Instructions on Exploring Karhunkierros Trail

  • The rules hikers should follow while on Karhunkierros Trail are for the most part the same as the Instructions and Rules for Oulanka National Park.
  • Hiking, skiing, rowing and paddling are permitted in Oulanka National Park with the exception of restricted areas.
  • Cycling is only permitted on roads and on the designated trail from Taivalköngäs to Oulanka visitor centre (9 km)

PreparationsA good way to start off is by reading the trail description and getting the area's map. Photo: Siru-Leena Mukkala

Mobile phone coverage

  • Although Finland has a broad network for mobile phones, there are some areas in the park without signal. There may also be some smaller spots where there is interference. If this happens try to climb to a higher place or go into an open area. It may be worth removing the SIM card from your phone and then trying again to make emergency call. Different phones also differ in their coverage.
  • We recommend that you keep your mobile phone warm at all times and take along food and drink. Certain phone models do not work when the temperature falls below zero. You should therefore let someone know your planned route. To keep your mobile phone charged, bring along a spare power source, a spare battery or an old phone with a working battery.

Safety

  • Hikers travelling on Karhunkierros Trail are not required to sign in at customer service points.
  • In the event that something happens during your hike it is good to know that there are signposts at 1 km intervals, which show the distance to the trail ending points in Hautajärvi and Ruka. The closest services and rest spots are also marked on the signposts.
  • There is an up-to-date fire and rescue plan for Oulanka National Park, which enables Metsähallitus customer service points to react swiftly in the event of an emergency such as an accident or forest fire.
  • Autumn is moose hunting time at Kitkaniemi in the southern part of Oulanka National Park. During this time visitors should wear bright coloured clothing, especially a bright head-dress. 
  • If you face an emergency on your hike, e.g. get lost, get injured or observe wildfire, call 112 and report an emergency. More information on how to act in an emergency.
  • Make sure you pack a first-aid kit.
  • Hiking in Finland:

Winter hiking in the Oulanka National Park

Weather conditions

The winters in Kuusamo are harsh because of the low temperatures and heavy snow cover. We recommend winter hiking only for experienced hikers. It is also good to keep in mind that weather conditions can change very quickly compared to southern Finland. The northern winter lasts an average of 6 months and April and sometimes even May is calculated as a winter month due to the thick snow cover and freezing temperatures.

Snow cover (fmi.fi) will arise usually around mid-October, and the snow accumulates during the winter to an average of 85 cm. The lowest temperatures in the area have been measured at the Oulanka National park, Kiutaköngäs rapid, sinking as low as -46 ° C. Spring will usually arrive in Kuusamo during the last week of April as the days get longer, but it is not unusual for the trails to still be covered in snow in June.

Safety

It is important to familiarize yourself with the National Park and trails beforehand and prepare for the excursion carefully. Staying on the route as well as tracking weather forecasts will help you succeed. The Rukatunturi-Oulanka 1:50 000 map is a good outdoor map that you can purchase before the hiking excursion. 

Hiking during the winter months is demanding. Weather and light conditions are difficult in mid-winter, as the temperatures can drop to -40 degrees celsius, and during the polar night period from November to February daylight lasts only for a few hours. It is also advisable to prepare for rapid temperature fluctuations and keep in mind that in the Oulanka National Park it may be more than 10 degrees colder than in the Ruka-Kuusamo area. Keep in mind that the wind increases the bitterness of the frost considerably. Energy demand is also higher at freezing temperatures, which should be taken into account when packing.
 
We recommend checking the amount of daylight during the days of your planned hike from the finnish meteorological institute (fmi.fi). The shortest day of the year is on winter solstice around the 21st December. On this day begins the astronomical winter, ending in spring on the vernal equinox about 90 days later. From the winter solstice day onward, the days become about five minutes longer a week. Towards the end of the astronomical winter, the day's lengthening will accelerate and the change will be at its peak during the vernal equinox. During the winter solstice in Kuusamo the day is 2 hours and 49 minutes long. The sun rises at 10:37 and sets at 13:26.
 
During winter, it is worth considering that the hiking speed is much lower than during the summer, average 1.5 km per hour (compared to summer 3-4 km/h). Walking in deep snow, with a heavyweight backpack, hiking pace can drop to 1 km per hour due to Oulanka's varying terrain.
 
Also, the heating of the open wilderness huts can take several hours, which should be considered when planning a trip. At night, the temperature inside the huts can drop to freezing temperatures if the fire is not maintained overnight.
 
Please note that the river ice - especially on the Oulanka river - may be fragile due to the strong currents during winter. The snow cover may hide the fragile points of the ice. The ice rinks on the side of the river shouldn't be stood or walked on under any circumstances.
 
Equipment
The main equipment on all the winter hikes, even shorter day trips, should include a flashlight, a knife, matches, a map and a compass, in addition to snacks and drinks. More information about equipment and hiking can be found on camping books and on the Hiking in Finland page.
 
On overnight hikes, make sure that you have a good winter sleeping bag and a very well insulating sleeping mat. It is advisable to keep track of weather reports before going to the hike and packing some extra clothes for sudden temperature changes. For less frequently walked paths, we recommend taking snowshoes as the paths do not have any winter maintenance.
 
On cold days, mobile phone batteries may die out quickly. The battery will last longer, when the mobile phone is stored in a plastic bag close to the body. Certain phone models do not operate in the cold due to contact disturbances, so it is advised to leave a travel plan to someone you know. We also recommend bringing a backup power supply, a spare battery, or an old phone with a durable battery. 

Flying a drone

  • Oulanka National Park is almost entirely a part of the ADIZ border zone, which is why also hobby flyers must make a flight plan for flying drones or other model aircrafts to AIS Finland.
  • The flight planning guide can be found on AIS Finland's website (www.ais.fi/en). For more information, please call Oulanka Visitor Center Customer Service +358 206 39 6850.

Peak season

  • Peak season for Karhunkierros Trail and Oulanka National Park is 15.6. - 30.9. During this time 10,000 - 15,000 hikers travel Karhunkierros Trail.
  • Around 210,000 people visit Oulanka National Park each year 60,000 of whom visit the Juuma area.

Seasons

  • Melting snows cause the River Oulankajoki to flood around the middle of May and waters stay high until the beginning of June.
  • Russet "ruska" season when leaves change colour in autumn usually begins at the end of August, but this varies slightly each year.
  • Mosquitos appear in the area around the end of June. Their amount depends on the previous summer's and autumn's rains and the harshness of the winter. Sand fly season is from the end of July to the beginning of September. At the end of summer it is the midges' turn and they remain in the area till the temperature drops below zero.

Useful to know

The Karhunkierros Hiking Trail is also known as The Bear's Trail or The Bear's Ring.

Emergency number 112

In case of an emergency along the way, for example if you get lost or injured or see a forest fire, dial 112. Detailed instructions.

Dogs must be kept on a leash! Photo: Seppo Leinonen

Dogs must be kept on a leash!