Hiidenportti National Park is located at the southern border of Sotkamo. The name means goblin’s gate in Finnish. In Hiidenportti, you can admire impressive gorge valleys and beautiful old spruce forests. This compact national park is perfect for day trips and weekend hikes.

Starting points

The main starting point is the Palolampi parking lot.

You can also start your hikes from Urpovaara or Käärmesärkkä.

If you wish to stay near the national park, a wilderness hut is an excellent option. Read more about the wilderness huts in Hiidenportti here.

Hiidenportti Trails – Day trips and weekend hikes

Trail signs at the Palolampi starting point.

The most popular route is the Hiidenkierros (Hiisi’s circle), which ranges from 3 to 5 kilometers depending on your chosen route. This route is also suitable for children.

For a longer day trip, you can explore the 10.5-kilometer Kitulankierros (Kitula circle), which takes you from Palolampi through Hiidenportti to Kitulanlampi and back.

On the southern side of the park, you’ll find the Käärmesärkkä parking area.

Near the national park is the Teerisuo-Lososuo mire conservation area, which you can reach via the UKK Trail. By combining routes, you can plan a longer hike. Towards the end of the article, you’ll also find a story about a weekend hike to the national park by a group of students.

Read more about the trails on the luontoon.fi website.

Steps at the Hiidenportti gorge
At Hiidenkierros the trails has been recently maintained. Also the dogs are taken into account; the steps has rubber mats so the climb won’t hurt their paws. Photo: Michail-Angelos Tzoumas
The trail from Palolampi to the Hiidenportti gorge
The paths are wide at the most popular route, Hiidenkierros. Photo by Esko Kinnunen

The history of Hiidenportti National Park

The Hiidenportti gorge was formed millions of years ago during the folding of the Earth’s crust. Despite always being located far from civilization in the wilderness of Kainuu, evidence of Stone Age life has been found there, such as quartz flakes and hunting pits.

Swampy pond at the Hiidenportti national park
Photo by Esko Kinnunen

Hiidenportti was once a significant sacred natural site

Before the arrival of Christianity, people worshipped nature and its spirits. Sacred natural sites were called “hiisi.” Hiidenportti was also considered a magical place.

After the arrival of Christianity, the meaning of the word “hiisi” changed. Priests began to proclaim that hiisis were evil beings. A story emerged that a hiisi lived on Vuokatinvaara hill, but when the church bells started ringing, it became enraged and gathered its cattle, hiding in Hiidenportti. The black ponds at the bottom of the gorge have been described as the eyes of the hiisi.

Hiidenportiti gorge

Kovasinvaara house – Life in the wilderness

There has been little permanent settlement in the Hiidenportti area. Only Kovasinvaara had a house, built in the 18th century. The last inhabitants left in 1949. The location of the farm can still be easily seen in the terrain, although the buildings are no longer there.

The old yard of Kovasinvaara

In the early 1900s, Kovasinvaara was a kind of festival site in the summers. In July, before haying, the Hiidentanssit (Hiiden dances) were held there. Young people from nearby municipalities gathered at the farm to socialize and drink moonshine. Many found spouses for themselves at these dances.

Read more about the history of Hiidenportti on the luontoon.fi website.

Experiences from Hiidenportti National Park

A weekend hike in Hiidenportti in the fall

In September 2016, my fellow student friends and I went on an autumn trip to Hiidenportti. At the time, I was a novice hiker, but fortunately, my more experienced friends took care of planning the route.

The weather on the way there was rainy, but luckily it stopped almost as soon as we arrived at the Urpovaara parking lot. Our plan was to walk the 4.5-kilometer route to the Kitulanlampi lean-to shelter for the night.

Our progress was slow because after the rain, fog rose everywhere, creating an incredibly surreal landscape. Wet, mossy trees stood eerily in the swampy landscape. We constantly stopped to admire the views and take pictures. The scenery was like something out of a fantasy movie!

Kitulanlampi shelter

The route from Urpovaara to Kitulanlampi is flat, though occasionally rooty. It alternates between forest patches and swamps. As you approach Kitulanlampi, you encounter larger elevation changes.

The Kitulanlampi lean-to shelter is located in a very beautiful spot on a small cape. An older couple had already settled at the lean-to, but luckily we had tents with us.

In addition to the lean-to, there are a couple of wooden platforms intended for dome tents. We had a harder time finding a good spot for our tunnel tents because the ground was very rooty. We found some kind of spots, although there was still a small annoying root under my sleeping spot. So, it’s definitely worth going here with a dome tent or a hammock instead.

After spending some time by the campfire, we went to bed. Even in the morning, the pond looked eerie until the clouds cleared and the sun drove away the fog.

Oravijärvi and Porttilampi shelters

The next morning, we planned to make a detour to Oravijärvi first. The distance from Kitulanlampi to the lake was two kilometers. This time, the route mostly passed through a spruce forest.

We took a break at the lake and admired the scenery. Then it was time to head towards the main attraction of the day, Hiidenportti itself.

