Koli National Park

Level: (* * *) Three bears

The scenery over lake Pielinen from the top of Koli is one of the most Finnish sights you can imagine. The area is also introduced on this site among the cultural landscapes, because Koli has been selected as one of the national landscapes of Finland. The view form the steep hills has been eternalized by famous artists, and other sceneries inherent to Koli are traditional landscapes and slash-and-burn heritage meadows. The Park has a vast network of hiking and skiing trails.

The Koli hills are remnants of an ancient mountain chain of Karelides. The Karelides formed some 2000 million years ago, when continental plates collided and pushed against each other and resulted in a mountain chain equivalent to the Himalayas. The mountains have since eroded into the current hills. The hard core of the ancient mountains, the current Koli hills, are made of quartzite, which has endured Ice Ages and other cataclysms.

The highest peak of Ukko-Koli is 347 metres above the sea level and 253 metres above the level of lake Pielinen. These figures are record breaking in the entire southern Finland. Koli has many peaks with vast, open clifftops that drop down as steep descents. These formations accentuate the magnificent scenery down to the lake.

The Koli National Park has a vast network of round trip trails and numerous options for route combinations.

Ukko-Koli is a must for all Koli visitors. There’s a lift almost to the top, by the hotel and Nature Centre Ukko, so there’s only a short climb to the highest sight-seeing spot. A round trip trail from the Nature Centre to the peak of Ukko-Koli is only 800 metres long.

Another trail from peak to peak, “the Trail of the Tops” is only 1.3 km. From the peak of Ukko-Koli, it continues to Paha-Koli and circles back via Akka-Koli. Ukko and Paha open to the Lake Pielinen, and Akka shows the vast forests on the western side and the Temple of Silence.

The Kolinuuron kierros round trip trail is a 3,5 km long nature trail. It introduces you to geology, snow damage and the Kolinuuro peatland meadow etc. This trail, too, starts near the top of Ukko-Koli at the Nature Centre’s upper yard, but instead of going uphill, it heads first toward the lower hillside on the eastern side. From there, the trail goes up to Pieni Koli and towards Mäkränaho. The trail continues up to the peaks of Paha-Koli and Ukko-Koli, and back to the beginning.

The Mäkrän polku trail is a bit longer and more challenging. The trail meanders over seven kilometres from the peaks to Mäkränaho and Purolanaho, and goes back again to steep Mäkrä. This is where Eero Järnefelt painted his famous scenery of Autumn Landscape of Lake Pielisjärvi. The trail ends at the lower parking area of Ukko-Koli.

Many hiking trails descend from the peak of Ukko-Koli down to the Rantatie road around lake Pielinen. They offer many opportunities for hiking trips. The trail from Mäkränaho via Tarhapuro waterfall to the Likolahti parking area and campfire site is 2 km long. The trail from Pieni Koli to Likolahti is about one kilometre. Sataman polku, the Harbour Trail from Ukko-Koli’s Uhrihalkeama via Ipatti down to the harbour is slightly over two kilometres.

The Kasken kierros Nature Trail between the harbour and the Koli village is about five kilometres. South-west of Mäkräaho, there’s a round trip trail Paimenen polku of 3 km, the Shepard’s Trail. Kasken kierros is a round trip trail introducing to slash-and-burn culture, whereas the Paimenen polku shows grass-herb forests and forest plants.

In the south-eastern part of the National Park there’s a Pirunkirkko cave, a Z-shaped long cave and a 3,5 km long Ennallistajan polku, an informative trail about how commercial forests are restored back to their natural state. This is a great destination for a day-trip, and the trail starts from the parking area.

The Koli National Park also includes some of the islands in lake Pielinen, having a total of six campfire sites.

Koli in a Nutshell

Lieksa, Joensuu. Kontiolahti

Area: 30 km2

Founded in 1991

Further Info:


Book by Jouni Laaksonen: Retkeilijän kansallispuistot, Edita 2011.

Driving Instructions:

Koli is on the west side of lake Pielinen. There are signs from Nurmes-Joensuu main road 6. Ukko-Koli is the centre of the Park, where most of the trails start. Near the Ukko-Koli peak, you can find the Nature Centre Ukko and Hotel Koli. The Park has many other parking areas, which are starting points to marked trails. The Koli village and the Koli harbour are good starting points for a hike, too.

Koli Nature Centre Ukko