Pyhän Jyssäys in Winter – The Charming Pyhävaara in Kuusamo

Pyhän Jyssäys in Winter – The Charming Pyhävaara in Kuusamo

The path continues right next to Pyhävaara's hut, red and green taped poles show the direction to Pyhän Jyssäys winter trail. The setting sun makes the crown-snow trees shine in gold in the beautiful Kuusamo scenery.

Pyhävaara is located in Kuusamo right next to Ruka, south of Rukankylä village. The Pyhävaara route, Pyhän Jyssäys Trail, is a 6 km (3.73 miles) ring route. From the top of Pikku Pyhävaara, beautiful winter landscapes open up to the surroundings of Ruka, to the hill and lake landscape.

In addition to Pyhävaara, the highest and most beautiful peaks in the Valtavaara-Pyhävaara nature reserve are Valtavaara and Konttainen. At Oulanka National Park, you can admire the scenery of Pieni Karhunkierros Trail and Kiutaköngäs rapids, or you can have an adventure on the wilderness trail. Riisitunturi fell in Posio Lapland is also only half an hour's drive away.

The Ruka-Kuusamo area has also great skiing slopes and a great cross-country skiing track network. A lighted track runs around Rukankylä village, from which you can also access the Pyhävaara cross-country ski track.

Pyhän Jyssäys winter trail

The starting point for Pyhän Jyssäys can be found next to Ruka in the parking area at the intersection of Plantingintie and Petäjäkuja roads, near Rukajärventie road and the Juhannuskallio nature reserve. The Pyhän Jyssäys winter route is a fatbiking trail on which you can also snowshoe and walk.

There is also a shorter Hirsilampi ring route on the Pyhän Jyssäys Trail, which does not go all the way up to Pyhävaara. There are signposts at the intersections, where you should check the correct direction. The Pyhävaara cross-country ski track intersects with the Pyhän Jyssäys winter trail at several points.

The Pyhävaara route is suitable for hiking and biking all year round. The route is clearly marked along the way and getting lost is not likely. However, when hiking in winter, you should be prepared for winter weather and know the basics of winter hiking.

The Pyhän Jyssäys Trail is so popular that the path often remains trodden in winter. So, you don't necessarily need snowshoes, unless you're one of the first to go on a hike right after a heavy snowfall. On the other hand, with snowshoes you can go off the beaten track to have an adventure among the crown-snow trees.

Description of the Pyhävaara winter route

There is an information board and a map of the winter routes at the parking lot at the intersection of Plantingintie and Petäjäkuja roads. It would be easiest to set off clockwise, because the trail sign points in that direction. If you want to go counterclockwise, you must first walk along Petäjäkuja road down to the intersection and turn left. The bike trail sign is on the right side of the road a few dozen meters away.

First, the path goes a short distance between the buildings and arrives at the cross-country ski track. After crossing the track, you go down the hill next to it. When the trail turns to the right in the direction of Rytilampi pond, you have to be careful, because the trail first deviates to the left side of the skiing track and the snowmobile track also passes through the intersection.

There is a new information sign and trail map at the intersection of ski tracks and winter routes. The Pyhävaara trail runs next to the cross-country ski track, past Rytilampi pond on its north side, and then turns left into the forest.

The trail runs on a fairly flat terrain in the forest, sometimes in a dense forest, sometimes in more open places. You can see the now-covered Rytilampi pond between the tree trunks.

At the southern end of Hirsilampi pond, there is again a crossing of winter routes and a visible red sign directing you to the Hirsilampi route to the left. You continue straight ahead to Pyhävaara. A red sign with the words "Pyhän Jyssäys" is attached to the birch trunk.

From the intersection, the rest of the journey to Pieni Pyhävaara is uphill. The trail runs between tall candle spruces. The lowest branches of the trees form great 'bear nests' where you could even spend the night.

The higher you go, the thicker the white snow covers the landscape. Soon the scenery opens up over the snow-covered trees far to the northwest and to Ruka. Maybe a hot air balloon will also fly in the sky over the snowy lakes.

