Hiidenportti National Park is in the region of Kainuu, Finland. It features the Hiidenportti gorge and old-growth forest. Close by is the Peurajärvi Recreational Area, which is a good family destination with easy trails and beaches suitable for children, and also is a fishing destination. The Teerisuo-Lososuo Mire Reserve is some 8 km away by the trails.
The 42 km2 (16 sq mi) national park is in Sotkamo. The area was transformed into a national park in 1982. Its characteristics are the swamps and lakes breaking the original old-growth forest of the area. The main sight and the core of the park is the Gorge of Hiidenportti, which is a beautiful site featuring a scenic gorge with a swamp in the middle.
The park is suitable also for inexperienced hikers, but the terrain in the park itself is demanding at places (steep and rocky). The terrain is significantly easier in the other areas. There are no trails for the disabled there either, but there are roads to the middle of the recreational area, probably allowing access also to some facilities.
The Peurajärvi area (in Valtimo) features easy trails by the child-friendly lake shores, through pine forest (subject to foresting) and over ridges. There is old-growth forest on nearby Paistinvaara hill. For the fisherman it provides lakes, ponds and creeks. Here the right to access mostly applies.
As suspected, the mire reserve (in Kuhmo) is home to quite some räkkä: gnats, sand flies, gad flies and midges. Make sure you are prepared or you will not enjoy your stay in season.
Peurajärvi, Teerisuo and Isosuo are common names in the area ("forest reindeer lake", "black grouse mire" and "big mire" respectively). Check context when encountering the names. There is at least one other Peurajärvi along the trail westward from the park, a Hanhisuo–Teerisuo mire reserve to the north-east (with an Iso-Valkeinen close by), several Isosuo and even another Hiidenportti (at least on the map).
- Kuhmo Visitor Centre Petola, Lentiirantie 342, 88900 Kuhmo, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. In winter by appointment, 2 May–15 June M–F 09:00–16:00, 16 June–12 August daily 09:00–17:00, 13 August–31 October M–F 09:00–16:00. The Predators on the Prowl exhibition and short nature films. Maps, souvenirs, fishing permits. Snowshoes for hire. 0.5 km accessible nature trail. Free.
The park is in a watershed area, with Porttijoki flowing toward the Saimaa lake complex and Ladoga, and the streams to the north toward the Oulujoki river and the Bay of Bothnia. The typical landscape is a mosaic of mires and dry forest, and some rocky areas, especially the Hiidenportti gorge and the vicinity of Porttijoki flowing south from there (i.e. the area around the main trail).
Flora and fauna
The area is calm enough for big carnivores. Regular dwellers include brown bear, wolverine and lynx. The gray wolf is an occasional visitor. The wild forest reindeer (Finnish: peura) lives in the region in winter, and the elk (moose) population is dense. The American beaver lives in the Porttijoki river and its traces can be seen along the river. In the bird fauna northern species are common, such as the brambling and the rustic bunting; also the Siberian jay can be seen in the area. Rare species include bean goose, common crane, osprey, black-throated diver, great grey owl, and red-flanked bluetail. The great grey owl is also pictured in the park's emblem.
The park is in the south-east corner of Sotkamo, at the border to Kuhmo and Valtimo (nowadays part of Nurmes). There is no public transportation to the park, but taxis from those towns can be used (20–50 km).
There are three or fours trailheads for the park, and additionally the main trailheads for Peurajärvi and Teerisuo:
- 1 Palolampi information point, Hiidenportintie 86 (in the north of the park; signposted from road 76 between Sotkamo and Kuhmo, and from Ylä-Valtimontie/Valtimontie (road 5284) between Valtimo and Kuhmo). Main entrance. Road to here ploughed in winter. Parking, information shelter, rental cabin for day use, well, cooking shelter. The Kovasinvaara hill and the Hiidenportti gorge are nearby (both can be seen on a 3 km hike).
- 2 Käärmesärkkä (on road 5284). Parking, information board and dry toilet; at the border between the recreational area and Natura2000 areas associated with the national park. The main trail through the park leads from here to Palolampi.
