Oulanka National Park

The Oulanka National Park is a natural reserve that spans parts of the Northern Ostrobothnia and Lapland regions in Finland. Covering an area of approximately 270 km², this park was established in 1956, marking its importance in biodiversity conservation and the unique landscape characterizing this Finnish region. Additionally, it has experienced expansions in 1982 and 1989 to ensure broader protection of its natural environment.

Located in a strategic position, Oulanka Park shares borders with the Paanajärvi National Park in Russia, highlighting its role in transboundary conservation and international cooperation in preserving delicate ecosystems.

This park is renowned for its natural beauty and the diversity of its landscape, which includes valleys, rivers, forests, and spectacular rock formations. Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, wildlife observation, and whitewater rafting on the Oulanka River.

The protected area of Oulanka plays a vital role in scientific research and environmental education, providing a suitable natural environment for the study of ecology and wildlife conservation.

Oulanka National Park Information

Oulanka National Park


The history of Oulanka National Park has deep roots dating back to the ancient inhabitants of the area, the Sami of Lapland, who occupied these lands until the late 17th century. Their way of life, centered around hunting, fishing, and later agriculture, reflected a profound connection with the natural environment.

However, over time, the area experienced significant changes when Finnish settlers established themselves in the region, displacing the Sami. This change marked the beginning of a new era for Oulanka, where agriculture and other human activities began to have a more noticeable impact on the landscape.

As time progressed, interest in the area grew, especially in the realm of tourism. Since the 1930s, the Finnish Tourist Association played a crucial role in promoting and developing tourism in the region. Maintaining boats on the river and renovating scattered wooden cabins throughout the park became a way to facilitate the stay of hikers and encourage the enjoyment of the surrounding nature.

These cabins, which have been restored and maintained over the years, serve as landmarks for those seeking to explore and experience the beauty of Oulanka National Park. Although they have evolved over time, they still retain their rustic charm and provide shelter to visitors wishing to immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature.

In a significant step towards global conservation, in 2002, Oulanka National Park became one of the first two Finnish national parks to join the World Wide Fund for Nature, just a few years after the Nuuksio National Park. This designation not only recognizes the importance of Oulanka in terms of biodiversity and conservation but also highlights its international significance as an area of exceptional natural value.

Park Features

Oulanka National Park is distinguished by its exceptional natural diversity, which merges characteristics from the north, south, and east of Finland into one place. Its landscape is a vivid tapestry of pine forests, winding river valleys adorned with sandbanks and rapids, and to the north, extensive bogs and swamps add a unique dimension to its beauty.

Oulanka National Park in winter

What truly makes this park special is its unique riverine ecosystem, representing an outstanding example of an intact and unexploited boreal forest. Located near the Arctic Circle, this environment benefits from the protection of the World Wildlife Fund, which shields it from intensive reindeer grazing and other human activities that could compromise its integrity.

The biological richness of Oulanka National Park is remarkable, hosting a wide range of animal and plant species, some of which are endangered. This natural sanctuary provides a vital habitat for the survival of these vulnerable species, thereby contributing to biodiversity conservation in the region.

At the heart of the park, near the visitor center, lies the Oulanka Research Center, an integral part of the Thule Institute, which has been operating since its establishment in 1966. This center plays a crucial role in facilitating research in biological and geological sciences, helping deepen our understanding of the unique ecosystems present in the park. Additionally, during less busy seasons, the research center opens its doors for tourists and hikers to access its facilities and learn more about the fascinating nature surrounding Oulanka National Park.

How to Get to Oulanka National Park

Oulanka National Park is located 60 km north of Kuusamo and 40 km south of Salla. The nearest villages are Käylä, Juuma, and Hautajärvi.

