Groomed Fatbike trails which take you through beautiful snow-covered forests and up picturesque hills - Fatbiking in Winter is easy and gives you a great time outdoors!
Disclosure: This trip was supported financially by the local Tourism office. As you know: I’m keepin’ it real and tell you how it is - I maintain full editorial control of the content published on Hiking in Finland. Read the Transparency Disclaimer for more information on affiliate links & blogger transparency.
My son and me were in Lapland in February, by now already something of a little tradition for us two. It’s a great way to bond, talk, have fun together and experience the beauty of our home country. I this case we went to Saariselkä, a small village in the North-East of Finland, which I have visited numerous times over the past years as it’s located very close to several National Parks, Wilderness areas and is simply a great starting point for outdoor adventures. While we were hiking and skiing in Saariselkä also this time, we went on three different Fatbike rides in Saariselkä and Kiilopää. As our family are cycling enthusiasts - we still don’t own a car! - trying out Fatbikes was something that my son and me both looked forward too!
Fatbiking in Kiilopää and Urho Kekkonen Nationalpark
Our first trip was with Tuija from the MTB Project and Raili from Roll Outdoors. These two women were fantastic guides and showed us the best and most scenic trails around Kiilopää, and they even organized some glorious weather for us as you can see in the photos ☀️❄️😎 My son and me took the Ski Bus from Saariselkä to Kiilopää, a short 20 minute ride which takes you through the beautiful landscape. We met Raili and Tuija at the Roll Outdoors HQ and picked up our Fatbikes: They have e-Fatbikes, Kids Fatbikes, and the Canyon Dude 8.0 Fatbike which we rode. After a short introduction to the bikes and the plan for the day we started to ride through the Gates of the Urho Kekkonen National Park, and headed along the border of the National Park towards the Kiilopää Snow Bike Park, a good area to get familiar with the bikes in easy terrain and to see what they are capable off. The trails were freshly groomed and it was great riding on these fine trails.
The trails are well marked, and you can get a map to see where you are allowed to ride. Not all trails are allowed for Fatbikes - as tempting as it is to ride on the hard, flat XC Skiing trails: These are off-limits! There are over 50 km of Fatbike Trails, either pure bike trails or then open to both hikers and cyclists. We did encounter on our rides just a handful of hikers, who were always very friendly and excited to see us. Just make sure to slow down or even get off when you pass people, and all can use these trails together happily! We had a short break at the bottom of the Snow Bike Park at a Laavu, and then cycled a different route back to Kiilopää, where we made a proper lunch break.
After good coffee and hot juice, tasty vegan food and chocolate bananas we rode the trail up to Ahonpäät. The views from the trail - we were there right at the Golden Hour, which always gets me a bit excited and I have the urge to just stop every 100 m and take photos 😆 - were breath-taking. Not just because of the long up-hill, but also because of the magnificent views.
The trees were absolutely beautiful, fully hiding beneath the snow, a warm, golden light was making everything look beautiful and all four of us were just smiling from ear to ear. A moment to remember.
After all the uphill it was time to turn the Fatbikes around and point our tires down and back to Kiilopää! Timo, the local trail builder, has created a wonderfully flow-trail which gives you great views while you descent. You should watch the video to see what I mean, the photos simply don’t do it justice of how beautiful this trail is!
Happy, and a wee bit cold, we arrived back at the Roll Outdoors Shop in Kiilopää, and went inside of the Suomen Latu building to have a hot chocolate. It was a fantastic day, and both my son and me look back fondly to it!
Fatbiking around Saariselkä village
The next day we rented bikes from Lapland Safaris in Saariselkä and went on a self-guided trip. As it was snowing and again pretty cold, we decided to ride to the Savottakahvila Café in Laanila, which was a good choice. It was at some point almost a wee Blizzard and it was hard to see far, so we both were happy when we reached the Café and could have a hot chocolate and a Laskiaispulla!
There was an old Prospector’s cottage close by, and as we both are interested in geology we tried to go there - sadly there’s no Fatbike trail going to it, and as we didn’t want to break the Rules we headed back on the same trail to Saariselkä. By now the weather also started to be a bit more sunny, so it was nice to ride the trails with a fresh cover of snow and in the sunshine ☀️❄ !
On our last day in Saariselkä we went Fatbiking with Guide Janne from Lapland Safaris. We got the same bikes as on the previous trip, which was great as they were all dialled in to our heights, and then we took off after Janne!
This time we went a bit off-the-beaten-track and road our Fatbikes towards the west on a Trail which I had hiked back in the autumn of 2019, before turning south and then east again towards Laanila. It was yet again a very snowy and cold day, and big snow flakes were coming down from the grey clouds. The trail was well-maintained but the snow kept growing on it, making for good riding.
In the middle of the forest we had a break, drunk some hot, tasty juice which gave us back some warmth, and ate a little snack, while playing with the new, soft snow around us, all while it continued to snow. So much beautiful snow! After this wee break we rode on, arriving at Laanila and then continuing on a familiar trail back to the village.
Fatbiking in Saariselkä and Kiilopää was a fantastic winter activity for us. My son got better at riding with each time we rode our Fatbikes, and he really enjoyed the flowy downhill sections of the trails (he didn’t care that much about uphills, but then: Few do 😁). While he didn’t fall he did at some points simply on purpose fell into the deep, soft snow which is surrounding the trail, which makes for a soft and safe landing. I was happy about the variety of trails available for us, and that many are easy enough for younger children - though I do hope more demanding and longer trails will get built in the next winter! Overall this was a great alternative to XC or downhill skiing, and allowed us to explore the nature at our own speed - faster than hiking, but slow enough to take in the details of the nature surrounding us. Right now in March and April, with the hankikanto (that time of the year where the top snow layer is carrying people and bikes without that you break through) it is also possible to ride almost everywhere, and especially on the open fells and lakes this makes for fun, good riding. But then you still have these awesome trails, which you really should ride!
Where to stay, what to eat and everything else
We stayed in an Apartment at the Lapland Hotels Riekonlinna Hotel which has an ideal location: 5 minutes from the Store and even less time to be on a trail for skiing, Fatbiking or hiking. The Ski Bus stops in front of the building, as are the buses to the south and north.
Our Apartment had all the amenities we could have wished for: A Sauna, comfortable beds, a well-equipped kitchen and a drying closet for drying all our sweaty and wet clothes!
We ate breakfast and dinner at the Hotel, and they served great Vegan food - I really appreciated that! In the afternoons, after we returned from our activities, we usually would sit down at the fire place in the lobby and have a hot chocolate. There are several other Restaurants and Take-Away options in the village, or then we also could have cooked in our apartment.
As usual we travelled by public transportation to Lapland, but if you are not alone then drive your car north - then you are mobile there. Taking the Bus from Rovaniemi to Saariselkä is a short and scenic 3 hour ride, and it really gets you in the mood for the outdoors as you ride past lakes and forests and every so often slow down to let the Reindeer get off the road. Taking an (overnight) train to Rovaniemi from Southern Finland is also very convenient, as you wake up well rested and just a short ride away from your next outdoor adventure. This is also a good way to travel if you want to explore Helsinki before or after a visit in Lapland - or stop for some days in Rovaniemi while you are here. Finally, if you come from abroad you also can fly directly to Ivalo, from where you can take a bus or Taxi to Saariselkä.
In Saariselkä you have a great outdoor shop, several Cafés and Restaurants and a grocery store. Make sure to read the Travel Safely website, use a Reuseable Face Mask and do all those things which you should do to minimize the risk of getting ill. Other than that - enjoy your holiday in Saariselkä, Lapland!
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