🏔🦌Hiking in Lapland – Karhunkierros Trail. All You Need To Know Before You Go🦌 🏔

Karhunkierros Trail 🐻 (also known as Bears Ring) is Finlands most popular hut-to-hut hiking trail. It is 82 km long and will take you through the golden bogs, over the mountains and across the river by several hanging bridges. In this post you can find everything you need to know to complete this trail 🙂

Best time to go hiking to Lapland is actually not summer but autumn. Since then you can admire the play of colours 🍂🍁 in nature called Ruska in finnish. Not only tree leaves change the colour, but also shrubs and forest plants. Gorgeous. And at that time there are no annoying companions – 🦟 mosquitoes. Plus you can pick some delicious berries 🍓- blueberry, bilberry, cranberry and crowberry. I decided to go hiking in the end of September.

I hope all your questions get answered and if not please leave a comment and I will try to answer 😉 

🐻 🐻 🐻 KARHUNKIERROS HIKING TRAIL 🐻 🐻 🐻

  • Location: North-Finland (Lapland region), Oulanka National Park.
  • Lenght: 82 km.
  • Duration: 4-5 days.
  • When to go: from June to October. Especially colourful in September and October.
  • Start point: Karhunkierros Trail Nature Centre near Hautajärvi village (43 km from Salla village).
  • End point: Ruka ski resort (25 km from Kuusamo city).
  • Overnight stay: heatable wilderness huts, lean-tos or in the tent.
  • Supply points: Oulanka Visitors Centre, Juuma village, Karhunkierros Base Camp.
  • Trail marking: orange marks on stones and trees, direction signs.
  • Nature highlights: Oulankan canyon, tiny cliff island (Ruppakivi), numerous golden marshes, northern nature, hanging bridges, reindeers, lake islands, mountains.
  • Official map: on this link.
  • More information on Oulanka National Parks website.

NB! I recommend buying a Karhunkierros hiking map earlier, from Helsinki. You can find it from major bookstores (e.g Suomalainen kirjakauppa). It costs around 18 euros.


✈️🚄 🚌 TRANSPORTATION 🚌 🚄 ✈️

How to get to starting point?

I started my journey from Finnish capital Helsinki (you can also start from Oulu and Rovaniemi, ther are also airports). The most convenient way to get to start point of the trail is to take local VR train. Helsinki-Kemijärvi train leaves the city several times a day (I recommend a night train). Kemijärvi is the closest train stop to hiking trails starting point – Hautajärvi. Train ticket costs about 85 euros. I advise to buy the train ticket in advance, you can do it online.

Train is convinient but not the cheapest option! I heard reccommendations from locals that if you already have two companions, it is cheaper to rent a car and drive to Lapland yourself.

From Kemijärvi take a local bus to Salla and from there hop on a second bus Salla-Ruka-Kuusamo Airport Express to Hautajärvi, where Karhunkierros trail begins. During summer there are special hiking bus (Retkibussi) and taxi operating from Kuusamo and Ruka.

If you need to buy some hiking gear then in Helsinki there are many hiking shops where you can find really good deals. I especially recommend XXL sports with great selection of hiking and sporting gear.

HOW TO GET BACK TO HELSINKI?

To get back to Helsinki, I used two busses and a train. So I took a local bus from Ruka Kumpare bus stop to Kuusamo city (ticket cost 6,8 euros). From Kuusamo I took a bus to Oulu (ticket cost 20 euros) and then train back to Helsinki (Oulu-Helsinki train ticket costs 49 euros).

