URHO KEKKONEN NATIONAL PARK MTB LOOP
LOCATED IN SAMI LAND & REINDEER HERDING AREA
The Urho Kekkonen National Park MTB Loop is a 131km and 2-3 day mountain bike loop on the edges of one of the oldest and biggest national parks in Finland. The route starts from Ivalo via fast and smooth gravel roads to the northern border of the Urho Kekkonen National Park, where a 50km continuous single- and double-track starts across the western parts of the national park. The route is mostly easy riding on a mountain bike with occasional short more technical sections, keeping the riding interesting. Good riding, combined with some old, but well-kept wilderness shelters by qin clear rivers and creeks make the route a fantastic way to explore the nature and mountain biking trails of the Urho Kekkonen National park.
The Urho Kekkonen National park entails one of the highest and biggest fell areas in Finland and the second largest national park in Finland. A big part of the national park consists of endless fells above the treeline, giving the local mountain biking network its slogan “open fell biking”. The park has strict conservation policies which for now allow cycling mostly on the western part of the area, leaving the rest of the park for hikers.
Overall, the 2-3 and Urho Kekkonen National Park MTB Loop is a classic all-terrain bikepacking route, with multiple different gravel and dirt roads, smooth maintained trekking routes, and natural single track. The large proportion of single track pushes it easily into the mountain biking category and it’s ideally ridden with a mountain bike with front suspension, or any rig fitting at least 2.5” mountain bike tires.
Due to the developed tourism in the area, there are great services available in Ivalo, Saariselkä, and Kiilopää, which operate as the restocking point on the route as well, making the route a perfect combo of remote feeling wilderness and high-quality services. Though there are six well-kept, old wilderness shelters on the way too, some of them by an incredible little qin clear creeks, offering shelter and fantastic spots to camp.
The national park is one of the most visited in Finland, which guarantees company on the trail and at the wilderness shelters, but in contrast on the return to Ivalo, you are unlikely to meet anyone at all for hours and hours. The route is not directly linked to any other of the routes of the Arctic by Cycle Route Network, but the recommended connecting routes are marked on the route network map with services on the way, giving you an idea of how to make the splendid Urho Kekkonen National Park MTB Loop part of a longer arctic bikepacking tour.
See more info about the route as well as some an example of how to divide the route into daily sections in the Trail notes below…
REINDEER HERDING & ROUTE OPENING TIME
Late June - First snow (late September to early October)
There are no limitations to the bikepacking season requested by the local reindeer herding community. As a rule of thumb, mtb routes are dry enough to ride from early July and the season continues till the first snow, if not affected by the local reindeer herding work.
Note that there are a couple of reindeer fences on the gravel road sections of the route, which are always allowed to pass, but just closed the gate well, if closed, and leave them open, if they are open.
Photos: Taneli Roininen
Over 50km of versatile single and quad track in the valleys, old-growth forests and fell tops of the Urho Kekkonen National Park in Eastern Finland
6 gorgeous wilderness shelters on the way, offering cover from the elements and a great spot to camp, usually by a crystal clear creek or river.
High-level services are available in Ivalo, Saariselkä, and Kiilopää, making the route a perfect combination of wilderness and comfort
Spot-on balance of more visited trails of the national park and rarely visited forest roads, where you're not likely to see anyone at all.
Northern lights can be seen multiple times a week in autumn, if the sky is clear at night.