11 Best Autumn Foliage Spots in Hokkaido (2023 Edition)

As the summer heat mellows across Japan, the leaves begin to turn vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold. This autumn foliage phenomenon is known as “koyo” or “momiji” in Japanese (literally “crimson leaves”) and is just as magical as the famous sakura (cherry blossom) season - there's arguably no better time to explore the country’s natural beauty. In this guide, we'll take you on a journey through eleven enchanting autumn foliage spots in Hokkaido, each with its own unique charm and allure. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, a photographer, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, this large island in the north of Japan has something for everyone during this time of year.

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When Can You See Autumn Foliage in Japan?

Before we dive into the beauty of Hokkaido, it's essential to know the best time to witness autumn's vibrant color palette in Japan. Being a country stretching approximately 3,000 kilometers from north to south, the autumn foliage season in Japan varies a lot by region. Fiery red and orange leaves can be enjoyed as early as September up north and as late as December down south.

It’s important to note that autumn foliage is a very weather-dependent affair and therefore varies by year as well. We have included the usual peak foliage times for each place in this article, but it may not be accurate every year depending on the weather. Foliage forecasts are the best way to stay updated and time your leaf-viewing excursions. We have done our research, but please keep in mind that these dates are ultimately estimates.

What and Where is Hokkaido?

Hokkaido, the second-largest of Japan's main islands, is renowned for its unspoiled landscapes, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural heritage. It’s also home to the indigenous Ainu population and their unique way of living in harmony with nature. Located in the northernmost part of Japan, Hokkaido enjoys cooler temperatures than the rest of the country. Autumn is a magical season on this serene island, where the landscape transforms into a canvas of breathtaking foliage.

When Is the Autumn Foliage Season in Hokkaido?

Typically, the autumn foliage season in Hokkaido begins in late September and reaches its peak in October, making early autumn an ideal time for a visit. You can see this year’s foliage forecast above.

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11 Spots To See the Autumn Foliage in Hokkaido

1. Jozankei Onsen - Hot Springs With Autumn Foliage Views

Jozankei Onsen is a picturesque hot spring town nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. The “onsen” (hot spring) here was originally discovered by local monks as they were establishing a road between Date and Sapporo, and Jozankei’s proximity to Hokkaido’s vibrant Sapporo City makes it a popular destination for a stopover or side trip.

It's famous not only for its relaxing hot springs, but also for the stunning autumn foliage that graces the area. As you soak in the warm waters, you'll be treated to a mesmerizing view of vibrant leaves blanketing the hillsides. Additionally, hiking trails in the vicinity offer a chance to immerse yourself in nature's beauty.

Peak foliage season: Early to mid-October

・Want to Stay at Jozankei Onsen? Check Out Jozankei Yurakusoan!

Nestled in the tranquil embrace of Hokkaido's nature, Jozankei Yurakusoan offers a serene escape from everyday life. This traditional Japanese ryokan exudes an atmosphere of calm and relaxation with its rustic wooden interiors and tatami-matted rooms. Guests can soak in a wide range of therapeutic hot spring baths, including open-air and private in-room ones, where the rejuvenating waters wash away any fatigue from the body and mind.

What sets Yurakusoan apart is its stunning autumn foliage views from the baths, making it a perfect seasonal retreat. With impeccable service and a restaurant serving exquisite kaiseki cuisine, Yurakusoan promises an unforgettable, nature-infused experience in the heart of Jozankei Onsen.

2. Maruyama Park (Sapporo) - A Relaxing Urban Escape

Located at the foot of Mt. Maruyama, Maruyama Park is a popular spot for both locals and tourists in Sapporo looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city center. This urban park is renowned for its weeping cherry trees and is a popular picnic spot in summer. Families and friends come to make use of the sports fields or to simply relax, and artists find inspiration in the park’s many seasonal flowers.

