Ruska galore: enjoying the amazing autumn colors in Finland

When the summer comes to an end, Finns start reminiscing and planning for the next one. Autumn is the time to relax and start getting ready for the looming winter. It is also the time to enjoy the really crisp air and colorful forests full of brown, red and yellow trees. Finns call this autumnal color explosion ‘ruska’. This amazing natural palette is at its best in the northern part of Finland and has a peak of only 2 weeks. Ruska is very popular among photographers and we can’t blame them. Not capturing those amazing colors when given the chance could should be a crime.

Reindeer and ruska
(c) Pentti Sormunen / Vastavalo

Autumn starts in September and lasts up to 3 months. The peak for the amazing Ruska colors varies every year but usually the two last weeks of September are a sure bet. Hiking and trekking in the crisp autumn air are the most popular activities during Ruska. Finland has 40 national parks and every one of them is free to explore, respectfully. The Finnish general public right “Jokamiehen oikeudet” or “Everyman’s rights” allow anyone living or visiting in Finland to roam the woods, explore the countryside, fish with a rod and enjoy recreational use of natural areas. So, hiking in the national parks is the perfect plan for a budget-friendly trip!

Ruska colours
Vibrant Ruska colors
(c) Reijo Nenonen / Vastavalo

UKK National Park

Urho Kekkonen (UKK) National Park is one of Finland’s largest protected areas. It is located in Lapland and situated in the area of three municipalities: Savukoski, Sodankylä, and Inari. The marked trails make UKK National Park suitable for inexperienced backpackers as well. If you’d like something longer and more demanding, the wilderness is the way for you. You might come across reindeer since reindeer herding is a common livelihood in the area.

Freshwater in UKK National Park
(c) Aleksi Koskinen / Visit Finland

If you’re planning a trip to the area, Hostel Ahopää is the best affordable accommodation choice for you. The hostel is in the Fell Centre Kiilopää area which is actually the gateway to UKK National Park. In the Fell Centre, you can swim in an arctic fell stream and bathe in a smoke sauna. Hostel Ahopää has double rooms, quad rooms, and dorms for up to six people. The building has a common kitchen and drying cabinets. Linen, towels, sauna and cleaning fee are included in the price.

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

(c) Harri Tarvainen / Visit Finland

Pallastunturi fells is a group of seven fells in the Finnish Lapland. The fells are situated in the municipalities of Enontekiö, Kittilä, Kolari, and Muonio. The fells are in the area of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park which is the third largest national park in Finland and by far the most popular one.

The national park has almost 350 kilometers of marked trails where you can hike. The most popular hiking trail goes up to the fells and takes up to 4 days to complete. That trail is called the Hetta-Pallas Trail. If you’re not a hardcore Trekker, don’t worry. The national park has a lot of shorter and easier trails to explore for us commoners. The shortest trails are perfect for day trips since they’re only around 2 kilometers long. The summer trails are also open for mountain biking.

You can experience this national park the best by staying in Kuerkievari KuerHostel. The hostel is located in the spectacular Kuer Fell, in the village of Äkäslompolo. (Try saying that 5 times fast.) The fell can actually be reached directly from the front door! The hostel has men’s, women’s and unisex dorms. Shared areas include showers, toilets and a kitchen (called Köökki).

Koli National Park

Koli National Park is located in the North Karelia region and situated in the municipalities of Joensuu, Lieksa and Kontionlahti. It covers 30 square kilometers of hills and forests west of lake Pielinen. Koli differs from the other national parks quite a lot since its purpose isn’t to only preserve wild nature. Koli’s purpose is to cherish the traditional agricultural heritage: slashing, burning and making the land productive once again.

Koli has a good variety of hiking trails to offer. The most popular trail in Ukko-Koli, “The Trail of the Tops”, is only 1,4 kilometers long but includes the most popular and beautiful sceneries. When enjoying the classic and gorgeous view over lake Pielinen, it might not come as a big surprise that Koli has inspired a lot of Finnish painters and composers, such as Jean Sibelius, Juhani Aho, and Eero Järnefelt. For more experienced and adventurous trekkers, Koli has a chance to set off on a hike that will take several days. It is up to 61 kilometers long and called the “Herajärvi Trail”.

(c) Julia Kivelä / Visit Finland

If you want to go hiking but Lapland seems a bit too far, Koli isn’t a bad option. The Ruska might not be as vibrant but yellow-ish trees’ reflection in a lake is still very much worth it to lay your eyes on. Herajärvi Hiking Centre is open all year and actually is the starting and junction point of the “Herajärvi Trail”. Truly a hiker’s dream destination. You can rent canoes, rowboats, mountain bikes and camping gear from the hostel.

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