Are you ready to walk on the Little Bear Circuit (in Finnish: Pieni Karhunkierros)? It is a moderate, 12 km long hike full with spectacular places such as suspension bridges, waterfalls, and viewpoints. The park is next to Kuusamo but it is also doable as a day-hike from Rovaniemi as well.
The hike starts either from Juuma village, or you can shorten it a bit (if you arrive by car) and drive to Basecamp Oulanka parking lot. This way you’ll skip about 2 km and one bridge. The hike is suitable both for summer and winter, although at the beginning of the winter you may need snowshoes to make your job easier in the deepening snow.
Little Bear Circuit – Pieni Karhunkierros
A part of the circuit is overlapping with the Finland-wide famous 82 km long Karhunkierros Trail which is the actual Bear’s Trail. You will pass several bridges, walk on the top of the cliffs, observe the river in the canyon, see a watermill, a waterfall and several viewpoints along your hike. Fireplaces and shelters will provide you the perfect resting places. You can make fire, food, or just warm up during the winter.
It is a perfect day-hike for fit families too. If you travel around the north of Finland by car, make sure you add this place to your itinerary. Read our whole Lapland itinerary (winter edition).
Let us show you how the trail looks like in summer and winter season. First, you will arrive at Myllykoski, to an old watermill near the rapids. Nowadays, it is a shelter for hikers, but you can still see the wheels in the building.
The famous suspension bridge in Oulanka National Park
After the watermill, you need to pass the first/second hanging bridge and decide which direction you would do the circuit. We choose to walk clockwise direction. This way the most spectacular places will be in the second half of the hike.
On the way to Pyöreälämpi shelter, you will walk among many lakes in the forest. Small up and downhills, generally pleasant and easy hike.
The first viewpoint is Kallioportti. You need to climb quite high, actually to one of the highest points of the trail, but it is worth the effort.
Following the Karhunkierros
After Kallioportti, you will descend on the stairs. In wintertime, it is better to walk next to them, as they can be slippery from the ice and snow. Soon the trail merges with the Karhunkierros (the very long trail) and will go on the same way for many kilometers. Cute bear signs markers will also appear next to the trail, not only the usual colorful trail marks on the trees.
The next shelter is near Harrisuvanto. The fireplace was our lunch place during the winter. But if you have more energy, go bit further and eat at an even more spectacular spot. The best part of the trail is just ahead of you.
Jyrävä, Siilasmaja and a waterfall
From now on, you will walk very close to the river. Perfect photo stops are coming! At Jyrävä near Siilasmaja, you will be just right next to the water. In Siilasmaja that is a closed cabin, you can warm up, make your lunch (either inside or outside on the fireplace) or just enjoy the view. You can also walk close to the small Jyrävä waterfall.
Viewpoints of Aallokkokoski
Then you will ascend to the top of the cliffs and see the canyon from above. Aallokkokoski also has lovely viewpoints to the river under you.
Closing the loop
A bit more of walk and you will reach again Myllykoski. You know, the watermill from the beginning of your hike. Have the last view of the river and rapids in case you don’t walk back to Juuma,) but only to the closer parking lot.
How to get to Oulanka National Park
Kuusamo (and Ruka) are the nearest bigger settlements to the park. You can reach the trailhead in 20-30 minutes of driving. Even from Rovaniemi, it is possible to go for a day hike to Oulanka National Park, but it takes 2 times 3 hours of driving.
Where to stay for overnight
Juuma has limited accommodation options (check availability) and the seasonal Oulanka Basecamp is just right next to the trailhead. Kuusamo area also offers a variety of places to stay (check here). In Kuusamo, we like Tropiikki Holiday Resort with its spa, pools, and sauna. Check their latest prices.
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