Instructions for those hiking in Oulanka National Park

If you set off on a winter trip in Oulanka, please bear in mind that the ice on streaming rivers - especially the ice on the Oulankajoki River - can be fragile throughout the season. Do be careful when walking on ice.  

Tengmalm's owls. Photo: Olli Lamminsalo

In the National Park, the Following Are

Allowed

  • Hiking, skiing, row boating and canoeing except restricted areas in Korvasvaara, Juuma and the border zone. The restricted areas are marked on the map (.pdf 5.6 mb)
  • Picking berries and mushrooms
  • Hook and line fishing and ice fishing except restricted areas (Aventolampi, Haaralampi and Savilampi). Fishers need to check the restrictions on fishing sites at kalastusrajoitus.fi (In Finnish).
  • Drone flying requires a permit

Restricted

  • Making campfires and camping in the open. This is only permitted at sites marked for these purposes.
  • Cycling is only permitted on roads and on the designated trail from Taivalköngäs to Oulanka Visitor Centre (9 km).

Forbidden

  • Lighting campfires if the forest fire warning is in effect
    • Making open fires is always prohibited at both marked campfire sites and when fires are permitted by the land owner if a forest fire warning has been issued for the area (ilmatieteenlaitos.fi). 
    • This prohibition does not apply to cooking shelters or other fireplaces with a flue.
  • Pets running free without a leash
  • Taking or damaging trees, bushes, other plants or their parts, or mushrooms other than edible ones
  • Damaging soil or rock, and extraction of earth material or minerals
  • Killing, catching or disturbing wild vertebrates, or damaging their nests
  • Catching or collecting invertebrates
  • Driving motor vehicles, except on roads designated for motor vehicles
  • Leaving waste in the area, or damaging constructions
  • Fishing in the restricted area of Pesosjärvi.

Preparations

Get information on lodging, food stocking places, bathing possibilities, the weather and the best season for hiking before setting-off. Good advice never hurt anyone!

Seasons

  • In Kuusamo leaves change colour from mid-September to the beginning of October, when the first freezing weather causes them to fall from the trees.
  • Winter in the Koillismaa region is harsh, due to sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall. We recommend winter trekking only for the more experienced.
  • Permanent snow generally falls around mid-October. An average of 85 cm of snow falls each year. The lowest temperature ever recorded at Kiutaköngäs is -46 °C.
  • Spring arrives in the Koillismaa region in the last week of April as the days get longer.
  • The annual spring flood normally begins in mid-May and waters stay at a higher level to the beginning of June, when calypsos (Calypso bulbosa) begin to bloom.
  • Summer begins only around mid-June when the ground has thawed.

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.

Get acquainted to Oulanka winter

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. 

Mosquitoes 

In Kuusamo mosquitoes appear in late June after Mid-Summer and disappear with the first freezing temperatures of September. These whining mosquitoes are joined in the late summer by sand flies and midges. The period when there are the most mosquitoes is called "räkkä".

Tourist season 

The majority of Oulanka's 200,000 annual visitors come during summer. The main tourist season starts in the end of June and lasts to the end of August. The Pieni Karhunkierros Trail, the Karhunkierros Hiking Trail and the Kiutaköngäs Rapids are the most popular places among visitors.

Safety 

It is important that you get as much information as possible about your hiking destination in advance and prepare for your trip thoroughly. Knowing your route and sticking to it and knowing what the weather has in store, will help make your trip a success. It is also good to know if the forest fire warning is in effect. The Rukatunturi-Oulanka 1:50 000 outdoor map is very good to have when setting-off on a hike. 

  • Fire and Rescue Services can reach even the most demanding locations. Oulanka National Park's Fire and Evacuation Plan is updated annually. 
  • Information about the safety and equipments of canoeing: Turvallista melontaa (www.melontajasoutuliitto.fi, in Finnish) and Melontaopas (melonta.wasalab.com, in Finnish). 
  • 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:
  • Before your trip see also page What is New.

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.

Mobile phone coverage

  • Although Finland has a broad network for mobile phones, there are some areas in the park where cliffs or forest block signals. 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.
  • Mobile telephones work quite well in Oulanka National Park, except in some gorges and canyons.
  • 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.

Waste management

  • In Oulanka National Park visitors must abide by the rules of Hiking without Littering.
  • The National Park and Karhunkierros Hiking Trail have three recycling points. Visitors can recycle for example glass and metal at these points as well as hazardous waste such as batteries.
  • Visitors are asked to burn paper and cardboard at campfire sites and to place organic waste in dry toilets.

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!