I have written earlier how amazing the Koli National park during the wintertime. Don’t worry, autumn and summertime are also perfect for a visit! We have been there for one-day trips and also for the whole weekend hiking. There are several available route options up to 60 km length at the top. Without a doubt, Koli National Park is one of the best national parks in Finland – after the parks in Lapland 😉 – and a must-see place if you travel to Finland by car.
How to get to Koli National Park
That is the most problematic, or expensive thing. If you have a car, that is the best and most comfortable. For a long, while we didn’t have either, so we needed to look for other options. Renting a car can still be cheaper than taking the Koli taxi. Eventually, you can hitchhike (we did it a few times!), but I know it is not for everybody.
One convenient solution is to take a bus to Kolinportti and walk or hitchhike only from there. It is 12 km to the headquarter to the national park, and almost everyone who drives there goes to Koli. Super! Sometimes we got a ride on that road until even Joensuu, without any need to change.
Sleeping in a tent or the free shelters
During summer (mostly June-July) time, we preferred to stay in a tent to avoid mosquitoes. Other times the free shelters are perfect for one night stay, you just need to take your sleeping bag and make some fire from the provided firewood. It is also possible to rent a cabin if you want total privacy. On the other hand, not so many people stay overnight, and they are usually lovely.
One of the weird experiences was when we had a trip during the Eurovision contest. The two guys who were staying in the same shelter were friendly, and we could easily divide who and when add more wood to the fire during the night, as it was around zero. The weird part was that even though they came to nature, they could not give up on listening to the contest. They took a smaller radio and tuned to the correct radio station and listened to it from the shelter.
Hiking on the Herajärvi trail(s)
The Herajärvi trail is my favorite in Koli National Park because you can see the national park and the surrounding area as well. The trails are well marked, and also distances to the next shelter are signed regularly. There are several wells on the way, and you can fill in your bottles there. Some of them you can drink without boiling.
You can either start the hike from the national park headquarter or from Eteläpää. The trails are 40 and 60 km long. We went on them several occasions, directions, and combinations. Sometimes just to a specific shelter and back on another day, sometimes for the whole weekend.
In our most recent trip, we started at Eteläpää and went north on the trail closer to the Lake Pielinen. First, you will cross blueberry fields, so be prepared, if the berries are ripe, you will spend much more time there than you expected at first. We met even people with several buckets filled with berries. They spent there the whole day probably.
Picking blueberries is big business in Finland. Every year hundreds of foreign workers come to pick them up, as they pay a pretty good price for them, but it is a very laborous and tiring job. Finns also pick them and usually using blueberry combs. It is a box-like item with a comb in front. You just comb the bushes, and the berries will fall into the box. This is the fastest way to pick berries, but after picking, you have to remove leaves and branches that ended up in the comb. Using these comb is forbidden in the national parks as they damage the vegetation, so if you would like to try them, make sure you are outside of the protective areas.
The route is easy (as all in Finland), bit uphills, bit downhills. Some forest, some more wet mire areas. And great views of the lake or the rocks. One of the biggest attractions of the way is the little ropes you can ford the river Herajoki near Putrakko. You have to make your feet wet in cold water! And it is great fun!
Make sure you still have some strength to pull yourself across the lakes Herajärvi at Sikosalmi. There is a small ferry that you operate by pulling the ropes. It is a trendy type in Finland. Probably you will see them elsewhere too. These are not working whole year round, so from late autumn to early spring, you have to walk a longer way.
Peaks of Ukko Koli in Summer
And of course, the peaks of Ukko Koli. They are either on the beginning/end of your trip or at halfway. The view from Ukko Koli is famous Finland-wide. You will see the long lake Pielinen with little islands. The colors on the trees are the best, usually during late August or early September. Don’t miss that view! Check it out how Koli looks during the winter!
Ryläys Observation Tower
Another great place is the observation tower at Ryläys, but it was broken last time (2015) when we visited it. It gives a beautiful view to the other side of the area and, like many other places have a shelter and fireplace too. You can have a barbecue there and even spend there a night. The is a big Lapp hut with wide benches, perfect for sleeping.
The rest of the trail
Among several options, the Kiviniemi farm has rooms for rent. Finnish prices are quite high, but it is a lovely place for a night and easily reachable by car as well. We never tried it yet but passed across the farm on the trail couple of times. Our favorite stay was at Ahvenlampi. It has a cute little cottage with beautiful view – sorry, no pics from outside. It used to be a rental hut, but for a few years, it is open now to the public. As we read in the house journal, a lot of nice fish were caught there too.
How much time it takes to hike the Herajarvi trail
About the timing of the trip, you should rely on your strength. I think 20-30 km is not a problem to walk one day, so the whole route easily fits a weekend program or in 4-5 days, but you can make the shorter loop only and walk less each day. Either way, you will have a nice weekend or week in nature 🙂