Oravijärvi shelter Photo: Piia Ratava

We first returned to Kitulanlampi, from where we continued to the Porttilampi lean-to shelter. This lean-to shelter was also in a very beautiful location, and we stayed there to cook lunch. The actual Hiidenportti is right next to Porttilampi. After eating, we went to explore the gorge full of energy.

Porttilampi shelter
Porttilampi shelter is the most popular resting place in Hiidenportti.
Porttilampi in Hiidenportti national park
Porttilampi

Hiidenportti and Kovasinvaara

You can admire the Hiidenportti gorge from the south side. And it was a magnificent place. Steep canyon walls with black ponds at their base. The ponds really looked like the eyes of a hiisi. Everyone who visits here surely wonders what scary creatures live at the bottom of the gorge.

Hiidenportti gorge
Hiidenportti. Photo by Esko Kinnunen

After admiring the gorge for a while, we also stopped by the Kovasinvaara old dwelling yard. There was a beautiful meadow, and we found some chanterelles in the birch grove.

We had decided to spend our second night at Urpolampi, near our car drop-off point. From Hiidenportti to there, it was another five kilometers.

A frog in a puddle

This time, we were alone at the lean-to shelter. On the darkening autumn evening, it was nice to sit by the campfire. Some of us retreated to our tents at night, while some stayed in the lean-to.

Note! The Urpolampi lean-to shelter has been removed in the summer of 2021. The Urpovaara parking lot can still be found, along with an eco point (trash bins) .

We admired the autumn morning mist on the pond. After breakfast, we walked the final stretch back to our car.

As souvenirs from the trip, we got mushrooms and, above all, refreshed minds. I have visited Hiidenportti National Park three times, and although it’s always beautiful, this autumn visit was the most magical.

Kerttu

Hiidenportti National Park in winter

You can also visit Hiidenportti in winter, but remember to pack snowshoes or cross-country skis as there are no plowed trails in the park. In the past couple of years, the road to Palolampi has been plowed, but always check the park’s current announcements on the luontoon.fi website before heading out.

The Käärmesärkkä starting point on the southern side of the park is always accessible – Valtimontie is always plowed. There is no plowed parking lot, but you can leave your car at the intersection of Porttijoentie.

Experiences from Hiidenportti National Park in winter – Ski trip from Käärmesärkkä to Pitkä-Portti

My husband and I went to explore Hiidenportti National Park on backcountry skis on April Fools’ Day 2023. We decided to explore the southern part of the national park, which we hadn’t visited before. The plan was to ski to either Pitkä-Portti or Oravijärvi, depending on how challenging the trip turned out to be.

We parked our car at the junction of Porttijoentie, and finding the starting point of the trail was effortless thanks to a large sign. The trail was also easy to find, thanks to the red markings painted on the trees.

Right from the start, we noticed that this would be a tough trip – the snow had sunk deeply due to recent snowfall, and we quickly got out of breath. In sunny spots, the snow had also softened and sometimes stuck to the skins of our skis.

The trail immediately entered a beautiful old forest, although we weren’t yet in the national park area. It’s not easy to get tired in such a magnificent environment, even if you have to work hard!

The trail follows the Portti River, mostly passing over ridges. Sometimes you come across barren beautiful swamps with dryad pines sticking out. In one forest spot, a crested tit came to us with a lot to say – it perched on a branch and kept chirping continuously.

After skiing a couple of kilometers, we thought we might need to take a lunch break at Pitkä-Portti, as the strenuous loop made our stomachs growl. Maybe we could continue a little further after lunch. The views were spectacular – on the other side of the river rose a high wall; after all, we were at the bottom of a canyon. The place reminds one of Korouoma or Hossa!

When we arrived at the campfire site, we were met with an unpleasant surprise – the woodshed had collapsed, and there was no sign of the campfire site. Of course, we assumed it was buried under the snow, but usually, the grill rack sticking out of the snow reveals its location. Now, only trees protruded from the snow – no grill rack.

There is a magnificent rock ledge at the site, with a table and benches on top. We decided to sit on the table to eat cookies and drink juice to get at least some energy. In our backpacks were vegetable soup and sausages, so the meal turned out much smaller than we had hoped.

We figured that with these kinds of provisions, we wouldn’t continue the journey any further, so we sat in the sunshine for a while, enjoying the scenery, before skiing back to the car on our own tracks. The setting sun cast beautiful golden light, and we stopped many times to admire the places.

When we reached the car, we were tired but happy. We actually liked this southern part of the park more than the one from Palolampi. Perhaps it was the novelty factor or something, but the views were truly spectacular!

PS: You can rent these skishoes from me in Kuhmo!

Hiidenportti is definitely worth a visit for anyone vacationing in Kainuu. From this quiet national park, you too can find the peace of the wilderness.

After a day of hiking, it’s great to drive a few kilometers to your rented cottage for sauna and evening gatherings. Read more about the wilderness huts in Hiidenportti here.

Nearby: Teerisuo-Lososuo mire conservation area

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