Muotkatunturit (Sami: Muotkkeduoddara meahcceguovlu) is a wilderness area in Inari and Utsjoki in northern Finnish Lapland, where one can enjoy silence and be alone with the nature. The northern part is a rolling fell plateau crossed by river valleys, the south consists of fell birch forests, bogs and old pine forests. There are no marked trails in the area and only a few wilderness huts. Somebody in the company should have sufficient experience of hiking.
Muotkatunturit is a true wilderness area, where you have to get along by yourself. The terrain is quite easy, but the treeless areas offer little shelter and there are many areas without mobile phone coverage. The area covers 1,570 km².
Consider observing leave-no-trace camping principles. There are waste bins at the wilderness huts, but emptying them is costly, so avoid using them.
Inari and Utsjoki both belong to the Sami native region, with about half the population in Utsjoki being Sami. Names on the map are mostly in Northern Sami and Inari Sami, sometimes in Finnish.
Muotkatunturit has long been an important reindeer husbandry area, the fells in summer, the forests in winter. There are also stone age findings by lake Peltojärvi.
The wilderness areas were established 1991 to protect the wilderness character of these areas, secure the Sami culture and develop usage of the nature, including reindeer herding, fishing and hunting. There are severe restrictions on building any infrastructure, but the status has little direct influence on the hiker. Most of the area is state owned and administered by Metsähallitus.
The southern part of the area is lowland dominated by fell birch, with bogs, some old pine woods and some of the fells extending above the tree line. Going to the north the terrain gets higher and even the fell birch has to seek shelter in valleys. The open rolling fell landscape of the central and north parts of the area is what most hikers come here to enjoy. The highest peak, Kuárvikozzâ, reaches a modest 590 metres, 250 metres above its surroundings.
There are many quick streams between the fells, and a canyon, Stuorraávži or Stuorrâävži, in the fell plateau. In the east there is the lake Peltojärvi (Bealdojávri, Piäldujävri), with Peltotunturi (Bealdoaivi, Piälduáivi) reaching 567 meters.
Flora and fauna
The fell plateau is dominated by fell heaths, with fell birch in the valleys. Alpine bearberry (rievssatmuorji, Arctostaphylos alpinus) give the heaths a distinct red colour in the fall, at ruska.
There is a strong golden eagle population in the area and several of the seriously threatened wolverine. More common animals include rough-legged buzzard, grey-headed chickadee, willow ptarmigan and Siberian jay.
The wilderness area is in inland Lapland, far north of the Arctic circle, to a large part above the tree line. This means advice on cold weather applies in full in winter. Do not come without sufficient experience or experienced company. The lasting snow comes in October–November, but thicker snow usually only around New year. As in most of Lapland, early spring is the best time for skiing.
Later in the spring melting snow means high waters. Use your judgement when fording. Experience is needed.
The mosquito season starts in late June and continues to the first freezing nights in August–September. They are less of a problem above the tree line.
Ruska, the beautiful time of red leaves, is in early to mid September.
Summer day temperatures are usually 15–20°C, but lower temperatures are possible, emphasized if there is wind and rain.
The Sami museum and nature centre Siida in Inari acts as visitor centre for Muotkatunturit. Inari is easily reachable by car (E75), coach or plane (via Ivalo airport). Here you can get maps, advice and fishing and hunting permits. There are nature trails nearby. There is an entrance fee (€10/8/5) to the exhibitions; guided tours should be reserved in advance.
Villages around the area (most tiny) include:
- 1 Kaamanen (Gámas, Kaamâs) (in the east). Transfer point between coaches to Utsjoki and Karigasniemi. Near the north end of the lake Mutusjärvi/Mudusjävri.
- 2 Karigasniemi (Gáregasnjárga) (in the north-west). Bigger village at the Norwegian border, crossroads to Angeli. Shops etc.
- 3 Angeli (Áŋŋel) (in the south-west). Remote village, origin of the Angelit world music band.
- 4 Tirro (Movshâš?) (in the south-east). Bridge over the river Vaskojoki/Fášku/Vášku. Close to the south end of the lake Mutusjärvi/Mudusjävri.
There are no public roads into the Muotkatunturit area, but roads near it (1–14 km) on each side: E75/national road 4 (Rovaniemi–Ivalo–Inari–Utsjoki) to the east, road 92 (Kaamanen–Karigasniemi) to the north and north-east and local road 9553 (Inari–Angeli) to the south and by the Norwegian border (Karigasniemi–Angeli) to the west.