Pyhävaara Lappish hut

The Pyhävaara hut is located at the top of Pikku Pyhävaara. In front of it is a small group of tables and benches. The woodshed and dry toilets are located on the other side of the ski track. The hut is at the intersection of the ski track and the fatbike and snowshoe trail, so it is in active use in winter, especially during the high season and in clear, sunny weather.

When you reach the top, on the right side, there is a lookout point, from which you can see stunning views of Pyhävaara bathing in the afternoon sun, to the south and west all the way to Riisitunturi fell in Posio. You can use the drawing there to compare terrain shapes and spot sights.

Looking at a map application, you might think that you would also quickly visit the top of the bigger Pyhävaara. However, between the hills there is a very steep and deep slope, where the snow reaches up to the waist. In powder snow, it’s quite impossible to make a fast visit at the other peak, even with snowshoes.

If the Lappish hut is bustling, a wonderful quiet place to eat your snacks can be found a few steps behind the wooden shed. The sunny slope is easily accessible with snowshoes or skis. The best piece of equipment for your own rest area is a light, foldable foam sheet. The great spring-winter sun warms you up so that you don't even miss the campfire.

Winter trail down from Pyhävaara

The path continues right next to Pyhävaara's hut, red and green taped poles show the direction to Pyhän Jyssäys winter trail. The setting sun makes the crown-snow trees shine in gold in the beautiful Kuusamo scenery. Sometimes you can see Lake Rukajärvi and the forests disappearing into the mist in the distance.

You wouldn't want to go back to the winter route from the top of Pyhävaara, because the sun quickly disappears behind your back and the trees. In the direction of Ruka, the hills of Kuusamo look like endless cotton clouds. The slopes on the east side of Pyhävaara are much gentler than the west side.

The trail dives into the dense forest again. The eastern route runs higher than the western route, and over the treetops you can see glimpses of the skyline. The Hirslampi winter route sign is passed from this side as well.

You pass the Hirsilampi pond up on the hills in a darkening forest. Just to the north of Hirsilampi, the trail leads to the edge of the cliff, from where incredibbly beautiful landscapes open down to the forests of Kuusamo, which continue to the horizon like a watercolor painting.

Ruka's Pyhävaara winter trail and my experiences in a nutshell

  • According to the winter route map (maps can be obtained from e.g., Ruka's equipment rental shops) the recommended direction is counterclockwise, but almost all folks came in the opposite direction, clockwise.
  • Going clockwise, the evening sun shines beautifully on the western slopes of the hill and the viewpoint of Pyhävaara. If you go counterclockwise, you can also admire the beautiful scenery on the cliffs, from which you can see amazing views of Hirsilampi and the evening sun setting on the forest landscape.
  • The snowshoe trail follows a fatbike trail. In some places, there are snowy bends where you might unexpectedly almost bump into cyclists. In practice, you don't need snowshoes, ordinary winter shoes are enough.
  • In the beginning of the route, you can hear a loud noise from the snowmobiles, you can only get to the peace of nature somewhere near Hirsilampi.
  • The Pyhävaara hut is along the Pyhävaara ski track, and it is probably full to the brim, as snowshoers, walkers, cyclists and skiers warm up at the only resting place.
  • In several places, the route crosses the ski track and also the snowmobile route. No matter if you’ve got skis, snowshoes or a fatbike, everyone should pay attention to other people on the trails so that everyone can have a great and safe time outdoors.
  • The Pyhävaara winter route is classified as demanding, but in my opinion the route is quite easy. The length of the route (6 km), the steepness of the ascent to Pyhävaara when you go counterclockwise, and possibly harsh winter conditions make it more demanding.
  • Pyhävaara is one of Kuusamo's nicest winter destinations, which is at its best at a quieter time and on a sunny frosty day!

See also other routes in Ruka-Kuusamo:

Valtavaara winter trail – the best views of Ruka
Konttainen – amazing crown-snow scenery
Pieni Karhunkierros Trail – Small Bear’s trail

Pyhävaara winter trail

Destination: Ruka, Kuusamo, Finland
Distance: 6 km 
Difficulty: Moderate-Demanding
When to go: From December to April (year-round)
Duration: 2-3h, snowshoeing or walking (or fatbiking)

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