About Kumagoe Waterfall (kumagoe-no-taki [熊越の滝])
The Kumagoe Waterfall (kumagoe-no-taki or kumakoshi-no-taki [熊越の滝]; “Bear Falls?”) was a rather hidden and obscure waterfall between Shiretoko Pass and one of the Rausu Visitor Centers in Shiretoko National Park.
This was where the Shokumo River (a tributary of the Rausu River according to my GPS map) dropped 15m into a lushly forested, easy-to-miss ravine.
It was said that the falls got its name from a bear that was seen going through the waterfall as the word kuma meant “bear” (or even “brown bear” which are common in this part of Japan).
The second kanji character had multiple meanings including “crossing”, “surpassing”, or “falling”, among its many meanings.
What to expect with the Kumagoe Falls Hike
An excursion to this waterfall offered quite a back-to-nature experience as we had to hike on a well-vegetated (almost overgrown) narrow path that involved going past some trees that are over two hundred years old.
Of course, the primitive less-developed nature of the trail also meant lots of uneven terrain and hidden rocks beneath the overgrowth (not to mention mosquitos).
Therefore, you’ll definitely want to go slower on this hike as it does require a little bit of preparation and experience (it’s certainly NOT a casual stroll).
In fact, even the trailhead to start the hike down to the Kumagoe Falls was rather hidden and quite easy-to-miss (see directions below).
It was so easy-to-miss that we even managed to miss it on our first visit to Shiretoko back in June 2009.
Experiencing the Kumagoe Falls
Anyways, we managed to reach this waterfall by going on a 400m trail (or 800m round-trip; though my my trip logs suggested it was 550m and 1.1km round-trip, respectively).
The hike began from a small, unsigned car park situated right next to a tunnel in between two blind curves in the road.
After carefully crossing the road before the egress of this tunnel (listening intently for tires making loud noises on the grooves in the road), we then descended a signed trail into the thickly forested ravine below the tunnel.
At the bottom of the steps, the trail meandered along parts of the Rausu River as well as another geothermally-heated stream while also going past a curious camera that counts the number of visitors.
Beyond the camera, the trail kind of went over a few bridges, a 220-year-old Japanese Maple Tree, and then undulated along some ledges as well as some trail junctions.
Most of the optional spur trails deviating from the waterfall’s path were closed during our mid-July 2023 visit, so it pretty much stayed relatively flat until we had to make one noticeable climb up and down a ridge.
After descending this ridge and keeping to the narrow ledge, the path descended past a couple more large trees over 250- and 270 years old while yielding a partial view of the Kumagoe Falls.
Continuing further to the final descent, the trail bottomed out right at the lookout that finally yielded a clean view of the Kumagoe Falls.
This lookout represented the turnaround point of the hike though it did appear to keep going deeper into the forest (though it was closed during our visit).
So we turned back the way we came (and noticed other hikers coming down to the falls perhaps as a consequence of the lemmings effect of seeing our car parked by the tunnel).
Overall, we spent about 50 minutes away from the car, which seems just about right for a trail as somewhat rough as this one.
The Kumagoe Waterfall resides near the town of Rausu in the Menashi District of Hokkaido, Japan. It may be administered by the Ministry of the Environment. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Ministry of the Environment website.
The Kumagoe Waterfall sat between the Shiretoko Pass and the Shiretoko Rausu Visitor Center (the latter of which was about 3km northwest of the town of Rausu by Shiretoko Peninsula’s east coast).
The hidden trailhead parking sat about 1.5km west of the Shiretoko Rausu Visitor Center along the Route 334 (passing a bridge over the Rausu River but right before a tunnel entrance).
Coming from Utoro on the west coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula, we’d have to drive for about 27km going up and over Shiretoko Pass before descending towards the east.
Look for an easy-to-miss car park on the left by slowing down when you’re about to leave the tunnel.
If you get down to the Shiretoko Rausu Visitor Center, then you missed this trailhead (though there happens to be a nice outdoor rotemburo you can bathe in around here).
Overall, the drive from Utoro would take over a half-hour without stops while the drive up from Rausu would take less than 10 minutes.
For some geographical context, Rausu was about 32km (over 30 minutes drive) east of Utoro, 68km (under 90 minutes drive) northeast of Shari, 155km (over 2.5 hours drive) northeast of Kushiro, 265km (about 4.5 hours drive) northeast of Obihiro, 303km (over 5 hours drive) east of Asahikawa, and 439km (about 6.5 hours drive) northeast of Sapporo.
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