Finnish National Parks

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Finnish National Parks are found in most parts of the country. In addition to national parks some other protected areas are presented below, as well as national hiking areas and the wilderness areas of Finnish Lapland.

Finland has a diverse nature, with forests, fells, mires, bogs, lakes and islands featuring in many of the parks. In a few parks the interaction between Man and nature is a central theme. As Finland is sparsely populated, one can often be alone with nature in the less known parks and remote areas even of popular parks.

Understand[edit]

View from Koli National Park.

Finland has numerous national parks protecting examples of beautiful and unique forms of nature. In addition there are national hiking areas, wilderness areas, nature reserves and some other protected or non-protected areas of interest to tourists. Some of the areas are mire, esker or old-growth forest protection areas or similar, where the protection concerns land owners and planning authorities and mostly is irrelevant for hikers.

The parks are open to the public, offering services such as marked hiking paths, maps, authentic cottages, goahtis and saunas for rent. The right to access is usually somewhat restricted in the parks. Please inform yourself of the rules of the specific areas you are going to visit. Where berry and mushroom picking is allowed, this is usually for edible species only. Taking anything else from the nature is usually forbidden. In some areas (especially nature reserves and restricted areas of national parks) only marked trails may be used. In hiking, recreation and wilderness areas the right to access usually applies without restrictions.

The national parks and nature reserves are on state owned land and maintained by Metsähallitus, the Finnish forestry administration. Some of the other protected areas may be on ground owned by other entities, even privately owned.

Information is usually available in English, but some may be in Finnish only, or Finnish and Swedish or Sami.

Most of the really large parks are in the far north, in the Sami native region. Regulations of the parks try not to disturb the traditional livelihood of the Sami. Thus e.g. reindeer herding, hunting, fishing, taking wood for own needs and even driving are often allowed for the locals also were forbidden otherwise. The local population is sparse enough that this does not generally threaten the ecology of the areas (there are conflicts though, e.g. about number of reindeer that should be allowed and about large carnivores, which may cause harm to the reindeer).

National parks and other areas[edit]

National parks are the prime destinations for those wanting to see Finnish nature other than normal countryside. There are also national hiking areas, wilderness areas, strict nature reserves and many areas for protection of specific types of nature or specific features of the nature, such as mire, old-growth forest, esker and bird protection areas. The areas presented here are deemed to be of interest to the visitor, some as a destination in themselves, some worth a visit if you happen to pass by.

There are usually nature trails in the areas listed below. In all but the smallest areas, there are usually locations for rest (campfire places, pit toilets) and in the bigger ones hiking trails and some lodging facilities (often lean-to shelters, in the north more commonly also open wilderness huts).

National parks can be founded on state owned land where the nature is deemed to be of general interest as a sight or for education. They have an area of at least 10 km², several being much larger. The largest, Lemmenjoki National Park, has an area of 2 860 km² and borders to the Norwegian Øvre Anárjohka nationalpark of 1 409 km².

The other protected areas include strict nature reserves where hiking is restricted to marked trails at least part of the year. They are mostly small, some suitable for a trip of a few hours, some for a weekend, but there are also bigger areas. The selection of minor areas below is somewhat arbitrary. Some of the special protected areas have no restrictions relevant for the visitor.

The wilderness areas were protected 1991 to preserve their wilderness character, the Sami culture and the Sami natural form of livelihood. There are 12 such areas, all of which are located in northern Lapland. There is little service in the areas themselves and the right to access usually applies in full. They are of interest for experienced hikers who are used to making their own paths.

Destinations[edit]

Southern Finland[edit]

The bird lake Siikalahti.

National parks in Southern Finland[edit]

Hiking areas in Southern Finland[edit]

Other destinations in Southern Finland[edit]

  • Karkali: [10] herb-rich forest area on a peninsula in Lohjanjärvi; Lohja
  • Komio: [11] ridges and other signs of the ice age, good hiking destination with diverse nature; Loppi
  • Laajalahti: [12] shallow sea bay, bird wetland; Espoo
  • Langinkoski: [13] rapids, arboretum, fishing hut of the tsar; Kotka
  • Siikalahti Wetland: [14] Finland’s most valuable inland bird wetland; Parikkala

Western Finland[edit]

View from the Aulanko tower in Hämeenlinna, Tavastia.

National parks in Western Finland[edit]

Hiking areas in Western Finland[edit]

Other destinations in Western Finland[edit]

  • Aulanko: [19] nature reserve with park and national landscape, suitable for day trips; Hämeenlinna.
  • Melkuttimet: [20] ridge-side pine forests and lakes; Loppi and Tammela
  • Vaarunvuoret: [21] old pine forests growing on rocky hills with many endangered species; Jyväskylä
  • Vehoniemenharju: [22] esker between two large lakes, landscape featuring in Sommardag i Kangasala by Topelius; Kangasala

Eastern Finland[edit]

Pihlajavesi seen from Olavinlinna castle.

National parks in Eastern Finland[edit]

Hiking areas in Eastern Finland[edit]

Other destinations in Eastern Finland[edit]

Oulu[edit]

River in wintertime. Oulanka National Park.
Isojoki in Kuhmo, near Lentua.

