LOCATED IN REINDEER HERDING LAND
The Central Lapland Gravel Loop is an 1140km bikepacking route connecting some of the outer lines of the southern and central Lapland bikepacking routes into an epic 13-16 day odyssey. The offers a wide selection of Lappish nature and culture all the way from Sweden to Russia with a fantastic selection of protected nature and numerous wilderness shelters and campfire sites, above the Arctic Circle. Most of the route has great services and frequent restocking opportunities, but the most remote part of the route needs food-wise self-sufficiency for multiple days, which makes the route challenging and not suitable for all.
The Lapland covers nearly a third of Finland, the total area being over 100 000km2, being roughly three times the size of Belgium. Yet, the population of the Lapland area is less than 200 000 people, there are even more reindeer in the area. There are some basic services available in the villages as well as some higher quality lodging and restaurant options in the more touristy area, but they are usually far apart from each other. Partly by this, there is the highest density of wilderness shelters, such as open wilderness huts, campfire huts, and lean-tos anywhere on the planet. There are over 2000 wilderness shelters in the Lapland area alone, which have for centuries been providing shelter, protection, and comfort for travelers, hikers, fishermen, hunters, and reindeer herders. By bikepacking, the Lappish services and wilderness shelters can be linked into multi-day and multi-week bikepacking routes, offering a unique experience of remote wilderness riding, but still within the safety and comfort provided by the shelters and villages on the way.
In the Central Lapland area, which is completely covered by mostly thick arctic taiga forest of slow-growing European pine, European and Siberian Spruce, and birch, there is no better way to experience nature and the nature- and outdoor-focused culture than by bikepacking. The 1100km and 13-16 day Central Lapland Gravel Loop offers a wide selection of various types of Central Lapland nature and culture along some rugged and partly extremely remote gravel roads, visiting the national parks, villages, and natural sights along the way. There are 60 wilderness shelters on the route as well, making touring comfortable and safe, even when the elements turn against you.
The route is partly compiled of segments of the shorter bikepacking routes in the area, some published for 2022 and some upcoming for 2023, but especially the north part of the route is a stretch used for purposes of this route only - and for a reason. While the route segments on Santa’s Western Gravel Loop, Savukoski-Pelkosenniemi Gravel Loop, and Korvatunturi Gravel Loop have, as well as the new southern segment, have frequent services along the way, the northern segment has barely anything at all. There are no proper restocking possibilities on a 480km section of the route, between Savukoski and Kittilä, making this route suitable for experienced bicycle tourers only used for long periods of self-sufficiency.
If no grocery stores, however, there are two full-service wilderness centers as well as an organized campsite on the way through, most of them selling simple foodstuff for travelers and providing meals in their restaurants. Additionally, there is a grocery store around halfway across the 480km stretch 23km off-route, so with a 46km detour, you cut the amount of food needed to be carried in half. Anyway, the route is logistically much more complicated than any other of the Arctic by Cycle bikepacking routes and it’s easily the most challenging gravel route of the whole route network.
Read more about the characteristics of this route as well as the suggested daily rhythm for tackling the route in the Trail notes below…
REINDEER HERDING & ROUTE OPENING TIME
1st of July - 15th of September
The reindeer calves are born in the spring and are usually marked early summer. In the marking, every reindeer calf gets its earmark. The north part of the route goes partly in an area, where reindeer calves markings are being done in early summer and therefore it has been requested by the reindeer herders to open the route for touring annually not earlier than 1st of July. By this time the calve markings have likely been finished. Read more about the marking of the reindeer calves here.
Similarly, the reindeer herding work in the north part of the route work continues in the autumn with reindeer round-ups, when the rutting season starts, and eventually, the reindeer are gathered into herds of up to thousands, and then to fences by foot, motorcycles, ATVs, and helicopters. The route goes past a critical reindeer fence on the north part of the route and therefore it has been requested by the local reindeer herding community to close the route for cycling from the 15th of September onwards. Read more about the autumn round-ups here.
For general guidelines for trekking and camping in the reindeer herding area, check here.
Photos: Taneli Roininen
Over 900km of mostly remote gravel and dirt roads in the Central Lapland area
60 wilderness shelters along the route, providing safety, comfort, and Lappish history
Frequent services of restaurants and lodges in one part of the route, balanced by not many services at all on the north part of the route…
Tackling the challenge of not having many possibilities to restock on the north part of the route at all
Visiting the National Parks of Pallas-Yllästunturi and Urho Kekkonen, with an optional detour of adding the Pyhä-Luosto National Park MTB Loop to the tour as well
Easy access to the route by train either to Rovaniemi, Pello, or Kolari, with multiple bail points by bus back to Rovaniemi as well.
Northern lights can be seen multiple times a week in autumn, if the sky is clear at night.