Hiking in Lapland and shelters for staying overnight

On hiking trips in the Lapland nature and especially along hiking routes you will find shelters or huts to use for resting, just for some hours or even to stay over night. There are huts which hikers can use for free, and others for which a fee is charged. You can look for maps and useful information about hiking here.

IMG_2373The most common and well-known type of free, open huts are the open wilderness huts. The wilderness huts are meant for one-night stays. They are usually located in the northern and eastern parts of Finland, usually in roadless backwoods. Other open huts include day trip huts, which are not meant for staying

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overnight. Also open turf huts, or campfire sites as you also can call them, and Lappish pole tents are suitable places to stop and rest during the day, but in exceptional circumstances they can give shelter for the night, too. The shelters and huts are managed by the Metsähallitus of Finland. Near the huts and shelters there is also firewood for free use by the hikers.

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Reservable huts are locked, and a fee is charged for staying. By using reservable huts, the hiker can be sure to have somewhere to stay overnight. But then the hike must be planned in advance, and that is not always what the hikers want to do. There are of course also more equipped cottages to rent for more than one night’s stay managed by the company Wild North. 

Many extensive areas of forest and open fell are owned by the State and managed by Metsähallitus, especially in Finnish Lapland. In the south, more forests are owned by local people. Finland’s liberal laws of public access give everyone the right to roam the forests and countryside freely, no matter who owns the land.

I have spent many days in the Lappish forests and lakes and I have loved to explore different kinds of shelters. I, myself, have not yet stayed over night in any of these shelters, but I have heard other people doing it and they have loved it. In summer time of course there are the mosquitoes, gnats and horseflies bothering. That is not the case during winter, but I can think of a lot of reasons not to want to stay over night in a shelter during winter. But I could be wrong, I admit that. To be able to sleep outdoors in summer you have to use some kind of insect repellent or venom on your skin.

I have been surprised to find these shelters in so many different shapes. Some of them more architectonic with more constructions than others.

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On my trips in Lapland I have also found shelters for cooking or just eating, made of inhabitants of Lapland without any connections to the Metsähallitus and their huts and shelters.

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I must say the most fascinating hut I found was the one made of reindeer keepers long time ago for overnight stays. I felt the wind of ancient times blowing as I opened the door to the hut.

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The Arctic Circle Hiking Area for all year around use

As you drive about 20 km to the northeast along highway 4 from Rovaniemi towards Sodankylä you find the Arctic circle hiking area with Vaattunkiköngäs, Vikaköngäs and Vikajärvi. It is an area managed by Metsähallitus of Finland. It is about 36 km2 big and it is just a perfect area to visit when you long for pure nature experiences but you do not want to go away for a long time, and you want to return home in the evening. There are several marked trails suitable for day trips in the area.

Map of the surroundings of Arctic Circle Hiking AreaI visit the Vaattunkiköngäs many times a year. I want to visit it all year around in different times and enjoy at least autumn, winter and spring there. You reach the parking area for Vaattunkiköngäs as you turn right on your way towards Sodankylä approx. 20 km from Rovaniemi. There are informative signs that tell  you when to turn. Drive about 2 km from highway 4 and you will end up in a perfect parking area with information like maps and descriptions of the hiking paths starting from there. There are also toilets and waste recycling points.

IMG_7190Hiking and camping are allowed in Finland due to Everyman’s Rights, but at the Arctic circle hiking area you are recommended to camp in the vicinity of campfire sites and other rest spots. The area is mostly visited during the summer and when there is only little snow. But as the area is visited by so many people all the time I have managed to visit it also in the middle of winter because there are paths in the snow made by other visitors and they are easy to walk. In the summer and spring you can pick berries and mushrooms  here.

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My favorite time of the year for a visit at Vaattunkiköngäs is spring. During spring floods in late April and early May part of the duckboards in the area may be under water due to the melting snow. But as the snow  has melted you can safely walk the duckboards around the area.

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After starting from the parking area you first of all cross the Raudanjoki river on a hanging bridge. The river has several rapids used for rafting and kayaking. You walk along the Könkäänsaari trail of duckboards and you can stop by and read on the information boards about the surrounding nature with its birds and animals. Soon you will end up at the Könkäänsaari lean-to-shelter, where you can set a fire and fry you own sausages or just rest before you continue. Along the trails there are several rest points. There are dry toilets at each rest spot. The trail from Vaattunkiköngäs to Könkäänsaari is suited for disabled visitors during the snowfree season. The Könkäänsaari lean-to shelter has also been designed for the disabled. The trail has been classified as a demanding wheelchair route.

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IMG_2180The Arctic circle hiking area is made up of several parts which are in their natural state and very wilderness-like. On one hand there are the rapid areas of the river and on the other hand there are parts of the river with still water. In the different areas you can become acquainted with the region’s typical plant and animal species on special information boards along the trail. As the area is not situated near the road there are no disturbing noises from cars. In spring time you can enjoy the hundreds of bird species singing in the area.

In spring you can find an adorable yellow flower there. It is the Globe-flower (Kullero); a Lappish flower I did not know existed before I came to Lapland. It grows only occasionally in the south of Finland, but is very common here in Lapland in spring time.

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The Globe-flower shines like a sun and only the sight of it makes you happy.

A visit in winter time has its own specials, like campfire where you can warm your toes or fingers and fry your own sausage. The Metsähallitus provides all the lean-on-shelters with wood all year around. You can just pick from the fire-wood store and set the fire. But be careful with the fire and extinguish the fire as you leave the shelter.

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