The national park
The Koli National Park is about an hour drive away from Joensuu. It’s the closest national park to our city. On Saturdays there is a very cheap ski bus (5-15 €), price changes during the years), so we could reach it without a car easily. Few times we were hitchhiking, because on other days, it is kind of impossible to approach by public transport. Yes, that is Finland. But hitchhiking always works, and was necessary for our multi-day hikes.
We go to the National Park often. In winter time for downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. You can also ride a snowmobile if you wanna pay a lot, but I think once worth to try!
Skiing in Koli
Kind of ‘funny’ to call it downhill skiing center if you have ever been in Alps, Rockies, or in any mountains. The whole national park is small, about 30 square km. Its highest point is Ukko-Koli, only 347 meters above sea level, but the longest ski slopes reach 1.5 km length, so you can easily spend a day skiing in the two separate locations where the slopes are. I am not a big fun of downhill skiing and haven’t tried snowboarding yet, so I usually choose other activity, even if others wanna stay on the slopes.
You can also go cross-country skiing if you have your own equipment it is for free, but you can rent skis is you need. There are over 50 km of trails if they are maintained. In most days only 20-30 km are ready for skiing. I prefer that! My personal favorite is skiing from Ukko-Koli to Loma-Koli, it is about 15 km and has a nice downhill in the beginning. After that small hills, up and down, all the way to Loma-Koli. Also, trails on the lake are open when the ice is safe. You can ski over the other side of lake Pielinen easily.
Snowshoeing and campfire
If you are not so comfortable with skiing, you can take a walk by snowshoes (those tennis-rocket-like things you step on), so you won’t sink in the snow. Most of the people go only to the peaks around Ukko-Koli, but it is definitely worth to visit Mäkrävaara, or even go further. There are several fireplaces with supplied wood, so you can make fire and bake your sausages or veggies there while resting.
Do you still wonder why is the place so popular? Besides the variety of activities you can do, it has great views from the top of the hills and rock over the lake Pielinen. And in winter time the trees are totally covered by snow. Every time I go there, I feel like I am in wonderland 🙂