Finland with its 40 national parks is a hiker’s and backpacker’s paradise
Hiking is the most popular way to explore Finland’s natural places. It truly suits everyone. The diverse network of trails in Finland’s national parks and other protected areas allows one to go on a few-hour walk, take a day hike or do an overnight backpacking trip. Nature, wildlife, beautiful scenery and wilderness feel can all be found when hiking in Finland.
Everyone will find a suitable destination and trail according to their interests. There are circle trails and one-way trails. Some trails are easy, while some are demanding. There are marked, well-maintained trails with signposts, but there is also a vast wilderness for those who long for trekking off the beaten track. Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland, which manages all National Parks and all other protected areas owned by state, maintains thousands of kilometres of trails and hundreds of facilities, such as campfire sites and open wilderness huts. Most of them can be used for free and without a reservation. Reservable huts are also available for a fee.
How to get started
Nearly all National Parks offer excellent walking, hiking and backpacking opportunities. Most parks have several marked trails that range in length, and you can usually choose from a selection of trails according to your level of physical fitness and the time you have available. Short interpretative trails, also known as nature trails, provide information about the nature and history of the area. These are excellent for a brief 2-3 hour visit to a park. Certain parks offer, in turn, multi-day or even multi-week backpacking experiences. Use Destination Search to look for a hiking destination for you. Note, that besides national parks, there are also national hiking areas, wilderness areas and other wonderful hiking destinations throughout Finland.
If you are looking for a guided hiking tour with interpretation, transportation, rental gear, accommodation or special activities, check the links from the web pages for specific destinations in the Nationalparks.fi website, or search local tourism websites. They also provide more specific information on area's hiking trails.
Familiarize yourself with Everyman’s Right, i.e. the responsibilities and rights you have when moving about in Finnish nature. They apply to both Finnish and foreign citizens.
Pay attention to current conditions in your planned destination. Are there warnings in effect, such as a forest fire warning or grass fire warning ? Are there trail closures? What does the weather look like?
For more responsible travel, use public transport, when available, or share a car ride to get to the trailhead. Note that some trailheads can be located far from a parking lot, or require a boat trip to get to.
No permit is required when hiking in Finland. There are no entrance fees to National Parks or other protected areas. However, groups of 10 or more are asked to notify Metsähallitus in advance when planning to camp out. Ask about group campsites.
Pack your food, drink and other supplies in washable and reusable containers to prevent waste. There is no garbage collection so take away all your litter.
Good to know: Nature trails and short walks
Short trails enable families or casual walkers to enjoy a brief walk or explore for a couple of hours. They are found in nearly all National Parks. When selecting a trail, pay attention to facilities along your planned route. For example, pack a sandwich and enjoy it on a picnic site. These facilities are open for everyone to use - for free.
Nature trails, marked with a cone symbol, interpret trailside features with signs. You can learn a lot on the nature and history of the area on such a self-guided walk. Information is often available in English, too.
Special equipment or special skills are usually not needed when going on a short walk in natural surroundings. However, carry plenty of water, stay hydrated, and cover your head with a hat or cap in a hot and sunny weather. During dry weather, any good quality sports shoes or walking shoes will do.
Stay on a marked trail in order not to get lost.
In certain parks, accessible trails are available. They are usually flat smooth trails suitable for all users, including wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility. They can be accessed with a baby stroller, too. Normal outdoor footwear can be worn.
Good to know: Day hikes
Once you’ve selected your hiking destination, acquire a good map. You can purchase a map online at Karttakeskus (www.karttakauppa.fi/en), at a well-equipped bookstore or outdoor company, or a National Park Visitor Centre.
Plan your route carefully, especially when going on an overnight hike. Take advantage of maintained and signposted trails when possible. Consider these when planning the route:
- Is it a circle trail? If it’s one-way, how do you travel between finishing and starting points?
- How much time do you have? Will you hike at dark? Although there is plenty of sunlight in summer, it can get dark in the forests after the sun goes down. Trails are hardly ever lit.
- Take advantage of the maintained campfire and picnic sites for breaks on your hiking trip. For overnight stays, use huts, lean-to shelters and designated camping sites.
- Where do you get drinking water from?
- Select a marked trail when possible. Only light a campfire in one of the designated campfire sites provided.
Always carry weather-appropriate clothing, food, snacks, water, up-to-date trail map, compass, matches and headlamp. Keep extra clothes in a waterproof bag in case of rainy weather. Wear layers. Sturdy shoes or boots are recommended.
Good to know: Backpacking (overnight) trips
In addition to tips mentioned in chapter Good to know: Day hikes, you must consider a few more essential things when doing an overnight hike.
In general, the longer or more remote the hike is, the more clothing, gear, food and water you're going to need. Sleeping bags and pads are important. Bring a tent or hammock, even if you're planning to stay in open wilderness huts. You may need it in an emergency situation - or if all huts are full.
If feeling insecure, consider joining a guided excursion or hiring a wilderness guide. All National Parks have a variety of partners that offer guiding services to hikers and backpackers. They follow the principles of sustainable nature tourism (www.metsa.fi) when operating in the national park
Hiking alone is not recommended. Leave word about where you are going, by what route, and when you plan to return. Leave your name and time of visit on guestbooks that you find on campfire sites and huts.
Summer weather in Finland can be unpredictable. Therefore, keep checking the weather forecast. Seek for shelter if the weather gets worse. Daylight hours are plentiful in the summer, but nights can be cold.
Help us prevent forest fires and grass fires. In Finland, a fire warning is given when the risk of quickly spreading forest fire or grass fire is high. Don’t make a fire when there’s a fire warning in effect. For up-to-date warnings of storms and forest fire hazards, see the website of the Finnish Meteorological Institute (en.ilmatieteenlaitos.fi). It is your responsibility to be aware of warnings in effect.
Carry and drink enough water. You may use the water from springs, lakes or wells. Water from springs and wells is usually clean and safe to drink but lake water may contain harmful algae or bacteria from animal droppings. Therefore, always boil lake water before drinking. Using water from natural sources is always at your own risk.
Do not approach or feed wildlife.
Do not leave any food out when camping or staying in a hut. Elevate your backpack in order not to attract mice or other rodents. In addition, do not leave behind any left-over items, as food lures harmful animals into the hut. Follow rules for using wilderness huts.
Carry a fully charged mobile phone. However, do not rely on it. Not all areas have mobile network coverage. Battery may also run out.
Emergency number in Finland is 112. You can call 112 from a foreign mobile phone connection, too. Consider downloading the 112 Suomi application beforehand. It enables the automatic delivery of your coordinates to the emergency service dispatcher when dialing 112.