Most travellers know to expect magnificent landscapes from the Herajärven kierros Trail but many are surprised by how much time the demanding trail takes. Prepare in advance by reading the trail description thoroughly and getting the Koli hiking and service map (koli.fi, in Finnish). Hiking the trail is only safe during the snow-free season. Always check the current conditions before leaving for the trail.

Terrain difficulty
Hike duration
Rope-pulley ferry and wading cable
Safety
Check before departure
Trail markings and maps
Start and end points of the trail
Distances and hiking times
Drinking water
Accommodation
Eating
Can I make a fire?
Pets on the hike
Useful links

Terrain difficulty

The Herajärven kierros Trail is challenging due to differences in elevation. It includes steep uphill and downhill slopes. In places, rocks and roots on the trail make the trail uneven. Along the route, you find a rope-pulley ferry, a wading cable, duckboards and bridges to help you cross wet areas, streams and rivers. The Herajärven kierros Trail can be hiked during the snow-free season. In the winter, you can hike in snowshoes on marked trails in Koli National Park.

Good basic fitness, map reading skills and wilderness skills are sufficient for the trail. Hiking poles are also helpful. The trail is not accessible due to changes in elevation of terrain. For beginner hikers, the 3–19 km long circle trail Kiehisen kierros Trail would be more suitable. Koli National Park also has other short and easy trails. The trail marked with blue dots and signs is easy to follow but you should have the Koli hiking and service map and compass with you for safety.

The most demanding section of the trail is to the west of Lake Herajärvi. Some steep climbs and descents can be skipped using roads or other routes. Always make sure that you do not take shortcuts across private yards when you leave the trail. From Ryläys-Kiviniemi to Kolinvaara, you can choose an easier route via Heraniementie and Mustalahdentie roads. The easier route cuts the distance by approximately 400 metres. The most challenging section along the eastern section is the crossing of Mäkrävaara. You can skip Mäkrävaara by taking the ring road between Kotaniementie and Kolin rantatie to the Peiponpelto parking area and continuing from there via Ikolanaho towards Ukko-Koli. The route increases the total distance from Pienen-Mäkräntie to Mäkränaho by a total of about 300 metres.

Two hikers in the autumn
 

Hike duration

Large elevation differences and steep slopes make the trail more challenging than usual, and the average speed is only 1.5-2 km/h. Carrying a heavy backpack on the slopes is slow. When planning day trips, estimate the appropriate speed according to your fitness level.

The length of the Herajärven kierros Trail is 30, 38 or 61 km. If you intend to hike the 61 km route, make sure you have 3-4 days for it. The northern section of Herajärvi should take 2-3 days, and the southern section about 2 days. Read the comprehensive route description before leaving for the hike. 

Select the route or sections you intend to hike according to the time you have. If you do not want to hike the whole loop, decide how you will return to the starting point.

Rope-pulley ferry and wading cable

On the northern end of Lake Herajärvi, you can cross Sikosalmi between Kiviniemi and Lakkala by a rope-pulley ferry during the snow-free season. If necessary, pull the ferry to your side with the cable, then step onto the ferry and the journey continues to the opposite bank pulling by hand. For safety reasons, do not cross with your backpack on your back. The ferry can carry a maximum of three persons at the same time. The ferry is not in use in the winter. Check if the ferry is in use on the What’s New page of Koli National Park, especially if you are hiking early in the spring or late in the autumn.

Hiker on the Sikosalmi crossing ferry pulling the ferry to the pier.

On the 61 km route of the Herajärven kierros Trail, you will also find the first wading cable in Southern Finland. Using it requires special caution and courage to dip your toes in the waters. The wading cable is located in Herajoki, north from the Rykiniemi camping area. The wading cable makes it easy to cross the river when the water level is low. Take off your shoes and roll up your trousers, and then just boldly dip your toes into Herajoki! Select a wading cable of suitable length and slowly wade across the river. The stones at the bottom of the river can be slippery. The wading cable may only be used by one person at a time. Unclasp the waist strap and sternum strap of your backpack before crossing so that the backpack does not cause any danger if you fall. After crossing, make sure to return the wading ropes so that there are enough ropes on both sides of the river.

During the spring and autumn floods, the water level may be so high that it is best to skip the wading section on Herajoki and take the detour through roads along Herajoentie, the bridge and Vaaralahdentie. If you skip the wading cable and climbing Hirvivaara, take the Herajoentie road after Vesivaara instead until the Rekilammentie intersection. The road section is 3 km and the hiking distance is cut by just over a kilometre.

Safety

Check before departure

Trail markings and maps

The Herajärven kierros Trail is marked with a blue circle in the intersection signs in the Koli National Park area and, outside the national park, with blue paint spots on trees, stones and signs. The crossroad signs in Koli National Park have been numbered and the numbers correspond to the numbering of the Koli service and hiking map (1:50,000) (koli.fi, in Finnish). You can buy maps at Koli Visitor Centre Ukko, Break Sokos Hotel Koli, Sale store in Koli and Koli Tourist Information. The Herajärven kierros Trail is also marked in the Excursionmap.fi service.

