Kiutaköngäs rapids in winter
Passing Ristikallio rock during the Karhunkierros trail
Kitkajoki and Oulankajoki merge on their way to the Russian border
Winter in Oulanka National Park
The Oulanka National Park is located in Finland’s northeast and right at the border to Russia. Together with the adjacent Russian Paanajärvi National Park, it creates the largest internationally protected area. The Oulanka National Park is mainly characterized by streams, rapids and waterfalls. Hikers enjoy the wild and untamed landscape on the Bear Trail.
Size: 283.98 km²
The landscape of the Oulanka National Park
The Oulanka National Park was founded in 1956 and later merged with the adjoining Paanajärvi National Park in Russia. The Visitor Center of the park is opened all year long and provides guests with information about the park as well as guided tours. The natural landscape impresses with spectacular waterfalls, fast-flowing rapids and numerous suspension bridges that enable hikers to cross gorges and rivers.
The hilly landscape is protected by trees (mainly pines and spruces), covered by moss and pervaded by moors and swamps. The pink norne grows in the park and serves as the parks emblem. Natural phenomena such as the Oulanka Canyon, the Rupakivi rocks, the Ristikallio cliffs, numerous rapids, the popular Kiutaköngäs as well as the new suspension bridges attract thousands of visitors every year.
Water – the park’s main attraction
Without any doubt, water essentially the heart of this fascinating landscape. The name itself already indicates that everything in the national park is about water. The Finnish word “oula” or “oulu” means flood. Thus, the Oulankajoki and its rapids are the park’s main attraction. The impressive river crosses the region from west to east and leads to the Paanajärvi Lake on the Russian side of the border. The rivers (next to the Oulankajoki, there are Kitkajoki and Kuusinkijoki) in the national park meander through the canyon-like valley and move in rapids around the rocks and turn into waterfalls. Even Finland’s most spectacular waterfalls are in the Oulanka National Park.
The rivers are ideal for canoe tours and rafting trips. The Oulankajoki is suited for both experienced canoeists as well as beginners that want to paddle comfortably and enjoy the beautiful scenery. There also are ideal spots for fishing.
On the Bear Trail
Due to the famous Bear Trail, enthusiastic hikers are well aware of the national park. The Karhunkierros (Karhu means brown bear) takes hikers on 82 km through the wild landscape and passes a number of natural highlights. Wild rapids such as the Kiutaköngäs, the rugged Oulanka Canyon, waterfalls like Jyrävä, the rivers Oulankajoki and Kitkajoki, lakes, jungles and moors accompany you on your hike. Several suspension bridges are a particular highlight. As one of Finland’s most popular hiking trails, the Bear Trail takes you from Hautajärvi to Ruka to the best spots of the Oulanka National Park.
Shorter trails might cross the Bear Trail and lead to impressive landscape formations. Both ambitious as well as comfortable hikers will enjoy the 150 km long and marked path.
But even if you are not the outdoorsy-type, the Oulanka National Park is worth a visit. Some of the nature highlights are easily accessible (even by car) – as for example the Oulanka Canyon.