In autumn, the fiery red and orange leaves in Maruyama Park are not to be missed if visiting the prefectural capital of Hokkaido. Stop by the iconic Maruyama Zoo, situated within the park, and the enchanting Hokkaido Shrine, adding cultural depth to your visit.

Peak foliage season: Mid to late October

3. Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort - Board the Gondola for Unparalleled Fall Vistas

Located only 1 hour’s drive from central Sapporo, Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort isn't just for winter enthusiasts. In autumn, the resort's slopes transform into a sea of flaming foliage. Take a gondola ride for panoramic views and enjoy the colorful landscape from a temporary observation platform (usually open from late September to mid-October). On clear days, you might even be able to spot the romantic Otaru Port in the distance.

During the Fall Festival, usually held from late September to mid-October to coincide with the peak autumn foliage season, a range of street food stalls make sure you don’t go hungry - the soft serve ice cream made with Hokkaido’s famously delicious milk is especially popular! Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort is a must-visit for those seeking a unique bird’s-eye perspective of Hokkaido's autumn splendor.

Peak foliage season: Late September to mid-October

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4. Nishioka Park (Sapporo) - Foliage and Fauna at the Wetlands

Nishioka Park, another gem in Sapporo, offers a serene escape from the city's noise and crowds. Its forest and marshland are popular with birdwatchers, and creatures such as dragonflies and fireflies thrive in the wet surroundings. Wooden boardwalks make it easy for nature enthusiasts to explore the marshlands, which are a great place to look for frogs and salamanders in summer.

The park features a large pond with an iconic water tower and is surrounded by trees that burst into vibrant shades during autumn. Take a leisurely stroll around the pond, enjoy a picnic, or simply sit and absorb the tranquillity of the season's changing hues.

Peak foliage season: Mid to late October


5. Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park (Sapporo) - Waterfalls and Leisurely Strolls

Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park is a vast natural wonderland on the outskirts of Sapporo. This expansive park transforms into a vibrant tapestry of red, orange, and gold during the fall season, offering visitors a breathtaking display of nature's artistry.

To make the most of your autumn visit to Takino Suzuran Hillside Park, explore the network of walking trails that wind through lush forests and meadows, providing an up-close view of the changing leaves. Don’t miss the park's waterfalls or enchanting flower garden, which takes on an especially romantic aura in September when the cosmos are in full bloom. It's a perfect spot for a leisurely stroll or a tranquil moment of reflection.

Peak foliage season: Mid to late October

6. Onuma Quasi-National Park (Nanae) - Explore the Colors of Fall by Bike

Near the town of Nanae you’ll find Onuma Quasi-National Park, which offers an idyllic blend of autumn foliage and peaceful waterscapes that make it a must-visit destination during the fall season in Hokkaido. This picturesque park is characterized by its two main lakes - Onuma and Konuma - and the backdrop of lush forests and volcanic Mt. Komagatake.

To fully appreciate the autumn splendor of Onuma Quasi-National Park, consider renting a bicycle. Pedal along the charming paths, taking in the vibrant foliage reflecting on the tranquil waters. The cool breeze and sound of rustling leaves is a sensory experience. For a more leisurely approach, hop aboard a boat and gently cruise the calm waters, getting a unique vantage point to admire the bright foliage that blankets the park's islands.

Peak foliage season: Early to mid-October

7. Shiretoko Goko Lakes (Shiretoko National Park) - Heaven for Wildlife Enthusiasts

Located within the pristine Shiretoko National Park, the Shiretoko Goko Lakes are a nature lover’s paradise. This remote natural wonderland offers a unique experience amidst the changing colors of fall. Set out on one of the well-maintained, elevated paths or hiking trails that wind through the stunning landscape. These trails not only provide breathtaking views of the autumn foliage, but also offer a chance to spot local wildlife (but be careful of bears).

The five interconnected lakes create a mesmerizing tapestry of reds, oranges, and yellows that is reflected in the crystal-clear waters, making it an ideal spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike. Each lake has its own unique charm, and the diversity of landscapes ensures that every step of your hike brings a fresh perspective on the autumnal beauty.