- 3 Urpovaara (reachable from road 5284). Parking. Lean-to shelter at Urpolampi nearby. The forest road leading here is not ploughed in winter. The forest road is also used for the trail from the park to the Teeri-Lososuo Mire Reserve, which continues on the other side of road 5284 (1 Urpovaara crossroads); the mire reserve is 3 km from the road along the trail.
- 2 Allaslahti trailhead (if coming from Valtimo along road 5284, turn left to Salmijärventie 7 km before Käärmesärkkä and drive 3 km to reach the Talonpojan Taival trail). Trailhead at the Talonpojan Taival trail, which is part of the Karelian Circuit. There should be a lean-to shelter here. The Allaslahti lean-to is 3 km away, at the border of the park
- Iso-Valkeinen parking lot (reachable from the south, from the Nurmes–Kuhmo road (road 75), from where it is signposted). At the centre of the recreational area, by the little services there are. Road ploughed in winter. Check what road to use if continuing from here to Käärmesärkkä, there are probably barriers on some of them.
- 4 Teerisuo parking (10,7 km north from the Käärmesärkkä parking, 5,8 km north from the Urpovaara crossroads along the road 5284). Parking and main entrance to the mire reserve. Information board and dry toilet. The mire reserve 1 km, the lean-to shelter 6 km away.
Fees and permits
There are no entrance or hiking fees, it is likewise free to use the parking areas and shelters.
Some fishing is allowed according to the right to access, normal lure fishing in the recreation area is allowed with the national fishing fee, except in two of the lakes, and you can get permits for other fishing. Check restrictions, some of which are described below.
Hunting small game is allowed in the recreational area, but requires permit and licences. Normal restrictions on distance to roads etc. apply, and hunting of beaver is forbidden in Porttijoki and some other waters.
Catching insects, collecting stones, disturbing wildlife etc. is forbidden in the park and the mire reserve. There is no restriction on picking berries and edible mushrooms.
No restrictions on getting around by foot, ski, canoe or rowing boat, as long as you do not damage the ground or disturb wildlife. Not to disturb nesting birds you should mostly keep to the trails in the mire reserve in spring and early summer.
There are duckboards in the mire reserve, but they may be in bad shape, so rubber boots or similar are recommended.
Some stairs in the national park are damaged or removed. Be careful. Repairs due to be done 2020.
The booklet Hiidenportti Through the Ages gives information of the cultural history of the area. There are traces of tar burning ("tervahauta" sites), slash-and-burn agriculture and logging along the trails and at some other places.
The forest in the Portinsalo area is 100–150 years old, in near natural state, and in stark contrast with the forest around the park, which is used for timber. By the Urpovaara trail there are impressing spruce and aspen. Another old-growth forest area is Paistinvaara behind the Peurajärvi area, a third the forests in the mire reserve. And the mires in the mire protection area are of course a sight.
The forest in the recreational area is used for foresting, but the recreational use is taken into account. In the forests in the surroundings, including along the longer connecting trails, forestry is often heavy-handed. Consider whether you want to see the results. Although the heavy-handedness is controversial, it aims at maximizing growth, not a result of carelessness.
There are beavers in Porttijoki, traces of which should be obvious. Traces of other wildlife may be more difficult to get to see. There are however bear, wolverine and lynx in the area. Some of the birds are easier to spot. The mire reserve is worth visiting also for birds living in old forest.
There is a 3 km circle trail from Palolampi information point passing by Hiidenportti and Kovasinvaara.
- 1 Hiidenportti (1.3 km from the Palolampi information point, along the trail). A long gorge with vertical walls.
- 2 Kovasinvaara. Hill with a deserted croft in the heritage landscape.
- 3 Paistinvaara (sidetrip from the Peurajärvi trails). Hill in old-growth forest protection area. The trail leads to the Kärnänkivi rock, brought here by the Ice Age.
