Jouni Laaksonen 23.4.2018
Right now there’s plenty of snow in Northern Finland and I’ve been writing about skiing much, so it’s time to see how the hiking conditions look on the opposite side of the year. Autumn is a magnificent time for hiking!
The 12 km loop Pieni Karhunkierros (Little Bear’s Trail) in Oulanka National Park is one of the, or maybe the most popular day hiking trail in Finland. Below you’ll find three hikes around this trail, in the direction stated on the map (link above).
August: still warm
July is the hottest month of Finnish summer, but also infested with mosquitoes. During August the mosquitoes die away, but there are still many warm days left. In the beginning of August there may be still some mosquitoes, or sometimes not.
When our younger daughter was all of three months old we headed out to Pieni Karhunkierros. Older daughter walked herself, with an endearing little backpack, younger one was carried by my wife, and I got to carry the heavy backpack.
For we were not going to do this 12 km trail in one day, as is the norm. Our older daughter was not that old yet, and we thought it’s best to divide the trail to two days. So I carried tent, all sleeping bags and so on.
It was the very beginning of August and the days were warm, but there were no mosquitoes any more.
We are near spot number 1. At Myllykoski there is rapids, water mill that has been turned into a day trip hut, campfire site, and a hanging bridge where we are just going to step. The younger daughter in pink overall is fast asleep, head against my wife’s chest.
Here’s spot number 4, Harrisuvanto. The name means a slowly moving part of the river with an abundance of graylings. There’s a lean-to, and a hanging bridge. All is green and lush in August.
And now we are at spot number 5. We could have slept in Siilastupa wilderness hut, but we wanted privacy and set up our own tent. And in case our baby would cry during the night, we would not disturb others. I am changing her cloth diapers.
All went pretty much as we had planned. The older one got tired in the afternoon and staying near Siilastupa for the night was a good decision. Not having to hurry, and having plenty of time for playing is important at least for our children.
The next morning there was a short shower of rain, so we needed to put rain clothes on for a while. Then it stopped and we hiked happily back to our car.
September: autumn colors
There may be some few mosquitoes left in August, but none in September. The temperatures are cooler, which is just a good thing for a hiker. In hot weather you sweat and get tired more easily. And the autumn colors shine in September! In Oulanka area autumn colors (ruska in Finnish) are at their best usually from halfway of September onwards, maybe for a week or two, depending on weather.
But there is a lot of variation. If the autumn is rainy and warm, the autumn colors may be quite dull. If it’s crisp and clear, yellow, red and orange flare magnificently.
I was invited to the 60 years birthday party of Karhunkierros trail. While we celebrated the big brother, we hiked the little brother. It was 10th of September and autumn colors were just starting to show, though there was a lot of green yet.
Point number 1, Myllykoski rapids and the old water mill that nowadays serves as day trip hut. Pic taken from the hanging bridge. Some hint of autumn colors, but most of the birch leaves are still green, not yellow.
Another angle for Harrisuvanto hanging bridge (point 4). Rowan leaves are already quite orange.
In this pic the autumn colors are shining a bit more, though this not yet the peak of the colors.
October: the first snow
August and September are the main hiking season. October is often very good time for walking, too, but in the very Northern Finland there may some October day come so much snow that walking gets difficult. Not probably, but possible.
In Oulanka area this risk is minimal. But as you can see in the pics below, the first snow may very well fall in October. Temperature is near zero, or just below, and that’s very good for walking. You need a bit more clothes, but that’s it. Walking keeps you warm.
These pics I took half a dozen years ago, when I was writing a book about Finnish national parks.
The Pieni Karhunkierros trail is well marked and the path is wide. In most trails in Finland you don’t see other hikers in October, this is out of the main season, but at Pieni Karhunkierros you see plenty of others.
Spot number 4 once again, Harrisuvanto hanging bridge. Green hay turned orangish during September, and now it is dead brown. First snow adds white to the coloring.
Jyrävä waterfall is just one of the many sights along Pieni Karhunkierros.
Is Pieni Karhunkierros worth it’s reputation? Yes, definitively. The loop is packed with highlights. If you visit Kuusamo area, this is a must – unless you walk all of the Karhunkierros trail (82 km) and see these same sights along it.
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Next week, hmm. I remember I promised I’d tell more about Finnish wilderness huts. Let’s start to fulfill that promise.
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