Urho Kekkonen National Park Day 1: Aittajarvi – Sarvioja

This August we spent 5 days backpacking in the Finnish Lapland wilderness. The destination was a national park  called ‘Urho Kekkosen Kansallispuisto’ or ‘Urho Kekkonen National Park’ in English. The area is huge, (about 2550 sq. km) and one of the largest wilderness areas in the whole Europe. There you can easily get really far away from the nearest road or other modern conveniences.

If you are arriving by plane to the nearest airport Ivalo, it is a good idea to stop by at Saariselkä before heading out to the woods. Saariselkä is a good place to shop for last minute supplies like gas, which you cannot take with you on the plane. The flights from Helsinki to Ivalo cost usually about 100-150 euros, depending on the season. It would be more expensive for two people to drive the distance, so flying is a good option.

Day 1: Aittajärvi - Sarvioja

Day 1: Aittajärvi – Sarvioja

Route: Aittajärvi – Sarvioja

Distance:13km / 5 hours

We started the hike from Aittajärvi, one of the popular starting points that gets the hiker directly to the remotest parts of the park. To get there we hired a Taxi from the Saariselkä village. The 50km drive on a bumpy gravel road took about 30 minutes and cost 70 euros for the two of us. The price is quite high, but many drivers are not willing to drive there due to the bad condition of the remote road.

The taxi dropped us to the parking lot at the end of the road. There were a few cars indicating that we might meet some other people during the first day. The weather looked really unstable with light rain and some thunder few kilometers away. We waited for the rain to pass under the nearby fireplace shelter, and prepared our gear for the upcoming river crossing.

The end of the road and the start of the wilderness

Safety cables have been installed at some of the biggest river crossings. The water can be up to waist deep and the current may be strong. Always remember to unbuckle you backpack before crossing the rivers. If you fall it is impossible to swim or keep your head above the with the backpack on your back. This time the river was quite shallow and the crossing was easy, but the water was cold!

Crossing the river near Aittajärvi

After crossing the river we saw some reindeer just a few meters away. Those ended up being the only ones we would see for several days. We also soon met 3 tired and soaking wet hikers. Seems that they had not been that lucky with the thunderstorm. After them we met only one other person during the day’s hike.

The route for the first day was relatively easy, only about 12km on easy terrain and path, with elevation gain of only about 150m. The path followed a river and swampy areas in the forest, so there were quite a lot of mosquitoes. They were the only annoyance for the first day, and we hoped that there would be less of them during the upcoming days.

Easy path during the first day

After about 5 hours we arrived to the Sarvioja wilderness hut, where we were greeted by Pertti and his dog Narri. They had arrived a few hours earlier from other direction, and were planning to spend the night in the hut. After a while Sanna and Jaakko, a young couple from Southern Finland, also arrived. The forecasts had promised temperatures near zero degrees for the night, so we also decided to stay in the hut instead of sleeping in a tent.

Sarvioja wilderness hut

The hut was located at the bottom of a slope nearby a river, which was convenient for washing up and getting water, but too cold for even thinking about swimming. Next to the main hut was a smaller hut with the fire wood storage and toilets. Nearby were also two outdoor fire places and some good spots for tents. The hut itself was quite old and dark, but comfortable enough for 5 people + a dog.

Inside the Sarvioja hut

The wilderness huts in the Finnish Lapland are open to everyone and usually include a gas stove, some cookware, a wood stove for keeping the hut warm, and hard bunk beds for 8-10 people. The huts are meant only for one night’s resting, not for longer periods. If the hut is full the person who has arrived first must give space for the newest arrivals, who probably needs the rest most. Pets are allowed in the huts only if other people agree, but we had no opposition sleeping with Narri, who had already become Salla’s best friend. We spent the rest of the evening comparing route plans with the others and enjoyed our first (miniscule) dinner portion.

Here you can find a few more pictures:

Here is the map of the full route we hiked in 5 days:

The full route of the UKK hike


Day 1: Aittajärvi – Sarvioja

Day 2: Sarvioja – Muorranvaarakka

Day 3: Muorranvaarakka – Sokosti – Luirojärvi

Day 4: Luirojärvi – Tuiskukuru – Kustunlampi – Suomunruoktu

Day 5: Suomunruoktu – Kiilopää

Make sure also to check the packing list if you are planning a trip of your own to the Finnish Lapland.



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