Hiking and Trekking
photo © Visit Finland / Mikko Karjalainen
Hiking and Trekking in Finland
Because Finland is one of the largest countries in Europe, and one of the most sparcely populated, there are literally thousands of square kilometres of unspoilt forests, fells, and islands where visitors can enjoy the incredible natural beauty that abounds. Trails snake throughout the country, and hikers can roam for days without meeting another person.
From the breathtaking beauty of the archipelago of the south, to the mystical shimmering of the Aurora Borealis lighting up the skies in the north, Finland presents a rare natural paradise to charm and soothe the soul. Scattered across the country you’ll discover 37 National Parks, a dozen Wilderness Areas, and countless hiking and cycling trails.
Finland can lay claim to an enormous number of islands off its coast, the vast majority of which can be found in the four principal archipelagos; the Kotka archipelago in the Gulf of Finland, the Helsinki archipelago, the Archipelago Sea, and the Kvarken archipelago in the Gulf of Bothnia, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The diversity of wildlife in Finland often comes as a surprise to visitors to Europe’s easternmost country, but there are currently 80 mammal species to be found in Finland. There are 450 species of bird in Finland, although 7 of these have not been seen since 1950. Finland is also home to 5 species of reptile and 5 species of amphibian, all of which hibernate, usually from the end of September through ’til April. there are now more than 1,200 species of vascular plants, 800 species of bryophtes (mosses, liverworts, hornworts, etc.), and 1,000 species of lichen.
Finland’s 40 National Parks cover a total area of 9,892 square kilometres, or 2.5% of the country’s total land area. Each National Park is a protected area of over 1,000 hectares, freely open to all. These parks are significant tourist attractions, having within their boundaries national landscapes and other natural sights, but their primary purpose is to ensure the diversity of Finnish nature and to protect natural features.
National Hiking Areas
There are 9 designated hiking areas in Finland, 7 of which are state-owned and a part of the Natura 2000 network. The facilities provided in the National Hiking Areas include, but are not limited to, well marked hiking and skiing trails, nature trails, lean-to shelters, and camp sites. Usually you can find a visitor or outdoors centre where information about the region and its nature is made readily available, and in many places there are rental cabins available.
In the south, more forests are owned by local people and managed to produce timber, but they still resemble natural forests. Finland’s liberal laws of public access give everyone the right to roam the forests and countryside freely, no matter who owns the land.
People of all nationalities have the right to enjoy the Finnish countryside freely under the traditional Finnish legal concept known as Everyman’s Right. But together with these wide-ranging rights comes the responsibility to respect nature, other people, and property. Special regulations in national parks and many nature reserves additionally limit activities such as camping, hunting, the use of motor vehicles, and access to sensitive areas during the nesting season. Such restrictions are listed separately for each area.
Under Everyman’s Right you are permitted:
- walk, ski or cycle freely, except very near people’s homes, or in fields and plantations which could easily be damaged.
- camp out temporarily, a reasonable distance from homes
- pick wild berries, mushrooms and flowers, as long as they are not protected species
- fish with a rod and line
- use boats, swim or bathe in inland waters and the sea
- walk, ski, or drive a motor vehicle or fish on frozen lakes, rivers and the sea.
However, you are not permitted
- disturb people or damage property
- disturb reindeer, game, breeding birds, their nests or young
- let pets off lead
- cut down or damage trees
- collect moss, lichen or fallen trees from other people’s property
- light open campfires without permission, except in an emergency
- disturb people’s privacy by camping too near them or making too much noise
- leave litter
- drive motor vehicles off road without the landowner’s permission
- hunt without the relevant permits
- fish with nets, traps, or a reel and lure without the relevant permits