National parks in the former Oulu province[edit]

Hiking areas in the former Oulu province[edit]

Other destinations in the former Oulu province[edit]

  • Elimyssalo: [34] varied forest nature with wilderness farms by the UKK trail, central part of the Finnish-Russian Friendship Park; Kuhmo.
  • Hepoköngäs: [35] Finland's highest natural waterfall and old-growth forest by the UKK trail; Puolanka.
  • Hirvisuo: [36] vast open aapa mires and birds, in Oulu. Birdwatching tower and nature trail accessible from national road 20.
  • Kurimonkoski Rapids: [37] scenic rapids by former ironworks, meadows maintained to keep the traditional landscape; Utajärvi
  • Lentua: [38] rugged, wilderness-like nature, known through Akseli Gallen-Kallela, part of the Finnish-Russian Friendship Park; Kuhmo
  • Näränkä: [39] virtually pristine nature, mostly forests, and wilderness farm; Kuusamo
  • Teerisuo-Lososuo: [40] mires and old-growth forests, by the UKK trail; Kuhmo
  • Valtavaara-Pyhävaara: [41] nature reserve with spectacular views and challenging cross-country skiing trails; Kuusamo

Lapland[edit]

Open wilderness hut near the treeline, Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.
The Kevo canyon.
Landscape from past the tree line. Muotkatunturit.

National parks in Lapland[edit]

Hiking areas in Lapland[edit]

Wilderness areas[edit]

Other destinations in Lapland[edit]

Get in[edit]

Unmanned information hut of Kurjenrahka National Park.

Most of the national parks, national hiking areas and wilderness areas are reachable by car and by public transportation. A taxi ride can be worth its price for freer choosing of endpoints of a hike. There are seldom roads into the destination itself.

There are visitor centres, Metsähallitus customer service points and nature information huts, where you can get maps, some literature, fishing permits and advice. The visitor centres usually have large exhibition, nature trails nearby and also offer guided tours if reserved in advance, the others are more modest but sometimes really worth a visit. Some information huts are unmanned.

The visitor centres are usually outside the main entrance of national parks, but sometimes quite a distance from the destinations. At some national parks there are hotels, ski resort or other big tourist businesses by the visitor centre.

The visitor centres are usually accessible by wheelchair, if assisted, as are a few nature trails.

Fees[edit]

Just visiting the park or hiking in it does not involve any fees.

You might want to pay for a guided tour, a guaranteed bed in a reservation hut or a fishing permit.

Get around[edit]

Duckboards in Valkmusa National Park

There are usually nature trails and hiking trails in the areas, especially near the visitor centres, as well as skiing tracks in the winter. Except in nature reserves you are usually allowed to find your own paths. In the archipelago and by some rivers you might want to use a boat or kayak.

See[edit]

  • Nature
  • Local culture
  • Historical sites
  • The visitors centre and nearby nature trails

Do[edit]

  • Hiking (see Hiking in the Nordic countries for some advice)
  • Canoeing (parks with a suitable waterway)
  • Cruising with a yacht or tour boat (parks in the archipelagos)
  • Boating with a small riverboat (parks with a suitable river)
  • Fishing
  • Gold panning (Lemmenjoki)
  • Mushroom gathering
  • Berry picking
  • Rent sauna

Eat[edit]

Local family businesses near the destinations often offer meals, lodging, tours, equipment and other service. Near some destinations there are also proper restaurants. At most destinations you will not find any meals inside the area, other than what you cook yourself (or have a wilderness guide prepare for you).

Picking edible mushrooms and berries is often allowed also when collecting other things is strictly forbidden. Fishing is often allowed with the usual restrictions (general and local fishing permit needed for most fishing). Hunting is allowed in some protected areas, with normal restrictions.

Good looking water in springs, streams and even lakes is often potable untreated, but cooking it may be recommended. In some areas water has to be brought. There may be wells or other water sources provided. The authorities make tests to evaluate the general quality of natural water in many of the areas, but give no guaranties, except where a specific water source has been tested and recommended (typically tap water or a well).

There are designated camp fire places in many areas, allowing cooking at the camp fire, given wildfire warnings are not in effect. In the backcountry campfires may be allowed also elsewhere. There are stoves in the wilderness huts. A camping stove is recommended, though, for any serious hiking.

Stay safe[edit]

Keep warm and afloat. In remote areas you will not be able to get any quick help in emergencies, so know your limits and prepare well for anything demanding. Remember mobile phone coverage may be poor in some areas.

Dangerous encounters with animals are rare. The European adder is the only poisonous snake (see Finland for advice). There are bears and wolves, especially in eastern Finland, but they avoid humans. As long as you do not manage to get between a bear and her cubs or let your dog find and provoke a bear, you should be pretty safe (they have not learnt to come after your food).

The ticks carry Lyme disease or TBE in some areas, both potentially nasty. You might want to take precautions.

Mosquitoes are a non-trivial nuisance in many of the areas in summer, especially in the north and by wetlands. Hundreds of stings may even make you ill. Make sure you have plenty of repellent at hand, a hat with a mosquito net (in the worst areas) and a mosquito proof tent. Black flies (breeding in streams, not still water, and thus more common in the north) are even worse, as they will find any small hole in your protection.

Another little beast, which can drive people crazy, is the deer fly (hirvikärpänen, älgfluga). This poor flat fly crawls around in your hair and clothing in the hopeless quest of finding the deer in you. After having cut off its wings it has no choice but to continue, even realizing its mistake. They are harmless and seldom bite humans, but rather difficult to chase away or squeeze.

Go next[edit]

  • Norwegian or Swedish National Parks


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