By far the most popular walk in Hakuba is the climb up to the Happo Ike pond. Catching the Gondola “Adam” up from the Sanroku Station, then walking across the Alpen Quad Lift, then the Grat Quad lift means the initial 1,000m+ vertical climb is done sitting down. My style of hiking.
At the top of Happo One ski resort you find Happo Ike Sanso, a hiking hut for those wanting to get a really early start or have missed the last lift rides down the previous day. There are vending machines here, so pick up a bottle of water or sports drink. In peak season there are also stalls selling alcohol and ice creams, but these are best bought on the way down rather than the way up.
While the track starts to the left of the hut, it can be worth walking around the front of the hut to the right as this will give you your first views of the spectacular peaks of Hakuba. It’s Mt Hakuba Yarigatake on the left, Mt Shakushi Dake in the middle, and the highest of them all, Mt Shirouma Dake on the right.
There are 2 routes up the first half of the climb. Veer to your left if you wish to take the longer, but gentler route, or head to the right for the steeper staircase route. The former route is a well maintained board walk, while the later is more a track over rocks. There are a number of cairns (pyramid shaped rock structures) along the route.
The tracks converge on the plateau below Happo Ike Pond, where there is a toilet facility. From here it is a short steep walk up to the pond. Be sure to look over to your left as you climb the last few meters as on fine days you can see Mt Fuji in the distance. There is a loop track around the pond, and we recommend taking the track on the left-hand side first as this will give you views of the pond in the foreground, looking over the 3 peaks in the background. There are a few benches to rest your legs.
The trip down is a bit quicker, with the board walk option being the easier on the knees.
High Point: 2,070masl
Route: Happo Ike Sanso Hut – (1:30) – Happo Ike Pond – (1:00) – Happo Ike Sanso Hut
Difficulty Level ★★☆☆☆