Read on for all you need to know about hiking in Finland and how to make the most of Finland’s National Parks!
Are you dreaming of the vast forests of Finland? Would you like to spend a day hiking in a bog? Or maybe you’d like to spend multiple days off the grid, camping in the Finnish wilderness and experiencing the country at its best?
I’ve recently had the chance to visit my first ever national park in the country and get a taste of what it’s really like to go hiking in Finland.
*I was a guest of Visit Turku on this trip and this article contains affiliate links; however, all opinions are my own.
Finland’s National Parks - An Overview
1. Facts & Figures
There are 40 national parks spread over all of Finland, covering an area of 9,892 km2 - basically, Finland is a hiker’s dream!
Every year, around 3 million people visit the national parks, but considering the vastness of each and every one of the parks (ranging from 2,5 km2 in the smallest to an impressive 2850 km2 in the biggest park), it’s quite likely that you’ll only get to see a handful of people on your hike - especially if you visit Finland in off-season!
The 40 national parks can mainly be found in Southern/Eastern Finland, with only 10 of them in the northern part of the country. “Only” is a poor choice of words, though, as Finland’s northernmost region Lapland also hosts the 3 biggest national parks of the country with a size of 1000 to almost 3000 km2 each.
The most known national parks to tourists (aka, the ones you most often see on Instagram), are probably Nuuksio and Oulanka. Nuuksio being situated less than an hour’s drive from Helsinki makes for the perfect national park for first-time visitors to Finland - even in winter!
Then again, Oulanka is situated close to the famous ski resort of Ruka-Kuusamo, but not just worth the trip in winter! Finnish autumn boasts the most stunning scenery of forests in glowing orange - Finns call this time of year “ruska” and apparently, Oulanka is one of the best places to experience this!
The most-known doesn’t always have to be the most beautiful, though. I’m a strong advocate for travel to lesser-known destinations and also in off-season - for one, as I’m just not a fan of the crowds that come with main season, but also because I think that the Nordics should be explored in a sustainable way (as should anywhere, really).
Back in March, thus, I made my way to Turku - generally considered a summer destination but, as I found out, equally gorgeous in late-winter! Thanks to the team at Visit Turku, I got to experience Kurjenrahka National Park on this trip, which is a park I’d never heard of before, but one that I immediately fell in love with.
Kurjenrahka is one of the smaller parks at a size of 29 km2, situated less than an hour’s drive north of Turku. The landscape ranges from forests to marshlands and lakes, and although I can only imagine how beautiful it must be during the summer, it was absolutely stunning in late-winter as well!
I was joined by the local guide Juhana on my visit to Kurjenrahka, and when he said that you could sometimes spot wolves and even bears in the area, I almost couldn’t believe it! Finland’s National Parks surely are a wildlife lover’s (and especially birdwatcher’s) dream!
Other than birds and the occasional wolf or brown bear (if you’re very very lucky - or shall I say unfortunate?), Finland’s National Parks are also the home of lynx, moose, wolverines and fish - so much fish! From salmon to trout to crayfish and pike - Finnish rivers and lakes are also the dream of every fishing enthusiast. Note that you might need special permits if planning to go fishing with a net, though!
You can find more information on rules and regulations when hiking in Finland under point 1 in the next section.
If I had to decide on one thing I love most about Finland, it’s got to be their accessible hiking trails. Granted, duckboards wouldn’t make much sense in the mountains of Norway, but I do wish we had more wooden paths to hike on in this country, than all those rocky trails that go up and down, lol! As someone living with an autoimmune disease, the easier the trail, the better - and hiking in Finland fortunately does mean that you have plenty of easy and accessible trails to choose from!
In Kurjenrahka, we mostly followed the duckboards in the marshland, which really are much needed in this area - especially in winter! The ground might look frozen but underneath, it’s nothing but water - trust me, you don’t want to step inside (which is what I did a couple of days later in Helsinki - believe me, it’s cold!).
Finland’s National Parks also come with toilets and shelters/campsites, so that absolutely anyone can enjoy the wilderness, regardless of specific restrictions and needs. Find more on that topic under point 2 and 3 in the next section below!
When it comes to getting to specific national parks, the easiest and most convenient way will always be by car. However, if you’re not comfortable driving abroad (or in winter conditions), there are also options to reach most national parks by public transport, as well as private tour organizers. I, for instance, visited Kurjenrahka as part of a private tour with Visit Turku. We were joined by the local guide Juhana, who knew the area well and could tell me everything about the local landscape and wilderness.
If you’re planning on visiting Kurjenrahka by public transport, you can hop on the F21 line of Onnibus, going from Turku to Pori, getting off at Kuhankuono (tell the driver about your stop when boarding as only the main stops along the route tend to be announced, and then only in Finnish as well). During the summer (June to August), you can also make use of the local busses 21 and 23, also going from Turku to Kuhankuono. From there, it’s just a short walk to the information centre and shelter with toilets, as well as the duckboard walk to lake Savojärvi.
What to keep in mind when hiking in Finland
1. Rules to follow when hiking in Finland
Finland’s National Parks have not just been created to make the wilderness more accessible to people, but also in order to preserve the local environment. As such, there are a few rules you should keep in mind before you embark on your hiking adventure in Finland.
