Despite the harsh winters of Hokkaido, Lake Shikotsu—a crater lake formed some 40,000 years ago—never freezes. In fact, it’s the northernmost ice-free lake in the country and a popular recreation area for locals and visitors alike looking to go fishing, camping or boating.
Shikotsu Kohan, a small town on the eastern shore at the mouth of the Chitose River, offers hotels, boats and other activities for the lake. On the north shore, you’ll find an onsen with open-air, volcanically heated hot springs overlooking the body of water. And just south of Shikotsu Kohan is Koke no Domon (Moss Canyon), a unique natural site where a narrow rock canyon's walls are adorned with a lush blanket of more than 20 species of moss. Access to the canyon is restricted, but you can view it from an observation platform.
Lake Shikotsu is located in southwestern Hokkaido, west of the city of Chitose. Bus service makes it easy to reach Lake Shikotsu from Sapporo. However, hotels and services are only available during the summer months, from April to November.