The Hetta-Pallas hiking trail in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is Finland's oldest hiking trail and one of the most popular long distance hiking trails in Finland. The Hetta-Pallas trail goes from the peaks of the fells down to the gorges and back to the peaks to incredibly beautiful rugged landscapes. The autumn time colors the Hetta-Pallas route with deep red tones.
Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park
Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is an area of great fells. The current fells and hills are the worn remains of a mountain range like the Alps. The landscape of Pallastunturi belongs to Finland's national landscapes. Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is one of the first national parks in Finland.
The Pallas-Yllästunturi area introduces visitors both Sámi and Finnish culture. You can see a lot of structures related to reindeer husbandry and, of course, reindeer in the national park. According to studies, Pallastunturi has the cleanest air in the world - you can feel it with your whole body when you arrive in Lapland and take a deep breath!
Hetta-Pallas hiking trail
The duration of the Hetta-Pallas hike at a leisurely pace is three nights, if you don't set off until late in the afternoon. The distance from Hetta to Pallas is about 50 kilometers (31 miles). On the Hetta-Pallas hiking trail, you can only spend the night in the vicinity of huts and campfire sites in the recreation zone (check on the map), you can camp freely outside of it in the wilderness zone.
Reserve huts and open wilderness huts, and campfire sites are in order starting from Hetta: Pyhäkero open wilderness hut, Sioskuru reserve and open wilderness hut, Tappuri open wilderness hut, Pahakuru open wilderness hut, Hannukuru reserve and open wilderness hut, Suaskuru Lappish hut, Montellinmaja fireplace (cottage not in use), Nammalakuru reserve and open wilderness hut, Rihmakuru Lappish hut and in Pallas a rental Lappish hut Pallaskota and an open Lappish hut.
Water points can be found close to the rest stops, there is also a well at several huts. I used a filter when taking water from the stream into a drinking bottle. In warm weather, it is even recommended to boil the water.
The Hetta-Pallas hiking trail map is part of the Hetta-Pallas-Ylläs fell map in Calazo's waterproof Tyvek maps. Karttakeskus also has a map of the route in its selections. The route of the Hetta-Pallas hike is well marked, but you should always keep the map with you when backpacking.
I hiked from Hetta to Pallas at the end of September 2020. Now Montellinmaja is no longer available for overnight stays, and the Pallastunturi Visitor Centre is closed for the time being.
A boat ride from Hetta – my hiking experiences
I jumped off the bus to Hetta in Enontekiö. I walked to Koru Laakso to wait for a boat ride, and I even got a ride to buy gas at the hardware store. You can also get a car transfer service from the same place.
The glowing autumn colors were already visible a long way before the boat arrived over Lake Ounasjärvi to the pier. I started walking along a wide path into the coniferous forest and slowly filled my lungs with the most wonderful smell of autumn. Ahead was my first long distance solo hiking adventure in Lapland, after Karhunkierros Bear’s Trail hike in June. My Hetta-Pallas hike was also a nature pilgrimage.
The trail was a forest path with roots and rocks in places. The ground was boggy on both sides of the duckboards. My backpack was heavy, I had packed two sleeping pads for the frost, and trail running shoes for fell adventures.
Everywhere was quiet. I sat by a forest pond for a while with a smile on my face. One of the best moments of a backpacking trip is when on the first day you have walked for a while and the tickling hiking excitement is gone. You just calm down to the passing moment, where it feels like all the time in the world is right there, and nothing else is needed.
The last stretch before Pyhäkero hut was a gravel path. The evening was already getting dark when I looked for a free tent spot. I decided to pitch my tent on a sandy rock. The pegs didn't stay well in the sand, but I couldn't care less. And I needed to fix the gas bottle with a knife a bit before it agreed to work, but I finally got the dinner ready and fell straight into the sleeping bag at the end of a long day of travel.
During the night, a strong wind came up and it rained heavily. In the morning, I noticed that half of the pegs had come off the ground and the tent was a tad out of shape. A small pond had formed inside. Fortunately, my stuff didn't get wet, and I also learned something about setting up the tent properly.
I cooked oatmeal while the tent and sleeping bag dried on the tree branches. I went to see the hut and chatted with another hiker. The sun was shining from a clear sky when I set off towards Pyhäkero fell.