GOOD TO KNOW

  • You dont have to be extra fit or experienced hiker to complete this trail. It is a perfect trail to start with if you dont have any long distance hiking experience.
  • 💧 You dont need to carry big drinking water supply 💧, there are plenty of fresh and clean water sources on the way. But be causious, there can be Cyanobacteria outbreaks during the hot summer months in some of the rivers (Koutajoik and Savijoki). I cleaned my drinking water with chlorine drops.
  • 🏕️There are huts or lean-tos every 15 km 🏕️. In huts there are fireplaces where you can start fire when it is necessary. Normally 10-20 people can fit in one hut. Huts cannot be reserved, and are only available on a first-come, first-served principles. So it might be a good idea to carry a tent just in case (like I did, eventhough I didnt need to use it).
  • 🚶Feel free to go solo hiking -🚶 I did it and it was perfect and safe place to do so. I appreciate the alone time in nature with my own thoughts. It is like escaping from urban stressful reality. You will find your way back to the roots.
  • 🦌 No need to be afraid of wild animals 🦌. In Finland as in Estonia, wild animals are scared of people. So you would probably not even see them (they have much sharper senses than us, humanbeings). But you will probably meet domesticated reindeers. Just keep respectful distance and let them mind their own business.
  • Refill your hydration bladder or bottles in Karhunkierros Trail Nature Centre, you can do it also when centre is closed. Just go behind the building and look for water tap.

MY HIKING REPORT

I completed this 85 km hiking trail in 5 days, if I would have started earlier, I would have done it in 4 days. I went solo but met many interesting people during the night in the camps. I carried all necessary equipment (clothes, food, water, tent, sleeping bag, mat etc.) in my 65 litre Osprey backpack.

1st Day 15,8 km Hautajärvi- Savilamppi hut

When I was sitting in the bus, all alone, heading to Hautajärvi I was surprised to see many reindeer herds by the road or on the road! I was also stunned by my first snowfall – already in September!

When I stepped out from the bus in Hautajärvi, I could feel that the temperature was around zero. It can get really chilly here, up north in the end of September. I was happy that I took my down jacket and sleeping bag with me.

Karhunkierros Trail Nature Centre was closed, when I arrived there. I was lucky to have bought a hiking map from Helsinki. I could refill my bottles behind the centre and I took 2 liters of water on the road.

Sign warning about Cyanobacteria in the rivers

On the first hiking day I saw reindeers already when I had only walked few kilometers. There were around 10 animals searching for food in the burned forest. Reindeers resembled me cows – they were just as big and with similar facial features. They also had ear-tags and one of them had a GPS-collar around the neck. Reindeers come really close (5-10 meters) if you stand quietly.

In addition to the reindeer, the hiking trail offers other attractions: numerous hanging bridges, golden swamps, Rupakivi (rocky cliff in the middle of the river), car remains in the middle of the forest, steep canyons and, of course, a beautiful autumn colour game.

The hiking trail was either a plain road, a stony-paved trail or an adventure trail full of tree roots.

Trail leaded along the river and through the pine forest. Whole day I hiked alone, without seeing anyone, just me and my thoughts. Just like I wanted to. When I finally reached my this day’s destination – Savilampi wilderness hut, I saw that it was full of backpacks. I picked up a nice spot to sleep and went out to prepare myself a nice warm dinner with my small gas stove.

I spent my first night at Savilampi hut, it fits 10 persons

Outside, I met all the hikers that were staying a night in the hut, it was a colourful company: 3 Czechs, 2 French, 1 Scotsman and 1 Finnish. We lit a fire and had a nice chit-chat. It turned out that French couple and Scotsman were also planning to hike through all trail. Guys made fire also inside the hut’s stove, so it was nice and cousy to fall asleep.

2nd Day 21,4 km Savilamppi-Ansakömppä hut

In the morning I went near the lake to enjoy sunrise and after this I crossed the hanging bridge and admired steep granit canyon. Then I was ready to start a new day.

This day trail ran again next to Oulanka river. My bag didn’t feel heavy anymore, because I realized that there is no point to carry big drinking water supply: there were plenty of water sources on the way, I used my chlorine drops to clean the water (just in case).