How to Get to Oulanka National Park

Park Directions

  • Address: Oulangan luontokeskus, Liikasenvaarantie 132, 93900 Kuusamo, Finland Phone: +358 206 39 6850 Email: oulanka(at)metsa.fi
  • Opening Hours in January 2024: Friday-Sunday: 10:00-16:00
  • Opening Hours in February 2024: Friday-Sunday 2.-4.2.: 10:00-16:00 Tuesday-Thursday 6.-8.2.: 10:00-16:00 Tuesday-Thursday 20.-22.2.: 10:00-16:00 Tuesday-Thursday 27.-29.2.: 10:00-16:00

By Car

From Kuusamo

To drive, there are signs from Kuusamo, Ruka, and Kemijärvi to the visitor center. From Kuusamo: take the E5 road towards Kemijärvi for 38 km and then turn right onto road 950 towards Salla. Drive 7 km to Käylä. From Käylä, turn onto road 8693 towards Liikasenvaara. The Visitor Center is 13 km from Käylä. There are signs indicating the way to the Visitor Center (Oulangan luontokeskus) from the intersection in Käylä of the E5 road.

From Kemijärvi

Take the E5 road towards Kuusamo for 96 km and then turn left onto Räväntie road (towards Käylä). Drive 8 km to the village of Käylä, continue straight onto Liikasenvaarantie road (8693), and drive 13 km to the Visitor Center.

By Public Transport

By public transport, there are buses traveling to Oulanka National Park from Salla and Kuusamo.

The Karhunkierros bus passes on school days through Ruka, Juuma, Käylä, Ristikallio parking area, and Hautajärvi. Connections to the Oulanka Visitor Center and Juuma vary at different times of the year.

Bus connection from the airport is available from almost all scheduled flights from Kuusamo Airport to Salla, passing through Ruka, Käylä, Ristikallio parking area, and Hautajärvi, and is available also for non-flight passengers.

Karhunkierros bus timetables are available at (ruka.fi). Airport bus timetables are available at (visitsalla.fi). Kuusamo Airport can be checked at (finavia.fi). The cities of Oulu, Rovaniemi, and Kemijärvi are accessible by train. Timetables are available here (vr.fi). The most frequent bus connection to Kuusamo is from Oulu, timetables are available at (matkahuolto.fi).

There are also special destination taxis from Kuusamo and Ruka during the summer, with a lower fare than the general fare.

Oulanka National Park Flora

Oulanka National Park hosts an impressive variety of flora, enriched by its rugged geography and diverse microclimates. With over 500 species of vascular plants, this natural environment offers an exceptional botanical spectacle.

The park’s unique location, allowing the overlap of northern and southern species, as well as the presence of numerous eastern species with their western limits here, contributes to its botanical diversity. Nutrient-rich soil favors the growth of rare and demanding flora, which finds an ideal habitat in this environment.

The Oulanka River valley has been an important dispersal route for several species after the last glaciation, further enriching the park’s botanical diversity. In summer, the park is filled with blueberries, mushrooms, and beautiful orchids, such as the Calypso bulbosa, which is one of the area’s most prominent flowers.

Oulanka Fauna

The fauna of Oulanka National Park is equally impressive, with a wide variety of species finding refuge in this protected natural environment.

Riverbeds and floodplain meadows are home to rare butterfly species, while over a hundred different bird species have made their residence in the park. Meadows are traditionally managed, and reindeer grazing remains an important practice, albeit restricted to local inhabitants.

In addition to birds and butterflies, Oulanka National Park hosts a variety of mammals, including some endangered ones. Emblematic species like the bear, lynx, and wolverine have found a home here, along with moose and other animals that complete the park’s diverse and thriving ecosystem.

What to See and Do in Oulanka National Park

It offers a wide range of routes and trails to explore the natural beauty of the region throughout the year.

See Bear Family in Oulanka National Park, Finland

One of the park’s jewels is the famous Finnish hiking route, Karhunkierros, stretching over 80 km and can be enjoyed in any season. This route winds through varied landscapes, offering stunning views and the opportunity to experience nature in its purest form.

