Hiking in Lapland in misty morning
Photo by: Harri Tarvainen

Lace up Your Boots: Hiking Lapland

Looking for a trek just outside town or unbounded Arctic wilderness? Lapland has hiking trails for first-timers and more seasoned hikers alike.

Lace up your boots and head into the wilderness! Lapland’s forests, bald fell tops, and endless winding river await the intrepid explorer. From day trips through gentle hiking areas to longer hiking trips through challenging terrain, the whole of Lapland is yours to explore.

Day Trips

Northern Finland has official hiking areas that are maintained by the Forest Administration. These include the Arctic Circle Hiking Area, the Inari Hiking Area and the Iso-Syöte Hiking Area.

The Arctic Circle Hiking Area lies just north of Rovaniemi, about a 15- or 20-minute drive from downtown. As there are a couple starting points just off Highway E75, you can also hop a bus there and back. Situated between and around Vikaköngäs and Vaattunkiköngäs, the hiking routes often take you along the Raudanjoki river with its impressive rapids. The hills here are gentle, and the hiking routes to the top often open wide to lay the grandeur of Arctic Finland at your feet. Stretching away in all directions are the pine and birch forests and the sparkling waters of Rovaniemi’s lakes and rivers.

Farther north sits Lapland’s largest lake, Inari, and the Inari Hiking Area is a great introduction to the homeland of the Sámi people. There are a handful of different trails ranging from an hour’s walk to the whole day. A few recommended trails include the Juutua Accessible Trail (1 km) for beginners, which follows the bank of the Juutuanjoki river; the Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church Trail (10 km round-trip), which winds through a stony old-growth forest to the eponymous church; and the Inari-Otsamo Trail (18 km), which follows the Juutuanjoki river through old-growth forest before climbing up the Otsamotunturi Fell for a spectacular tundra vista. A great place to begin this hike is Siida, the Sámi Museum and Northern Lapland Center, in the village of Inari. Here you can get maps and prepare yourself for the vast untouched wilderness of Inari before you.

Further south, the Iso-Syöte Hiking Area features over a dozen trails—easy, moderate and hard—that wind through spruce forests, slope bogs, up and down Finland’s southernmost fell, and innumerable natural wonders. The all-ages Naavaparran Polku (6 km) trail begins at the Syöte Visitor Center and offers the chance to see Siberian flying squirrels. Huippupolku Trail (2 km) begins at the Iso-Syöte Hotel and climbs Iso-Syöte Fell for a breathtaking view of the Syöte National Park. Or stretch your legs and tackle the Pytkyn Pyrähdys (9 km) circle trail, which winds through old-growth forests, around deep ponds and eskers carved out by the Ice Age.

Because these hiking areas are maintained by the Forest Administration, this means there are marked hiking and nature trails, as well as camping sites and lean-to shelters, as well as toilet and other facilities.

But daytrips in Lapland aren’t limited to the Hiking Areas. Forest Walks for Dummies has a few great shorter hikes (and tips for beginners). Also, every national park has hiking trails. Check out the National Parks website for info on all of Finland’s national parks, including trails, maps, facilities and more.

Hiking in Lapland, resting in hammock
Photo by: Rayann Elzein | Lapland Material Bank
Hiking in Lapland, early morning
Photo by: Harri Tarvainen

Overnight Hikes

What if you’re in the mood for a hike that takes a couple days, or even a week? You’re not constrained to the official hiking areas–longer hiking trails are marked and traverse some of Lapland’s most impressive and unforgettable natural offerings. These trails are marked, and you’ll find campfire sites, open wilderness huts and other man-made structures along the trails.

What’s an open wilderness hut, you ask? The Forest Administration maintains more than 200 huts in Lapland, which are free of charge to use. Feel free to rest your feet, light a fire and grill your recent catch, or even bed down for a night or two, even in the winter. In addition, in some areas, there are rental huts which you can reserve to ensure a bed. You should familiarize yourself with the rules and guidelines on using them before heading off for your adventure.

