The pleasant rural town of Kuromatsunai (黒松内) is a nice place to relax before of after visiting the international resort Niseko. Slow your pace and take the time to walk on the footpaths with a countryside view. There are four signed footpaths to the picturesque countryside, hills and forest.
The popular footpath Choposhinai Course (チョポシナイコース: 10km) begins with a ride on the train to Neppu Station (熱郛駅), one stop east of Kuromatsunai. Otherwise, you can park your car at the michi-no-eki (roadside station) Kuromatsunai.
Hike along the serene river and beyond the hill of Higashi-yama (東山: 190m), you can overlooking the rural town. The hike takes about three hours.
To stretch your leg more from the town center, continue to follow the Teranosawa-gawa (寺の沢川) to Utasai Forest Park (歌才森林公園) via Kuromatsunai Onsen. Pick up a footpath map (¥200) from the michi-no-eki. More info www.kuromatsunai.com/kanko/
Kuromatsunai Onsen Buna-no-mori
(黒松内温泉ぶなの森) This onsen is a good place for a soak after hiking, located at the gateway of Utasai Forest Park. It has contemporary indoor and open-air baths. There are five buses from Suttsu (35min) via JR Kuromatsunai Station (4min) except Sunday and holiday. More info www.kuromatsunai.com/kanko/stay/bunanomori/
For Kuromatsunai, four local trains on the JR Hakodate Line run from Oshamanbe (4 daily; 25min) and Otaru (2.5hrs) via Kutchan (1hr 20min).