Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas

Travel Tips for Finland's National Parks


Finland currently boasts a total of 41 national parks, offering everyone their own way to enjoy Finland's beautiful nature. Finnish national parks are equipped with well-marked trails and campfire sites. Camping is permitted in designated camping areas and near wilderness huts.

Wilderness huts are free shelters where hikers can spend the night. Some huts are day huts, where sleeping is prohibited. The national parks also feature bookable huts, which require a reservation. Staying in a reservation hut ensures you have a guaranteed place to sleep.

Nature gives us so much, so remember to respect nature and other hikers by leaving no trace.

Vanlifefinland's Teemu and Kirsi have compiled their travel stories from various Finnish national parks. Read on to dive into adventures in a self-made travel van.

In this blog you'll find travel stories from these national parks in Finland:

  • Päijänne National Park
  • Hossa National Park
  • Oulanka National Park
  • Repovesi National Park
  • Pyhä-Luosto National Park
  • Sipoonkorpi National Park
  • Liesjärvi National Park

Päijänne National Park

Päijänne National Park stands out from other Finnish inland national parks as most of it consists of islands. The most famous and spectacular island in Päijänne National Park is Kelvenne. This was also the destination for our day trip.

We took a small motorboat from a cottage shore to the stunning Kelvenne island.

Isohiedan beach is a beautiful and long sandy beach backed by a picturesque pine forest. Our day trip took place in early summer, so there were not many boats or other hikers in the island yet. The weather was warm, and the fine sand felt pleasant under our feet. It was so warm that swimming started to seem tempting, but we hadn't packed swimsuits or towels. Eventually, we decided to swim anyway. The weather was warm, and the water was slightly cold, but it was liberating.

On the way back, we stopped at Lietsaari, a smaller but idyllic island than Kelvenne. It also has a nice sandy beach, and at the tip of the island, you can walk on a narrow beach with water on both sides. If Kelvenne is crowded and you seek a quieter place, consider visiting nearby Lietsaari.

Pulkkilanharju is also part of Päijänne National Park. It is one of Finland's most beautiful scenic roads. Pulkkilanharju is located in Asikkala municipality, so it's worth visiting if you don't have the opportunity to explore the national park's islands by boat.

Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas

Hossa National Park

Our first van trip took us from Hanko along the west coast to Oulu, then to Kuusamo and Ruka. We dreamed of paddleboarding in Hossa National Park, so we steered our van there.

Our vanlife trips are rarely planned far in advance, and this was also the case with this trip. Along the way, we researched the Hossa area more and decided to see what the famous Julma-Ölkky was all about. We drove on road 843 and turned onto Julma-Ölkky road, a gravel road, which we followed for about 8.5 km. Eventually, we arrived at a large parking lot and gave our van a well-deserved rest.

We fired up our Trangia stove and looked into Julma-Ölkky's hiking trails. After eating, we decided to walk the Ölkyn Ähkäsy trail, a 5 km loop.

The trail ran high above the canyon, offering stunning views of the canyon lake, which is up to 50 meters deep, with the canyon walls rising 50 meters above the water surface.

Halfway through the trail, there was a suspension bridge crossing the canyon. The trail continued on the other side of the canyon, leading back to the starting point. The Ölkyn Ähkäsy was the perfect evening stroll for us before supper and bedtime. The next morning, we planned to inflate our SUP boards and explore the canyon from the water.

We woke up to a sunny morning, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and slowly started preparing for departure and inflating our SUP boards. Inflating the boards is always a task in itself, but it provided a good warm-up before hitting the water. We had also read about an ancient rock painting in Julma-Ölkky, best seen from the water, so finding it was also a mission for our SUP trip, aside from enjoying the paddle.

From the water, the canyon walls looked even more imposing, almost intimidating, as we stood on our boards at their base. The walls made us feel incredibly small. We spent about 2-3 hours on the water. The weather was calm and sunny, so what could be better than enjoying leisurely paddleboarding and good weather?

We had checked the map for the location of the rock painting, but finding it proved a bit tricky. Eventually, we found it on the east side of Julma-Ölkky, about 1.5 meters above the water surface. We read that the paintings should include 3-4 figures, with two human figures and an animal figure easily recognizable, but we could only see red color and couldn't distinguish the figures. The experience was different from what we expected, but it was still impressive to see that people who lived here long ago had made these marks on the rock.

Overall, Julma-Ölkky lived up to its reputation, and as a SUP experience, it was one of the finest. It was time to pack up the van and head south. We decided to return to Hossa National Park someday, perhaps next time with backpacks.

Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas

Oulanka National Park

Established in 1956, Oulanka National Park is one of Finland's most popular national parks. This is one of Teemu's favorite destinations in Finland: "The area around Kuusamo, Ruka, and Oulanka feels like coming home."

He has visited this area several times, both in winter and summer. The Bear's Trail (Karhunkierros), Finland's most famous hiking route, is found in Oulanka National Park. The trail is 82 km long. The area also features the Little Bear's Trail (Pieni Karhunkierros), which is part of the larger Bear's Trail and suitable for day hiking. The Little Bear's Trail is 12 km long, featuring the beautiful Myllykoski, Jyrävä waterfall, and Harrisuvanto. The Little Bear's Trail is a loop suitable for the whole family.