There is a weekly taxi/minibus connection between Inari and Angeli, which can be used to reach the area from the south. The road runs 1–3 km from the area, from near Tirro on the other side of the river Vaskojoki (Fášku, Vášku) or its tributary Kurtojoki/Kurdojuuhâ, and a reindeer fence. Check how/where to cross them unless you opt for Tirro. An ordinary taxi ride from Inari to Tirro (20 km) would cost about 30–50 euro.
The eastern and northern parts of the area are easily reached by coaches from Ivalo via Inari to Karigasniemi (either local bus or Rovaniemi–Karasjok/Nordkap). If coming from the north (Tana bru, Utsjoki), transfer at Kaamanen. From the Karigasniemi road the fell plateau is easily reachable, which allows shorter return trips, even day trips (but the climb to the fells is considerable).
There is a snowmobile route from Inari via Tirro and Peltojärvi to Muotkan Ruoktu and further to Utsjoki or to Karigasniemi by the road.
There is also the former post route from Tirro to Karigasniemi, a trail not marked in the terrain and sometimes difficult to follow, but marked on the map at least most of the way.
Popular starting points in the north include Muotkan Ruoktu, with a trail to Peltojärvi, Kiellatupa (Giellájohka lomakylä) by Kielajoki river and the village Karigasniemi by the Norwegian border.
The river valley of Inarinjoki by the Norwegian border is steep, but there are several places suitable for starting a hike. As there is no public transport here, you might want to start from a cottage where you have been staying. The Ranttila house is by this road.
Fees and permits
There are no entrance or hiking fees. The right to access is valid in the area and permits roaming, temporary camping and picking berries and mushroom. Using small branches for fire and lodging in the open wilderness huts is also free (note the terms).
Fishing permits can be bought from the nature centre or from local businesses. Check what permits are relevant for the areas you are going to visit. Angling and ice fishing in still waters is included in the right to access, but there are annually varying restrictions in the area. For lure fishing you need a permit, mostly the "Utsjoki 1574" one. The national fishing permit in itself covers only some waters but is needed for most fishing.
Hunting permits are sold for the publicly owned area and some tourist businesses arrange hunting excursions. Typical game is willow ptarmigan, waterfowl and mountain hare. Hunting has to be coordinated with the reindeer husbandry.
There are no public roads in the area, nor marked trails. There are some roads leading into the area, used by locals, but they are not suitable for ordinary cars and may be closed for traffic.
In summer you will be walking. In the winter you will be skiing, unless you opt for the snowmobile route. A good map, a compass and the skill to use them are needed, as is skill to cope with harsh weather, minor bogs and minor rivers (there are no bridges).
There is an outdoor map for the area, 1:50 000. You can also use the ordinary topographical maps (W433, W434 and W443; 1:50 000), but on these the wilderness huts are not easily found.
Most people coming here walk their own paths. The established routes are the one from Muotkan Ruoktu to Peltojärvi (14 km) and the former post route from Tirro to Karigasniemi through all the wilderness area (often used for only part of the trek).
There are reindeer fences, with few gates.
See and do
- See the open fell landscape and individual fells
- Cross-country skiing
- Berry picking
- Mires. There are minor bogs and mires all around, but there are two large mire protection areas:
- 2 Stuorrâävži canyon.
- 2 Kaktsavarri (Gákcavárri, Kahcâvääri). Mighty fell close to the road. Hike from Kaamasmukka; 2×3–2×5 or 13 km depending on route and starting point.
There is a path from the village past the steep south-eastern slope of the fell, and another starting 1.65 km farther toward Karigasniemi, leading up a gentler slope. Your could take the former and fork off to the south-west and west to join the more gentle route. The fell has three peaks, the first on the border to the wilderness area, the middle one the highest. Finding the path on the way back may be difficult, carry a compass to make sure you find your way without path if needed (and a map to find the way up). Good views.
You could also follow the path from the village until it turns from south-west to south on Muoidunaláš/Muáđumaalaaš, then turn to north-west to get round the fell and climb it from the west and return by the other path. That way you don't miss the view to the fell's impressive southern slope and get a little feel for the larger wilderness area.
