Explore Lake Toya and surrounding areas on this recommended full day trip. Lake Toya is a famous onsen town that serves as the hub of the expansive Shikotsu-Toya National Park. This is an ideal itinerary any time of year if you are interested in nature, history and scenic views.
Lake Toya proves a fantastic destination to visit year round. In fact, even in winter the lake does not freeze.
The landscape is distinctly different throughout all four seasons. Witness cherry blossoms in spring, the changing colours of leaves in autumn, snowcapped islands in winter, and crystal clear water in summer perfect for swimming.
However, if we had to choose, we highly recommend a trip between end of April and early November as temperatures are mild but warm, views are incredible, and there are so many activities on offer.
Located southwest of Sapporo and New Chitose Airport, Lake Toya is nestled between your MnK accommodation in Niseko and the Pacific south coast.
Local buses run between Niseko and Toya Onsen or Toya JR Station. Hiring a rental car is the most convenient option and offers the most flexibility. From your MnK accommodation, it takes less than an hour to drive to Lake Toya, simply follow Route 343 passing around Mt Yotei and through Makkari town.
Be sure to make a stop at Shikotsu Toya National Park Silo Observatory. The silo observatory offers an unbeatable panoramic view of Lake Toya, Nakajima, Mt Usu and Showa Shinzan. This is the ideal place to stop, take photographs and recharge with a coffee or selection of Hokkaido desserts available from the souvenir shop.
Next stop, the Toyako Visitor Center and Volcano Science Museum. Parking here is free, and the center is open daily from 9:00am – 5:00pm. Learn about the animals and plants that inhabit the area, and the natural history of Mt Usu. A small donation is required to view some exhibits.
If you wish to do some hiking, a fantastic 1.6km long walking trail around Mt Nishiyama starts at the Nishiyama parking lot. Pick up your free map from the centre and hit the trail. When Mt Usu erupted in 2000, over 60 new craters opened up on the west side of the mountain. Along the trail you can see buildings that were damaged in the natural disaster as well as disrupted roads.
Mt Usu and Showa-Shinzan are major tourist attractions in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Mt Usu (737m) is an active volcano that provides geothermal heating to many onsen hot springs and is located to the south of Lake Toya. The volcano has erupted four times in the last 100 years, and the best way to take in the Showa-Shinzan peak and Mt Usu is to take the cable car to the top. From here it is a 10 minute walk to the viewing platform.
Learning facilities here include an information centre, eruption experience room, disaster prevention theatre, and informational panels displaying the history of the mountain's eruptions are also available.
After taking in some incredible views, make your way down to "Volcano Village" where there are dozens of restaurants, toilet facilities, souvenir shops and information stops.
Sobetsu Waterfall is a hidden gem that can be found on the southern edge of Lake Toya. The parking lot for Sobetsu Waterfall can be easy to miss, so be sure to follow the road down Route 2. At the bottom of the hill, make a U-turn and cross over the river. Follow the small road, keeping the river on your left hand side. Soon you will see a parking lot on the left. From here, a short walk of no more than 10 minutes will take you to the base of this tranquil waterfall.
Lake Hill Farm is a farm located in southern Hokkaido with spectacular views of both Lake Tōya and Mount Yōtei. Cows roam freely, and the site provides outdoor play equipment. Enjoy a homemade gelato, take a break in the cafe or purchase some cheeses, jams or pickled vegetables to take away.