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Finland: Karhunkierros hiking trail

Updated: Jan 19

According to the all-knowing Google, Finland has 188,000 lakes, 80,000 moose, up to 200,000 reindeer, 41 national parks (since 2022), 5.54 million inhabitants and more than 1,500 brown bears, the Finnish national animal!

The Karhunkierros Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Finland.

Finland: Karhunkierros hiking trail

The Finnish word karhunkierros ("bear circle") comes from the time when bears were hunted during their winter rest.

When bear tracks were visible on the first snow cover, the bear's hiding place was sought by the hunters circling the tracks in ever tighter circles.

Even today, there are still many bears here - on the border with Russia - but unfortunately they are very shy. I spent two nights lurking in protected bear dens to see some anyway, was successful and am now hopelessly in love with the fluffy animals. See my blog on bear watching . Despite its misleading name, the Karhunkierros Hiking Trail in Finland is unfortunately not a circular route but an 82km long long-distance trail that can be completed in 3 or 4 days, depending on your physical condition. You sleep in shelters. If you want, you can of course take a tent with you.

Bear circle in Finland

Karhunkierros Hiking Trail Bear Circuit

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Starting point: From Hautajärvi to Luka

Duration: 3-4 days

Distance: 82 km

Difference in altitude: 980 m up and 880 down

Retreat Hut: There are some Cafés on the way - depending on the weather they might not be open. Definitely open is the Oulanka Visitor Center

Difficulty: red

GPS data on Komoot - you have to log in to see it:

The 82 km long Karhunkierros Hiking Trail in Finland is located in the 269 km² Oulanka National Park - very close to the Arctic Circle. Due to its status as a protected area, the breathtaking nature in these climes could be kept alive with all its beauty. The national park is characterised by a breathtaking river landscape. The Oulankajoki River meanders through the landscape with its numerous tributaries. Time and again in the park you come across gigantic rock gorges and waterfalls that leave the visitor with the impression of a canyon landscape. The Oulanka National Park is also known for its varied fauna and flora. I have seen beavers, bears, reindeer, ospreys and white-tailed eagles.

Simple shelters can be used free of charge for one night - firewood and the most beautiful location included.

Click on the first picture to start the photo gallery:

Those who do not have so much time, or for whom a hiking tour lasting several days is too demanding, can also do very charming day tours. One of the most beautiful and varied hikes in the National Park is the Little Bear Circuit:

One of the shelters on the hiking trail

Pieni Karhunkierros - Little Bear Circle

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Starting point: Pieni Karhunkierros hikers' car park near Juuma.

Duration: 4 hours

Route: 11 km

Difference in altitude: 130 m. up and down

Refreshment stop: There is a little Café and campground at the start of the hike next to the lake.

Difficulty: red

GPS data on Komoot - you have to log in to see it:

Admittedly, the hike is not a super demanding mountain tour. For me, however, the 3 days it took were an absolute highlight, as I have rarely felt so close to nature.

Just the forest, the river, the bears and me!


General information on the supposedly happiest country in the world can be found at

At visitors can find what they need to know about the 41 national parks in Finland.

General information on trails, huts and a map of Oulanka National Park can be found on the Finnish National Parks page:

How to get there:

Kuusamo is the nearest airport. Flights with a stopover in Helsinki are available with Finnair ( From there, the most flexible way is to rent a car. You can book one, for example, via the comparison portal

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