LOCATED IN REINDEER HERDING LAND
The Korvatunturi Gravel Loop is a 300km and 5-7 riding day gravel bikepacking route in some of the most remote parts of Finland in Eastern Lapland. The area is limited by the Russian border in the east and the Urho Kekkonen National Park in the north, with no connection roads at all to the most northern Finland or Russia, forming a rarely visited frontier, traveled mostly by local reindeer herders and occasional hikers, fisherman and hunters. The route offers a high number of historical wilderness shelters and multiple crystal clear rivers, connected by old logging and forest roads. There is also a possibility of adding an extra day to plan and visit the Korvatunturi fell the Finland-Russian border area in the southern part of the Urho Kekkonen National Park.
The most northern part of the Finnish Lapland is connected to central Lapland on only two roads due to the restrictions on wilderness areas, national parks, and the construction of the Lokka-Porttipahta Reservoir. This makes the large, but sparsely populated municipality of Savukoski extremely remote, with no roads leading out to the north, east, or southeast. That is possibly why, by the legend, Santa Claus decided to make his home there, in the depths of the Korvatunturi fell.
The history of extensive logging in the area in the early 20th century has still some signs here and there in a form of old infrastructure, but most evidently a network of logging roads grids the area. Luckily for cyclists, not all of the roads can be connected even by a 4x4, making parts of the area nearly traffic-free, even during the high season of autumn colors, ruska, in September. There are also many old logging huts in the area, now serving as open wilderness huts for cyclists, trekkers, hunters, and fishermen.
The area is also known for its high-quality fishing, with still good stocks of mid-size brown trout, grayling, and even arctic char populating the creeks and rivers. Where-ever possible, the route follows the river banks and anyway crosses often multiple streams a day, making the Korvatunturi Gravel Loop an ideal bikefishing route. The river sides also have multiple cooking shelters and laavus with often firewood provided free of charge, making riding and spending time by the water pleasant and comfortable. Assuming smelling like a campfire is your personal preferred essence.
The remoteness of the route is balanced by the high frequency of beautiful wilderness shelters, as well as two ‘wilderness centers’ as they are called in Finnish: Kairijoen Eräkeskus and Tulppion majat, with organized camping, lodging options, restaurant, and sauna. They also have some very basic food ingredients for sale, but it’s better to haul most of the food you need for the route from the starting point in Savukoski, minus the meals eaten at the wilderness centers, to be on the safe side.
The route also has an optional visit to Korvatunturi at the Finnish-Russian border area, on a partly rough quad track, seasoned with two great wilderness huts and a wilderness sauna, on the way.
REINDEER HERDING & ROUTE OPENING TIME
8th of June - 21st 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 route goes partly in an area, where reindeer calves are born therefore it has been requested by the local reindeer herders to open the route for touring annually 8th of June. Calf markings as well as other reindeer herding work continue in the area though till mid July, needing some consideration from visitors during the midsummer. For general guidelines of trekking and camping in the reindeer herding area, check here as well as more info about the marking of the reindeer calves here.
Similarly, the reindeer herding work continues again 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 multiple reindeer fences and therefore it has been requested by the local reindeer herding community to close the route for cycling from the 22nd of September onwards. Read more about the autumn round-ups here.
Photos: Taneli Roininen
Endless windy gravel roads of the remote Eastern Lapland.
Crystal clear rivers and creeks with good stocks of brown trout, grayling, and arctic char.
Lots of wilderness shelters of different types and history.
Detour to the Urho Kekkonen National Park on single and quad track in old-growth forest, leading to a wilderness sauna.
Option to visit the remote Korvatunturi fell adding just a half-a-day hike to the plan.
Wilderness oasis of Tulppio and Kairijoki, the few and only service centers quite literally in the middle of nowhere.
Northern lights can be seen multiple times a week in autumn, if the sky is clear at night.