Hiking the Karhunkierros trail in Kuusamo (Part 2)

… continuing 🙂

Day #4

  • KulmakkopuroPähkänä 11km
  • Additional hikes to Saaripuro waterfall and up to top of Pähkänä ~2km
  • Sights: Saaripuro waterfall, Pähkänä scenery

In the morning we continued the trail uphill for quite some time before coming to the midway mark “41-41”. Another quick picture with the sign and on we go. We stopped for lunch in Jussinkämppä which is one of the bigger wilderness huts in the park (sleeps 20 people). Though the weather was nice we escaped indoors (the amount of mosquito must have doubled or tripled during the night) to eat our lunch.

After a while the trail starts to head down towards the river valley. At the top of the stairs we left our backpacks again to the side of the path and headed to the bush on the right. You can hear the waterfall all the way to the trail but there is no walk way to it. So navigating towards the sound and at the same time taking note of the surroundings so we would find back to our backpacks (it’s harder to find back as there is no sound to lead you, be careful not to get lost!). In the middle of woods, 150m from the path, Saaripuro waterfall runs down 20 or so meters down a rocky path. This was the biggest fall we saw during the trip and worth the extra few meters off the track. This is a sight that most hikers pass as there are no signs or paths leading to it.

 

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Saaripuro waterfall in the middle of the forest

 

Back on the trail we headed down several steps finishing to the valley of Kitkajoki river. There is a camp site right next to the river with a wooden tepee type hut and fireplace. The trail continues here to the right following the river and there are lean-to shelters every 500 meters. This is a popular fishing place (fly fishing) and many people wonder up and down the river bend looking for the right spot to get a big catch.

Just before making camp for the night we stopped at Venäänmutka lean-to shelter, left again our backpacks and followed the sign to Pähkänä road “Pähkänän tie 1.0“. There are 150 steps and 88 log steps up the hill and right after the last step a small path leading to the left. A short climb to the hill and the view over the river valley is spectacular. This is a favorite spot for Finnish nature photographers and of course we had to see it.

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View from top of Pähkänä

We stayed the nigh in the valley next to Pähkänä lean-to shelter. There were a lot more people passing by than in earlier nights as this is close to popular day hike routes.

Day #5

  • Pähkänä – Puurosuo 13,5km
  • Hiking through small Karhunkierros day trail
  • Additional hikes up to Kallioportti and Myllypuro
  • Sights: Kallioportti view, Jyrävä rapids, Myllypuro old mill

In the morning we woke up early and saw some wondering reindeer just next to our tent (though they ran away when noticed us getting out side of the tent). After repacking our gear we had an hour walk to the popular “small” Karhunkierros day route. The day hiking routes are well kept gravel paths. This trail is a 12 km roundtrip and Karhunkierros trail only goes through it half way. So to see all the “major” sights we took two side tracks leaving our backs to wait by the trail. For the first one we climbed stairs (252 of them, without our packs though) up to see the views from Kallioportti. The view was nice with the sun shining and it felt so much lighter without our packs.

Back on the trail and reconnected with our backpacks we headed around the day route from southern side. During lunch we kept rain on the terrace of the Siilastupa wilderness hut. The passing shower extended our break to two hours but it was nice just sitting and watching the raging waters of Jyrävä rapids (9 meter long waterfall) on the other side of the river.

Karhunkierros continues out of the National Park a kilometer after the rapids but we wanted to make another detour and visit the old mill (Myllypuro) bit farther on the day trail. The mill was built in the 1930s and in use until 1949. Today the cabin has been turned into a wilderness hut with sleeping platforms in two floors, though it is only meant for day use.

Kitkajoki river and these rapids are popular also for river rafting, though we did not have extra time to try it on this trip.

