Hiking the Karhunkierros (Bear Trail) in Finnish Lapland is a fantastic challenge and experience. It was established back in 1955 and is currently Finland’s most popular trail.
My girlfriend and I decided to hike the Karhunkierros in August as a part of our summer vacation. We wanted to enjoy our time on the trail so we decided that six days was a good time to spend hiking the 82 kilometers from Hautajärvi to Ruka. We met plenty of people doing day hikes in the region and some crazy ones planning on doing the whole thing in just a couple of days.
The trail is very well developed and well marked, markers at each kilometer and duckboards over the wettest areas. Along the route there are plenty of huts and fireplaces with lots of dry firewood, all for free. Most are located in scenic areas next to rivers or lakes. All this is a good reason to take your time on the trail and not run through. There were a few locations that I thought would be nice as well for winter visits.
What you will see along the way is a lot of trees, rivers, gorges, lakes, marshes and even Finnish mountains with a view. Of course I cannot write about a hike in Finnish Lapland without mentioning mosquitos, they were everywhere! We slept in a tent just to avoid the mosquitos at night and the ones that got in were squashed (made the mistake to sleep in a cabin the first night).
We hiked North to South, as is the normal procedure. It is a flatter more easier route to start, if you start from Ruka you do the hardest part of the hike first, with lots of ups and downs and a heavy pack. By starting in the North we had a few days to eat our backpacks lighter and we brought quite a lot of good food to keep us well nourished.
Overall it was a nice experience in Lapland, tired feet and sunshine every day.
A few tips if you are planning on hiking the trail:
- Go later in the season, late August or early September, less mosquitos and the autumn leaves will be changing, also there are fewer hikers.
- Bring a large mosquito net if you are planning on sleeping in the cabins.
- Leave your car in Ruka and grab the bus from the center to Hautajärvi (airport bus is the fastest).
- There is fresh water everywhere along the trail, most is drinkable straight from the river. Generally it is enough to bring a 1L Nalgene or a water reservoir. The last day over the hills to Ruka is the only area where you might want at least a couple liters in your pack.