Kurjenrahka National Park

Kurjenrahka bog in spring, with some snow remaining. View from the Koivusaari bird watching tower.

Kurjenrahka National Park in Finland, in Finland Proper, is centred around the raised bog Kurjenrahka ("Crane bog"). Besides bogs and birdlife it features lakes and forests, among them the old-growth Pukkipalo. A large trail network, named after the old border stone Kuhankuono in Kurjenrahka, connects the park with Vaskijärvi nature reserve and centres of Turku, Yläne and other municipalities in the vicinity.

Understand

Most people come to the park by car for day trips. The park is also suitable for longer hikes and reachable by bike or coach (since 2013), or even by foot. There are lean-to shelters that can be used for overnight stays. Camping in tents is also allowed and there are some commercial lodging facilities

There is some confusion about the Kurjenrahka National Park, the Kurjenrahka bog, the Kuhankuono trail network, the Kuhankuono stone, and the areas reachable by the trails, but the visitor does not have to care about the distinctions, as long as knowing the real destinations and any restrictions by the intended route (which vary also inside the park).

History

The area of the park raised from the Ancylus lake about 7000 years ago. There are findings in Saksala from the stone, bronze and iron ages. The Kuhankuono border stone is mentioned in a document from 1381. The areas was a commons, and most of the forests around the park are still administered as common land of the land owners in the area, although much has also been incorporated into individual properties and often later sold to the state. Much of the National Park area was bought from such common land. Permanent farms were established in the area from the 18th century onwards.

There was some forestry in most parts of the area, but exploitation was mild, because of difficulties in transportation. The nature values of the area were recognized quite early. In 1958 a decision was made to keep Pukkipalo as an old-growth forest. A decision to found the national park was made in 1976, but acquisition of the land was slow. The park was finally founded 1997.

Climate

The climate of Finland Proper is temperate, with distinctive seasons. The conditions in the park are comparable with those in southern Finland in general, but the period with snow is much longer than in Turku, generally from late December to March. At snow melting time in March–April, some trails may be flooded. Spring is otherwise a nice time for bird watching. Most people visit the park in summer (May–September), but there is no reason not to come in autumn or winter, if you are prepared for the long dark evenings or have skis, respectively.

Get in

Sign by the regional road.

The park is about 35 km north of Turku. It is in reach by car, by coach, by bike or by local bus and foot.

Information on the park should be available e.g. at Metsähallitus custom service points and at Turku tourist office. A brochure is available also as PDF.

The park consists of many areas intermingled with private land. Any of the areas can be reached for a day trip by car, taxi or bike, while the main day trip destinations for those dependant on bus or coach are Vajosuo and the trails in the area around Kurjenrahka and Savojärvi.

The unmanned nature information hut Kurjenpesä is 700 metres west from the regional road 204 between Turku and Säkylä (take highway 9 from Turku towards Tampere, turn to road 204 after some 17 km, or use Paattistentie). A minor road leads from the bus stop ("Kuhankuono") to a parking area and the hut. An extension of the Haukkavuori trail leads from the bus stop to the hut as a footpath through the forest. Until 2013 the stop was in use only by "regular" (read: few) buses, but now usable services are quite frequent (mainly some of the buses to Pori and Vaasa; once an hour, with some considerable gaps; one-way ticket from Turku about €10/5). By the hut there is a nature trail leading to the Kuhankuono border stone and also trails to Rantapiha, around Savojärvi, around Kurjenrahka and to several other destinations.

There is local bus mostly once an hour from Turku (numbers 21 and 23; €3, children 7–14 €1,50) to Tortinmäki, about 6 km from Kurjenrahka (via the Töykkälä shelter) and Vajosuo. Start by Järvijoentie (local road 2042/12430) and walk some 3 km through agricultural landscape, then through forest. By car or bike you can use the same roads. To Töykkälä there is also a "shortcut" through the forest, partly along small roads (for those coming by foot; some orienteering skills are needed)

There are several parking areas, at nearly all trailheads, often near the main points of interest, such as

The trail network extends far from the park. E.g. from Turku the park is reachable via Raisio and Masku by the Kullaanpolku and Suokulla trails and further along the Kuhankuono trails. With return by bus or coach from Kuhankuono, Tortinmäki or Yläne this may be suitable as a long weekend hike for a fit hiker with some experience.

Fees/Permits

There are no fees for entrance, hiking, camping at the lean-to shelters, using firewood at the campfire places or similar. There are some services available for fees at Rantapiha (phone +358 500 935 960), such as self service sauna (€1/person), camping, lodging, boat rental and guided tours. There is also a kiosk at Rantapiha by Savojärvi. Also other small businesses in the neighbourhood offer their services.