Peltojärvi and Peltotunturi
- 3 Lake Peltojärvi
- 3 Peltotunturi (Bealdoaivi, Piäldoouáivi). 2×16 km hike from Muotkan Ruoktu to Peltoaivi (567 m) with view to Peltojärvi. Wild camping. Going farther requires skills.
Peltoaivi is one of the bigger tunturi in Muotkatunturit, with views to far away in all directions. Below it lies Peltojärvi, a large lake, 6 km from end to end. Traces of Stone Age settlements have been found by the shore. Overnighting in a tent is possible near the Lahtisen kämppä hut, by the small lake on the fellside – or wherever you like. You could get fishing permits for the river (check procedures and rent equipment, if needed, at Muotkan Ruoktu).
There is an unmarked but easy to follow trail from Muotkan Ruoktu on each side of the river Peltojoki (Bealdojohka, Piäldojuuhâ). Follow the left (west) shore. You reach the minimal Lahtisen kämppä hut after 10 km. After 2.5 km more the trail starts to climb the fell side to a small lake at 350 m. Here you lose the trail but can continue to the south-west towards a saddle. Start along the creek in the west end of the lake (not the first one, err going west, not south) to get the easiest route. Soon after the lake you reach the tree line. From the saddle you turn towards the top closer to Peltojärvi. You reach it 3 km after the small lake.
Oaivi means head, referring to the rounded shape of the fell (this is a very common fell name suffix in Finnish Lapland). Enjoy the views.
To get down to Peltojärvi, follow the "river valley" of Puolenjärvenoja/Kaskojavrijuuvâš ("mid-lake creek") on the west side of the saddle. You could skip this part. It may require some skill to find comfortable routes. The shore is steep, reached 4 km after the fell top. Keep east (left) of the creek to make sure you cannot stray away too far. If you get lost among the birch you should be able to get back just by aiming for higher ground and you should soon see the Peltoaivi top, but if you panic, confuse Peltoaivi with lower peaks and venture away from Peltojärvi, you may have a real problem. Continuing farther requires solid skills, compass and a good map.
You could continue to Kuárvikozzâ or to the Terstojänkä/Tiärsoojeggi wetland protection area, or just to the southern shores of the lake. There is the Vuomâjuuhâ to ford near the south-west corner of the lake at least for the latter routes. Going round the lake is possible, but requires good orienteering skills. Instead of returning down the trail on the other side of Peltojoki you might then want to find your own paths.
- 4 Kuárvikozzâ. Highest fell in the area (590 m).
Kuárvikozzâ is close to the middle of the wilderness, so longer treks are easy to plan to go via it. There is the trail from Tirro via Stuorrâävži to Karigasniemi, but otherwise any paths are more likely to be reindeer-made than man made. Compass, a good map and solid wilderness skills are required.
Via Peltoaivi (2×32 km): Follow the directions of Peltoaivi. From the Peltoaivi saddle follow the watershed to the south-west, west of the top of Suárvikielâs. When going down to the Vumâjuuhâ valley, keep above the wetlands. Ford the river at some suitable spot or follow it upstream. You should get above the treeline again some 10–12 km from Peltoaivi.
From Tirro/Movshâš: The old postal trail from Tirro to Karigasniemi passes next to Kuárvikozzâ. It is a popular route, but it is not marked, it can be hard to follow in the wetlands and there are other paths forking away, so make sure you know where you are at all times. The distance from Tirro to the fell is some 20 km along the trail. Before Kuárvikozzâ the trail goes through lowland, with many lakes, while the stretch from Stuorrâävži towards Karigasniemi is on the fell plateau. The lake Kuárvikozzâjävri is at 320 m, 270 m below the fell top, so the steep fell sides are quite impressive when approaching from this direction.
Kuárvikozzâ is steep to the east, but from west or north-west, passing Ucceeb Kuárvikozzâ on either side, it is an easy walk. Do not follow the Tirro trail past that fell if coming from the north or west, instead go via the valley between it, Kuárvikozzâ and a third nameless (?) top. There is a 160 m climb from the valley, you might want to leave your backpacks there – perhaps by your tent, if the day was or will be done and the creek had good water. Make sure to leave things in a visible and easy to find place. Anything smaller than a tent can be hard to spot from a distance.
There are shops at least in Inari, Ivalo and Karigasniemi and some service in Kaamanen. There are souvenir shops and service for tourists also at other places along the road.
