Valtavaara Winter Trail – The Most Beautiful Scenery in Ruka

Valtavaara Winter Trail – The Most Beautiful Scenery in Ruka

From the top of Valtavaara, wonderful snow landscapes open up in all directions. The sunset at Valtavaara is particularly beautiful especially in a clear frosty day.

Valtavaara fell in winter is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Ruka, Finland. Valtavaara is the highest protected fell in Kuusamo, the peak reaching 491 meters. In clear weather, amazing landscapes open up from the top of Valtavaara to northern Kuusamo and Russia to the east.

The nature area of Valtavaara-Pyhävaara offers incredibly beautiful views of the hill and fell landscape. The nature area has many routes for day hikes, as well as the famous Karhunkierros Bear’s Trail hiking trail that goes through the peak of Valtavaara. Ruka's Valtavaara area is great for both summer and winter hiking.

The Ruka-Kuusamo region has endless trails to experience for winter hikers. In addition to Valtavaara in Ruka, the top destinations for winter hikers are Konttainen and Pyhävaara, as well as the beautiful routes of Oulanka National Park and the views of Karhunkierros Bear’s Trail in winter. A popular destination for photographers, Riisitunturi in Posio, is also only a short drive away.

Ruka also has wonderful slopes and a diverse network of cross-country skiing tracks. For example, you can ski around Rukankylä village along a lighted track.

How do you get to Valtavaara?

The starting point of the Valtavaara winter trail is Saarua parking area in eastern Ruka. By the lot there is the Saarua hut, where you can warm up by the fire. At the trailhead, there is an information sign with maps and a signpost for the route. There is a skiing track between the parking lot and the starting point, so be aware of skiers when crossing the track.

The Valtavaara winter trail is a partial ring route. You hike the first part to both directions. On the map of the winter routes, it is suggested to hike the trail counterclockwise. Maps and brochures can be picked up free of charge from various places in Ruka, such as equipment rental shops.

The Valtavaara winter trail is so popular that the trail is usually easy to walk in winter. You don't necessarily need snowshoes, unless you're one of the first to go on a hike right after a heavy snowfall. With snowshoes you can also adventure on your own routes away from the crowds. Biking is prohibited in the Valtavaara area.

The Valtavaara trail is classified as demanding. Demanding mainly comes from a few steep climbs and descents. The length of the Valtavaara winter trail is just under six kilometers (3.5 miles). The estimated hiking time is about three hours, but you can enjoy a longer excursion.

The route is clearly marked with green and orange signs and there is basically no danger of getting lost. When hiking in winter, it is still good to prepare for winter conditions and know the basics of winter hiking.

Valtavaara winter trail

From the parking area, the beginning of the route first goes up a steep slope to the intersection, where you turn right. The trail signs say "Valtavaaran huiputus" and “Winter Trail”. After a short flat stretch of the trail, you climb a varyingly gentle or very steep slope in a dense forest.

On the right side, the skiing track comes close to the hiking trail. After a while you will reach the first intersection. The Karhunkierros Bear’s Trail sign points to the left, which would lead to the Karhunkierros Bear’s Trail route. The Valtavaara winter trail continues to the right and up.

The trail continues steeply upwards. The fir trees are already starting to look beautiful in their snow cover. Between the trunks of the trees, the landscape of the slopes of Ruka begins to peek out. After a while, wonderful views open up above the treetops.

Next, you reach another intersection, where you can find the route map again. You can turn to the left if you only want to stop at the Valtavaaranlampi shelter. If you go around the entire six-kilometer round trip of Valtavaara's peak, turn to the right in the direction of the Lappish hut sign. Of course, if you want, you can take the route clockwise.

First, you go down the slope for a while, meandering, then the path curves gently to the left. The next stretch is treeless flat terrain. The peak of Valtavaara and the day hut can already be seen far to the left.

Valtavaara Lappish hut

Suddenly, the path arrives at the Lappish hut after a small forested section. The Lappish hut is covered with snow, you can only see the door and the chimney peeking out from the snowbank. The small hut is also along the Valtavaara cross-country skiing track, so it is probably full of skiers, snowshoers and hikers during the high season.

