Pyhä-Luosto National Park is one of the top national parks in Finland. Conveniently located within a day-trip driving distance from nearest towns – Rovaniemi, Sodankyla and Kemijarvi is a perfect summer and winter destination! Pyha-Luosto Kansallispuisto (as it’s called in Finnish) offers dozens of hiking trails suitable for all, also the paths are marked and signposted which makes exploring this unique national park very easy.
Someone may ask what’s so special about Pyha-Luosto National Park? It’s a unique area where wetlands and mires meet rocky fells; with Isokuru gorge dating back billions of years, pristine taiga forests, fragile mires rich in berries and curious Siberian Jays – small birds that just can’t resist tasty seeds and, with a bit of luck, will eat from your hand!
Pyhä-Luosto National Park definitely is the one to visit! Have you drafted it on your ‘hiking list’ yet? Continue reading to find out how to explore and enjoy its nature, how to see its most important landmarks within a day trip and also how to extent the visit over a couple of days!
How to get to Pyhä-Luosto National Park
There are two main ‘gates’ to Pyhä-Luosto National Park: Pyha village and Luosto village which is some 25 km further north.
We felt that area around Pyha was more interesting with its numerous trails over variety of landscape, therefore we explored the national park from Pyhatunturi (Pyha). However it’s equally easy to get to Pyha and Luosto.
Getting to Pyhä-Luosto National Park by car – it’s approximately 1.5 hours drive from Rovaniemi, 50 minutes drive from Sodankyla and 40 minutes drive from Kemijarvi.
Flying to Pyhä-Luosto National Park – nearest airports are Rovaniemi, Kuusamo and Kittila.
Getting to Pyhä-Luosto National Park by train – nearest train stations are Kemijarvi and Rovaniemi
Getting to Pyhä-Luosto National Park by bus – the most frequent bus connection runs between Pyha (or Luosto) and Rovaniemi. Skibus (from Rovaniemi) runs up to 4 times a day in high season (winter) and twice a day in the summer. Skibus timetable valid till May 2020 can be found HERE. There also is a bus connection from Kemijarvi, timetable can be found HERE.
As we’re now talking about public transport, it’s worth a mention that there is a ‘Pyha Shuttle’ bus service, which operates in Pyha only and is free of charge – this will come very handy for those who decide to stay in the area for a couple of days. Timetable can be found HERE.
Our journey to Pyhä-Luosto National Park and a warm Lappish welcome in Pyha
We didn’t actually plan visiting Pyha-Luosto National Park, but came across it quite spontaneously!
That was our second visit to Finland and we already knew that our main area of interest is northern Lapland. Therefore, without too much diversions, we were on our way to ‘the north’. One evening, thou, when planning further journey, I had a look at the map and noticed that there is a small national park (which I never heard of) almost exactly on our way. I typed its name in search engine and looked at the photographs; they were really interesting. To my surprise, they showed large rocks and boulders, a steep gorge; a scenery unlike anything I’ve seen in Finland by then. I researched it further and suddenly felt very enthusiastic about exploring the area!
But Bea didn’t catch my enthusiasm right away, so at the end of the day we decided to skip it and drive directly to ‘the north’. In the morning, thou, I read about Pyha-Luosto National Park again, and this time (yuppi!) Bea found it worth a detour too! And so we went…
Our first steps were directed to Pyha-Luosto National Park visitor and culture centre, called Naava (directions) to find out more about the area and get some tips about the most interesting hiking trails. Exactly the same time we were driving into the car park, a small herd of reindeer casually strolled over a roundabout, towards the visitor centre!
Immediately, we both felt the familiar warmth at heart. ‘Welcome to Lapland’ I whispered to myself. This was a typical, ‘Lappish welcome’ we experienced on many occasions when travelling in northern Finland. Reindeer along the road, reindeer gracefully blocking the road, reindeer casually strolling thru the village, reindeer munching their greens totally oblivious to the world… Oh, how we love them!
After a short and very informative visit to Naava, we already had a ‘customised’ hiking route in mind, one that was a mix of two recommended hiking trails in Pyhä-Luosto National Park.
How to visit the most important landmarks of Pyha-Luosto National Park within one day – the suggested hiking route
Geared with a simple map and enthusiasm, we drove 1.5 km further – to a small car park where our route began. In fact, we could park the car at Naava, but were advised that in low season (June!) we would be able to leave the car nearer trail head, at either of the small car parks – at the restaurant (directions), or at the ski lifts (directions).
It’s not too important which car park you choose, they’re all only a couple of minutes walk apart.
QUICK OVERVIEW OF OUR ROUTE
To ensure to include the most unique landmarks of Pyha-Luosto National Park in our hike, we decided to combine the blue trail (over mires and wetlands) and red trail (thru the fells and gorge). As all the paths in national park are marked and signposted, we found navigating our ‘customised’ route very easy. We thoroughly enjoyed the walk and definitely recommend the route to all first time visitors at Pyha-Luosto NP.