Trail leaded me to Oulanka’s National Park Visitor Centre – it is a big building with museum and cafeteria. I made a little break to learn more about this national park’s history. I found out that Karhunkierros trail was built on 1954 with the help of volunteers to save nearby river from damming, year later national park was established. Although the trail got the name after bears, there are not many of them around.

In the cafeteria I couldn’t resist and had to try a reindeer burger that Scotsman had recommended yesterday. The burger cost 8 euros and was really delicious!

On the way I crossed 4 hanging bridges and saw several small forest lakes. After the Visitor’s Centre, there were many people on the trail enjoying good weather and having picnic. Trail became more stoney and near the river there was a great view over red cliffs and foamy rapids.

Further on trail leaded up and while walking on the edge of river’s high bank, I noticed some old river beds and some cute little islands.

Soon I reached my this day’s destination – Ansakämppä hut near the river. This hut was bigger and could fit up to 20 people. Few minutes later French couple arrived, I was happy to see them again. Later on one Finnish couple also joined us, thet came by the river with the canoe.

We started fire again, French couple warmed up water in the metal bucket and they took shower while it was around 0 degree: wow! I guess cleanliness is really so important for French people, that even when hiking, there is no exceptions. I didn’t wash myself with water during all these 4 days, I only used wet wipes.

3rd Day 22,6 km Ansakömppä – Siilastupa hut

While sleeping, I heard rain pouring down outside. Weather was depressingly gray and I could almost touch the clouds, they were so low. I put on my rain clothes and gaters and started hiking. Trail leaded along the river and then turned to the forest, where I saw spruces with long lichen beards and also some chiken like wild birds (probably grouse).

Lunch stop at Jussinkamppi hut. Hot tea, nice soup and something sweet.

This day’s trail section was mentally hard, because it was raining and the trail became muddy and slippery. Plus it had many descents.

Trail was full of slippery tree roots and stones

Finally, the trail descended down to Kitajoki river. I could walk right next to running water. Last part of the hike was extra challenging: my feet and muscles started protesting against constant walking up and down. But then I saw a Siilastupa hut, right next to river, waterfall in the background. Perfect place to stay for a night.

Siilastupa hut fits 10 persons and is right next to river

I didnt manage to start fire, I was too tired for this. So I ate quick dinner which I prepared with my Primus Eta Express gas stove. It is ultra fast: 1 litre of water starts boiling in 1 minute. I ate mashed potatoes with dried meat and sundried tomatoes. For dessert I had cookies and sweet thick fruit drink called kissell. Then I fell asleep in my ultra warm down sleeping bag, listening to the sound of waterfall.

4th Day 11 km Siilastupa hut – Juuma village – Porontimajoki hut

When I woke up in the morning, there were people peeking in from the window.

Siilastupa hut is close to Juuma village, so there are many people around: walking with their dogs and having picnic. I prepared myself a breakfast: oat porridge with tea and sandwiches.

I decided to make a little detour to visit a Juuma village close by (only 2 km-s away). It was totally worth it, nature was especially beautiful on this way. I hoped to grab a hot chocolate from the village but when I got to cafeteria near the lake, I discovered that it was closed (it worked only until the end of September).

I didn’t give up and had my hot cocoa at Oulanka Base Camp instead. It is massive wooden log house with cozy interior: I was sitting on a reindeers skin. There is also a shop and you can buy a nice warm meal and souvenirs also.

Back on the trail I enjoyed almost flat landscape and many little golden bogs.

When I reached this day’s destination, I was surprised because there were two huts, one lean-to and what was most aswesome: stream flowed under one hut.

Of course I picked this hut that had stream flowing underneath. I chopped some wood and lit a fire inside the hut. Small hut became so hot, that it resembled more of a sauna. At least my wet hiking boots dried up. I fell asleep listening to the smooth water murmur. It was my favourite hut!

5th Day 15 km Porontimajoki hut – Ruka village

Last hiking day was the hardest and not because I have covered so many kilometers by this time, but because of the landscape. Weather was rainy again and white thick fog was covering the view.