There are also larger groups on the Valtavaara winter route, which quickly fill up the rest places. You can chop firewood from the small woodshed opposite the hut, and you can also find a dry toilet within sight.

The snowshoeing route continues from the Lappish hut straight up to the left. The slope leading to the Valtavaara day hut is the steepest climb of the route. The slope is relatively short, only three hundred meters and the ascent zigzags a bit, so you can get to the top quickly.

Valtavaara summit day hut

Valtavaara's little day hut stays put on the highest protected fell in Kuusamo, at the top of Valtavaara. The hut, which originally served as a fireman's hut, is an attraction on the legendary Karhunkierros Bear’s Trail in addition to the Valtavaara winter trail. The interior of the hut has had a fireplace until 2020, today the facilities only include a table and benches, and a guest book.

At the top of Valtavaara, it can be very windy, and on a frosty day the air can feel extremely freezing. If there is room in the hut, you can escape the wind there and enjoy hot drinks. The wind may have deposited snow on the windows, you can't see the scenery, but there’s still some daylight inside. Remember to close the door when you leave.

From the top of Valtavaara, wonderful snow landscapes open up in all directions. The sunset at Valtavaara is particularly beautiful especially in a clear frosty day. You should remember to pack a headlamp in your backpack if you stay to admire the last rays of the sun at the top, because there is still a good couple of kilometers to go back to the starting point.

From Valtavaara to Saarua

When you leave the day hut and come down from the top of Valtavaara, you take the Karhunkierros route to the southwest, in the direction of the evening sun in February. If you have ever hiked the 82 km (50 miles) Bear’s Trail, you can at this point remember the most painful climbs of the entire hiking route, possibly in the rain, and at the same time let nostalgic memories warm your mind.

First, you descend a steep slope, then a gentler path among the crown-snow trees. The snow may be so deep, that even with snowshoes, you may sink up to your bottom. Sliding snowshoes or skis could work better.

After hiking for a while, behind the snow-covered trees on the left is a shelter, Valtavaaranlampi laavu. There are several tables under the spacious shelter and a larger group can fit around the fire as well. There is also a woodshed and a dry toilet in the area.

The journey continues uphill between tall fir trees covered in snow. The snow-covered Valtavaara pond can be seen when you climb a bit higher and turn around. At that point, the path comes back to the intersection, from where the ring route starts in the direction of the Lappish hut.

At the intersection, you can also go off the path to the right and up. After a short walk, you get to a nice scenic spot on the edge of the hill, from where you can admire the beautiful snow-covered trees and scenery in the direction of Ruka, Ahmakallio and Saarua-aho.

The return journey back to the parking area is a fast downhill hike. The last slope, which made you sweat a little on the way up, is steep and slippery on the way down.

The Valtavaara winter trail in a nutshell

  • The recommended direction to hike the Valtavaara winter route is counter-clockwise. There were people hiking and snowshoeing both directions, but the recommended direction especially for an afternoon trip is great, because then you end up to the peak of Valtavaara at sunset.
  • The route is very well marked, there is practically no risk of getting lost. It is still good to have some kind of equipment with you to help with navigation.
  • Bring at least: a fully charged mobile phone (keep warm), matches, toilet paper, hot drinks and something to eat, as well as enough warm clothes.
  • If the weather is not particularly icy, there will not be any very slippery spots on the route. You will do well with normal winter shoes with grippy soles.
  • Snow landscapes are most beautiful on a clear day, but the Valtavaara peak is a wonderful winter hike even on a cloudy day!

Links – Valtavaara route and winter routes – Winter hiking and snowshoeing

Valtavaara winter trail

Destination: Ruka, Kuusamo, Finland
Difficulty: demanding
When to go: From December to April (year-round)
Duration: 3 hours, a half-day trip snowshoeing or by foot

Finland Ruka-Kuusamo Valtavaara Bear's Trail Fells Hiking Winter Hiking Winter



  • Luca

    4.3.2024 17:03

    Wow! I got lost reading your diaries.. really exciting! The photos are crazy.. Hi.. my name is Luca and on March 22nd I will be coming to Finland to ride the karhunkierros trail for the first time. I can't wait..

    Greetings from Italy

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