Set on the upper stream of Ishikari-gawa in the northeastern part of Daisetsuzan National Park, Sounkyo Onsen (層雲峡温泉) is Northern Hokkaido’s largest hot springs resort and the main base of Kuro-dake. The village sits along the deep gorge with columnar joints and a jumping-off point for Tokachi and Okhotsk regions.
Points of interests in Sounkyo
The closest station to Sounkyo is Kamikawa Station (上川駅) on the JR Sekihoku Line, about an hour from Asahikawa by local train (8 daily).
Dohoku Bus operates 11 times daily between JR Kamikawa Station and Sounkyo (11 daily; 30min), with seven buses going directly to Asahikawa Station stop 8 (2hrs).
(黒岳ロープウェイ) This cable car from Sounkyo Onsen makes the rise up to Kuro-dake 5th station (黒岳五号目: at 1300m) in seven minutes. If time is limited, you can overlooking the gorge and mountains around the 5th station in about 30 minutes.
From the 5th station, chairlift rises the 7th station (黒岳七号目: at 1520m). You can hike up to the panoramic summit of Kuro-dake (1984m) in about 1.5 hours in summer (June to October). Chairlift is used by skiers and snowboarders from mid November to early May (except January). Ski and snowshoes rental are available at the 5th station.
A 15-minute hike west of the summit, you will find the Kuro-dake Hut (黒岳石室: mid Jun-late Sep; hut ¥2000) and the campsite (¥500).
Ryusei-no-taki and Ginga-no-taki
About 3km east of Sounkyo Onsen along Route 39 are the spectacular 120m-high Ryusei-no-taki (流星の滝: Shooting Star Falls) and Ginga-no-taki (銀河の滝: Milky Way Falls) at Takimidai (滝見台). From the car park it is a steep 20-minute climb to the Sobakudai (双瀑台) overlooking both falls. A daily bus from Sounkyo (departing at 12.50pm) runs from July to October.
Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival
(氷瀑まつり) Every winter from late January to mid March, Sounkyo Onsen has its own ice sculptures on the river, featuring buildings and slides. At evening the ice sculptures are illuminated with colored lights.
Sounkyo Visitor Center
(層雲峡ビジターセンター) Best visited before you climb to Kuro-dake and its surrounding mountains, this center tells you about local topography, geography, fauna and flora with English information.
More info www.sounkyovc.net