For those seeking shorter hikes, there are options like the Little Bear Trail (12 km) and the Keroharju Hiking Trail (17 km), providing an equally rewarding experience in a shorter time. Additionally, there are smaller nature trails, such as the Rytisuo Nature Trail (5 km), the Hiidenlampi Nature Trail (5 km), and the Kiutaköngäs Day-trip Trail (8 km), perfect for a quieter and more detailed exploration of the surroundings.

The park offers a variety of facilities for hikers, including camping areas, designated fireplaces, and scattered wooden cabins along the routes. Boats are also provided for those wishing to explore nearby rivers and lakes.

During winter, hikers can enjoy the wonders of the snow-covered landscape through trails like the Rytisuo Snowshoeing Trail (7.5 km) or the Oulanka Wilderness Trail, stretching from Juuma to Kiutaköngäs (26 km) and can be explored with skis, snowshoes, or even snowmobiles.

In addition to hiking, the park offers activities such as canoeing and cycling on some of its designated routes. Visitors are allowed to collect berries and mushrooms, but it’s important to note that a license is required for hunting or fishing in the area.

Oulankajoki and Kitkajoki Rivers

The Oulankajoki and Kitkajoki rivers represent two distinct facets of Finnish nature, each with its unique origin and character. The Oulankajoki, with its brown-toned waters, is fed by the open bogs of Salla, rich in humic acids that impart a bitter taste. This river carries with it nutrients and materials from the bogs it flows through. In contrast, the Kitkajoki is characterized by its clear waters, originating in Lake Kitkajärvi, the largest in the Koillismaa region, fed by pure groundwater. The latter has carved its way through the land since time immemorial, even before our ancestors could witness its magnitude, carrying everything in its path and leaving behind a landscape of rapids and vigorous currents culminating in the impressive Aallokkokoski rapids.

The Kitkajoki, after traversing the challenging rapids of Myllykoski, transforms into a spectacle of wilderness until it meets the tranquil Oulankajoki near the Russian border. This meeting of contrasting waters is a testament to the diversity and natural richness of the region.

Despite its tranquil nature, the Oulankajoki can turn into an indomitable torrent during spring floods, when the thawing in the northern bogs dramatically raises its flow, carrying sand, uprooting trees, and displacing whatever it finds in its path. This process of erosion and sedimentation has sculpted the river valley over millennia, reducing the sand bed by tens of meters and creating a unique meandering landscape, the result of the interaction between water and terrestrial geology. Oulanka National Park is a clear example of how natural forces have shaped and continue to shape our world, offering a spectacle of unparalleled natural beauty.

Hiking Trails

From the Oulanka National Park Visitor Center, there are several hiking trail options to explore and enjoy nature throughout the year. Here’s a summary of the available trails:

All year round:

  1. Kiutakönkään Trail (1 km one way)
  2. Hiiden Hurmos Trail (5 km)

During the snow-free season:

  1. Könkään kuohu Trail, accessible for all (0.3 km) – Note: Starting point is 1.5 km by car from the nature center.
  2. Rytikönkään reissu Trail (5 km)
  3. Könkään keino Trail (8 km)
  4. Karhunkierros Trail (multiple trail options)
  5. Oulanka Visitor Center – Taivalköngäs Cycling Route (9 km one way)

During the snow season:

  1. Kiutakönkään Trail (1 km one way)
  2. Hiiden Hurmos Trail, snowshoe trail (5 km)
  3. Kiutaköngäs – Juuma Wilderness Trail, skiing and snowshoeing route (26 km)

Each trail offers a unique experience for visitors, whether walking, snowshoeing, or skiing. Detailed descriptions of the trails are available on the Oulanka National Park Trails website to help plan and enjoy the adventure in nature.

Cultural Activities and Exhibitions

The "A River Flows" exhibition offers an immersive experience where babbling brooks, roaring rapids, and thundering waterfalls will transport you to the heart of nature.

The sound of flowing water is the lifeblood of Oulanka National Park, and through this exhibition, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in its beauty and splendor. In this national park, travelers of all kinds traverse time and seasons, experiencing the magic and transformation of nature at every step of the way.