The main hiking trail leads from the Palolampi information point via the Kovasinvaara croft, by the Hiidenportti gorge to the lean-to shelter at Porttilampi/Porttilammit in the gorge, and continues via the Kitulanlampi lean-to shelter along Porttijoki (with its source in Porttilammit) via the Pitkä-Portti lake to the Käärmesärkkä parking. You can turn back at the campfire site at Pitkä-Portti, which makes for a 17 km hike straight through most of the park. You can choose an alternative route for some of the distance. The 3 km circle trail turns back already at the near end of Hiidenportti. Coming from Käärmesärkkä the hike will be about 2×10+3 km, or 12 km if you just hike through the park. Add 4 km if starting at the western end of Iso-Valkeinen, 7.5 if you start at the east end and go via Paistinvaara.
Also from Urpovaara you can hike via Porttilammit to the circle trail. Including return this makes for an 11 km trail. If you go via Kitulanlampi on return this makes for a total of 14 km. If you start from the 5284 road (as you have to in winter), add 2×4.5 km. The trail continues on the other side of the road and leads through the Teerisuo-Lososuo mire protection area. The Teerisuo lean-to shelter is 9 km from Urpolampi, the Teerisuo parking a further 6 km away.
There is an 8 km circle trail in the mire reserve, around Teerisuo and across Isosuo, with the above mentioned 3 km connecting trail from the Urpovaara crossroads and a 1.5 km connecting trail from the Teerisuo parking. The lean-to and one of the campfire sites are along the eastern part of the circle trail, one campfire site at the connecting trail towards Urpovaara. Although this is a mire reserve, also the old-growth woods on the way are important sights. Keep ears and eyes open to note the birds.
The Allaslahti lean-to shelter near the Autiojärvi lake is 7 km from Hiidenportti, the trailhead a further 3 km to south-west, on the Talonpojan Taival trail. There is an orthodox graveyard on a small island in the south end of Autiojärvi, between Allaslahti and the trailhead. Along roads the trailhead is 10 km from Käärmesärkkä. You could arrange to be dropped off here and hike via Palolampi to Käärmesärkkä or Urpovaara. The other way would be natural if you are on your way to the UKK trail (between Koli National Park to Urho Kekkonen National Park, with some non-established legs), but the Talonpojan Taival has been neglected to the point of being unwalkable at some stretches. Check whether the situation has improved. You could hike the first 10 km to 4 Murtovaara Talomuseo. and Tammitupa (check whether there are services by request) along the trail and continue by roads.
From Käärmesärkkä you can enter the Peurajärvi Recreation Area. There is a circle trail around Mäntyjärvi (7 km), much of the distance on the isthmus between Mäntyjärvi and Peurajärvi. There is an extension circling also around Iso-Valkeinen (4 km more, or 6 km if you make a figure eight). A sidetrip trail (1 km) goes to Paistinvaara from the Iso-Valkeinen trail. There are campfire sites, cooking shelters, dry toilets and a lean-to shelter along the trail. You can also enter the recreation area from the south and hike through it to Hiidenportti.
From Paistinvaara the Saramon Jotos trail (part of the Karelian Circuit, neglected in Valtimo and Nurmes) leads through the Mujejärvi area 14 km to the east. The trail has been neglected and may be difficult to follow. It is worn, but there may be confusing other paths and roads, and little is left of the markings. Map and compass are necessary, as is studying the map beforehand to figure out the general directions.
There are several natural beaches suitable for swimming in the recreation area. They are suitable also for children, but there are no guards. Use your judgement to avoid possible dangers.
Berry and mushroom picking
There are berries in the forests as usual in Finland: bilberry, lingonberry, perhaps strawberry, and probably a few others. In the mire reserve you can also find berries typical for such areas, including cloudberry and cranberry.
The old forests host some less common mushrooms living on decaying wood. Only edible mushroom may be picked, but you can still keep your eyes open.
Some fishing is possible in the national park and the mire reserve, but the recreational area is a proper fishing destination.