Trail leaded constantly up and down, walking on the mountains was powerful and offered excitement. But it was not easy due to strong wind and rain that made stones slippery.

When I arrived to Valatavaara Day Hut, I felt relief, my clothes were wet and I was exhausted. I changed clothes inside and made myself a warm soup. Obliviously I spent one hour resting. I felt that I had to start moving immediately because my hands were stiff because of the cold and hypothermia sneaked in. Tmeperature outside was just few degrees over zero.

I started walking quickly to warm myself up and soon I could already see the snowy slopes of Ruka ski resort (snow was artificial though) and huge caravan park in the valley. I also heard a loud beeping of snow machines.

When I finally reached the finish point: Ruka village, I was a bit dissapointed because all I could see was a huge muddy construction site. Only when I walken inside the village, I could see how sweet this village was: houses made of red bricks, narrow streets filled with little cafeterias and sport shops – it was a real tourist trap.

I stayed a night in Ruka village, the cheapest room cost 60 euros. After so long hike, hot shower and soft bed is such a luxury that you know how to appreciate.

This hike was amazing! It is also a good choice for novice hikers. Trail is well marked and nordic nature is so beautiful. Have you completed this trail? Or do you have some questions? Please leave a comment below 🙂

MORE LONG-DISTANCE HIKES: 5 Days in Tenerife.

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🌋🌴Hiking in Tenerife Mountains – 5 Days and 85 km – All You Need To Know Before You Go 🌴🌋

I decided to escape from cold snowy reality to warm and exotic Tenerife. I hiked through GR-131 hiking trail starting from hot desert, reached mountains and ended my hike in wet rainforest.

Under the African side there is a warm and tropical European “Hawaii”– Tenerife. It is a perfect place to escape when it is a winter in Europe. Me and my friend Karola decided to spend our winter vacation actively hiking in the mountains.

This 85 km trail from Aguamansa to Los Cristianos is full of breathtaking views; you will see Teide volcano, dry desert and cacti, scary vulcanical landscape, burned forests, Martian red landscape, eucalyptus forest, rain forest and much more. Here you can find all information about the GR-131 trail that you need to know before you go.

I hope all your questions get answered and if not please leave a comment and I will try to answer 😉

GR-131 HIKING TRAIL

  • Location: Tenerife.
  • Lenght: 85 km.
  • Duration: 4-5 days.
  • When to go: all year round, best time is winter (December-February). In the summer time temperature might be too hot.
  • Start point: Arona village, 20 km from Southern Airport (biggest city nearby is Los Cristianos).
  • End point: La Esperanza village (17 km from Santa Cruz).
  • Overnight stay: in tent only, there is no designated camping spots and huts.
  • Trail marking: red marks on stones and trees, direction signs.

GETTING TO THE START POINT

GR-131 hiking trail starts in the Arona village which is located in southern part of the island. So it is only 20 km away from Tenerife South Airport. But to get there you have to go through the biggest city nearby – Los Crisitanos. From the airport you can hop on a bus which will take you directly to Los Cristianos. We took a bus nr 40.

In Los Cristianos we visited four sport/hiking shops before we found one that had stove gas. This shop is called Tenerife Outdoor and it is located in the shopping mall in the Playa de las Américas street. You can also try to find the gas from fuel stations and construction shops.

After buying the gas we took buss nr 480 to get to Arona village. Google Maps was a great help, it will show you what bus you have to take, what time it will leave and where is the bus stop.

PACKING LIST

On the pictures below you will see what did I pack for this 5-days hiking trip. I tried to be as minimalist as possible. For novice hikers, I would rather recommend taking more equipment than less, otherwise things might end up badly. You can start reducing when you already have some experience.

I packed all my equipment to Osprey’s 65 litre backpack. Karola, my friend (novice hiker) managed to pack all her belongings to 40 litre backpack. This bag turned out to be too small (it started to tear) but she didn’t complain.

