Long distance hiking

Hiking in Finland. Long expeditions in Lapland.
Jouni Laaksonen 8.10.2018

Do you nurture dreams about hiking 1000 kilometers? Or backpacking for a month or two? Here’s first of a series of posts on these subjects.

Here in Finland there has been rather a lot of discussion of long hikes lately. There have been several articles in Finnish outdoor magazines, and many blog posts about one to two month, or 600+ km backpacking expeditions.

My thought is that a day hike is a great thing. I love day hiking, either by myself, or most often nowadays with my family. Then again, I need to get to larger wilderness areas every now and then. A week (or, five to ten days, say) long hike gives much more than a day hike. You get totally immersed with nature, you encounter the hardships and glories of being all on your own and forget totally about everyday stress. In the same manner a month or two months long hike can give much more than a week long hike. An ultra-long hike can imprint memories that last for a lifetime. If all goes well. There are hazards, too.

Recent examples with internet material

The following links go to blog posts or articles written in Finnish, but I try to summarize them very shortly in English.

Mr Jussi Pusa hiked from eastern end of Finnish Lapland (small village called Nellim) through eight wilderness areas to the western end (Kilpisjärvi village). 750 km in 36 days, summer 2018. His approach was nowehere near ultralight. His backpack weighed 37 kg at the start (including food for two weeks). Navigating mostly outside marked trails.

Hiking in Finland. Screenshot from Jussi Pusa's blog.
The route of Jussi Pusa’s long hike. ‘Lähtö’ means Start and ‘Päämäärä’ is Goal. Map from Jussi Pusa’s blog.

Mr Ossi Määttä hiked from western Lapland (Pallas-Yllästunturi NP) to the eastern end of Lapland (Nellim village). 620 km in 21 days, summer 2018. Ossi Määttä hiked ultralight, his backpack weighed only 4.7 kg without food. He carried food for about five at a time, meaning approximately 3,5 kg. In total his backpack weighed less than 10 kg. Navigating mostly outside marked trails.

Hiking in Finland. Screenshot from Ossi Määttä's blog.
The route of Ossi Määttä’s long hike. Start from left, goal on right. Map from Ossi Määttä’s blog.

Three men, Jussi Virtanen, Juho Kotiaho and Lauri Ala, skied outside any ski tracks through Finnish Lapland from Nellim to Kilpisjärvi. Approximately 600 km in five weeks, in springwinter 2018.

Hiking in Finland. Screenshot from Rajamaillavaellus blog.
The route of Rajamaillavaellus, as these three men call their expedition. Start from right, goal on left. Map from Rajamaillavaellus blog.

Mr Erno Saukko hiked solo for 81 days in summer 2016 in Finnish and Norwegian Lapland. The approximately circular route started from Inari west to Pöyrisjärvi Wilderness Area, then in Norway to Karasjoki, Tana and Pasvik, and then to Nellim.

Mr Tero Pylkkänen was seriously depressed in 2014. He did not want to try to be cured by taking the pills his doctor prescribed for him. Instead he started a hike. He hiked around all of Finland, 4200 km in 192 days. He felt cured after the hike. After that he has done several other over 1000 km hikes, too.

Sounds like ‘Men Only’ kind of a hobby? Nope.

Mrs Minna Jakosuo got as her 40 years birthday present a permission from her family to go and spend a month hiking solo in Finnish Lapland in summer 2015. She loved her month out there and has been blogging about long hikes since then, and just recently again pondered this subject.

Mrs Marika Varpenius hiked along Kalottireitti Trail, Nordkalottruta in summer 2016. From Kautokeino (Norway ) through Finnish Käsivarsi Wilderness Area to Abisko (Sweden). 688 km in 30 days.

Edit: Blogs are a great way express oneself, and it’s wonderful how many of them there are… But it is also a problem, for there are many super interesting blogs you never happen to find, just because there are so so so many blogs around. One month after I originally posted this blog article I bumped on Ms Sara Kinnunen, who, among her great many hikes during a special year of hers, did a 66 days long solo hike in summer 2018. How did I not find her blog earlier? Well, better late than never.

Sara started from Vuotso town to Urho Kekkonen National Park, and continued across Hammastunturi Wilderness Area to Lemmenjoki NP, and forward across Muotkatunturi, Paistunturit and Kaldoaivi WAs, and ended her hike to Sevettijärvi town.

And many more…

If you, my dear reader, are Finnish, or can understand Finnish, I recommend you to read those blog entries, or at least leaf through them. They are absolutely great dreams that have come true.

And these are only samples of long hikes in Finland, many more have been done. Like the two ladies who were nearing their 50th birthday. How did they celebrate it? By hiking 50 days in Lapland.

Or what about the Finnish man, who got seriously addicted to hiking through all of Finland. He first walked from south to north, 1570 km in 54 days. A couple of years later he bicycled around Finland, 3700 km in one month. Then next winter he skied from Porvoo in south coast to Nuorgam, the northernmost village in Finland. And no, this was not enough. Two years later he paddled through Finland from north to south. Not along the coast, but via lakes, rivers, streams, and many times by pulling his kayak from one water system to next.

