The hiking trails in this region are probably some of the best in the world. They vary in length and difficulty but all trails almost always have some form of wilderness cabin provision. All the cabins are maintained by the state, and vary from reserved locked huts, to open lean-to shelters. All have toilet facilities, a wood supply and a nearby water source. The cabins that can be found in each key area, are shown here.
The mountains blossom throughout July and August and hiking, etc, is possible from mid June to the end of September, although you want to be on a fairly high trek if you visit between c. 20th June and 20th August because of the mosquitos. By the time we are into the Autumn, particularly the first three weeks of September, the landscape is vibrant with colour. This is known as the ruska period and is when most of the Finnish ‘summer’ tourists come to the area – almost as many as visit in the Spring for long warm days of skiing.
The scenery in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is dominated by fells surrounded by forests and mires in their natural state. Because the area’s nature is clean and beautiful and the terrain varying, the park is a wonderful place to hike, ski and enjoy the outdoors. The silhouette of the fells can be seen practically at all times and the marked trails lead visitors to the National Park’s most beautiful look-out spots. The picturesque beauty of the Pallastunturi Fells has made the area one of the Finnish national landscapes. Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is Finland’s third largest National Park. The area of this park has doubled now that Pallas-Ounastunturi National Park and Ylläs-Aakenus Nature Reserve have been combined to create Pallas-Yllästunturi. The most southern fell of the chain is Yllästunturi Fell. It is outside of the park’s boundaries and used as a tourist ski resort hill. The highest fell in this chain is Taivaskero, which is 807 metres high. In the north the view is of the gently sloping upland-like Ounastunturi Fells.
Geologically Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is located between Northern Finland, Forest Lapland and Fell Lapland, making it a very varied and interesting habitat. In the park’s forests and on its fells there is a mix of northern and southern species. It is also the area in which visitors can see the transition area where peoples livelihood changes from farming to reindeer husbandry.
Hetta-Pallas Trail (55km)
One of the most popular hiking destinations in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is the 55-km-long Hetta-Pallas Hiking Trail. The route for this trail was outlined in 1934. The trail leads over fells, sometimes descending to the ravines below to once again as if to prepare hikers for the breathtaking view from the top of the next fell. By the beginning of June snows have for the most part melted from the area, but because of the water from melted snow and ice the trail is wet and susceptible to erosion. The best time for hiking begins at Mid-summer in late June. Just before winter sets in mid-October there are only a few random wanderers on the trail.The trail can be travelled from south to north or from north to south.
NB: You can even run this route in a few hours if you take part in the 55km/1800m of ascent Hetta Pallas Ultratrail Run at the end of July.
If you are doing this under your own steam, then the main start and end point are Hetta Village and Pallastunturi Visitor Centre. On the south side of Hetta Village hikers must cross Lake Ounasjärvi by boat. When coming to the lake from the direction of Pallas hikers must lift a signal flag, so that a boat will come pick them up.
The trail is considerably well marked and there are several places to stop and rest along it. This means that it is a suitable hiking destination for those with little experience. It is best, however, to have a basic knowledge of hiking and survival skills. Additionally you should keep in mind that the weather in the fell area can change rapidly and in the case of an accident help is far away. The trail is not suited for the disabled.
It is a good idea to plan your hike well in advance by obtaining outdoor map Pallas-Ylläs which show the trail.
The trail leads through varying terrain. Part of the terrain is easy to travel over, but there are also steep ascents and descents, such as Pyhäkero and Lumikero Fells. At some points the trail is very rocky but the rocks have for the most part smoothed out, making it easier to hike across them. There are duckboards across the wettest parts of the trail and hikers do no need to wade across rivers at any point, as there are bridges for this.
There are both open huts and ones that can be reserved approximately every 10km.
The first (open huts) are at Pyhäkero. Sioskuru and Hannukuru has both open and reservable huts. Montellin Maja’s hut is open, and there is both open and reservable accommodation at Nammalakuru. Cabins just off the main track include the open wilderness huts at Montellin Maja, Tappuri and Rautuoja.
Approximately 10km from Pallas there is a wilderness kota café serving coffee and very good doughnuts made by a lady who lives in the café for the season. At the end of the trail in Pallas there is a nature centre with exhibits and films on the nature of the area and a hotel which, when open, is a lovely location for relaxing, post hike, and enjoying a well-earned rest and coffee.
