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GOBLIN'S GORGE
GRAVEL LOOP

DISTANCE

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349 km

% UNPAVED

72 %
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DAYS

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4-7
days

% SINGLETRACK

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0.5 %

TOTAL ASCENT

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5030 m

DIFFICULTY (1-10)

5
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HIGHEST POINT

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214 m

% RIDEABLE

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100 %

The Goblin’s Gorge Gravel Loop is a spectacular 349km and 5-to-7-day route on gravel roads in the heart of Central Finland. It combines the population centers of Jyväskylä, Joutsa, Lievestuore, Suolahti, and Uurainen as well as the services and natural sites mainly along the trafficless gravel back roads. The Leivonmäki National Park and the Hitonhauta (Goblin’s Gorge), some of the highlights on the way, are some clear visible remnants of the previous ice age, having carved its marks deep into the base rock and forming endless moraine ridges across the region. Thanks to the work of the ice mass, the area is not surprisingly also full of lakes, providing more than 20 beaches along the route for a skinny-dipping or evening dust wash-off by the camp. The route starts and ends in the City of Jyväskylä, so getting on the route could not be easier by public transportation from different parts of Finland.

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The Weichselian glaciation came to an end about 10,500 years ago when the last of the continental glacier melted in Northern Finland. The ice age started 116,000 years ago and lasted for more than a hundred millennia. The ice mass deformed the Finnish soil and eroded bedrock as it retreated, grew, and moved leaving behind a moraine layer of an average thickness of 7m. The moraine layer evolved eventually into terminal moraine ridges and eskers. However, the ice mass also created moraine-free areas of base rock, ravine valleys, and gorges. As a result today Central Finland has its unique geology of rolling forest-covered hills, occasional base rock formations with steep-sided cliffs surrounded by thousands of lakes and ponds. 

 

The Hitonhauta (Goblin’s Gorge) gorge is one of the most rugged of its kind in Finland. More than 500m long and 20–25m deep, it is believed to have taken its final shape as a result of meltwater streams at the end of the Weichselian glaciation. Apart from its unique shape and geology, the gorge is important for its biodiversity as well and it received a protected status since the mid-1980s. The ravine and its area are home to several threatened species of plants and biotypes. The Hitonhauta or Goblin’s Gorge owes its name to a folktale goblin named Hitto (also used as a mild Finnish curse that translates approximately as “damn”) who used to scare people for his personal enjoyment. One can even find Hitto’s petrified face in a rock wall of the gorge if you just know where to look and have some imagination.

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The Goblin’s Gorge is though just a cherry on top of what the route has to offer. Overall, the route is a fine collection of some of the pretties gravel roads east and southeast of Jyväskylä City, which link nicely from village to village and sight to sight. Of the three Lakeland by Cycle routes, it stands out especially by having 20 beaches on the route, making the route an easy choice during the hot summer months. 

 

The route starts from the Jyväskylä downtown on a mostly paved side road and then finally after 17km gets on gravel and to the shores of the great Lake Päijänne. On the way to the southern point of the route, Joutsa, the route passes the Leivonmäki National Park, which offers some of the best gravel riding, untouched nature, and epic campsites found anywhere in the country. After Joutsa, old trafficless gravel roads visit the villages of Toivakka and Lievestuore. The northern part of the route is mostly really nice rollercoaster-like gravel as well, though it has lots of individual sights and attractions as well. Saraakallio rock paintings, the little Kirkkoniemi nature reserve, the rapids of Kuusankoski and Kapeenkoski as well as the Goblin’s Gorge itself are located along the northern section. The westernmost section of the route is characterized by the epic gravel roads of the Uurainen area, which eventually lead to the hustle and bustle of the City of Jyväskylä. 

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In addition to great riding and great natural sights, the route is favored by many one-of-a-kind farm lodging options. The lodges on the way happen usually to be an easy riding day apart, so the route can be toured at a relaxed pace from lodge to lodge when you just book your stays well in advance. The route is tough at its best when combining some of the best campsites by the lake and the best lodging options. In terms of logistics, the route is easy and straightforward. No need to carry more than half-a-days rations and you get away with a couple of litres of liquids. 

 

Despite the route being rather hilly and rollercoaster-like, it is suitable for pretty much everyone as there are basically no single-track sections or much of a rough stuff, that would need any bike handling skills. The beauty of the route is that if the route gets too physically challenging, there are loads of campsites and lodging options on the way to set the daily pace to one’s liking. 

 

Read more about the route and a suggested relaxed-ish daily pacing in the Route notes below…

Kuvat: Timo Veijalainen

  • The Hitonhauta Gorge in the northern part of the route

  • Gently rolling flowy gravel roads from village to village and from service to service

  • 20 beaches by the lakes at regular intervals through the route

  • Lots of services and restocking spots make bikepacking light and easy

  • Idyllic and unique farm accommodations along the route

  • Leivonmäki national park , with its scenic gravel roads, old forests, and lakeside campsites

  • The Kirkkoniemi nature reserve with its lake-side lean-to and lake view

  • The Mämminiemi outdoor area with its camping area, beach, and sauna

  • The Lean-to island of Nyrölä accessible only by a short rope-pulley ferry

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