These and over 30 other ultra long hikes I collected to my book Vaeltajan opas (Edita 2008). Borrow it from a library, if longer than usual hikes attract you.

My long hikes

I’ve never counted my day hikes, but there must be thousands of them. I have counted my ‘normal’ backpacking expeditions in Lapland. There are precisely one hundred of them. Most often this kind of a hike is week long, though sometimes only five days and sometimes something like twelve days.

And then I’ve done two longer hikes myself. We already briefly glimpsed on one of them (scroll to the bottom of that post). We skied with my good friend Mr Markus Rask from Nellim to Kilpisjärvi (yes, the same villages you find mentioned several times above), from eastern end to western end of Finnish Lapland between 1st November 1999 and 5th January 2000. 930 km in 65 days, outside ski tracks. There was nothing ultralight in this expedition, equipment at the height of winter is necessarily rather heavy. I will be telling about this long hike more thoroughly in November and December.

Hiking in Finland. Long expeditions in Lapland.
My long hikes, with Markus Rask. Why from Nellim to Kilpisjärvi? There’s no hiking trail there, is there? No, no trail. But the three country cairns (in east FIN-RUS-NOR, in west FIN-SWE-NOR) are interesting start and end points, and between them you can hike almost all the time in real wilderness. You only have to cross a couple of small roads while hiking 600 to 1000 kilometers.

The other long one we did also with Markus. In October 2000 we walked from Kilpisjärvi to Nellim, 600 km in 19 days. This time our approach was ultralight: Our backpacks weighed about 10 kg with five days worth of food at a time and we tried to walk fast. Our average was 35 km per day.

Here I try to answer for example to questions like this: Is there any sense in going ultralight? Is it safe? Can you enjoy your hike if you discard many of the equipment you usually carry? And can you enjoy your hike if you walk fast and long day marches?

There are lots of numbers with ‘km’ or ‘days’ after them in this post. This does not mean in any way that the longer the trek, the better, or anything like that! This is no competition! The numbers are here just to give you an idea of what kind of a expedition each of these was.


11 thoughts on “Long distance hiking

  1. My husband Vesa also likes to do long hikes. He hiked UKK route from Koli to Kiilopää (1100km) couple years ago. Next summer he goes 800km hike to the eastern Finland.


  2. Hi Minna! Great that you happened to find this text. Yes, I think I remember having read about Vesa’s long trek, and nice to hear he is planning another one. I didn’t know there’s info about his trek in the internet, but seems there is, for example on your pages:

    Some years ago I wished I would some day establish a database of Finnish long distance hikes. Who, when, what route, short summary, map – that kind of a web page. Now I’m pretty sure I’ll never find time to do that. I hope someone else does! This post of mine did not try to be anywhere like comprehensive. Just some of the most recent long hikes that I know of.


  3. Very interesting overview of longer hikes in Finland Jouni! Many of the hikes I have read about before, but there were also a couple of new ones as well!

    A couple of patterns I saw in the different journeys: Routes seem to be on the axis Nellim-Kilpisjärvi, unsurprisingly as this is where the majority of Finnish wilderness areas are. Second, the average long distance hiking speed in Finnish wilderness seems to be around 30-35 km per day, assuming one hikes a full sporty day but does not try to break any records.

    Looking forward to the next post on the long ultralight hike you and Markus did!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your analysis, Ossi! Yes, it’s natural that in Finland the most interesting way to plan a long hike is to go from west to east, or east to west across Lapland. That way you get to be mostly in real wilderness. Though there are also many other start/end points than only Nellim and Kilpisjärvi. Some examples of long hikes done: Korvatunturi-Halti, Kuusamo-Kilpisjärvi, around Maid of Finland’s “head” (like Urho Kekkonen NP – Pallas-Ylläs NP – Kevo – UK NP). I don’t have internet links to these older hikes, but I tell about them in book Vaeltajan opas.

    However, those kinds of long hikes are walked/skied mostly outside marked trails. If you want to stay on marked trails, the best option to make a long hike is in Eastern Finland from south to north (or vice versa), like Vesa Jakosuo. For example Koli-Tulppio (UKK Trail, not well marked all the time!), or Möhkö-Patvinsuo-Kuhmo-Hossa-Syöte-Ruka-Karhunkierros (better percentage of well marked sections than UKK Trail, but some unmarked here also).

    And it’s true that when you are on a long hike, and you have a clear goal, you tend to walk longer each day than you would in a “normal” hike. If you are lightweight oriented, daymarches may be over 30 km, and if not, you still usually end up walking well over 20 km per day.


  5. Hi Lauri! Nice to hear my post was useful, and I’m so happy you did a long trek of your own! You hiked through six large wildernesses and undoubtedly saw and experienced a lot. I just glimpsed your map, but I will read your trip report some day when I find more time.

    I note you also started from Kemihaara, and in fact you walked through almost the same wildernesses as I did last autumn: https://scricfinia.wordpress.com/2020/10/12/long-distance-hiking-solo-off-trail/. You walked more straightforwardly, I zigzagged to this and that gorge, waterfall, historical sight etc.

    As you have noticed, I haven’t written new posts as often as I did before and right after my book Hiking in Finland was published. However, I do write new posts every now and then, I’m not abandoning this blog. 🙂


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