This weekend is set to be another warm one, with temperatures hitting +22°C – possibly for the last time this summer.
If you’re in the Helsinki metropolitan region having two national parks right on the doorstep of Helsinki, Vantaa and Espoo is a good reason to escape busy city life, and even for complete novices, Nuuksio and Sipoonkorpi are easily accessible for hiking adventures.
What to bring on a hiking trip
You might be pondering ”do I have the right equipment for hiking?” and the answer is yes if you already own shoes with good grip, comfortable trousers, a t-shirt or long sleeve shirt, and possibly a wind or rain jacket. For simple day hikes you don’t need any special equipment, if you are easily feeling cold you might bring a fleece jacket or a pullover, but that’s really it.
Grab your backpack and your favourite snacks – I like to bring Chili Nuts and some dark chocolate – and a water bottle. It doesn’t need to be any fancy bottle – the recyclable PET bottle from the supermarket works just fine. If you want to do a picnic bring everything for that and a blanket to sit on.
You can use the free Retkikartta website for navigating, or download the brochures and maps from the the nationalparks.fi website for your destination. Obviously you also could pick up a real map from Calazo – these are made from a durable and waterproof material, so don’t break easily in comparison with paper maps. Now maybe also bring some matches to light a fire at one of the fire pits and you have everything you need for a day of hiking.
Nuuksio National Park
Nuuksio National Park is northeast of Helsinki and can be reached from downtown in less than an hour by train and bus. You can decide to get out at Haltia, Nuuksionpää or at Kattila in the north of the national park.
I recommend you get off at Nuuksionpää if this is the first time you’re exploring the park, from here it’s a short stroll on a forest road to Haukkalampi, from where most trails start.
The 4 km long Haukankierros trail for example takes you around the lake and back to your starting point and is a recommended trail for beginners.
You’ll get to see iconic views of the National Park on this trail, for example from a rock along the trail you can see the small Myllypuro valley in the northeast of the National Park.
With a large portion of luck you also might spot one of the rare flying squirrels which live in the forest. Along the ponds you might see a great crested grebe fishing, or you hear the familiar sound of a woodpecker pecking on wood.
After around two hours of relaxed hiking you could take a small stroll to the Haukanholman fire pit for a break. Here you will find, as in all Finnish national parks, a dry toilet, a fire ring for grilling sausages or bread, a wood shed including an axe and saw, and at Haukanholman there’s also a ‘cooking Shed’, an open structure where you can light a fire and cook in case of rain.
There are also some benches and tables, and while this is a popular place you will always find a nice spot to sit down and eat the snacks you brought along.
Haltia, the Finnish Nature Centre, is located in Nuuksio National Park and a good place to visit on a rainy day. There are always changing exhibitions in the museum, and especially kids find the museum exciting. Haltia is also home to one of the best restaurants in Uusimaa, where delicious local ingredients are made into tasty dishes, so stay for lunch and go sit outside on the terrace if the weather is good!
Sipoonkorpi National Park
Sipoonkorpi is a relatively new national park, and it too is very easy to reach via bus from downtown Helsinki.
On the nationalparks.fi website you can find out which bus to take and where to get off – it is really simple. You’ll have to walk a short bit along the road till you are on the Kalkinpolttajanpolku trail, which crosses the road and so can not be missed.
The Kalkinpolttajanpolku is 5 km long and a great trail – I recommend to hike it clock-wise, so you have the best bits at the end!
Right in the middle is the Kalkkiruukki lean-to shelter, which is ideal for break in the middle of your hike. Here you will find a drytoilet, a woodshed, a fire pit, a few benches and tables and also a lovely lean-to shelter.
The shelter itself is on a hill, because of the surrounding forest the views aren’t so good – but don’t despair, as amazing views are still coming!
Sipoonkorpi National Park is a mixture of wilderness areas and old commercial forests which have been left to grow.
The next part of the trail to Högberget leads through such an old commercial forest, but you already hear the calls of birds and owls and maybe even spot them with some luck!
The views from Högberget are fantastic. You can see far from this rocky outcrop, and it’s especially beautiful at dusk. From here it’s just a short hike – down, across a little stream and back up and down – to the road on which you walked into the National Park.
Leave No Trace, and the Everyman’s Right
When you go into nature it is important to keep some guidelines in mind. In Finland we are very lucky to have the Everyman’s Right, which grants us a host of possibilities to enjoy the outdoors, but also restricts some commonsense things: it’s forbidden to leave litter; to cut down or damage trees; or drive motor vehicles off-road.
Anyone living or staying in Finland enjoys the benefits of the Everyman’s Right, it is always free of charge and you don’t need to obtain a permit or permission to enjoy it.
‘Leave No Trace’ is a set of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors and which help you to leave the nature you visit in the same (or better!) state you encountered it in.
In no particular order, they are:
- Plan ahead and prepare;
- Dispose of waste properly;
- Be considerate of other visitors;
- Respect wildlife;
- Leave what you find;
- Minimize campfire impacts;
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces;
These are commonsense guidelines which are easy to implement in your own visits to Finnish nature, be it a beach in the city or a National Park.