The nature cabinet in Yläne (phone +358 2 256 3127) can be used as starting point for longer hikes or visited before a hike. Open Mon, Wed, Thu and Sun 11–15 in June and July. Entrance to the exhibition €5/4. Five hour guided tour on the trails €120 (max 20 persons).

Picking berries and edible mushroom is allowed, except in Vaskijärvi nature reserve. Otherwise nothing may be taken out of the national park (or damaged/moved around). In areas outside the national park and nature reserves normal right to access applies.

In some areas of the national park, and in the nature reserves, trails must be used part of the year, see Get around below.

Get around

The national park and some surrounding areas. The national park in green, restricted areas in pink and brown, trails in brown and green, roads in grey. Not all trails are on this map.
Duckboards through forested part of the bog.

The trail network (partly the Kuhankuono network) connects all the areas of the national park and also near-by nature reserves. The trails follow minor roads some of the distance. You probably want the special map with trails and service marked ("Kuhankuonon retkeilykartta"; 1:55 000), available e.g. from Turku tourist office, Rantapiha and major book stores and outdoor shops.

There are duckboards over the bogs and in other especially wet areas, but the trails can be muddy also elsewhere in wet times. In spring, while the snow is melting, some of the trails may be covered with water.

Some trails and services near Kurjenpesä have been made accessible also by wheelchair.

In wintertime there are marked skiing tracks over the bogs. Maintenance is not guaranteed; do not rely on the tracks soon after snowfall. The summer trails can be difficult to use in winter. The distances are comparably short, so snowshoes are usable (but do not walk in the skiing tracks).

Several parts of the national park are restricted zones, as is the Vaskijärvi nature reserve, and entry to these is restricted to trails part of the year (April 15th to July 15th, Lammenrahka January 15th to July 15th). This is no big deal for most visitors, since going out on the bogs in summer is quite onerous and even difficult. There are bird watching towers allowing views over some of the open bog areas.

See

Vajosuo in November, seen from the bird watching tower.

The main attractions are the bogs (Kurjenrahka and Lammenrahka, Vajosuo, Laidassuo and Lakjärvenrahka and those by Vaskijärvi), the lakes (Savojärvi, Vaskijärvi, Lakkjärvi and other small lakes), the old-growth forest of Pukkipalo, and the border stone Kuhankuono, where eight municipalities used to meet.

There is a rich bird life in spring and summer. There are bird watching towers a least at Vajosuo and at the eastern edge of Kurjenrahka (Koivusaari).

The nature information hut is nice and certainly worth a visit (unmanned, open 8 am to 8 pm).

Do

Buy

Main building and kiosk at Rantapiha.

There is (still? check!) a grocery store in Tortinmäki 6 km from the park (Antin kauppa, Säkyläntie 1318, phone +358 2 257 7129). There is a kiosk at Rantapiha (check opening hours). There are several shops in Yläne.

Eat

Meals are served at Rantapiha if ordered in advance; coffee, snacks and ice cream are available at the kiosk.

There are campfire places at the lean-to shelters and at Takaniitunvuori south of Pukkipalo, with firewood provided for free. At Rantapiha and Kurjenpesä there are covered cooking places. Open fire is forbidden, also at maintained campfire sites, when forest fire warnings are in effect, and should be handled carefully at any time.

Using a camping stove is allowed anywhere, provided due care.

Drink

The water in the area is generally not potable, neither in the lakes nor in the Lakjärvi well, so water has to be carried. There is potable water available at Kurjenpesä and Rantapiha.

Sleep

Lodging

There are lodging facilities at Rantapiha and a rental hut at Vajosuo, as well as several small businesses offering lodging in the nearby areas.

Camping

There is a camping site at Rantapiha. There is an area for tents at Kurjenpesä.

Backcountry

There are three lean-to shelters by the trails in the park and several by the trails leading to the park. The locations are suitable for overnight stays at weekend hikes or hikes of several days, with some planning. Camping in own tents is allowed by the shelters. There are pit toilets, campfire places and firewood at the shelters.

The right to access allows camping overnight in tents on private land outside the park proper, i.e. by the trails leading there. Considerations is needed though, as landowners should be kept happy about having the trails through their lands. Using grounds by the shelters only is recommended in most cases.

Stay safe

The area is not dangerous. Using reasonable judgement should be more than enough (as in not going out on some bogs and not getting lost in a snow storm). Mosquitoes can be a non-trivial nuisance, so repellents and long sleeves may be necessary in the evening. There are wolves and bears in the area, but you have to be lucky to see even a trace of them and no attacks on humans have been reported.

Go next

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