit.
▲Submit hiking application to the box in front of the public restroom before starting to hike.
▲The trail starts from the paved promenade that tourists visit and walk. (Hakodate City Esan Branch provided the picture)
It was uphill, but it was easy to walk since it was paved. (Cars can’t pass the road)
▲I kept walking as I see the crater on my right. (I took this picture in early June 2014)
▲A vast field, commonly called Sai-no-Kawara, was on my left. (I took this picture in early June 2014)
There are multiple trails in Mt. Esan other than Gongendo trail. One of them continues to the observation deck at halfway up the mountain.
There is always a sign at branches, so check the way to Mt. Esan’s summit and keep going.
▲Promenade turns into a mountain trail from here.
It is said that Mt. Esan became into the shape today approximately 2,500 years ago after continuous volcanic activities.
A phreatic eruption occurred during the Edo Period and caused casualties. State of reduced activity continues after a small eruption during the Meiji Period, and no big explosion has happened since then.
▲There are many red-brown rocks and huge rocks with holes on sides of the mountain trail. It proved that Mt. Esan is an active volcano.
I walked carefully not to fall and also watched out for falling rocks just in case.
1,979 meters more: Many rocks, entering the hiking trail
▲The sign says it’s 1,979 meters towards the summit. This is the last branch towards the summit, and no more branches appear to the peak from here.
There were some steep steps and hills in the beginning, but the trail turned to easy slopes, and it felt easier than I expected. I kept walking to the top, turning right and left.
▲I kept walking as I see Sai-no-Kawara on the right this time.
I took a short break near this rock, which looked like a small hill. I had some drinks and enjoyed the panoramic view.
▲I could see the ocean down from here!
I will keep going.
▲I looked back after walking a while and noticed the hill I took a short break was down from here.
Mt. Esan is a rocky mountain. Strangely shaped rocks start to appear from here.
▲A strangely shaped rock looks as if someone stuck square stones. It is called “Jenga Rock” according to the staff.
I felt I am at a high elevation when I looked down.
1,640 meters more: The fumarole in front is magnificent
▲1,640 meters to the summit. This is the part of the trail closest to the crater.
The crater was magnificent. I felt that the mountain is alive! However, be careful not to leave the trail and get too close to the crater. The steams from here contain volcanic gasses.
▲There are steams from the red-brown ground, and sulfur became hard and yellow.
I walked just 300 meters from the last branch. However, the landscape is quite amazing. The unique landscape continues more and more from here.
▲Watch out for rocks which changed colors on sides of the trail. It may have geothermal heat.
Some parts are challenging to walk with many rocks. However, slopes are gentle, and it was quite easy for me to continue walking.
▲Greens appear lesser and lesser. I kept walking the slopes of rocks.
I could look down the ocean on my left, and I could see further as I continued walking.
You can get the view of the volcanic bay, the Pacific Ocean, on the left-back. The horizontal line was blurry on this day. I heard you can even get the view of Cape Chikyu in Miroran City on a clear day.
1,000 meters more: Walking up and up while looking down strangely shaped rocks along the mountain slopes and the ocean
▲What does this rock look like? The staff named this rock “Pig Rock.”
▲1,000 meters more!
I continued walking as I look down the ocean on my left and strangely shaped rocks on both sides from here.
There are no greens, but I never got bored of the views.
▲I could look down Cape Esan Light House in Todohokke District!
By the way, the border of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan is the line from Cape Esan and Shiriyazaki of Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture. Tsugaru Strait is in the Sea of Japan. Therefore, the front part of this cape with the lighthouse is the Sea of Japan, and the back part is the Pacific Ocean.
▲I could also see Hotel Keipu other than Cape Esan Lighthouse.
And countless strangely shaped rocks on the way.
“What would I name this rock?”
My imagination and creativity appeared from those rocks. Part of that is like this:
▲What does this rock look like? “Godzilla Rock”? “Shachihoko Rock”?
▲Don’t you think this rock looks like the face of a person? Let’s name it “Human Face Rock”!
▲Doesn’t this look like a rugby player Goromaru’s routine? Let’s name it “Goromaru Rock” without his permission!
230 meters more: The summit is almost there!
▲230 meters more to the summit, I am almost there!
It got foggy near the summit on the day I hiked. Too bad.
▲Plants started to appear near the summit. Those are mostly alpine plants such as Gankoran.
The mountain trail continues to the summit as if it’s stitching on a green carpet. The sign of the summit appeared a while after.
▲I arrived at the summit! (Hakodate City Esan Branch provided the picture)
I reached the summit of Mt. Esan! However, this is not the only goal. I will keep walking a bit more.
▲My final destination was here! Can you notice the tip of my finger is in a fog?
The goal of this mountain trail is Gongendo, which is a while away from the summit.
▲Gongendo is a little further than the Torii. Sea of clouds sometimes appear! (Hakodate City Esan Branch provided the picture)
Gongendo is called Esan Daigongen, and there are multiple theories about its origin. It is said that Mt. Esan was worshipped by fishermen as its unique shape worked as a landmark from the ocean.
▲Fishers continue to take care of the shrine until now.
I visited the shrine and enjoyed the view. The fog and cloud were pretty thick, but I still could see the ocean and landscape further between clouds.
▲I could see the land of Shimokita Peninsula over Tsugaru Strait.
▲Surprisingly, I could see the top of Goryokaku Tower in Hakodate City! Can you tell which one is the Goryokaku Tower?
Mt. Esan is recommended to hiking beginners!Mt. Esan gets beautiful with azalea flowers from late May to early June and colored leaves in October. The mountain trail lets visitors enjoy magnificent views from spring to autumn when weather is fine.
You must prepare minimum equipment such as hiking shoes and must careful because it’s an active volcano. However, the trail is quite easy, and I can recommend this mountain to hiking beginners!
It took approximately one hour from the parking. You can reach the summit in 1.5 hours at most while taking pictures.
* The required time may differ by people, so consider it as an approximate time.
I want to revisit the mountain!
Text, photo / Hokkaido Likers photo writer nobu Kawashima