It includes the video "The Land of Seasons," which will take you on a visual journey through the park’s changing landscapes at different times of the year.

In addition to the main exhibition, there are also other temporary displays in the restaurant and auditorium, showcasing photographs and paintings with nature themes.

Films in the Auditorium

In the visitor center’s auditorium, we invite you to enjoy exciting short films that will immerse you in the beauty and history of Oulanka National Park. These films are available free of charge and can be enjoyed in both small and large groups.

Here’s a list of the video presentations offered by the park within the auditorium for comfortable and cozy viewing, avoiding the chill from outside:

  1. Oulanka–Paanajärvi: The Land of Seasons (16 min. duration, no speech) – This film offers magnificent views of the national park landscape and showcases its inhabitants in different seasons of the year. We recommend this film to all Oulanka visitors.
  2. Welcome to the Land of National Parks – Landscape in the National Parks of Oulanka, Hossa, Syöte, and Riisitunturi (15 min. duration, Finnish subtitles, English narration) – This film provides a comprehensive overview of the wonderful natural features of the national parks in the Koillismaa region. Visitor center staff also participated in the making of this film.
  3. Karhunkierros–Ruka vuonna 1969 (“Karhunkierros–Ruka Trail in 1969,” 13 min. duration, Finnish speech) – This film offers a nostalgic journey to the past when the Karhunkierros Trail, now almost 70 years old, was a new hiking route. We recommend this video to fans of the Karhunkierros Trail, history enthusiasts, and friends of old Finnish films.

For more information on these films and to arrange your viewing, feel free to contact our customer service, either in advance or during your visit to the visitor center. We hope you enjoy these thrilling video presentations during your stay at Oulanka National Park!

Children’s Area

In the children’s area of the visitor center, young hikers have the opportunity to enjoy various nature-related activities and outdoor fun. Here, they can delve into the excitement of fishing through an engaging fishing game, as well as enjoy board games with natural themes that spark their curiosity and creativity.

In addition to interactive activities, the play area is equipped with a variety of educational and fun resources for children, including nature-themed children’s books, coloring pages, and adorable plush toys that make the experience even more endearing and educational.

Reference Library

The reference library at the visitor center is an invaluable resource for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. With an extensive collection of literature on a variety of nature-related topics, visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the knowledge and beauty of Oulanka National Park’s natural environment.

Among the available books are species identification guides, which are helpful for those wishing to explore and discover the rich biodiversity of the region. Additionally, works of non-fiction providing detailed information on geography, fauna, flora, and other highlights of the park and its surroundings can be found.

The reference library is conveniently located upstairs, on the same level as the children’s play corner, making it accessible to all visitors. Whether you’re seeking specific information about local flora and fauna or simply wish to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region through reading, the reference library is the ideal place to explore and learn during your visit to Oulanka National Park’s visitor center.

Best Times to Visit Oulanka

The best time to visit Oulanka National Park is during autumn when the foliage colors create a stunning spectacle, and nature shines in all its splendor. Additionally, this season typically has fewer mosquitoes, making the experience more comfortable for visitors.

It’s important to note that Oulanka is a wilderness area where nature imposes its own rules. The park trails are well-marked for a reason, and straying from them can be dangerous. It’s always crucial to carefully prepare for your hike and respect the park’s guidelines.

Due to the remote nature of the area, there may not always be mobile phone coverage along the way. Therefore, it’s essential to carry a map with you and not rely solely on technology.

Furthermore, it’s important not to overestimate your physical condition, as the park’s rugged terrain requires a good level of physical preparedness.

During the summer, it’s crucial to protect yourself from mosquitoes, so it’s recommended to carry repellent and appropriate clothing.

At the Oulanka Visitor Center, you’ll find valuable tips, instructions, and suggestions for successful and safe hikes. Feel free to take advantage of this information before embarking on your adventure in Oulanka National Park.

Entrance Fees and Opening Hours

Entry is free for all visitors.

