Ultimate Trekking Guide to the Oulanka National Park

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Trekking in Oulanka National Park offers a breathtaking journey through Finland’s pristine wilderness, featuring rugged landscapes, roaring rivers, and dense forests. Here’s your ultimate guide to trekking in Oulanka National Park.

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Quick facts about Oulanka National Park:

  1. Location: Oulanka National Park is located in the northern part of Finland, near the border with Russia.
  2. Establishment: The park was established in 1956 and covers an area of approximately 270 square kilometers.
  3. Landscape: Oulanka National Park is known for its rugged wilderness, featuring deep river valleys, old-growth forests, and pristine waterways.
  4. Rivers: The park is traversed by several rivers, including the Oulankajoki River and the Kitkajoki River, which are known for their rapids and waterfalls.
  5. Biodiversity: Oulanka National Park is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including brown bears, wolves, lynx, and reindeer.
  6. Hiking Trails: The park offers a network of hiking trails, including the popular Karhunkierros Trail, which stretches for approximately 80 kilometers.
  7. Activities: In addition to hiking, visitors to Oulanka National Park can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including canoeing, fishing, and wildlife watching.
  8. Accessibility: The park is easily accessible from nearby towns such as Kuusamo and Salla, making it a popular destination for both day trips and longer excursions.
  9. Cultural Heritage: Oulanka National Park is also home to cultural heritage sites, including ancient Sámi settlements and historical logging sites.
  10. Conservation: The park is protected under Finnish law to preserve its natural beauty and biodiversity for future generations to enjoy.

Reasons to Trek Oulanka National Park:

  1. Scenic Beauty: Oulanka National Park boasts breathtaking landscapes, including deep river valleys, old-growth forests, and cascading waterfalls, providing a picturesque backdrop for your trekking adventures.
  2. Abundant Wildlife: The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including brown bears, wolves, lynx, reindeer, and a variety of bird species, offering ample opportunities for wildlife watching during your trek.
  3. Tranquil Environment: Trekking in Oulanka allows you to immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature, away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The peaceful surroundings provide a rejuvenating escape from everyday stressors.
  4. Outdoor Activities: In addition to trekking, Oulanka National Park offers a range of outdoor activities, such as canoeing, fishing, and photography, allowing you to fully experience the beauty of the natural environment.
  5. Cultural Heritage: Explore the rich cultural heritage of the area, including ancient Sámi settlements and historical logging sites, providing insight into the region’s history and traditions.
  6. Adventure Opportunities: Whether you’re an experienced hiker seeking a challenging trek or a beginner looking for leisurely strolls, Oulanka National Park offers trails suitable for all skill levels, making it an ideal destination for adventure seekers.
  7. Educational Experience: Learn about the park’s unique ecosystems, flora, and fauna through interpretive signs, guided tours, and educational programs, enriching your trekking experience with valuable knowledge.
  8. Stunning Water Features: Marvel at the park’s stunning water features, including the Oulankajoki River, Kitkajoki River, and numerous waterfalls and rapids, providing scenic highlights along your trekking route.

Highlights of Trekking Oulanka National Park:

  1. Karhunkierros Trail: Embark on the iconic Karhunkierros Trail, which winds its way through the park’s most spectacular landscapes, offering breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences.
  2. Waterfall Wonders: Explore the park’s impressive waterfalls, such as Kiutaköngäs, Jyrävä, and Myllykoski, which cascade down rocky cliffs amidst lush greenery, creating stunning natural spectacles.
  3. River Crossings: Traverse the park’s rivers and streams via picturesque footbridges and suspension bridges, providing thrilling crossings and opportunities to admire the rushing waters below.
  4. Canyon Views: Admire the dramatic canyon views from viewpoints such as Oulanka Canyon, where the river has carved its way through the landscape, creating steep cliffs and rocky gorges.
  5. Forest Exploration: Wander through ancient forests of pine, spruce, and birch trees, where sunlight filters through the canopy, illuminating moss-covered rocks and fern-filled glades.
  6. Wildlife Encounters: Keep an eye out for wildlife sightings along the trails, including reindeer grazing in meadows, birds soaring overhead, and perhaps even glimpses of elusive predators like bears and wolves.
  7. Cultural Sites: Visit cultural sites such as Sámi reindeer herding camps and historical logging cabins, offering insight into the traditional lifestyles and practices of the indigenous people and early settlers.
  8. Sunset and Sunrise Views: Experience the magic of sunrise and sunset in the park, when the sky is painted in hues of pink and orange, casting a warm glow over the landscape and creating unforgettable moments.