‘THE MIRES AND THE FELLS’ ROUTE IN PYHA-LUOSTO NATIONAL PARK, BY ELA & BEA
Eager to finally set our feet on Lappish trails, we set off to the trailhead (exact location). We started off by following a track taking us thru the old pine forest. Couple of minutes later we saw first markings of tourist trails: yellow, green and red (signposted to Isokuru gorge), and we followed them for a couple of hundred metres, until the fork – we turned into the blue trail signposted to Tiaislaavu.
Tiaislaavu was our first stop; it’s an open wind shelter with a dedicated picnic and bonfire space. It’s also a perfect outlook to the mires; before our eyes was an orange-coloured wetland with pine trees sticking randomly from the water.
And (another Lappish experience!), soon we spotted a Siberian Jay – a curious little bird (approximately hand size) which we have already known from other parts of Lapland. Siberian Jays are known to be easily tamed and curious. In hope to get some easy food, they often visit spots where hikers take a break; they like almonds (it’s best to break the almonds into small bits first so they’re ‘bird bite size’) and we had the joy of feeding them from hand several times. Keep in mind that they generally prefer ‘white’ foot, we tried to feed them with pumpkin seeds and jays only flew overhand checking out what that was, but never picked any seeds. Chopped (or chewed) almonds, on the other hand, jays would eat any time!
From Tiaislaavu, we continued along blue trail, towards Tunturiaapa.
This section was very interesting and beautiful in its own way. We were crossing the mires over wooden footways; and thanks goodness for these simple conveniences – otherwise seeing the wetlands up close would be impossible!
Looking at the little arctic flowers and cotton grass, we could easily tell that summer is only beginning at Pyha-Luosto National Park. We also spotted thousands of tiny white flowers, blossoming Lakka, and regretted that we won’t be around to enjoy the fruit later in the year… Lakka is Finnish name of Cloudberry, one of our favourite ‘gifts of nature’, which is a rather rare delicacy of the ‘north’, highly valued by locals.
There is a look-out tower over the mires at Tunturiaapa. We were glad to have come this way, seeing the wetland from above added a new perspective. The mires started forming after the ice sheet receded at the end of Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago, and the process is still ongoing, the peat layer ‘grows’ approximately half a millimetre per year. Having learnt this, we appreciated how fragile the mires are and how reckless human actions (and behaviours) can leave scars over this unique landscape, for thousands years to come…
Having spent some time admiring the yellows and oranges below, we decided it was time to move on; we were satisfied with the wetland exploration. Therefore, leaving the lookout tower, we continued towards Isokuru gorge.
Soon we left the mires and returned to the forest, now being able to smell the pine trees; their scent so different from the mires…
We came to a junction where 4 trails met, and turned left into red trail signposted to Isokuru.
The scenery changed very quickly. The terrain became more rocky, we also passed a couple of small lakes along the way.
We reached Isokuru gorge rather suddenly, the serene green forest thinned abruptly, giving space to ravines and large boulders of Finland’s deepest gorge.
We were surprised to find out that the fells in Pyhä-Luosto National Park date back some 2000 milion years, they’re VERY OLD. I mean, 2000 million years may feel a bit abstract, so let’s put it into perspective: dinosaurs ruled the world ‘only’ 65 million years ago…
What is even more surprising, in the FAR PAST Pyha-Luosto NP fells actually were under water! Nowadays, we could see very interesting fossilised ripples, made by ocean waves and ‘set in stone’ forever; now only revealed where the rocks crumbled. They can be easily spotted at the bottom of Isokuru gorge, even on the path!
I felt a bit uncomfortable walking over such unique relics of the past, so I tried to put my feet at the ‘plain rocks’ rather than the ripples, but at times it was impossible. I thought that if the ripples witnessed millions and millions of years of earth’s natural history, I wouldn’t like to damage them in any way. Walking along the trail we saw so many of them all around! And then I thought that maybe it was a good idea, to combine some ‘ripple rocks’ into the trail; visitors could easily see them up close without the need to step of the path!
Geology is one of my greatest passions, therefore I found Isokuru gorge very interesting. I took several photographs of the ripples, they’re definitely not a regular sight!
Red trail followed the bottom of Isokuru gorge, we passed some more small crystal clear lakes and soon reached its end, which held another surprise! Only a couple of steps off the main path we found a lovely, hidden waterfall!
Next section of our route involved climbing couple of hundreds of wooden stairs, constructed to easily climb to the higher grounds. Oh, we felt our thighs burning, oh my, we did!