For any handicraft, check they are "Sami duodji" and not cheap import. You might want to check beforehand what local craftsmen there are, and where to get their products – the souvenir shops have limited assortments.
There are several tourist businesses by the roads, most of which can serve you (and probably also pack) meals.
There are stoves in the wilderness huts, in Stuorraäytsi a separate gas stove for cooking.
Making fire is allowed on state owned land in the area (i.e. nearly everywhere), given due care and that there is no wildfire warning in effect. Small branches and sticks from the ground may be used without further permits. Use existing fireplaces if possible. You should still bring a camping stove for most cooking.
Berries and edible mushrooms can be picked thanks to the right to access. You can also use common wild herbs. For fishing you need to check current restrictions, disinfect your equipment (if coming from certain waters) and (except for angling without reel in still water) buy permits.
The water in the area is mostly potable, especially water from rivers and streams. In warm periods in the summer boiling the water is recommended. Use your judgement. On the fell heath itself water is scarce, but valleys with water are not far away.
After the reindeer round-up (usually in June) water in the area where large reindeer herds have got dirt in the water is unsafe for a few weeks.
A suitable tent, camping mattresses and sleeping bags are needed if you stay overnight in the wilderness area. There are no mattresses, blankets or pillows in the open wilderness huts and you should not count on being able to sleep indoors.
Metsähallitus maintains two open wilderness huts in the area, the 1 Stuorraäytsi hut. (7 persons) in the western end of the canyon and the 2 Kurtojoki hut (6 persons) at the northern shore of Kurtojohka, south of Jorba-Kaisavarri, in the south-west part of the area. Note that latecomers have an absolute right to the facilities. Dogs are allowed if others in the hut agree. There are a few wilderness huts maintained by others, such as the minimal 3 Lahtisen kämppä (about two by two metres!) some 10 km upstream from Muotkan Ruoktu. As you use facilities of other people, make sure to leave the hut at least as tidy as when you came, check the stove before using it, and make sure there is dry firewood for the party coming next.
There are many commercial lodging facilities outside the area, including cottages for rent, rooms and a hotel in Inari.
- 4 Muotkan Ruoktu, Karigasniementie 2281 (at Peltojoki by the Karigasniemi road, 23km from the Kaamanen crossroads, 45km from Karigasniemi), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Campsite, rooms, cottages. Café-restaurant. With a trail to Peltojärvi and several shorter trails. Open 1 March–30 September, some of the cottages are available also off season. Cottages from €32/day (2 persons, linen included); caravan €20 + electricity €8; camping €15/tent; board €45/day/pers+lodging; sauna €20/hour, included in board.
- 5 Kiellatupa, Karigasniementie 2920 (at Giellájohka by the Karigasniemi road, 30 km from the Kaamanen crossroads, 37km from Karigasniemi), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Hostel and summer cabin. Café-restaurant. Rooms from €63/day (linen included); caravan €15 + electricity €5 + €2/1 per person.
- 6 Ranttila (at Inarijoki, 36 km from Karigasniemi towards Angeli), ☏ . Former private house with lodging for 20 (three bedrooms), by the Muotkan Ruoktu owner. €180/day.
Camping by caravan is possible at least in Karigasniemi and at Muotkan Ruoktu and Kiellatupa. Parking lots maintained by the road administration can also be used, such as at the trailhead of the Kevo trail (see below). There are no camp sites in the wilderness area.
Camping is allowed nearly everywhere, according to the right to access. Using the grounds of wilderness huts or commonly used places is recommended, though, to minimize wearing of the ground.
Tell somebody about your plans, including alternative route and timetables, so that they can start a rescue operation if you do not return on time. You can use Siida for this, but do not forget to tell when you do return, or if you are delayed without an emergency. You can use the emergency number 112 (which can use coverage by any provider) also to tell you are safe.
Proper clothes, equipment and sufficient food supplies are a must, as is sufficient experience. You will have to get by on your own for quite some time in an emergency, and even calling the rescue service requires getting to a place with phone coverage (or to the road, if your phone got wet or out of battery power).
- The Kevo route (64/78 km), through an impressing canyon to Utsjoki, with starting point at 2 Sulaoja (Suttesája) by the Kaamanen–Karigasniemi road, or the 2km nature trail by Sulaoja. Kevo is a nature reserve, check restrictions for the intended season if you want to see it (the nature trail and the Paistunturi wilderness area around the Kevo canyon have few restrictions).