Vuontispirtti – Montelli Cabin – Vuontispirtti (Ylikyrö), (10km roundtrip)
This is a beautiful, fairly steep trail to a small, very old cabin, nestled in the middle of the fells. It is probably one of the most beautiful spots in the National Park and is also accessible in winter by a ski track. You can connect from this trail to the main Hetta-Pallas trail.
The trail from Vuontispirtti connects to the Hetta - Pallas Trail at Montelli open wilderness hut and is approximately 5 km long. This connecting trail starts from a private road to the boundary of the National Park, and continues from there up into the fells marked with white cross signs. Near the timber line the markings of the trail change to short poles with orange tops.
Ketomella-Tappuri Trail, (20km)
This trail leads up on old boardwalks to the Sami reindeer marking village of Tappuri. It is a fairly flat trail with easy walking although the boardwalks need care. Once at Tappuri, you are up amongst the high fells amidst stunning landscape.
You can connect from Ketomella to the main Hetta-Pallas trail. The connecting trail starts off at the old ferry-stop at Ketomella and joins with the Hetta - Pallas Trail about 1 km west of Tappuri open wilderness hut. The trail is managed by the Finnish Road Administration and it is marked with green poles with white cross signs the center of which is red. The distance from Ketomella to the Hetta - Pallas Trail is approximately 9 km.
Pippovuoma Wetland Trail from Ketomella, (10km)
This trail starts from the roadhead at Ketomella and is mainly on boardwalks which aren’t in great shape so it is a challenge for the agile. It is a beautiful marshland trail, however, featuring unique aapa bogs, with dramatic fell scenery to the west.
Pyhäjoki Nature Trail, (Pallasjärvi), (3 km)
This is a small but very beautiful trail alongside the steep, alpine-style stream that descends from the fells to the Pallasjarvi lake. Vegetation around the stream grows thickly so the scenery is fairly different from the normal rugged Lapland scenery and well worth a visit.
In the area around the Pallas Visitor Centre there are also a number of nature trails: The Vatikuru Nature Trail (3 km) begins at Pallastunturi Visitor Centre and winds around the slopes of the Pallastunturi Fells. Pyhäjoki Nature Trail (3 km) begins at Lake Pallasjärvi and leads visitors to lush brook hollows. During winter, visitors can take the 3-km Pallas Ski Trail and learn about winter and about nature adapting to these extreme conditions.
And, around the Kellokas Visitor Centre there are further nature trails:
A very popular trail called Velhopolku Trail (Wizard´s Trail) begins at Kellokas Visitor Centre. The trail is 4-km-long and leads through Varkaankuru Ravine. At Kellokas visitors can also get onto Kiirunan kieppi Trail (12 km), which circles Keskisenlaki Fell in Ylläs, and Seitapolku Trail (9 km). There is a 1-km-long winter trail in the area. A 17-km-long trekking nature trail at Aakenustunturi Fell has exhibits on the area’s animals, geology and history. Joutsenpolku Trail (6 km) at Latvajärvi displays the area’s birds, mammals and fish.A 1-km-nature trail with information on volcanoes can be found next to the road running between Äkäslompolo and Kittilä.
Pakasaivo and the Kirkkopahta Seida Rock
A relatively hidden gem at the southern end of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is the Pakasaivo 'Saivo' / ravine Lake. It is a fascinating geological formation with a unique natural beauty and, as such, is a hiking destination with strong mythological traditions.
It is situated in the middle of the forested land which runs between Muonio, Kollari and Ylläs. The Pakasaivo protected forest, 325 ha, and the Seitapahta recreational forest, 8 ha are both managed by Metsähallitus. Both the lake and the nearby Kirkkopahta seida rock are ancient Sámi holy places.
“The most peculiar waters in Lapland are the saivo lakes - these wondrous lakes could only exist in Lapland, the land of wonders. Actual perfect saivo lakes are closed-off fell and ravine lakes that have no kind of stream running to or from them." (Lapin muisteluksia [“Memoirs from Lapland”], Samuli Paulaharju:1922).
The narrow one-kilometre-long lake was formed in a rupture valley moulded and cleaned by the melting waters of the ice sheet. The northern end of the lake is remarkably round and regular in shape, and it is considered the largest giant’s kettle in Finland. Pakasaivo, also known as the “Hell of Lapland,” is 60 metres at its deepest, and the steep cliff walls surrounding the lake reach up to 60 metres above water level.