Where to Stay in Oulanka National Park

In Oulanka National Park, various accommodation options are available to meet the needs of visitors wishing to explore nature in depth. Here’s a summary of the available options:

Camping in Tents and Shelter Sheds

Around the Kitkajoki River, you’ll find several shelters and dozens of camping areas. Setting up tents is also permitted in the vicinity of natural shelters.

Open Wilderness Huts

There are 7 open wilderness huts and 1 daytime hut in Oulanka National Park. These huts provide overnight shelter and are distributed in different strategic locations along the trails. It’s recommended to read the hut rules before using them.

Camping Grounds

Oulanka Camping Ground is located on the Karhunkierros hiking trail, in the center of Oulanka National Park. There are also several camping grounds in Juuma Village.

Accommodation in the Surrounding Area

In the villages of Hautajärvi, Juuma, and Käylä, located about 13 km from the National Park, you’ll find rental cabins that are used throughout the year.

In total, there are nearly 40,000 guest beds in Kuusamo, most of which are located at the Ruka Ski Resort, which is 22 km from Oulanka. There are also several hotels available in the Ruka area.

With these accommodation options, visitors can enjoy a comfortable and safe experience while exploring the natural beauty of Oulanka National Park.

Localities near Oulanka National Park


Kuusamo is the nearest and most accessible city to Oulanka National Park, located about 50 kilometers to the south. It’s a popular destination for nature lovers and winter sports enthusiasts, offering a wide range of accommodations, from cozy cabins to luxury hotels. Kuusamo is ideal for those visiting Oulanka due to its easy access to the park and its numerous outdoor activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, and hiking excursions. Additionally, the city is home to the Oulanka Nature Center, which provides valuable information about the park and its trails. Kuusamo also boasts cultural attractions, such as the Hannu Hautala Art Center, dedicated to nature photography.


Salla is situated to the east of Oulanka National Park, at a greater distance than Kuusamo and Ruka, but still conveniently offers access to the park. This locality is known for its tranquility and pristine natural environment, making it ideal for those seeking a peaceful getaway. Salla not only provides access to the national park but also has its own national park, Salla National Park, which is less known but equally beautiful. The town boasts a local history museum that offers insights into Arctic life and the region’s history. Accommodations in Salla range from traditional cabins to comfortable hotels, offering options for all tastes and budgets.


Hautajärvi is located at the northeastern end of Oulanka National Park, offering direct and tranquil access to the park’s most remote area. This small locality is perfect for visitors seeking a more intimate and less crowded nature experience. With accommodation options ranging from campsites to rustic cabins, Hautajärvi is ideal for adventurers and nature lovers looking to immerse themselves in the silence of the boreal forest. The proximity to the park allows visitors to easily explore less-traveled hiking trails and enjoy the serenity of the Arctic landscape. Although Hautajärvi is quieter in terms of entertainment and cultural activities, its charm lies in the authenticity and peace it offers.


Juuma is a locality located on the western side of Oulanka National Park, primarily known as the starting point of the famous Karhunkierros Trail, the "Trail of the Bear." This location makes it an ideal base for hikers and those interested in exploring the park’s highlights. Juuma offers a variety of cozy accommodations ranging from cabins to farmhouse stays, providing an authentic and close-to-nature experience. In addition to its proximity to stunning natural landscapes and hiking trails, Juuma allows visitors to experience Finnish rural life, with opportunities for activities such as fishing and boating on the numerous lakes and rivers in the area.


Käylä, located south of Oulanka National Park, is a small locality that offers convenient access to both the park and the facilities of Kuusamo city. Its strategic location makes it ideal for those looking to combine nature exploration with the convenience of nearby services. Käylä is known for its beautiful natural surroundings and serves as a starting point for various outdoor activities such as hiking, cross-country skiing, and fishing. The locality also plays an important role in local culture, with events and festivals reflecting Finnish traditions. Accommodations in Käylä vary, offering options for all tastes, from family-friendly hotels to private cabins, ensuring a comfortable and convenient stay for exploring Oulanka and its surroundings.

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