The Oulanka National Park in southern Lapland near the city of Kuusamo is one of the most beautiful and magical national parks not only in Finland but in Europe. The national park is famous especially for its pristine winter scenery which is absolutely breathtaking. We visited Oulanka national park during Christmas holidays and did Pieni Karhunkierros circular trail which is one of the most beautiful winter trek we ever did passing through all the major tourist attractions in the national park including the stunning Myllykoski rapids.
This blog has all the information that you need to know before visiting the incredible Oulanka national park and this is from my own experience.
How to Get There
The easiest way to reach the Oulanka national park is by renting a car. We rented a car at Oulu airport and drove around which is perfect especially in the winter when it is hard to wait outside in the cold for a bus. I have marked two points on the above google map with a hiking trail sign. Both are the starting points of the Pienni Karhunkierros hiking trails but if you are interested only in visiting Myllykoski rapids and the surrounding areas then drive towards Oulanka Basecamp and park your car on small parking along the road on Myllykoskentie 30 which is the nearest point to the Myllykoski rapids.
By Public Transport
There are also various options to take public transport to the Oulanka national park from Kuusamo and Salla. You can take Karhunkierros Bus or Airport Bus from Salla, Ruka and Kuusamo. You can find all the details on their respective websites for actual timetables.
The official website of Oulanka National Park has the latest information so visit their website for more and accurate information.
The scenic Myllykoski rapids are probably the most stunning place inside Oulanka national park and also the most visited place due to widely shared pictures on social media especially Instagram. Myllykosi is on the Pieni Karkunkierros trail but if you are not interested in hiking the whole trail and only interested in visiting Myllykoski rapids then park your car either at the Oulanka Basecamp or at Myllykoskentie 30 (see the above google map), the later is probably the nearest parking to Myllykoski. It is less than 20 minutes walk from there. There is also Myllykoski day hut which has the facility of a campfire which is used by the visitors to BBQ and warm themselves. You can easily spend a few hours exploring the area.
Pieni Karhunkierros Hiking Trail
Pieni Karhunkierros is a world-renowned winter hiking trail in Oulanka national park and one of the most famous hiking trail in Finnish Lapland. The trek is possible to do in any season, we did in winter and trek was well maintained so we did it without Snowshoes but after a heavy snowfall, conditions might be different so it's better to get the latest information from the visitor centre of the national park. They have a facebook page and respond to messages sent via facebook messenger. During winter and snowy conditions, it is recommended to do Anti-clockwise.
- Total Distance: 12km Circle Trail
- Difficulty Level: Intermediate
- Duration: 4-6 hours
There are two starting points, one starts from the parking at the Retkietappi cafeteria near the Juuma village and the other point near Basecamp Oulanka. I have marked both points on the above google map.
We started the trek from Oulanka Basecamp. It is important to remember during the month of December and January there are only a few hours of daylight and in the last week of December, the daylight is only 3 hours. So based on daylight we decided to visit Myllykoski rapids first as we were afraid we might not finish the trek in daylight and Myllykoski was absolute must-see place before the dark. The Myllykoski rapids are probably the most beautiful place on the trail and we spent more than an hour only here. There is a day hut which is also called Myllykoski and a hanging bridge to cross the river. Making a campfire is allowed at the Myllykoski day hut and at some other designated places along the trail.
There are 3 hanging bridges on the trail Niskakoski, Myllykoski and Harrisuvanto which make crossing the river safer.
There is also an opportunity to stay overnight at free Siilastupa open wilderness hut which is intended for the hikers to stay not more than one night. There are woods to burn to keep the hut warm but you definitely need a good sleeping bag and a comfortable sleeping mattress.
We started and finished the trail at Parking near Myllykoski in under 5 hours at a relaxed pace by taking an hour-long break photography break at Myllykoski. If you are hiking in winter with a few hours of sunlight take a headlamp with you for your own safety. The hiking trail is well marked. There is a complete description of the trail on the Oulanka national park website.
Where to Stay
We rented a small and cosy hut near the village of Juuma along the shores of the frozen lake with a sauna. It was perfect as we were very close to the trail. There are a number of hotels and apartments to rent in Kuusamo, Ruka and the surrounding areas which are very close to the Oulanka national park.