All the clothes that I took on my hiking trip

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • Carry enough drinking water (at least for 2-days) because there are no natural water sources on the way. There are some villages like Arona, Villaflor, Aguamansa and Teide National Parks Visitor Centre where you can resupply.
  • Bring warm clothes and warm sleeping bag. As you know the weather in mountains can be tricky, temperature can fall below zero at night. So the comfort temperature of your sleeping bag should be at least -5 degrees. I took my down sleeping bag and it was a good (and lightweight) choice.
  • In the mid-January it was quite chilly outside (except the first day), we normally wore long trousers and long sleeved blouses.
  • I reccommend to wear hiking boots which support your ankles. This is not a good place to wear lightweight trail running shoes.
  • Wild camping is prohibited in Tenerife – yes, this sounds weird when you have such a long (85 km) hiking trail available. Where those hikers suppose to stay if there are no huts on the way? I had to ignore this rule to complete the hike. I slept in the tent and cooked with the gas stove. I reccommend to tent a bit further away from the hiking trail. We didn’t encounter any problems. Just keep in mind to follow “Leave No Trace” principle and do not make fire. I dont know the reason of this no-wild-camping-rule but probably it is because the nature is so dry and people can accidentally start forest fires.
  • Tenerife has a rather rocky ground, support the tent pegs with stones. Keep in mind that you can’t camp everywhere because of the mountainous terrain. Believe me you don’t want to start playing “slide down-up game” during the night.
  • Bring your hiking poles! This way your knees, ankles and feet get less strain. Climbing up the hill they allow you to push the momentum and walking down the hill you have extra support. Hiking poles also help you to maintain balance in difficult terrain.
  • In January the sun rises at 8:00 and the sun goes down at 19:00, there is no twilight.
  • Transportation: there is a good public transport connection on the island, look for the green buses of the company Titsa. The ticket costs 1.40 eur (15.01.19). When traveling to or from the airport, the bus ticket is more expensive – 3.2 eur.

MY HIKE REPORT

1st Day Arona-burned forest, 9 km

We started our hike in Arona village at 15:00, before heading to the trail we bought 4 litres of water each. If we would have managed to start earlier, this hike would have taken us 4 days instead of 5 days to complete.

Hiking trail leaded us to a desert like landscape, it was super dry and hot. Nature was brown and dull, but dont let it fool yourself. If you look closer, you will see really interesting microworld. Cacti, which were as high as trees, surronded the narrow trail. Somehow cactus’ thorn managed to stab my little toe, luckily not too deep. This happened even though I was wearing a leather boots.

On the first day the trail will lead you mainly uphill. You will pass one canion, hike along the hillside, enjoy beautiful and broad view to the sea. You might notice “colorful birds” hovering over your heads – those are paraplanes. We saw twenty of these.
Later on you will arrive to burned pine forest where pine thorns are 10 cm long.

When we had been hiking for 3 hours, we noticed a white tent between pine trees, and we met one cheerful Belgian man who advised us to stay in the camp near him, as the landscape becomes more rocky when the ascension goes up. That is how we did, because the time was already 18 o’clock and sun started to go down.

Our little black tent

2nd Day Burned Forest-Foot of the Mt.Teide, 21 km

Second day started hiking uphill, following a rocky footpath. We went through burnt pine forest. Those trees had black charred trunks which, despite their appearance, were in good health. And then the first houses began to emerge, we strated reaching the village of Villaflor. We took 4 litres of water from the café and I ordered myself fish croquettes (it turned out to be a local dish).


Martian landscape

In Villaflor village I bought my life most expensive 4 EUR ice cream bar (price, of course, turned out later).

Villaflori village

After the village we strated going steep uphill. We admired yellow wavy stone sculptures on the way. Suddenly we found ourselves walking in a black burned forest again, hidden inside the clouds. Vulcanic sand was dark and whole landscape looked straight from the scary movies.