Check current restrictions from the visitor centre, as there are minimum sizes, times of protection etc. for some species, and possibly temporary restrictions and other regulations to be aware of. Check also current national rules (and that you understood them correctly).
Hook and line fishing (without reel) and ice-fishing (with jigg) are permitted in the park, in the mire reserve, in most of the recreational area and in surrounding non-protected areas, under the rules of right to access. Other fishing is forbidden in the national park.
For normal lure fishing anywhere you need to pay the national fishing fee, unless you are a child or senior. In Iso-Valkeinen and Urtti-Valkeinen you also need a local permit (area 7510) for any fishing. Elsewhere in the recreational area normal rules apply. Permits for other fishing methods can be had; in Urtti-Valkeinen only spear-fishing and ice-fishing are allowed.
In Iso-Valkeinen the main fish is (implanted) rainbow trout, elsewhere zander, perch, pike and common whitefish.
It is possible to buy permits to hunt small game in the recreational area and the mire reserve in season, provided you have the needed licences. You should know the hunting law, the game and any similar protected species.
It is allowed to row and canoe in the lakes. With canoe it should be possible to go down the river Saramojoki all the way to Nurmes (40 km).
There are several businesses in the area arranging guided nature tours on foot, ski or snowshoe, hiking tours, canoeing, fishing, wildlife watching and photographing.
There is nothing for sale in the park. Do your shopping before you leave Kuhmo, Sotkamo, Valtimo or Nurmes. The Kuhmo Visitor Centre Petola probably has some souvenirs.
You can use the lean-to shelters and campfire sites to prepare or eat your meal by a campfire – unless there is a forest fire warning. They are probably the best places also to use your portable stove, with outhouse and water available.
There is no proper lodging in the park or the mire reserve, but several lean-to shelters in the area and along connecting trails.
Camping with a tent is allowed by the lean-to shelters and campfire sites, and by the Palolampi information point. Put up your tent some distance from the facilities, not to discourage others from using them.
Caravans can be parked at the Palolampi parking site, at the parking by the Mäntyjärvi lean-to shelter and at the marked lots by the Iso-Valkeinen "lap pole tents", but there are no special facilities in any of those places.
The campfire sites around the lakes in the recreational area are not listed here, as they are many and easy to find. Below are campfire sites in the park, the mire reserve and along some connecting trails, and the relevant lean-to shelters.
Close to the main trail:
- 2 Porttilampi lean-to.
- 3 Kitulanlampi lean-to.
- 4 Iso Oravijärvi lean-to.
- 5 Pitkä-Portti campfire site.
In the recreational area:
- 6 Mäntyjärvi lean-to (southern shore of Mäntyjärvi).
- 7 Iso-Valkeinen kota2 (western shore of Iso-Valkeinen).
- 8 Iso-Valkeinen kota1 (western shore of Iso-Valkeinen).
Along the Allaslahti–Valtimo trail:
- 9 Allaslahti lean-to.
- 10 Sivakkajärvi campfire site.
- 11 Peurajärvi/Kuusijärvi lean-to shelter. Possibly in bad shape or removed.
- 12 UKK trail. Campfire site. This should be near the crossing between Talonpojan Taival and the UKK trail. Valtimo is 6 km to the south.
Along the Urpolampi–Teerisuo trail:
- 13 Urpolampi lean-to.
- 14 Kiurulampi campfire site.
- 15 Teerisuo lean-to.
- 16 Multisärkkä campfire place.
Wild camping in the park is not permitted. Wild camping is allowed according to the right to access in the surrounding unprotected areas, but care should be taken not to upset the landowners. In the recreational area and the mire protection area wild camping is allowed, but not recommended. Leave no traces.
There is a well at Palolampi information point and another at the Mäntyjärvi lean-to shelter. The other water may not be potable.
The cliffs by the gorge can be slippery, watch your step. Some stairs in the national park and the duckboards in the mire reserve may be in bad shape.
There are places without mobile phone coverage, be prepared to find higher or more open ground to make emergency calls, and to help yourself for some time until help arrives. Bring a first aid kit.