Rokua National Park is part of Rokua Geopark, which was the first in Finland to be selected as one of UNESCO's unique geological sites. The geopark also includes the areas of Lake Oulujärvi and Oulujokilaakso River Valley.
The 20 km / 12.4 miles Keisarinkierros Trail winding through the varied ridge terrain is the longest of Rokua National Park's hiking trails. The Keisarinkierros Trail takes you to the finest sights, and it is perfect for both trail running and for a 1-2 day hike.
Rokua National Park
Rokua's unique nature is characterized by fine-sand dune and ridge formations, as well as ridge pits or ‘suppa holes’, which are traces of ice blocks buried in the sand during the Ice Age. In the dry and barren soil, the trees that thrive are mainly pine trees, the ground is covered in places by an almost white ball-like lichen.
The attractions of the national park include e.g., the high Pookivaara hill and Pookivaara observing tower, and Syvyydenkaivo ‘The Well of Depth’, which is the deepest suppa hole in Finland. The clear ponds surrounded by silvery lichen carpets in the middle of the ridges are also beautiful to look at.
The nature of Rokua National Park is fragile, and lichen that has been trampled on, for example, takes a long time to grow back. So, it's worth walking on prepared paths. During a forest fire warning, fires are prohibited everywhere.
Camping is allowed at marked rest areas: Kirvesjärvi, Pitkäjärvi, Pookivaara, Rokuanjärvi, Lianjärvi and Saarinen. There are no wells or other water points in Rokua, so you should bring your own drinking water. Keisarinkierros Trail is litter-free, so bring your own litter out of nature.
Rokua National Park is located in North Ostrobothnia, about 80 kilometers southeast of Oulu. Rokua can be reached directly by bus from the beginning of June to the end of September from Vaala and Oulu.
The area of Rokua National Park is crossed by a wide 40-km / 25 miles network of trails, where you can find both easy and short nature trails as well as long and more challenging routes. There are several parking areas and starting points for the routes: Pitkäjärvi at the southern end, the Pookivaara, Rokuanhovi and Rokua Outdoors parking lots in the middle, and the Rokua Health & Spa parking lot in the north.
Hiking and trail running routes include Harjunpolku (2.5 km / 1.55 miles), Pookinpolku (4.9 km / 3 miles), Syvyydenkierros (6.2 km / 3.85 miles), Pitkäjärvi accessible path (800 m / 0.5 miles) and Keisarinkierros (20 km / 12.4 miles). In addition, there are many mountain biking trails in the area, some of which are shared with hiking trails.
Rokua Keisarinkierros Trail description
The Keisarinkierros Trail, named after the historical Keisarintie Road, takes you to Rokua's finest landscapes and natural attractions. There are also beautiful clear ponds along the route, as well as Lappish huts and day huts where you can take a break. The route is marked with white circles.
The Keisarinkierros Trail can be accessed, for example, from the Lake Pitkäjärvi parking area. The Pitkäjärvi campfire site is reached by an 800-meter accessible path, which is a wide and flat sandy trail. Pitkäjärvi has a hut and a dry toilet, and there are several great tent and hammock spots on the shore of the lake.
From the campfire site, there are paths and signposts going in every direction, and if you are not careful, you might end up on the wrong side of Lake Pitkäjärvi. It doesn't matter, because both paths around the lake, which are less than two kilometers long, lead to Pookivaara hill.
To Pookivaara, the highest point in Rokua, you climb quite a few stairs in the middle of a pine forest. Pookivaara has several buildings: a day hut, a deserted hut, a rental hut and a dry toilet. In the middle of the yard rises a tall tower with a tiny hut on top. Fire wardens were on duty here in the old days.
You can hardly see the scenery from Pookivaara hill, because the trees are so tall. From the observation tower, you might be able to admire Kainuu region all the way to the sea. On my own run, I couldn’t climb the tower because I had hurt my arm on my Kaldoaivi ultra trail adventure.
The journey continues towards Lake Saarinen on a sandy path downhill. The sandy path also has rhizomes, so you have to be careful here too, especially when running with a heavy backpack on your back.
The exciting Syvyydenkaivo suppa hole awaits one and a half kilometers away. This suppa hole is a mire with a peat layer of up to eight meters. You can lean on the signpost of the sight to wash your wounds and patch up your legs if you happened to fall because of the roots on the hill.
From Syvyydenkaivo, the journey continues to Lake Saarinen on a sandy path. There are long stairs ahead again. Lichens shimmer silvery on the slopes. At the crossings of the paths, brown cloaks guide you in the right direction.
The trail to the campfire site at Saarinen passes between two lakes, Saarinen and Salminen. A dense pine forest grows in front of both. Saarinen has got a cute hut by the lake.
From the campfire site, the trail continues in loose sand and the run becomes harder. Fatbikes also use the same path. The trail continues for three kilometers to the signpost of Kirvesjärvi, from which you could make a 700-meter visit to the hut.
Between Kirvesjärvi and the spa hotel, there is a sandy trail, a fine ridge, a needle path, and sparkling lake landscapes on both sides. At Lake Lianjärvi there is also a day hut. Approaching the hotel, the path turns into a stone ash surface again, and along the trail there are some wooden sculptures.
At the hotel, Keisarinkierros Trail turns south. After a small pond and a section of a nice forestry trail, the journey continues on asphalt and pavement and feels very long. At Rokua Outdoors, you have to look at the map carefully, because there are paths and roads in every direction. Keisarinkierros Trail is the easternmost on the map.
The southernmost part of Keisarinkierros Trail passes through the oldest natural forest areas and arrives at Lake Rokuanjärvi. There is also a hut and a dry toilet at the Rokuanjärvi campfire site. There is a forest trail for a couple of kilometers to the starting point to the Pitkäjärvi parking area.
Rokua Keisarinkierros Trail - my experiences & tips
- Since there are no water points along the route, I took a 2.5 L hydroflask in my backpack, which worked fine.
- You should bring your own toilet paper since there's no paper in the dry toilets.
- The spa hotel, Rokuanhovi or Rokua Outdoors is recommended as a starting point, but you can also start the route from Pitkäjärvi and go clockwise. The best sights then fall on the first half of the route.
- The area is so small and easily accessible that there can be a lot of people at the campfire sites. You may not be able to enjoy the silence as much as you would like.
- Least pleasant for trail runners: numerous horseflies, a lot of fatbike traffic on the trails, a lot of gravel or smooth stone-ash roads and built-up (including sidewalks) - the atmosphere is a bit 'urban'.
- The best: a nice runnable trail in a beautiful ridge landscape, great lichen carpets, fine sandy paths in dense pine forests and beautiful small ponds.
- Tip: combine trail running with an atmospheric night in a tent on the shore of Lake Pitkäjärvi - bring your swimsuit too!
Rokua Keisarinkierros Trail
- Destination: Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland
- Distance: 20 km (12.4 miles)
- Difficulty: Moderate
- When to go: From June to September (year-round)