There is a small recycling point at the junction where Karhunkierros trail leaves the day hike. The National Park reminds people to carry out all the trash they bring in and this is a good stop to empty your packs of all rubbish. Heading out of the park it felt calm and serene again. The masses of visitor are left behind and we were again alone with the wilderness. Actually we did not see anyone after this until noon the next day 😉

The walk to Puurosuo lean-to shelter left a feeling that now everything worth seeing is past us (oh how we were wrong!). The day was full of meeting new people on the hike and seeing nature at its best. And now we were in the middle of the woods next to a small creek, just us, no one else. At the same time it was calming again to just light up a fire, setup the tent and cook some dinner under the blue sky (no stars, as the sun shines through the night).

Day #6

  • Puurosuo – Suolampi 14,5km
  • Sights: views from Kumpuvaara and Konttainen

In the morning we woke up again to blue skies and sun shine. We gathered our gear and continued the trail. Difference in the surrounding nature was visible, we were not in a national park anymore. Now we were walking past clearcuttings and more economically grown forests which differ greatly from the free grown national park trees. At noon we stopped for lunch at Porontimajoki wilderness hut. The place looked wonderful in the sun and with a small river flowing by the camp ground. We were not in a hurry so just enjoyed the day and sun for a bit. It felt like the first warm summer day of the whole year and a bit reluctantly we finally put our hiking shoes back on and continued our walk.

After the stop the forest changed to more natural like and we crossed some smaller ponds with little frogs and saw some reindeer end their little ones. The trail also partially followed larger roads and machinery trails until it took us again up a hill Vattuvaara. After a snack break by a swamp lake Kuikkalampi we continued the gentle climb up to Kumpuvaara. Originally we planned to stay the night in Kuikkalampi but as our legs felt still fresh after the break we decided to get some of the last days climbing over already. Oh heads up, the remainder of the trail is almost all up hill and stairs…

The next hill to be conquered was Konttainen and just before starting climb we entered Valtavaara-Pyhävaara Nature Reserve. There were 200 steps up and same amount of steep hill climb to get to the top. And the view got better 🙂 On the other side there were 300 steps down and after crossing the road the trail leads back to the forest and uphill again. We stopped for the night in Suolampi lean-to shelter to get a good night’s sleep before the final 5 km climb up two more hills. The camp site was next to a swap pond with many little swimming creatures in the water. This time we did not drink the water as is but boiled it before.

Day #7

  • Suolampi Ruka center 5,5km
  • Sights: Valtavaara views

We woke up excited and sad at the same time. This was our last day of hiking and the kilometer signs showed that only 5 km to go. We had a slow start to the morning eating rest of the food we brought with us and talking to some new hikers on their first day heading the other way on the trail. The trail to top of Valtavaara was partly very steep with some ropes to assist on the climb. Finally at the top there is an old day hut and a picnic table. The day was clear and we could see all the way to the mountains on Russian side of the border (just to note that Finland does not really have mountains, more like rounded hills or fells). Again it was visible that we were on a day trail as there were many people passing us without large packs. Many bird watchers visit this Nature Reserve as some more rarer species can be found there.

Stone steps lead the trail back down the hill and again some parts needed help from ropes tided to the stone. And a lot of stairs down, a lot… Finally at the bottom we exit the nature reserve just to see the slopes of Ruka in front of us. Few hundred meters more to go and all of it steep uphill. After six and half leisurely walking days we came to Ruka village and 82km trail was finished. We had booked a hotel room for the night (real beds!!!), enjoyed reindeer burgers at the hotel restaurant, relaxed tired muscles in the sauna and had a good night sleep before driving back south the next day.

Conclusion

Like I wrote we took our time walking and kept our days short. Some people we met aimed for four day hike for the entire trail taking 20km per day and some even less. We were both pretty unexperienced hikers and therefore reserved time for the walk as well as to make stops when needed. Though the trail is 82km in total it can also be divided into several smaller day trips around the main sights.

Our main worry was the heavy packs that needed to be carried through the whole trail and supplies to last for a week. In the end our packs weighed around 20kg when we left and were 15kg when returning… so food and water are heavy though we packed mostly freeze dried and powdered meals.

This is a trail that I would recommend even if you are inexperienced hiker, just take your time and enjoy the nature and do not make it a race.

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