7 Incredible National Parks In Finnish Lapland

Lapland is home to some of Finland’s most incredible national parks. Each park is unique and full of incredible nature and wildlife.

This post is a round-up of the best National Parks in Finnish Lapland and the highlights of what each one has to offer!

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Are Finnish Lapland’s National Parks open year-round?

Yes! The national parks are open year-round and each season offers new and exciting things to do.

Aurora over National Parks in Finnish Lapland
National parks in Finnish Lapland are the best spots for aurora hunting

In summer the parks are perfect for long hikes as the days never end, while in winter you can cross-country ski or explore the depths of the park on snowshoes.

Are National Parks in Lapland free to visit?

All national and state parks in Lapland are free to visit. Along with the parks being free to visit, there are barbecue spots and shelters that are for public use, and in some places, even the firewood is free to use!

Can I camp in National Parks in Finnish Lapland?

Thanks to Everyman’s Right in Finland, camping is allowed in most places for free. However, in national parks, you may need to stick to certain dedicated camping areas.

It is also advisable to check with the National Park Visitors Center for more information about camping in that specific park, as there might be restrictions on camping in certain areas.

The rolling hills of Ylläs national park
Plenty of space to pitch your tent in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

When camping, it is important to remember to have good etiquette and leave no trace of your stay. During the middle of winter, camping is not advisable for those not used to the more extreme conditions!

The best time to visit Finnish National Parks in Lapland

The time you should visit depends on what you want to do during your visit. Summer and fall are best for hiking and foraging.

Fall colors in Salla National Park
Fall reaching Salla National Park

During the middle of summer though the constant daylight and mosquitos can pose their own challenges, whereas autumn is a little cooler but the wilderness bursts into color with the fall foliage.

Winter and spring are the best times to visit if you are looking to do some snow-based activities. During these seasons, though, you need to be prepared for seriously cold temperatures, especially at night.

Best National Parks In Finnish Lapland

I have created a list of the best national parks in Finnish Lapland and some information on how to enjoy them no matter the time of the year! If you have any additional tips or feel I may have missed something, please leave a comment below!

Riisitunturi National Park

Riisitunturi National Park is home to one of the most famous winter views in Lapland, the popcorn trees. The popcorn trees phenomenon happens every winter, mainly in January and February, when the snow sticks to the pines and makes them look like small piles of popcorn.

By March, the winds have normally arrived and the trees are freed from their icy prisons. Winter is a great time to head out to the park and see the trees on a pair of snowshoes or by hiking one of the dedicated hiking routes.

For the ultimate picture, head to the park at night to photograph the northern lights dancing over the snow-encased trees.

Popcorn trees in Riisitunturi National Park
Popcorn trees in Riisitunturi National Park

Throughout winter you will also find a dedicated fat biking trail, one of the most unique winter activities available in the park.

During summer, the park is great for hiking, with numerous trails that cover distances from 3km (1.86 mi) circle hikes to longer 30km (18.6 mi) one-way hikes. One of the best hikes is the Kirinkuoppa Circle Trail. The 7 km (4.35 mi) hike takes you past some of the best views in the park from old pine forests to Lake Posiojärvi and much more.

Along the route, there is also a lean-to for stopping to eat and a dry toilet. Keep an eye out as you walk for birds, as the park is known to be one of the best bird-watching places in Finnish Lapland.

Unfortunately, none of the trails in the park are mobility accessible.

Lemmenjoki National Park

Situated in the northern part of Lapland is Lemmenjoki National Park. The park is the largest nature reserve in Finland and is centered around the Lemmenjoki River.

This huge pristine area has plenty of incredible things to see and do in both winter and summer. During the summer months, you can check out the exceptional hiking trails, such as to the top of Joenkielinen Fell where you are treated to views over the Lemmenjoki Valley and the rest of the national park.

The trip to the summit of the fell is a 16 km (10 mi) circular route. Along the way, there are grilling spots and places where you can camp for the night. The hike to the summit is rather challenging, but the route is well-marked and the views from the top are well worth the effort.

Gold nugget Lemmenjoki national park
Striking gold in Lemmenjoki National Park

The park is in the heart of Finnish Sápmi and has long been used by Sámi reindeer herders. In the park, you will find plenty of reindeer and equipment still used to this day to round up the animals twice a year.

Alternatively, the park has a long history of gold digging and there is a small area where people still dig for little nuggets of gold.

In winter, the park is blanketed with snow, but there are still some marked trails in winter that are used by snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers too. The park is great for viewing the northern lights on clear nights as you can easily find clear views to the north and avoid any light pollution!

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

Pallas-Yllästunturi is famous for having the world’s cleanest air. The giant national park is one of the best places in Finland to enjoy winter sports. There are around 500 km (310 mi) of cross-country skiing tracks that weave through the park and adjacent wilderness areas.

Close to the national park are also some of the best ski resorts in Lapland, including the Ylläs ski resort, which is the biggest in Finland with around 53 km (33 mi) of pistes of various difficulties.

The Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is also another great place to see the world-famous popcorn trees. During summer after the snow melts away, the park opens up and is perfect for incredible hiking trips.

Snowy hills of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park
Snowy landscapes of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

Taivaskeron Kierros is a great moderately challenging hike that will take you to the highest point in the park, where you can marvel at the views across the pristine nature.

The hike is 8.3 km (5.16 mi) with a 438m (1,437 ft) incline to the top. The route is fairly challenging given the inclines and declines needed to complete it.

Take a break before heading to the top at an old reindeer herders hut, and mentally and physically prepare yourself for the walk up! I find one of the best times to do this hike is during the midnight sun, where you can see the land bathed in a completely unique light.