A free map of the Herajärven kierros Trail can also be found on the website of the municipality of Kontiolahti (kontiolahti.fi) to support planning your hike.

Other topographic maps you can use on the trail:

  • Koli Ruunaa Patvinsuo Petkeljärvi, waterproof outdoor activity map 1:25,000. Karttakeskus 2020.
  • North Karelia, waterproof map, 1:25,000, Calazo Förlag 2015.

Mobile device in front of a sign.

Start and end points of the trail

The recommended starting and ending points for the route depend on the route you have chosen. If you arrive at Koli by public transport, we recommend that you start at Koli Visitor Centre Ukko. Check the arrival instructions and parking at Koli National Park.

The northern section of Herajärven kierros Trail (35–38 km)

  • Koli Visitor Centre Ukko (Ylä-Kolintie 39), 
  • Ryläys (Herajärventie 1, Lieksa),
  • Kiviniemi (Mustalahdentie 27, Kontiolahti), 
  • Seppälä and Lakkala (Herajärven rantatie 36, Kontiolahti).

The southern section of Herajärven kierros Trail (30 km)

  • Kiviniemi (Mustalahdentie 27, Kontiolahti),
  • Eteläpää parking area (Eteläpääntie 113, Kontiolahti),
  • Rykiniemi (Vaaralahdentie 116, Joensuu).

Distances and hiking times

Due to the difficulty of the terrain, the average speed is only 1.5-2 km/h, so it is a good idea to make sure you have plenty of time for the route. Distances have also been estimated on the Koli service and hiking map (1:50,000, koli.fi, in Finnish) and, for example, on the Karttakeskus’ waterproof outdoor activity map (2020) Koli Ruunaa Patvinsuo Petkeljärvi 1:25,000. The distances and hiking times listed below are estimates for hiking with gear.

The length of the Herajärven kierros Trail is 30, 38 or 61 km. If you intend to hike the 61 km route, make sure you have 3-4 days for it. The northern section of Herajärvi should take 2-3 days, and the southern section about 2 days. Read the comprehensive route description before leaving for the hike. 

Indicative travel time for the northern section of the trail (35–38 km) counter-clockwise:

  • South from Ukko-Koli
    • Myllypuro camping area, 5.8 km, 2-3 hours.
    • Ryläys campfire hut, 8.7 km, 5-6 hours.
    • Kiviniemi, 19 km, 10-12 hours.
  • South from the Ryläys campfire hut
    • Pitkälampi (west), 3.4 km, 1.5 hours.
    • Kiviniemi, 10.2 km, 4-5 hours.
  • North from Kiviniemi
    • Lakkala camping area, 4 km, 2 hours.
    • Ylä-Murhi camping area, 7.2 km, 3.5-4 hours.
  • Lakkala camping area - Ylä-Murhi camping area, 3.2 km, 1.5-2 hours.
  • Ylä-Murhi camping area - Ukko-Koli, 11 km, 6-7 hours.
  • Ukko-Koli - Turula camping area, 1.6 km, 30-45 minutes.

Indicative travel time for the southern section (30 km) counter-clockwise:

  • South from Kiviniemi 
    • Ahvenlampi open wilderness hut, 5.3 km, 3-4 hours.
    • Eteläpää lean-to shelter, 8.8 km, 4-5 hours.
  • Eteläpää lean-to shelter - Suopelto lean-to shelter, 7.1 km, 4–5 hours. 
  • Suopelto lean-to shelter - Rykiniemi camping area, 5.2 km, 3-4 hours.
  • Rykiniemi camping area - Lakkala camping area, 4.8 km, 3-4 hours. 
  • Lakkala camping area - Kiviniemi, 4 km, 2 hours.

Drinking water

Accommodation

Eating

Can I make a fire?

Making fires is not everyman's right, so you can't make fires anywhere. Campfires are only permitted at marked, official campfire sites, which are also marked with fire symbols on maps. If a grass or forest fire warning is in effect (ilmateteenlaitos.fi), lighting fires is only allowed on covered campfire sites with chimneys well as in the fireplaces of huts. Even so, special care must be taken. The person starting the fire is always responsible for its safety. Please note that lighting fires may be prohibited in certain locations.

A drawing of a fireplace. The drawing shows the items Roof, Chimney and Off the ground marked

If a forest fire warning is in effect, fires in the Koli National Park area can only be made on the Herajärven kierros Trail at the Ryläys campfire hut or at the two covered lean-to shelters with chimneys at the Rinnetupa hut. The Rinnetupa lean-to shelters are accessible by hiking 1.2 km off the Herajärven kierros Trail. Take special care even when using covered fireplaces with chimneys.

Make sure you know where the campfire sites are located along the Herajärven kierros Trail.

Pets on the hike

When hiking with pets, note that there are steep climbs and descends along the trail as well as river crossings. Pets must always be kept on a leash when hiking and outdoors. Pets on a leash are also welcome to the Koli Visitor Centre Ukko, and they can be brought to some huts in Koli. Check which huts allow pets before departure.

Useful links