The ravine lake is the second deepest body of water in Northern Finland after Lake Inarijärvi. People used to believe saivo lakes to have two bottoms, with the fish sometimes disappearing to the lower waters.
The place of worship at Pakasaivo was most likely located on the rugged cliffs off the eastern shore of the northern end of the lake. There are small caverns in the eastern wall of the ravine, which have possibly served as sacrificial caves. The Kirkkopahta rock near Pakasaivo is a lone large boulder in an otherwise even-floored pine heath. Samuli Paulaharju describes Pakasaivo and Kirkkopahta as follows:
“From time immemorial, ancient men and their forefathers have dwelled here, respecting and wondering at the handsome Pakasaivo lake and going to worship at the large Seitapahta behind the lake.” (Lapin muisteluksia [“Memoirs from Lapland”], 1922.) “And Seitapahta is also known as Kirkkopahta, as it has been a church of sorts for the people of Lapland.” (Seitoja ja seidan palvontaa [“Seida places and seida worship”], 1932).
The Pakasaivo and Kirkkopahta relic areas rank amongst Finland’s cultural environments of national significance. The Pakasaivo area is a protected forest established by Metsähallitus, and the areas surrounding Seitapahta form a recreational forest. Visitors to the Pakasaivo area should follow marked routes when hiking in the area. Damaging the relics is strictly forbidden. In a nearby area, to the north of Äkäslompolo, there is another well-known Sámi holy place, Lake Äkässaivo with its Seitapahta seida rock.
You can visit Pakasaivo and Kirkkopahta mainly from spring to autumn when there is no snow on the ground, as the forest road leading to Pakasaivo is not ploughed regularly in winter. During the winter months, Pakasaivo is accessible via a snowmobile route. There are no personnel in the area.
Pakasaivo is located roughly 25 km from Äkäslompolo, some 40 km from Kolari and roughly 67 km from Kittilä. The distance from Muonio is roughly 80 km. The distance to Kirkkopahta is a few kilometres shorter. There are signposts leading from the main road to the Pakasaivo parking area.
At the Pakasaivo parking area, the larger Lapp 'kota' hut by the parking area serves as a café in summer. There is a signpost with information about the destination in Finnish, Swedish and English. A roughly 200-metre-long wide trail leads to the lookout point on the shores of Pakasaivo, and it can also be taken by wheelchair and with prams or pushchairs. Viewing platforms and connecting stairways have been built on the verge of the ravine.
Next to the Pakasaivo parking area, there is a Lapp 'kota' hut with a campfire site. The area also has a dry toilet. Roughly one kilometre to the west from Pakasaivo, on the shores of Lake Pakajärvi, there is a scenic steep-hilled ridge. The northern shore of the lake used to house the dwelling of the local Suikki Sámi family.
Driving from Kolari along road no. 21 (E8), take the Äkäslompolontie road (no. 940) roughly 10 km north of the village centre and drive almost all the way to Hannukainen. At Hannukainen, turn northwest onto the Pakasaivontie road and continue for roughly 13 km. There are signposts along the road, and at Pakasaivo, the road veers to the left towards the parking area.
Driving from Kittilä, take the Ylläsjärvi-Kolari road (no. 939) immediately after the village centre. After Ylläsjärvi village, take the road leading to Hannukainen (no. 9404). As you reach the Kolari-Äkäslompolo road, turn left and then, after 700 metres, right onto the Pakasaivontie road. For the rest of the way, please see above.
Driving along the Muonio-Kittilä road (no. 79), take the Äkäslompolontie road (no. 940) at Muotkavaara. Drive through Äkäslompolo village and 1 km past Hannukainen. For the rest of the way, please see above.
Pakasaivo is located along the snowmobile route south of Muonio. The destination is accessible from Äkäslompolo, Ylläsjärvi, the Muonionjoki River, Kolari, Kittilä and Muonio. You do not need a permit for riding a snowmobile on the routes.
To Kirkkopahta: The destination is located along the Pakasaivontie road, less than 3 km before Pakasaivo and some 100 metres off the road. At Kirkkopahta, there is a parking area on the west side of the road. The seida rock is visible from the forest road. The Pakasaivontie road (13 km) off Hannukainen is not ploughed regularly in winter!