The ups and downs were challenging and slow, but worth the effort. Finally we made it to Teide National Park, where we saw the giant canyon and admired our hike ‘s higlight – Mount Teide volcano.

Finally seeing Mt. Teide volcano
Compulsary selfie

We reached the highest point of our hike – 2300 m. After enjoying the view we started decending. We slept in the the tent which we put up in the old river bed between the bushes.

This hiking day was the hardest, the trail went mainly uphill. Spectacular views that we saw were awesome, worth the effort. Nature changed in every corner!

3rd Day Foot of Mt.Teide-Aguamansa Village, 23 km

The night was cold, even freezing. My friend could barely sleep (she had summer sleeping bag) and her drinking water was frozen in the morning. Our tent was frozen also from the outside, snow started to melt and we ended up having wet sleeping bags. We hurried to start walking so we could warm up.

We walked 10 km on a gravel road between the mountain ranges surrounded by serene spaciousness and still enjoyin the view of Mt. Teide.

On the way we visited Teide National Park Visitors Centre, the entrance is free and you can see the exhibition about volcanism. Don’t forget to refill your water supply. After Visitors Centre trail leaded us to humid and lush green rain forest and surprise-surprise rain started to pour. After such a drought and lack of water such greenery seemed so strange.

Teide rahvuspargi külastuskeskus

Rain poured many hours. So in the end, regardless of our rain clothes, both me and Karola were soaking wet. We realized that if we continue hiking and sleep in a wet sleeping bags, we might get hypothermia. Karola had no spare clothes and her sneakers were wet. So this is why we went to Aguamansa village and took bus to La Orotava village and stayed in a Tenerife Hostel to dry our clothes, tent and sleeping bag.

4th Day Aguamansa Village – Rain Forest,
22 km

In the morning we had quick breakfast before we headed back to Aguamansa to continue our hike. We took one local hiking trail that leaded us back to GR-131 trail. It started raining again, rain stopped only after 3 hours.

Going uphill we found ourselves in moist clouds again. Most of the day we were just silent thinking our own thoughts and feeling the exhaustion in the muscles. I was happy when we finally stopped and put up our tent in the forest near the trail. It was actually hard to find a flat ground.

My sleeping bag was still moist but luckily the weather was warm. There were so much humidity in the air that you could actually see it in the beam of flash light.

5th Day Rainforest-La Esperanza, 10 km

The last day’s hiking trail went through the forest, mostly along the muddy car road. The nature was lush and reminded me the nature of Estonia with its’ pine forests. The last kilometers of the hike felt endless.

Suddenly I felt sweet familiar smell – eucalyptus!

Long straight trees with peeling bark reminded me of bamboo. So cool! We walked through foggy and mysterius eucalyptus forest.

Eucalyptus forest smells so sweet
This is how eucalyptus tree leaf looks like

Finally, we saw the houses of La Esperanza. It looked like a ghost town in the fog – empty streets, no people. Hiking trail managed to surprise us before the end, it headed from the street to the wild canion.

Mmmm… fresh tangerines, who could resist?

It is not that easy to get from La Esperanzast to Tenerifes capital Santa Cruz. Buses run infrequently and we couldnt find any schedule. So we hitchhiked to La Laguna and took a bus to Santa Cruz from there.

4 DAY HIKING PLAN:

  1. Arona – Villaflor 20 km.
  2. Villaflor – Las Canadas tel Teide 24 km.
  3. Las Canadas tel Teide – Roque del Topo u 17 km.
  4. Roque del Topo – La Esperanza u 30 km.

5 DAY HIKING PLAN:

  1. Arona – Burned Forest (9 km, 3 h walking time).
  2. Burned Forest – Foot of Mt. Teide (21 km, 8 h walking time).
  3. Foot of Mt. Teide – Aguamansa Village (23 km, 8 h walking time).
  4. Aguamansa Village – Rain Forest (22 km, 7 h walking time).
  5. Rain Forest – La Esperanza (10 km; 2,5 h walking time).