ARCTIC POST ROAD
LOCATED IN SAMI LAND & REINDEER HERDING AREA
The 430km and 6-8 day Arctic Post Road MTB Route follows the old Kopenhagen-Alta post road from the village of Äkäslompolo, in the Western Lapland in Finland, to the city of Alta in Norway, at the Arctic Ocean. The route combines the best and the most scenic single tracks and quad tracks of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, Pöyrisjärvi Wilderness Area, and Finnmark’s Highland into an incredible one-week bikepacking route. The partly extremely physically and technically demanding riding is highly rewarded by daily changing arctic nature and glimpses of traditional culture, as well as 16 wilderness shelters along the route. There are frequently villages along the route too, providing comforts and restocking opportunities nearly daily on this otherwise remote part of the arctic, making the route less hard core, what you would initially think.
Following the remnants of the old Kopenhagen-Alta post road across the Western Lapland and Finnmarksvidda, Finnmarks highlands, the 430km and 6-8 day Arctic Post Road MTB Route is a unique single-track-rich bikepacking route from the Finnish Western Lapland to the Norwegian Arctic Ocean. The Forbes Travel Guide has ranked the cross-country winter crossing of Finnmarksvidda one of the five most stunning ski tours in the world, and let me argue, it could be the case for summertime crossing as well. Especially, when connected to the southern part of the arctic tundra of the Pöyrisjärvi wilderness area and then to the high fells of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, the route is one of the prettiest anywhere.
According to the Norwegian royal sagas the system of mountain lodges, fjellstues, was established already in 1115 by the King’s order to provide shelter from the weather and cold as well as provide welfare for pilgrims, government officials, and the people living and working on the land in general. The mountain lodges were built along the summer and winter routes strategically distanced from each other to allow traveling by foot comfortably and safely possible long distances in harsh arctic conditions. The numerous fjellstues of Finnmark area were built around in the 1850s, but many of them were burnt during WW II, though many also survived the German burning spree.
The cabins system stayed relevant and was in active use in the harsh and barren land in the arctic tundra even till the 1960s, till the road construction of the Finnmark area was accelerated and made some of the fjellstues irrelevant as suddenly long distances could be covered much faster with motorized vehicles as well. Many of the huts outside of the road network, though stayed in active seasonal use by reindeer herders, though as the snowmobile was introduced and put in the use in the 1970-1980s, the need for fjellstues dropped significantly.
Today, some of the mountain lodges still operate as wilderness huts available for the public, most along the main connecting roads, but there are individuals actively operating huts still in more remote locations as well. Especially on the old off-road connection from Hetta to Alta, actively used till the 1950s, many of the huts still operate either as rental huts or full-service guesthouses. Luckily the old off-road connection still exists, where not under the current main road, and it’s mostly easy riding with a mountain bike, which makes connecting the old fjellstues and reaching the Arctic Ocean from Western Lapland by cycling possible.
The Arctic Post Road MTB Route can be roughly divided into two legs: the traverse of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park and the Hetta-Alta post road. The first leg offers some of the best views in Finland from the fell highlands of the national park, though with the price of having the most technically and physically demanding riding on the Arctic by Cycle Bikepacking Route Network. The second leg follows the line of old mountain lodges across the Finnmark highlands, crossing the Finnish-Norwegian border in the wilderness and then linking the mountain lodges along the old postal routes to Alta partly on 4x4 roads and rough quad tracks.
Completing the route safely requires great physical fitness and good mountain biking and bikepacking skills, therefore is not everyone's cup of tea. The route is ideally ridden with a mountain bike with as big tires as you can fit and a full suspension rig or a fatbike, in that matter, is not overkill at all. A light-weight bikepacking setup is a must on this one. Luckily for those doubting their fitness, gear, outdoor experience or mountain biking skills to tackle the nearly 200km of single-track and occasional remoteness of this route, there is a gravel rig-friendly version available as well: The Arctic Post Road Gravel Route.
Read more about the details of the route as well as our take on the comfortable pace to ride it in the Trail notes below…
Photos: Timo Veijalainen
Traversing the high fells of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park in western Finland on single track and quad tracks.
Riding the smooth and sandy double tracks of the Pöyrisjärvi Wilderness Area.
Crossing the Finnish-Norwegian border through a reindeer fence.
16 historic wilderness shelters along the route, offering refuge and comfort as well as usually great camping around
Following the old post road on the Finnmark Highland.
Traversing part of the Finnmark via the Jotka fjellstue, an oasis-like lodge in the wilderness with full services available, despite its remote location.
Arrival at the Arctic Ocean on single track on the banks of the River Alta.
Views of the fjords of the Norwegian coast from the Alta City.
Northern lights can be seen multiple times a week in autumn, if the sky is clear at night.