Check out these popular longer trails:

  • Hetta – Pallas Trail (55 km) is a trail marked out in 1934 that runs through the magnificent fell landscape of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. Along the trail there are both open and reservable wilderness huts.
  • Pyhä – Luosto Trail (35 km) runs through the breathtaking scenery of the Pyhä-Luosto National Park. The trail is a good choice for a two-day hike.
  • Kevo Trail (63 km) runs through the Kevo Strict Nature Reserve in Northern Lapland and meanders through mountain birch forests, open fell areas, pine forests and the Kevo Canyon. The trail descends to the bottom of the canyon several times, so there are many steep climbs and descents along the way.
  • Nuortti Hiking Trail (40 km) is a circular trail near the Finnish-Russian border in the Urho Kekkonen National Park. The wilderness-like trail runs in a deep canyon along the River Nuorttijoki, a popular fishing destination.
  • Sevettijärvi – Pulmanki Trail (60-70 km) runs through the Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area along pine heaths and fell uplands. Along the trail there are several open wilderness huts where hikers can stay overnight.
  • Nordkalottruta or Arctic Trail is an 800-km-long trail with about 70 km on the Finnish side. The trail leads from the Käsivarsi region in north-western Lapland to Norway and Sweden. In Finland, the trail runs through the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area and Malla Strict Nature Reserve, and you can join the trail at Kilpisjärvi. The trail is rather demanding and stony in places. There are open and reservable wilderness huts along the way for hikers to stay overnight.
  • UKK Trail meanders around Sallatunturi Fell and through the Tuntsa Wilderness Area. Sections suitable for longer hikes include Hautajärvi – Kelloselkä (75 km) or Naruska – Tulppio (112 km).
  • Karhunkierros Trail (82 km) is Finland’s most popular hiking trail. Beginning at the Hautajärvi Visitor Center in Salla, you’ll head into the vast Oulanka National Park. Sights include the rocky walls of Oulanka Canyon, and innumerable overlooks from the tops of fells and forested hill. As you follow the Oulankajoki river valley south, you’ll cross from Lapland into Northern Ostrobothnia. This trail features several rest spots, campfire sites and dry toilets.
Hiking in Lapland, enjoying nature
Photo by: Eeva Mäkinen
Hiking in Lapland, bridge
Photo by: Daniel Taipale

Off The Beaten Path

You’ve done the Arctic Circle. You’ve hiked the edge of Lake Inari. You’ve even stood atop the fells in Pyhä and Ylläs, and yet … you find your eyes lingering on unbroken tree lines. What’s over there, you ask yourself.

There’s only one way to find out.

Lapland combines the two greatest things a hiker could ever want: unspoiled, protected wilderness areas and Everyman’s Right. The wilderness areas of northern Lapland offer unlimited adventures without the risk of running into another soul. The overall aim of these areas is to protect the Sami culture and the natural sources of their traditional livelihoods, but also to develop the diverse uses of nature. There are occasional hiking trails in wilderness areas, but an explorer should have experience before heading into greater Lapland.

Adventurers who have already seen the most popular vistas and overlooks will love the 12 wilderness areas Lapland offers. The areas spread from Forest Lapland (e.g. Tuntsa) all the way to northern Fell Lapland with its fells and mountain birch forests (e.g. Käsivarsi, Paistunturi, Kaldoaivi). There are also areas shaped by large rivers (Hammastunturi, Kemihaara). The wilderness areas of Lapland are vast, uninhabited areas where you will need good orienteering and camping skills. There are no marked trails or open wilderness huts there, apart from rare exceptions. Also, keep in mind that these areas are traditional hunting and fishing grounds.

Hiking in Lapland, climbing up the fell
Photo by: Terhi Tuovinen
Hiking in Lapland, hiking boots
Photo by: Eeva Mäkinen