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440 km


80 %




0.5 %


6530 m




234 m


100 %

The Old Church Gravel Loop is an epic 442km and 5-8-day rollercoaster-like route on some forgotten backroads of the western Jyväskylä region. It connects the rural villages and towns of the area as well as a number of splendid natural sites to some great services  mainly on rarely-used logging routes and old connecting routes. Like the Goblin’s Grave Gravel Loop, it features nicely rolling and flowy gravel roads deep in the Central Finland’s taiga, a loads of little sand beaches for swimming as well as several unique lodging options. Naturally, loads of great quality camping on the way too. The route also passes by the old log church of Petäjävesi. Built in 1763–1765, it is one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in Finland and ranks among the most valuable remaining tours de force of log construction.


In 1763, Finland was under Swedish rule, and the Finns found themselves in a weak position vis-à-vis the Swedes. Gutsy and headstrong, they were considered more primitive and their language was found inferior, a state of affairs that, of course, did not please them. The residents of Petäjävesi obtained in 1728 already a permission from the Crown of Sweden to build a small village church yet the Crown had done nothing to further the matter over decades. The locals thus started work on their own accord and based on their own plans. The church has since then served Petäjävesi people in four centuries and is still in excellent, and nearly original, condition after repairs in the 1920s. In 1994, the Petäjävesi Old Church was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a unique example of the long-standing tradition of Nordic wooden church architecture and timber construction. It is situated in the village of Petäjävesi next to the Lemettilä farm that has been inhabited since the 17th century.

People have commuted to the Old Church of Petäjävesi using the old village-to-village and farm-to-farm commuting routes for 150 years already. Majority of the old routes and roads have been turned into larger paved routes and highways, though there are remnants of the old main roads here and there left on eskers, side roads and current cabin access roads, which occasionally still can be linked up to a scenic and historic cycling routes. These roads also form the backbone of the 442km and 5-8 day Old Church Grave Loop.

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The route starts from the train station in Jyväskylä and heads north towards Uurainen first along the recreational trails of Laajavuori and then to Tikkakoski via the lean-tos on the island of Nyrölä reserve. Most of the sand roads around Uurainen are great gently-rolling flow ones that lead to Multia e.g. via the Konttivuori nature reserve and the Karhunahdas ravine. From Multia, the route continues to Keuruu through magnificently verdant country landscapes. Further on, the route continues to Petäjävesi and to The Petäjävesi Old Church and to the old Lemettilä farm that provides accommodation nowadays.

From the church, the route goes south via Koskenpää and Halli toward Jämsä by the small but sweet nature reserve of Herajärvi. Before Jämsä, the route passes the Vororotti ravine dell and its hidden cave favored by highway bandits in the late 19th century. After the services on offer in Jämsä and Himos, the route follows the old Maakuntaura trail toward Korpilahti and Muurame still provides before Jyväskylä the best lake scenery of the week from the route atop the esker of Muurame. 

Additionally to the great natural and historical sights, the unique and memorable services spice up the route. Services are available at fairly frequent intervals so touring stays rather light. Luckily there are 13 beaches along the route that provide opportunities for cooling off and lakes offer beautiful locations for breaks at regular intervals as well. The route can be ridden from guesthouse to guesthouse without a tent, at least if you book the nights well in advance. Though the route might be at it’s best by combining the best camping spots and the most interesting lodging options on the way. 

From the point of view of physical difficulty, this route is more challenging than the other ones in Central Finland not only because of the overall ascent but because of slightly less frequent services too. A quicker rider can do the route a few days faster than specified in the Trail notes, though the elevation gain easily strikes up if trying to push the days longer.


Read more about the characteristics of this route as well as the suggested daily rhythm for tackling the route in the Trail notes below…

Photos: Timo Veijalainen

  • The Old Church of Petäjävesi is an UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most valuable remaining log churches

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

  • 13 beaches strewn at regular intervals along the route

  • The lean-to island of Nyrölä after a jaunt on a rope-pulley ferry

  • The Karhunahdas and Vororotti ravines

  • The esker trail in Muurame with it’s scenery far into the blue horizon

  • The wide range and frequent services makes bikepacking light and easy

  • The idyllic and unique guesthouses and farm accommodation options offer interesting overnight experiences

  • Herajärvi nature reserve offers a glimpse of old-growth forest and crystal clear lake

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