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.
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.
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.
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.
I didn‘t 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 🙂
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