Karhunpolku, Finland, mountain biking route
Route descriptionKarhunpolku is a 133 km long hiking trail, which is also perfectly suitable for mountain bikers. The route runs through an uninhabited wilderness on the eastern border of Finland (91 km from Joensuu and 41 km from Uimaharju). The terrain on the route varies a lot, so you will definitely get a great versatility to your ride. There is a wide offering of well-maintained resting places on the route. Various campfire sites, shelters and wilderness huts will provide you with various possibilities for planning your route sections.
The starting point of the route is Patvinsuo National Park. Here you will find a visitor center, parking place, nature hut, sauna and café.
The route ends at a resting area of Teljo in Sotkamo, near the Lieksa-Kuhmo Road (524). There is a parking place here as well.
The route goes mainly along the forest singletrack, but there are few forest roads and asphalt sections along it as well. There are also plenty of duck-boards along the route, will will definitely test your balance.
Karhunpolku trail is well-marked in the terrain. Orange circles on the trees and poles are used as marker points. However, you should also carry a map,, as there is always a chance of getting lost in the forest. In few sections the route is very demanding for mountain biking. However, there are always some alternative easier routes around these places. Unfortunately, these “go around” sections are not marked in the terrain! Therefore, you should plan your route carefully in advance using a map. I did not use any easier alternative routes during this ride (they are not in the downloadable GPS-track), but afterwards I was thinking that skipping few challenging non-ridable sections of the marked route would actually be a good idea.
With a relaxed pace average mountain biker can complete a route in four days (while carrying a tent and a sleeping bag). Or you can ride Karhunpolku as fast as 2 days without any camping equipment.
Here is a suggestion for the route sections:
Day 1: Patvinsuo – Pitkäjärvi Wilderness Hut.
Day 2: Pitkäjärvi Wilderness Hut – Ruunaa Hiking Center
Day 3: Ruunaa Hiking Centre – Änäkäinen
Day 4: Änäkäinen – Teljo
In Ruunaa Hiking Centre (in the middle of the route) you can rent a cottage (or a tent spot), fill up some carbs at the local canteen, recharge your phone and other batteries, and even visit a sauna. Please note: Ruunaa Hiking Centre does not sell any dry food (07.2015), so all dry meals need to be brought with you from the beginning.
This map proved to be very useful for navigation: Matkailukartta Karjalan kierros 3, Lieksa 1:100000. It can be bought for example from the Visitor Centre of Patvinsuo National Park.
Mountain biking the entire route is best suited for quite experienced mountain bikers who have an earlier experience in hiking and riding on the duck-boards. However, beginners can test their biking skills by riding shorter sections without any camping equipment. Patvinsuo Visitor Centre or Ruunaa camping area can be used as a starting point.
I do not recommend riding the route in a rainy weather, because duck-boards are dangerously slippery in a rain.
When planning to ride Karhunpolku, you will need to arrange your own car transportation. It is unfortunately impossible to reach the area by public transport. Visitor Center of Patvinsuo National Park might possibly help you with the transportation from Teljo (end of the route) back to Patvinsuo.
Further information about the route can be found at this link.
Note: Due to bad weather, I could not ride the last leg of the route Änäkäinen-Teljo. This section is missing from the GPS-track. Also other route data is a bit off due to this reason (altitude difference, total ascent, longest decent).