Top Trekking Routes

 Karhunkierros Trail (The Bear’s Ring)

Length: 80km
Duration: 4-7 days
The Karhunkierros Trail, also known as the Bear’s Ring, is one of the most popular and iconic hiking trails in Oulanka National Park. This 80km loop trail takes you through rugged landscapes, deep gorges, and pristine forests. Along the way, you’ll encounter stunning waterfalls, crystal-clear rivers, and panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness. Be prepared for challenging terrain and variable weather conditions, but the reward of experiencing the raw beauty of Oulanka National Park is well worth the effort.

Karhunkierros Trail (The Bear's Ring) outlanka
Karthunkierros Trail In Winter

Pieni Karhunkierros Trail

  • Length: 12 km
  • Duration: 1-2 days
    For those looking for a shorter trek, the Pieni Karhunkierros Trail is a perfect option. This circular route takes you through a diverse landscape of forests, lakes, and wooden walkways. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as reindeer and moose as you explore this picturesque trail.
Pieni Karhunkierros Trail Oulanka

Accommodation Options for Oulanka National Park:

  1. Camping: Oulanka National Park offers designated camping areas with facilities such as fire pits, dry toilets, and drinking water. You can pitch your tent in these areas for a true wilderness experience.
  2. Huts and Shelters: The park has several wilderness huts and shelters along the trails, providing basic accommodation for trekkers. These huts often have bunk beds, cooking facilities, and firewood.
  3. Lodges and Cabins: Nearby towns like Kuusamo and Ruka offer a range of accommodation options, including lodges, cabins, and hotels. You can stay here before or after your trek and use them as a base for exploring the park.

Food and Drink Options:

  1. Pack Your Own Food: Bring lightweight, non-perishable food items for your trek, such as energy bars, trail mix, dried fruits, and canned goods. Don’t forget to pack a portable stove and cooking utensils if you plan to cook meals along the way.
  2. Purchase Supplies: Stock up on food supplies in nearby towns before starting your trek. Supermarkets in Kuusamo and Ruka offer a variety of groceries, including fresh produce, bread, cheese, and snacks.
  3. Wilderness Cooking: Take advantage of the park’s designated cooking areas and fire pits to prepare meals. Enjoy cooking over an open fire and savoring outdoor dining experiences amidst nature.

Packing List for Oulanka National Park:

  1. Clothing: Layered clothing suitable for the weather conditions (including waterproof jacket and pants), sturdy hiking boots, hat, gloves, and sunglasses.
  2. Shelter and Sleeping: Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and camping pillow.
  3. Cooking and Eating: Portable stove, fuel, cooking pots, utensils, food containers, and water purification tablets.
  4. Navigation: Map, compass (or GPS device), and mobile phone with offline maps.
  5. Safety and First Aid: First aid kit, emergency whistle, multi-tool knife, headlamp or flashlight, and insect repellent.
  6. Miscellaneous: Sunscreen, lip balm, toiletries, camera, trekking poles, and garbage bags for waste disposal.

Expert Trip Planning Tips:

  1. Best Time to Trek:
    • Summer (June to August): Ideal for hiking and camping with long daylight hours and milder temperatures.
    • Autumn (September to October): Enjoy colorful foliage and fewer crowds, but be prepared for cooler weather.
    • Winter (December to March): Perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, but requires specialized equipment and precautions.
  2. Ways to Save Money:
    • Camp in designated areas to save on accommodation costs.
    • Bring your own food and cooking supplies rather than dining out.
    • Plan your trip during the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) for lower accommodation rates and fewer crowds.
  3. Guides and Tours:
    • Consider hiring a local guide or joining a guided tour for expert insights into the park’s flora, fauna, and cultural heritage.
    • Guided tours often include accommodation, meals, and transportation, providing a hassle-free trekking experience.

Trip Planning Resources


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Hi!I’m Kim!

A passionate adventurer, homesteader, home cook and food lover who loves nothing more than sharing my favorite trips, skills , and recipes with the world.



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