Patvinsuo National Park is an idyllic and wilderness-like destination in North Karelia, Finland. The wilderness of Eastern Finland offers unbelievably fine sandy beaches, open mires and rugged forests. On a tour around Lake Suomunjärvi, you can experience the long white sand beaches of the lake with clear water and amazing peace.
Patvinsuo National Park
Patvinsuo National Park is a quiet nature reserve whose mission is to preserve the unique nature of swamps, forests and waterways. Established in 1982, the national park is the largest in southern Finland in terms of surface area, excluding parks in maritime areas.
Patvinsuo is an internationally important bird area, and its inhabitants include bears, lynx, wolves and about twenty pairs of Canadian beavers. The bear is the national park's emblem. When walking alone in a dense pine forest, you may feel like blinking over your shoulder - is there a brown bear lurking there?
There are approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles) of marked trails in the area of Patvinsuo National Park. The most popular of Patvinsuo's routes is probably the wonderful 16-kilometer (10 miles) Suomunkierto Trail going around Lake Suomunjärvi. The Suomunkierto Trail is the second longest of Patvinsuo's routes after the 25 km (15.5 miles) Patvinkierto Trail. There are around 24 kilometers (15 miles) of fine sandy beaches.
You can start the Suomunkierto Trail from the parking areas at the Suomu Nature Information Hut, Surkanpuro or Kurkilahti. The Suomunkierto Trail is marked in orange on the tree trunks. The map of Patvinsuo is part of ‘Koli Ruunaa Patvinsuo Petkeljärvi’ by Karttakeskus map and Calazo’s North Karelia Tyvek map.
There are restricted areas in the Patvinsuo area, for example to protect the nesting peace of the birds. You should check them before the trip and stay on the marked paths anyway. Fires may only be made at campfire sites. It’s not allowed to burn driftwood on the beaches. During a forest fire warning, you can only make fire in the cooking shelters.
I went on a trail running trip in Patvinsuo right after my ultra trail running adventure in Koli. From Koli National Park, you can drive to Patvinsuo National Park in about an hour (a little depending on which side of Lake Herajärvi you start from).
Suomunkierto Trail route description
The recommended direction is clockwise, but I ran the Suomunkierto Trail counterclockwise. I started the route at the Suomu Nature Information Hut.
The trail goes right along the beach after curving to the marked route. The southernmost section of a couple of kilometers runs between a road and the beach. However, there is so little traffic that it doesn't bother you. Halfway through, you will pass the parking lot of Surkanpuro, where you can find a dry toilet.
Kurkilahti's beach is small and has fine sand. A bench peeks out in the shade of the trees. On the beach, there is also a fireplace in the cooking shelter, as well as a dry toilet and a recycling point. Susitaival Trail crosses to the right across the road towards Patvinsuo mires and Lake Koitere. The Karhunpolku trail continues along the shores of Lake Suomunjärvi to the north.
From Kurkilahti, the trail continues across the swamp with duckboards past Mikonniemi and Huutoniemi capes to the longest sandy beach of the lake. The atmosphere on the beach is incredibly deserted, there are no structures and no people. A beach path for those who admire the scenery has been formed right next to the sand. The heat of the summer may have made the ground very dry.
The flat trail runs near the beach until it turns into the forest between Siikalampi and Pieni Siikalampi ponds. Arriving at River Suomunjoki, the path crosses to the right and to the left. Karhunpolku Trail crosses the river, Suomunkierto Trail takes Lake Siikalammit as its direction.
The narrow path is surrounded on both sides by Nordic blueberry bushes and bog carpets. The row of straight pine trunks seems to go on forever.
The trail reaches the shore of Lake Suomunjärvi and the fireplace of Virtaniemi. Right next to the beach, there is a group of tables and benches and a fireplace surrounded by benches. Virtaniemi also has a tenting area and a dry toilet. The beach is shallow, the sandy bottom continues far.
From Virtaniemi you continue along the sandy beach to Virtasalmi's wooden bridge. A smooth beach path lasts for two kilometers to the next camping area in Pokkaniemi. There’s some minor variation in elevation here.
Especially at the tip of Pokkaniemi cape, there is a fairytale-like camping spot near the sandy beach. The large gray coils create a wilderness atmosphere at the campfire site, you can sit on a rough bench and watch the sunset in the lake landscape. Pokkaniemi would be my favorite place to stay overnight on Suomunkierto Trail.
The next two-kilometer stretch goes around the northernmost corner of Lake Suomunjärvi. There are a few ascents and descents to low cliffs in Kangasmetsä. At Arkkusalmi, the roaring stream is crossed again on a wooden bridge, where there is the steepest descent of the trip so far.
From Arkkusalmi you go to the west side of the lake and towards the Suomu Nature Information Hut. This area includes the longest mire area and a lot of duckboards. Wild Rosemary grows in huge clumps along the path, the scent of their white flowers is intoxicating.
After the mire, the trail climbs up the rocks. The lake scenery remains behind the trees. A trail goes down to the long, narrow slip of land to the Lapinniemi campfire site.
The western side of Lake Suomunjärvi has a more varied terrain. The biggest height differences are between Lapinlahti and Kaunisniemenkangas, although there are still not very many of them. The four-kilometer stretch from Arkkusalmi to the Suomu Nature Information Hut has less than 70 meters of ascent.
At Kuikkaniemi, you reach one of the most exciting places on the entire run: Lake Sihvonlammi and its streams, where beavers live. You can spend a long time on the bridge waiting to see if the cute chisel-tooth beaver would pop up on the surface. A short Mäntypolku Trail would lead to even better spots to look for the beavers.
There is also a camping area, a cooking shelter and water points in the area of the Suomu Nature Information Hut on the lake shore side. The dense forest blocks the best lake views and even the evening sun disappears behind the trees. However, the place is the best for a nap in the hammock, especially if after a hot trail run the wind cools down and drives away the horseflies!
- Suomunkierto Trail is an easy and fast route, there are almost no differences in height.
- In the summer and especially in the heat, there is quite a lot of mosquitoes in the swamp area, and especially gadflies. You should run fast.
- Although the inhabitants of Patvinsuo include bears and beavers, you probably won't see them while walking.
- Patvinsuo's forest of straight-trunk pines continues as far as the eye can see. The place is a hammocker's dream. (Remember the tree huggers and don't forget the insect net!)
- You can fish in Suomunjärvi, which is part of the River Koitajoki area, and you can buy a permit from the Suomu Nature Information Hut. You can also rent a canoe or kayak from the nature hut.
- Patvinsuo is also a berry picker's paradise. However, you won't be able to taste the blueberries before Midsummer.
- The best places to spend the night and camp are Pokkaniemi and Virtaniemi, where you can enjoy the sunset on the beach.
- There are only few spots to take water without the need to boil it, check from the Info.
- Patvinsuo is Hiking without littering area.
- For those looking for a longer trail run, you can also reach the 138-kilometer Karhunpolku Trail and the 90-kilometer Susitaival Trail from Patvinsuo, which are part of the Karelia Route.