Urho Kekkonen National Park, Lapland – mountain biking route
Altitude difference, m
Total Ascent, m
Longest decent, m
Route descriptionUrho Kekkonen National Park (UKK) is a wilderness area in eastern Lapland, with an area of 2550 square kilometers. UKK National Park was founded in 1983, and according to updated regulations (in place since July 2017) also mountain biking in the national park is allowed (note: only on marked routes). There are around 200 kilometers of marked routes the National Park, thus, every mountain biker will definitely find a suitable trail for own skill level and preference. Urho Kekkonen National Park offers amazing scenery, highly diverse terrain, well maintained route network and easy accessibility from Saariselkä or Kiilopää. Based on previous, I warmly recommend riding in UKK to every mountain biker!
In my route selection, I focused on planning a loop route that would pass through as many attractions as possible, and would be also technically relatively challenging. The route was further refined during the actual ride, as I received plenty of useful tips from local hikers along the route. Big thanks to everyone who helped me with some guidance! The total distance of the route turned out to be 40 km. The route is quite challenging in places, so I would suggest to reserve 6-9 hours for riding (depending on your technical level and fitness).
Before starting the route, I recommend you to get a Summer Trails of Saariselkä (Saariselän Kesäreitit) map. It is sold at Saariselkä Information Desk (Saariselkä Shopping Centre Siula, Kelotie 1, 99830 Saariselkä) or at Suomen Latu Hotel at Kiilopää (Kiilopääntie 620, 99830 Saariselkä) for a price of 4 euros. It is a map for hiking routes, which does not yet provide any information on the route difficulty levels (situation at summer 2017). This will probably evolve in the future, maybe already next summer. This map shows all routes opened for mountain biking and distances between different points. You will get by very well with this map, as all the summer trails of Urho Kekkonen National Park have great signposting in the terrain (for example, at each crossroads you will find a map of the area). In addition to the paper map, is a good idea to take a compass and even some sort of GPS device for navigation. This will be really useful, in case you plan to ride further into the national park (e.g. Rautulampi, Vellinsärpimä, Moitakuru).
The starting point of the route is Kiilopää (Kiilopääntie 620, 99830 Saariselkä), where you will find a large free car park. Along the 40 km route you will ride the following sections:
Kiilopää – Luulampi
This is one of the most demanding sections of the route, as climbing on top of the Kiilopää fell (the second tallest fell in UKK National Park, 546 meters) will require plenty of energy. Riding to the top seems quite impossible, so you will have to push your bike about half way up the fell along the stairs. It would be interesting to try summiting Kiilopää with an electric bike, it might actually work.
Downhill from the top of Kiilopää is one of the most technical sections of the route. The trail is pretty rocky (sometimes big and sharp rocks) and in some places quite steep. You should reserve plenty of time and patience to your descent.
The route continues along the Ahopää-loop towards Luulampi. This section mainly follows a forest road and is technically easier than the previous one. The crossings of small streams and various rock-gardens will keep your speed in check here. At the end of the section, Luulampi Hut will offer a very comfortable setting for a break and a meal.
Luulampi – Taajoslaavu
This section follows the forest road and is not technically challenging. After an initial slight ascent, at around 2,5 kilometer mark, the route descents into the swampy area. At the time of the video shooting, there were no duck-boards over the swamp. This made the crossing a very interesting experience. You should keep this in mind especially during the colder seasons, when your wet feet will get you cold really quickly. At the end of the section at Taajoslaavu you will find a comfortable resting place with a shelter and a fireplace. Here you can also fill your water reserves from the nearby stream.
Taajoslaavu – Vellinsärpimä
Here you will ride one of the best sections of the route! The section is mainly a nice singletrack, the first half of which is a gentle uphill and the second is a downhill. The trail is not technically challenging, but it has some worn duck-boards and wet swampy sections. At the end of this section you will find a Vellinsärpimä hut, which will provide you with a comfortable rest settings and a possibility to fill water reserves from the stream.
Vellinsärpimä – Pääsiäiskuru
This is one of the most challenging sections of the route. It includes rocky trails, many duck-board sections, steep technical climbs and descents (especially the last 2 kilometers). I recommend to reserve more time for riding this section. This section ends in the magnificent scenery of Pääsiäiskuru.
Pääsiäiskuru – Vesijakopää
This section is technically easy, with fast descents and stunning scenery (especially first 2 km). It is well suited also for beginner mountain bikers.
Vesijakopää – Laanila
After a very steep climb, the route offers a spectacular view of the fell landscape and fast descent. The route then follows the forest road, which can be technically challenging in some places. The last 1.8 km of the route follow an easy gravel road.
Laanila – Kiilopää (Ruijanpolku)
Ruijanpolku trail runs outside of Urho Kekkonen National Park, but despite of this offers one of the longest and most fun singletrack on the route. The singletrack is mostly of moderate difficulty, but there are also a few challenging sections along the trail. The first half of the Ruijanpolku trail climbs on top of the fell. The top offers a staggering view over UKK National Park. The second half is a fast and technical singletrack descent, which all mountain bikers will surely enjoy. Last 2 kilometers of the route follow cross-country skiing paths and the asphalt road towards Kiilopää.