When we finally climbed the 300-odd steps, we found ourselves surrounded by rich taiga again. There were several viewpoints to the upper part of Isokuru gorge, so we were able to admire this ‘geological miracle’ from above. We also spotted an old, now overgrown lake; its yellow and orange blanket looked rather unreal on the bed of grey rock!
Past the wooden stairs, the most ‘work out’ section was over and from then on we mostly walked slightly down the hill, which we felt very pleasant!
The air was fresh, we already felt happy to have decided to hike in Pyha-Luosto Kansalispuisto and didn’t even realise that we walked another kilometre!
The next point of interest on our way, Karhunjuomalampi, was only a couple of steps away.
Karhunjuomalampi is a designated picnic spot, beautifully located over a small lake. It consists of a small hut (suitable for overnight stay), windshelter, dry toilet and a prepared bonfire spot. We were surprised to find it quite busy, as we didn’t meet many other hikers along the way. Maybe they just came directly to Karhunjuomalampi, to enjoy the traditional Finnish bonfire and have a sausage 🙂 When travelling thru Finland, we learnt that a bonfire and freshly grilled sausage can be an important part of outdoor life!
Sadly, as we have just arrived to Finland previous night, we were totally ‘unprepared’ (had no sausage!) so we stopped at Karhunjuomalampi only briefly, before continuing the walk.
Final section of our route, was a return from Karhunjuomalampi to Pyha, and to ensure we didn’t walk back the same way, we decided to follow the orange trail, around Kultakero fell. It was an easy forest walk, gently descending. Keep in mind that this trail is shared by walkers and mountains bikers, so please respect each other!
After approximately 1 hour walk, we saw first infrastructure buildings of Pyha ski slopes and couple of minutes later we were already back at the car park.
OTHER MARKED TOURIST TRAILS IN PYHA-LUOSTO NATIONAL PARK
There are several marked tourist trails running thru Pyha-Luosto National Park, so one will definitely find a suitable route to explore the area. The trails vary in length and level of difficulty, and we’re listing some examples below:
- Tunturiaapa Nature Trail – one of the shortest trails in the national park, approx. 6 km / 2.5 hours. The trail initially winds thru taiga, only to come to a beautiful open wetland and Tunturiaapa look-out tower. Marked blue, starts in Pyha.
- Karhunjuomalampi Trail – approx 10 km / 4 hours. This challenging trail visits Isokuru gorge and Karhunjuomalampi picnic spot. Please note it runs thru rocky terrain and involves climbing over 300 steps!. Marked red, starts in Pyha.
- Trail to Nuitatunturi Fell – for those who wish to hike high up and see the surrounding area from above! Approx 15 km / 6 hours. Marked green, starts in Pyha.
- Luosto-Ylli-Luosto Hiking Trail – a challenging hike in the rocky fells, in a quiet part of the national park. Approx 12 km / 6 hours. Marked orange, starts in Luosto.
- Pyha-Luosto Hiking Trail – an ultimate hiking experience in the national park. This trail runs from Pyha to Luosto, over the fell range, including couple of summits. Approx 35 km / 2-3 days. Marked yellow, can be started in Pyha or Luosto.
WHAT WE LOVED ABOUT PYHA-LUOSTO NATIONAL PARK IN FINLAND
Our visit to Pyha-Luosto National Park was spontaneous, nonetheless, it was a fine day adventure! We were awed by beautiful, fragile mires which we found in full bloom; we greatly enjoyed Isokuru gorge which kept its ‘ripple’ secret for millions of years… finally, we were happy to have spent couple of hours hiking thru ancient taiga and the feeling that we discovered somewhere new! Pyha-Luosto NP may not be the largest of the national parks in Finland, but it definitely won’t leave one bored!
WILD CAMPING NEAR PYHA-LUOSTO NATIONAL PARK AND NEAREST CAMPSITE
Finland has a very liberal outdoor legislation and wild camping in nature is allowed, actually encouraged (assuming respectful behaviour). Wild camping in the national park is allowed, except in restricted areas (like the mires or Isokuru gorge), for up to 3 nights. For those who wish to spend more time exploring the national park and picked a longer hiking route, there are open wilderness huts provided for shelter and overnight stay (for exact locations see map available HERE)
Overnight stay off grid in a camper van is very easy, as there are many suitable spots located along the road 962.
Nearest campsite is Camping Pyhajarvi (Oravanranta 15, 98530 Pelkosenniemi). There also is a campground at Naava visitor centre in Pyha, however it seems to be for stationary caravans only, and despite our best efforts we didn’t manage to stay there (only refilled drinking water tank).
SHOWER. During our summer visit to Pyha, we were able to pay 3EUR for the shower only at the cafe and guest house Kairosmajan, 5 km north from Pyha (directions). This was arranged thru Naava visitor centre (very helpful!).