Oulanka National Park

Oulanka National Park is one of the most picturesque national parks in Finland, with raw nature on show for the world to see.

I recommend visiting the park during summer and fall when you can really enjoy the park. It is home to impressive waterfalls and gorges that scar their way through the land.

The biggest draw to the park is the Karhunkierros Trail (Bears Trail in English), a multi-day hike that takes you through the entire park. The hike is known to be one of the most popular hikes in Finland, with Finns traveling to the park every summer to complete the hike.

The trail is an impressive 83 km (51 mi) and takes around 4 days to complete. The route is not particularly difficult and can be done by most people who have a small amount of hiking experience.

Along the route, you will see some of the most beautiful scenes Finland has to offer, with raging rapids and stunning old pine forests all throughout the route.

A bridge over rapids in Oulanka National Park
Oulanka National Park is known for its deep gorges and rapids

During ruska, the trail is at its most beautiful with the trees changing color and the opportunity to camp under the northern lights. For those not looking for a multi-day hike, there are shorter hikes in the park that are just as beautiful.

One of the best things about this national park is that there are mobility-accessible trails that can be enjoyed by everyone. They even have accessible restrooms along the way.

The park in winter is a little more challenging to visit, with most of the trails not having any winter services. Large parts of the Karhunkierros Trail are closed off and only a 26 km (16 mi) portion of the trail is available in winter, but the conditions make it far more demanding.

Winter hiking in the park is only advisable for those who are experienced and used to hiking in challenging snowy conditions. You must also be careful when visiting the park after the snow has just melted as the water levels can be exceptionally high and flooding is likely.

Urho Kekkonen National Park

Finland is the home of Santa Claus, although both Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi and Urho Kekkonen National Park claim to be his home. The park is one of the most popular in Finland and offers incredible family-friendly hiking year-round. The hiking routes are split into two categories in this park.

The “Out onto the Fell” routes are easier hikes that can be completed by people of all abilities. These hikes are generally themed and very easy to follow. Some of these trails are also mobility accessible.

Alternatively, more experienced hikers looking to test themselves will want to try the “Out into the Wilderness” trails, which are demanding multi-day hikes that are not marked and will need a certain level of orientation skills to complete.

Snowy trail in Urho-Kekkonen National Park
Following the trail to try and find Santa in Urho Kekkonen National Park

Along with these hikes, there are short routes that take in the history of the region, like the Tankavaara’s War History Trail.

This 3 km (1.86 mi) hike takes you past some World War Two sites and machinery and teaches you a little about the impact the war had on the region. This hike can be done in both summer and winter (with snow shoes).

The park is also one of the best places for mountain biking with plenty of dedicated mountain biking routes throughout the park. As you complete the trails on bike, foot, or snowshoes, keep an eye out for Finland’s fantastic wildlife. It is a great place to spot golden eagles!

Pyhä-Luosto National Park

Pyhä-Luosto National Park was formed in 2005 when Pyhätunturi National Park, the country’s oldest national park, was merged with Luosto to create a new epic nature area in southern Lapland.

The park has plenty to offer in both summer and winter, making it a great year-round destination. During the winter, there are two ski resorts at either end of the national park with 29 slopes split between the two.

The resorts have a mixture of runs, although as the hills are not particularly high, each piste is relatively short. On Fridays, they offer night skiing, which if you are lucky, may give you the opportunity to ski or snowboard under the northern lights.

Hiking route through Luosto National Park
A board walk hiking trail in Pyhä-Luosto National Park

Alternatively, during winter you can take advantage of the 120 km (74.5 mi) of winter trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

During summer there are around 85 km (53 mi) of hiking trails through the park. While the hiking is great, the park is an amazing place to learn about the Forest Sámi and their culture and traditions.

There are always plenty of reindeer roaming around the area during the summer months before they are brought back to the farms. Alternatively, the area is also home to an amethyst mine that can be visited year-round. Some of the trails in this area are mobility accessible.

Salla

Salla is Finland’s newest national park and the 41st in the country. The park is located fairly close to Oulanka National Park but is thankfully more accessible during the winter than its neighbor.

The park encompasses are large area of old-growth pine forests and fells that take you up over the trees and give you impressive vistas of the area.

In winter I highly recommend heading to the park to view the northern lights or enjoy some astrophotography. From various vantage points, you can watch the aurora dance over the forest below or simply gaze at the majestic Milky Way.

The best winter hiking trail to find these nighttime views is the Kaunisharju Winter Hiking Trail, a 3 km (1.86 mi) hiking route that will take you up to a wonderful lookout point.

Enjoying the view over Salla National Park
Enjoying the view over Salla National Park

The hike is also worth completing during the day, and from the lookout point, you can enjoy the eerie silence of a frozen forest below. For those with mobility issues, the scenic lookout point can also be reached by car.

During summer and autumn, there are a number of great hiking trails that will take you to stunning lakes, such as the Kolmiloukkonen Lake, and through beautiful pine forests, and you can try and spot remnants from the last ice age.

Many of the summer hiking trails are a little more demanding. However, the Kolmiloukkonen Trail is split into two sections with the first 1.5 km (0.9 mi) of the trail being very easy on a maintained gravel path.

At the end of the easier section of the hike, you can take a break in a lean-to and eat some food before deciding to head back the way you came or challenge yourself with the harder part of the hike!

I hope this guide will help inspire you to visit one of Lapland’s National Parks no matter what time of year you are visiting. If you feel I have left something out or have any tips for visiting national parks in Lapland, please leave a comment below!

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