Teemu has hiked the entire Bear's Trail twice, the first time alone in 2011 and the second time in 2015 with his brother. The Bear's Trail (82 km) starts at the Bear's Trail Nature Centre in Hautajärvi and ends in Ruka. The trail can also be hiked in reverse.

"Hiking alone, the journey took four days in total, but with my brother, it took three days. My brother was pretty fed up with the mosquitoes, so we walked 35 kilometers on the last day. That was a long day. We left in the morning from Ylikota on the banks of the Kitka River at 8 am and arrived in Ruka around 10 pm."

The Bear's Trail ends with three major ascents if starting from Hautajärvi. The climax of a long hike includes ascending Konttainen, then trekking to the top of Valtavaara. From Valtavaara, you can see beautiful views far into Oulanka National Park. Valtavaara's elevation is 492 meters, and there's a fire lookout hut at the top available for day use by hikers.

The descent from Valtavaara is followed by an ascent to Ruka. With dozens of kilometers already behind you and a backpack on your back, the final ascents require some motivation. However, overcoming oneself is the
best reward on long hikes, so it's worth pushing yourself at the end. Along the way, the best reward might be dipping your feet into cold water.

The Bear's Trail features many beautiful natural sites, suspension bridges, and wilderness huts where hikers can spend the night for free during their journey. Here are a few notable sites along the trail:

  • Taivalköngäs, featuring a wilderness hut, campfire site, suspension bridge, and a small rapid.
  • Kiutaköngäs, a roughly 100- meter-long rapid with a 13.7-meter elevation difference. Kiutaköngäs is easily accessible by car. You can park at the Oulanka Visitor Centre, from where it's about a kilometer's walk to the rapid.
  • Ansakämppä offers a wilderness hut and campfire site. Oulanka River flows peacefully at this spot, making it a great place to swim during your hike.
  • Harrisuvanto is a popular fishing spot with a lean-to and suspension bridges.
  • At Jyrävä, you can experience the powerful force of Mother Nature as the 9-meter waterfall roars loudly between the rocks. Jyrävä is one of the most impressive sites on the Bear's Trail.

Myllykoski is not directly on the Big Bear's Trail but is part of the Little Bear's Trail. Myllykoski features a wilderness hut, campfire site, and a suspension bridge, from which many stunning photos of Oulanka National Park have been taken. A place worth seeing. Here, you might also spot Siberian Jays. Maybe they'll even pose for a photo with you.

• Porontima River has a lean-to and two small wilderness huts. Uniquely, one of the huts has a small stream running beneath it, which babbles pleasantly. Listening to the water sound is soothing when going to sleep, leading to good dreams.

Oulanka National Park has everything for hikers! Lots of water, beautiful trails, fells, and hills. The area also offers many activities like whitewater rafting, canoe routes, mountain biking trails, river floating, etc. Definitely a place worth visiting! If you haven't been yet, or even if you have, it's worth coming back.

Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas

Repovesi National Park

Repovesi offers over 40 kilometers of marked hiking trails, with routes suitable for hikers of all levels. The diverse terrain, with its ups and downs, is characteristic of Repovesi.

Our autumn day trip to Repovesi National Park started from the Lapinsalmi Parking Area, address Riippusillantie 55, Kouvola.

From the parking area, we headed towards the new Lapinsalmi suspension bridge, 0.6 km away. The bridge was completed in 2019 after the old bridge partially collapsed in July 2018. The bridge is likely one of the most photographed spots in Repovesi, and it's no wonder – both the bridge itself and the views from it are spectacular. Right after crossing the bridge, we descended to the Lapinsalmi lean-to, which offers great views of the suspension bridge and the lake. We continued approximately 0.8 km to the Katajavuori viewpoint, where we faced a somewhat steep ascent up the stairs towards the end, but the views from the viewpoint were as magnificent as seen in the photos.

From the viewpoint, the trail gradually descended towards Katajajärvi's shore, and eventually, we returned to the Lapinsalmi lean-to. The distance for this segment was about 1.6 km.

The entire loop is 3.6 km long and suitable for the whole family. However, ascending Katajavuori requires some effort. When you take your time and have breaks along the way, even the youngest family members can make the climb. Repovesi also offers challenging routes for those seeking them.

Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas

Pyhä-Luosto National Park

Located in the Lapland region, our trip to Pyhä-Luosto National Park took place in winter 2023. The national park includes the Pyhä and Luosto fells. Our base was at Pyhätunturi, and the purpose of the trip was to enjoy winter activities in Lapland and rest appropriately.

We spent a few days skiing down the slopes of Pyhätunturi and cross-country skiing on the trails between Pyhä and Luosto. In addition to these activities, we decided to try new sports: snowshoeing and ice climbing. We had been indoor bouldering and rope climbing, so we wanted to try ice climbing. We booked an ice climbing trial with a local company, lasting about 3 hours. We went to Hotel Pyhätunturi as arranged, where the climbing instructor picked us up. There, we got acquainted with the climbing equipment and put on our climbing gear. From the hotel, we walked to the climbing site, Tajukangas. The instructor started a fire at the campfire site, and we began attaching crampons to our shoes. We were advised to walk like rock stars: legs slightly apart, so the spikes don't tear the pants, although we had protectors over our pants.