Peak foliage season: Early to mid-October

8. Noboribetsu Onsen (Noboribetsu) - Wild Volcanic Views and Therapeutic Waters

Japan is home to many onsen towns, but Noboribetsu Onsen is known for boasting no less than nine different types of onsen, many of them originating in the infamous “Hell Valley.” Called “Jigokudani” in Japanese, this dramatic area is in fact an old volcanic crater created by an eruption of Mt. Hiyori. Today, however, well-established trails make it easy to explore the fascinating surroundings, including the many demon statues watching over the place.

Jigokudani itself doesn’t have any trees due to the volcanic, sulfurous gases, but venture a bit further along the trail, and you will be able to enjoy the mesmerizing display of brightly colored leaves of Japanese ash and birch trees. Don’t forget to bring a small towel to use at the relaxing foot bath - a perfect break on your foliage walk.

Peak foliage season: Mid to late October

9. Kosetsuen (Hakodate) - Maple Leaf Illuminations at a Traditional Garden

Part of Miharashi Park, Kosetsuen is one of the best places to enjoy the changing of the leaves around Hakodate. This traditional Japanese garden was originally built as the villa of the wealthy Iwafune merchant family and is home to some interesting structures such as the Entei garden pavilion and a Western-style greenhouse.

Kotsetsuen also features a pond, rustic stone lanterns, and meticulously landscaped areas that come alive in autumn with the delicate leaves of the many maple trees turning blazing red. Visit in the evening when the garden is beautifully illuminated, creating a romantic and tranquil atmosphere.

Peak foliage season: Late October to early November

10. Lake Akan (Akan-Mashu National Park) - Hot Springs, Culture Deep-Dive, and Breathtaking Colors

Surrounded by dense forests, Lake Akan is a stunningly beautiful caldera lake in the expansive Akan-Mashu National Park. The lake is particularly famous for the rare marimo algae, which grows to form peculiar, yet somewhat cute, spheres that look like balls of moss. The area is also home to a hot spring town and a small Ainu village where visitors can learn about the culture of Hokkaido’s indigenous population.

In autumn, the shores of the lake burst into vibrant colors. Take a leisurely boat tour to appreciate the picturesque scenery or hike the nearby trails to immerse yourself fully in the dramatic volcanic landscapes and nature’s autumnal symphony.

Peak foliage season: Early to mid-October

11. Mount Tokachi (Daisetsuzan National Park) - For the Impatient: Some of Japan’s Earliest Autumn Foliage

Located in Daisetsuzan National Park, Mount Tokachi is an active volcano and one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains. Together with neighboring Mount Biei, the peak is a popular hiking spot, and the volcanic landscape in the area looks almost other-worldly.

Mount Tokaichi furthermore offers one of the earliest autumn foliage-viewing opportunities in the country as the trees at the summit usually start turning as early as the beginning of September. By late September, vivid fall colors blanket the mountain and can be enjoyed from an observation deck.

Peak foliage season: Mid-September to early October (depending on the altitude)

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

Witness Japan’s Earliest Beautiful Autumn Foliage in Hokkaido

With its diverse landscapes and stunning autumn foliage, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands is a paradise for nature lovers during the fall season. From serene hot spring towns to wild national parks, Hokkaido has an autumn experience for everyone. Pack your camera and plan your visit to Hokkaido, Japan's northern treasure trove, to immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of autumn.

Thumbnail: makieni / Shutterstock.com

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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About the author

Maya V.
Maya grew up in Copenhagen and first visited Japan in 2012, which led to many more trips over the years before she moved to Tokyo in 2020. Travel is her passion, and she has stayed overnight in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures at least once. Maya loves hiking and going to Japanese festivals, but one thing will make her travel farther than anything else: the many cute, stylish, or themed special trains running along Japan’s scenic coastline and traversing its scenic countryside.
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