The most common rules that apply to all national parks in Finland are:
don’t leave traces, aka: never litter, ever
never disturb any wildlife you encounter, big or small
don’t light open fires, especially not during the summer (fires at campgrounds/shelters where there is a fireplace available are permitted - open fires in the wild are not)
don’t cut down trees in order to collect firewood - at shelters, firewood will (most likely) be provided
if hiking with a dog, don’t let it off the leash
Finland makes use of the so-called “Everyman’s Right” to nature, that is also common in Norway and Sweden. As such, you’re allowed to make use of the nature that surrounds you and camp in the wild, unless you’re on private property or in a restricted nature reserve. You see, there’s a difference between national parks and protected/restricted nature reserves in Finland - the latter can still be visited, but there are generally more rules to follow (for example, you might not be allowed to collect berries or mushrooms there).
2. Trail difficulties
All national parks in Finland come with plenty of trails to choose from - whether you’d like to go on a half-day hike, a full-day hike or a multiple-day trek. The Finnish organization Metsähallitus (who run the national parks in the country) rate the trails in their parks from easy to intermediate to demanding. With this rating, it’s not so much the length of the trail that’s the decisive factor, but the terrain - meaning that even a short 4km hike can be marked as intermediate if instead of duckboards, you have to walk on uneven or hilly terrain.
Make sure to get familiar with the categories and find suitable trails beforehand. You can read more about the classifications, as well as wheelchair accessibilities here. Metsähallitus also provide an overview of all hiking trails in their national parks here.
3. Restrooms and rest spots
If you’re going hiking in Finland, you’ll most likely want to take a quick break at one point - fortunately, Finland’s National Parks all come with shelters, rest stops and even toilets, making them extremely accessible and family-friendly.
In Kurjenrahka, we stopped at Kurjenpesä Nature Information hut, just a short walk from the parking lot and bus stop at Kuhankuono, where we found a little cabin with a fireplace, as well as toilets. After our guide Juhana exclaimed that he isn’t really fond of trails and prefers to, quite literally, go off the beaten track and we followed him through the woods (to his defence, the duckboards and trails were quite icy in some parts and as I didn’t bring crampons, going through the woods was indeed less dangerous, if also more exhausting), I definitely needed a break, so we stopped at the shelter for some grilled sausages by the fire.
Actually, grilled sausages are a staple of every Finnish hiking adventure, as I’ve been told, so make sure to bring some to really experience Finnish culture at its best!
Head here for an overview of service facilities at Kurjenrahka, and for the full run-down of all facilities at all parks, head over to Metsähallitus’s main website and search for the area that interests you most!
4. The weather
Ah yes, the weather! Finland being Finland, you can’t always expect sunshine, but then again, bad weather doesn’t have to destroy your plans to go hiking. Here in Norway, we have a saying that goes “there is no such thing as bad weather, only poor clothing”, and honestly? This totally applies to Finland as well!
Generally speaking, the main hiking season in Finland is during the summer - depending on the region, roughly between May and September. During winter, most parks will be covered in snow and ice, whereas early spring and late autumn often come with plenty of precipitation/changing weather conditions, as well as a wet terrain - especially in bogs and marshlands.
None of that means that you can’t go for a hike in Finland’s National Parks even in off-season, though. Kurjenrahka, for instance, is accessible year-round. Just bring crampons/spikes if you’re headed there in winter, as the duckboards can be icy and there’s no winter service in the area (meaning, the trails won’t be cleared from snow).
Temperature-wise, most regions in Finland experience an average of 15-20 degrees Celsius during the summer, which is the perfect temperature to go for a hike as it’s not too warm, but also not freezing. The latter definitely poses a challenge in winter as Finland is known to experience winter temperatures of -20 degrees (or worse) on a regular basis!
The right clothing and equipment really is key to making the most of a hike in Finland, so read the section below for more information on what you should bring!
What to bring for a hike in the National Parks
First of all, layers and more layers! Thermal underwear in winter and breathable sportswear in summer that keeps you both, warm and dry, should be a staple of your hiking wardrobe! For a second layer, you can go for a thin fleece jacket/sweater in summer and for a woolen sweater in winter, possibly with a fleece on top for when it’s really freezing and you’re taking a break!
As a final layer, a water/wind-proof jacket will make sure that you have a great time in Finland’s National Parks even if the weather is nasty.
Proper hiking boots should also be part of your gear and, especially if you’re doing more intermediate/difficult hikes in marshlands, you need waterproof hiking boots that go way above your ankle, so that you’re able to cross bogs or even rivers without getting your feet wet.
Other than the right clothing, you also need some gear, even if just for a half-day hike. Depending on the season, for instance:
- a waterproof daypack
- plenty of snacks/lunch
- a powerbank for when your phone dies
- a camera to shoot the scenery and wildlife (I use this one)
- a refillable water bottle
- a refillable coffe/tea bottle
- a pair of crampons
- an insulated camera bag
- an insulated sitting mat for when you're going on a hike
- a first aid kit
- mosquito spray in summer
- if going for a multiple-day trek: camping gear, as well as enough water/food supplies
Accommodation in Finland’s National Parks
If camping is not quite your thing but you’d like to stay a night or two in the wild anyway, you’ll be happy to hear that there’s the option of renting a cabin in most national parks in Finland.
Kurjenrahka itself, for instance, offers a little cabin at Vajosuo with space for 4 people. The cabin can be rented during the summer season and only costs 25€ a night. Find more information about Vajosuo here.
In the nearby town of Tortinmäki, just 6km from Kurjenrahka, you can also stay at the local guesthouse Toivolan Kievari.
Further links about hiking in Finland and Turku
Have you ever gone hiking in Finland? Tell me about your experiences in a comment below!
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