We gradually moved to the climbing site and received instructions for the climb, so it as time to hit the wall. At first, it felt a bit odd/difficult to move forward on the wall as we weren't sure how the spikes would work on the icy wall. The instructor gave good advice and told us to trust the spikes, as they would indeed hold in the ice.

And off we went, embedding the ice axes into the wall and kicking the crampons into the ice with each step. A lot of strength was used during the first climb as too much body weight was on our hands. Fortunately, there was time to climb the wall two or three more times during the trial, so by the last climb, it started to feel good and even easier than indoor rope climbing.

The second new activity we tried was snowshoeing. We rented snowshoes for a day and headed towards Soutaja fell. Initially, we got acquainted with how the skis worked and slid. We started on snowmobile trails, but then moved a bit off to the side, into untouched snow. That's where the snowshoes really shined, and it was very enjoyable to move forward. The deeper and higher into the forest we went, the more spectacular the scenery became. The trees were covered in crown snow, and the northern winter landscape captivated and forced even the busiest mind to pause. These moments reminded us of childhood when we went skiing with our grandparents during the snowy winters in the south.

At the base of Soutaja fell, there's a hut where we arrived after conquering the fell to have lunch. Before this, we decided to see what the top of the fell looked like. During the ascent, we decided to go our separate ways, which turned out to be a small mistake, and we ended up on a slope with hardly any snow, just ice. The snowshoes were of no use there, so we had to remove them and try to ascend the slope on foot, back to a snowy area. Progress was slow and difficult. After a bit of struggle, we made it out and continued towards the peak.

Fortunately, the day was sunny, and even the small trees at the top were covered in crown snow, so the views were spectacular. We took photos and videos at the top and enjoyed the moment, as we didn't see anyone else. Soutaja fell is not yet very well-known, so we recommend visiting if you prefer quieter places.

On the way back, we spent some time in the hut, preparing vegetables and grilled tuna for lunch. The mountain adventure made the food taste especially good.

Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas

Sipoonkorpi National Park

Sipoonkorpi National Park is located in the areas of Sipoo, Vantaa, and Helsinki, established in 2011.

Sipoonkorpi was entirely unfamiliar territory, even though Teemu's workplace is right next to the national park. This time, we chose Källängen as our starting point, where there's a small parking area. Nearby, there's also Byabäcken I and II, offering good parking options if Källängen's parking is full.

From Byabäcken I parking area, you can directly access the Byabäcken Nature Trail, which is 2.1 km long, making it suitable for families with children.

We left from Källängen towards the Bergströmmin torppa (Bergström's croft), where there's a reservation cooking shelter for day use only. The reservation includes firewood and the use of a dry toilet. There's also a well on the site available for everyone. We meandered leisurely along the paths, soaking in the deep forest landscapes. The walk from Källängen to the croft takes about 30-40 minutes, but it took us a bit longer as we lived in the moment and explored, among other things, ants and other natural wonders.

Upon reaching the croft, we enjoyed a peaceful lunch, brewed coffee in a pot, and had cinnamon buns on the side. What could be better than sitting and eating in nature on a good day?

We continued along the Byabäcken Nature Trail and soon arrived at the Ängesböle lean-to and a large campfire site, which can accommodate a larger group. The trail brought us back to the road, and we continued towards new adventures.

We saw just a fraction of the national park, but it's definitely worth exploring further. The forests of Sipoonkorpi are among the last undeveloped environments in the capital region, alongside Nuuksio.

Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas

Liesjärvi National Park

A day trip destination at the border of three provinces in Liesjärvi National Park.

Grab this route tip for Liesjärvi National Park: A beautiful and unique route where you can walk on a ridge surrounded by water bodies and ascend a rock to admire the lake and forest scenery.

Plan for 2-3 hours to complete the route. The distance isn't long, but take time to admire nature, take photos, and enjoy the moment.

  • Park your car at the Kopinlahti parking area Kansallispuistontie 203, Tammela).
  • Walk through the stunning Kyynäränharju (a must-experience!) towards the beginning of the Hyypiönpolku Trail.
  • It's recommended to walk the Hyypiönpolku Trail clockwise. Stay on the right trail by following white square signs with an orange marker in the center, attached to trees.
  • Return to the Pirttilahti rest area and back to the parking area via Kyynäränharju.

This route is about 5 km long. Allocate 2-3 hours to enjoy the scenery, take drink breaks, and have snacks by Tapolanjärvi or at the Pirttilahti rest area.

If you prefer a shorter route, park directly at the Pirttilahti rest area and walk the Hyypiön trail 2.8 km or just the Kyynäränharju 2.6 km.

Dry toilets can be found at Kopinlahti and Pirttilahti. It's a good idea to bring your own toilet paper.

Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas
Halti Blog: Finnish National Parks and Outdoor Areas