Starting points and Parking Areas for winter trails
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.
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.
Available all year round. In winter ice grippers for shoes are recommended.
Travel time estimated 1 hour.
The Kiutaköngäs scenic trail is an excellent day-trip trail, all year round.
Oulanka Visitor Centre
There are wooden stairs, earth steps and a few wide wooden bridges along this gravelled trail. A woodshed and a dry toilet by the roofed rest spot. Take toilet paper with you.
River Oulankajoki, the Kiutaköngäs Rapids, the memorial for Reino Rinne, the plant information boards, the dolomite cliff walls
Trail markings: orange paint signs, green paint signs, blue-and-white cone signs.
Recommended direction: either direction.
A scenic trail that starts from the Oulanka Visitor Centre. The trail runs along the riverbank and takes you to the Kiutaköngäs Rapids. The trail is part of many other trails, such as the Karhunkierros Trail and the Hiiden hurmos Trail. There are hikers along the trail, all year round, so it can also be done in winter. There is no winter maintenance on the trail. The rest spot is located at a distance of 100 metres from the Kiutaköngäs Rapids, further on the riverbank.
Available all year round, in winter by snowshoes or hiking shoes.
Travel time estimated 2‒3 hours.
When hiking along the Hiiden hurmos Trail, you will travel in the footsteps of the ancient spirit called Hiisi along the banks of the Kiutaköngäs Rapids and in spacious pine forests. Depending on the season, you may see reindeer, gorgeous calypsos or stubborn mountain avens when hiking on the trail. The information boards along the trail provide you with fascinating stories, and, perhaps, they also reveal what type of rock the handsome Kiutaköngäs cliffs consists of.
Oulanka Visitor Centre (Liikasenvaarantie 132, 93900 Kuusamo).
An observation tower by a former reindeer roundup enclosure, wooden duckboards on the shores of Hiidenlampi Ponds, a former meadow barn, the roofed rest spot of Kiutaköngäs (including a woodshed and a dry toilet). There are an axe and a saw in the woodshed for chopping wood. Take toilet paper with you.
The gushing Kiutaköngäs Rapids are handsome in all seasons. By the former reindeer roundup enclosure, you can almost hear the stamping of hooves that used to take place there in the old days.
Trail markings: yellow paint
Recommended direction: anticlockwise
This gravelled trail runs through varied, slightly undulating forests and by one of the most famous sights in Oulanka, the Kiutaköngäs Rapids, which are almost 200 metres long. The trail starts and ends at the Oulanka Visitor Centre.
The trail is a hiking trail in summer and a snowshoe trail in winter. The Oulanka Wilderness Trail passes by the Hiiden hurmos Trail in late winter.
Available all year round. In winter ice grippers are recommended, snowshoes might be needed.
Travel time estimated 5‒6 hours.
What is the longest hanging bridge on the Pieni Karhunkierros Trail? Does Jyrävä Waterfall freeze in winter? The most popular day-trip trail in Oulanka takes you (all year round?) to the River Kitkajoki landscape, across rapids, through pine heaths and herb-rich forests by streams, offering you splendid views.
Village of Juuma (Juumantie 133, Kuusamo).
Along this gravelled trail, you will find campfire sites, a lean-to shelter, an open wilderness hut, a day-trip hut, three hanging bridges and long wooden stairs to the Kallioportti lookout point. There are woodsheds and dry toilets at the rest spots. There are no rubbish bins at the rest spots. Take toilet paper with you.
The hanging bridges, the Niskakoski Rapids, the Myllykoski Rapids, Myllytupa, which is a restored mill building by the Myllykoski Rapids, the Aallokkokoski Rapids, Jyrävä Waterfall, the Kallioportti lookout point
Trail markings: green paint signs
Recommended direction: anticlockwise
Pieni Karhunkierros is a day-trip trail with handsome views in the southern part of the park, along the River Kitkajoki. Along this trail, which partly follows the Karhunkierros Trail, you will see many of Oulanka's most famous sights. Due to the altitude differences and the length, it is one of the most demanding day-trip trails in Oulanka.
You can set off for this trail either from the village of Juuma or from the Basecamp Oulanka's parking area close to the Myllykoski Rapids. There is no winter maintenance on this trail, but usually the section between the Myllykoski Rapids and Jyrävä Waterfall is also available in winter. The Myllykoski Day-trip Hut is maintained by the Town of Kuusamo. There is a brochure on the trail, Pieni Karhunkierros Trail ‒ Trail Guide and Map. The map can be printed (pdf, julkaisut.metsa.fi).
Winter trail. Available from mid-February to April, by snowshoes, skis or fatbike.
The estimated travel time 1‒2 days.
Go exploring the winter wilderness of Oulanka by snowshoes, skis or by fatbike ‒ on the Oulanka Wilderness Trail, you may see a fox running on the river ice or a boreal owl that is on the lookout on a spruce crown.
Oulanka Visitor Centre (Liikasenvaarantie 132, 93900 Kuusamo) or Juuma. The ski track starts a one-kilometer walk from the Oulanka Visitor Centre after the Kiutaköngäs rapids.
Two open wilderness huts (Ansakämppä and Jussinkämppä), Kiutaköngäs cooking shelter and other campfire sites. You need toilet paper with you.
Kiutaköngäs Rapids, Oulankajoki riverside, wetlands, old forests. Oulanka's most peaceful wilderness parts.
Trail markings: yellow-orange ribbons.
Recommended direction: not defined.
You can go on a day trip or stay overnight on the Oulanka Wilderness Trail, enjoying the forest in late winter. The trail runs from the Kiutaköngäs Rapids to the Jussinkämppä Wilderness Hut, along the Karhunkierros Trail, and then it branches off, by Jussinkämppä, towards Juuma.
The trail has a ski track and a narrow multipurpose trail. Due to the altitude differences and the narrowness of the track, this is a challenging trail. The trail is maintained in April till the end of the crusty snow period.
- Oulanka Visitor Centre - Ansakämppä Wilderness Hut 7 km
- Ansakämppä Wilderness Hut - Jussinkämppä Wilderness Hut 8 km
- Jussinkämppä Wilderness Hut - Juuma 11 km
Those looking for a longer trip can continue from Juuma to Ruka along the winter trail maintained by local companies. The 50 long trail is called as Karhunkierros Erämaalatu (Karhunkierros Wilderness Trail), because it goes partly the same way as the Karhunkierros Hiking Trail. You can find the map for the Karhunkierros Erämaalatu Trail here (pdf-file, 374 kt, ruka.fi). The maintenance situation of the trail is updated on the public Facebook group Karhunkierros Erämaalatu 50 km (facebook.com).
Excursion Proposals for winter
Half a day: Admire the wintry Kiutaköngäs Rapids and explore the visitor centre.
1 day: Go snowshoeing in Oulanka's winter wilderness, along the Hiiden hurmos Trail (5 km) or explore the visitor centre.
2 days: Feel the magic of winter on the Oulanka Wilderness Trail (26 km) by skis or by snowshoes and stay overnight at an open wilderness hut.