From Pyhäkero hut to Sioskuru
The ascent to Pyhäkero was long, steep and heavy. Halfway up the first slope there was a sign about the new route alignment. Reindeer run farther up the fells. Their silhouettes were visible against the light.
Before the last climb up to the top of the fell, the trail made a bend on the plateau on the west side of Lake Pyhäjärvi. In front of a stone wall was an inviting bench, on which I climbed to sit. There were only few hikers, even though the weather was the most beautiful and autumn was at its brightest.
Then I climbed to the top. From the fell peak unimaginably beautiful landscapes opened up on both sides of the fell range. The clouds cast huge shadows on the terrain, while the rays of light played between clouds.
The wind was strong at the top, it was hard to stay upright. Somewhere further away, a few other passers-by stood out, but on large fells, people seem quite small. The sounds were lost in the wind, only humming could be heard in the silence.
The journey continued with a wonderful view towards Siosvaara. The hiking trail was wide, worn by thousands of shoes. It continued meandering over fells and an endlessly rolling line of fells. On the horizon, Ounastunturi fells were only a faint outline against the sky. The waymarks that look like a cross undoubtedly painted an aura of holiness in the landscape and in the landscape of the soul.
The flat top of Pyhäkero continues for a long time until the trail turns to a steeper descent. Although it's not that steep either. In the barren rock, the scarlet ground showed that the plants live and flourish even in the sand at the mercy of wind and drought of tundra.
Below, on the slopes of the fell, the fiery red ground spread as far as the eye could see. I had heard it was a good autumn this year. It was good news because it was the first Lapland autumn in my life. Or at least I don’'t remember that I had ever traveled in the northern latitudes of my country in September before. Maybe that's why this nature experience, blurred with deep red and orange, felt so intense.
Copper-colored grass caressed the edges of the duckboards. Sioskuru reservation and open wilderness hut peeked out from the center of autumn colors. There were already people in the hut. At half past three, my stomach was grumbling, and I stayed on the terrace of Sioskuru's hut to make lunch as I didn't have to warm up.
From Sioskuru hut to Pahakuru to admire the northern lights
From Sioskuru, the trail runs along the sides of the hills, you don't climb to the hill tops when hiking to Pahakuru. First, however, you climb quite high to Siosvaara, the highest peak is on the left side. Then you descend for a short distance until you travel along a fairly flat path on the eastern slopes of Sillavaara.
After a couple of kilometers, there was an intersection ahead, from which you turn to the Tappuri open wilderness hut. It would be about a kilometer to Tappuri, from the hut you can also get back to the hiking trail without having to return to the intersection. I didn’t go to Tappuri hut, because I was already excitedly waiting for the next tent night.
It was cloudy before Sioskuru, I was a little sad about the lost rays of the sun. When approaching Tappuri fell, the terrain turned very boggy. On the Hetta-Pallas trail, everything wet is covered with duckboards, so you don't have to wet your shoes.
Tappuri rose as a distinct mound from the terrain, like a huge anthill. The trail meandered gently up into the shade. There was the intersection, from which you could get to Ketomella and Lake Hietajärvi.
The trail went up to the slopes of Rouvivaara next. The water flowed low in the stream. The hills receded and the landscape began to open up. At the same time, the clouds also disappeared, the half-past six evening sun once again conjured a gold glitter on the barren land. Suastunturi fell rested on the horizon.
The plateau continued for several kilometers. The sun's rays filtered out from behind the last clouds. I hadn’t seen other hikers since Sioskuru. I walked on duckboards and thought about life, its small and big miracles.
After a small rising slope, a cluster of buildings could be seen in the distance, Pahakuru open wilderness hut. The stony road turned into duckboards in the colorful fell birch bushes. The cottage looked old, but the dry toilets gleamed with newness.
From the window, I could see that there were people sitting by the table in the hut. It would have been only one and a half kilometers to Hannukuru's mansion with sauna, but somehow the quieter Pahakuru convinced me to set up the tent in its yard.
Two more women arrived after me, who decided to continue to Hannukuru. I made a dinner for myself on the table in the yard while the sky turned red. I could have set up fire in the fireplace, but I was too lazy to get any wood. I watched the beautiful sunset while eating, it was enough.
By 9:30 pm a perfect inky blue night descended and shrouded the fells in darkness. The air began to feel freezing cold. Suddenly, thousands of stars lit up in the sky. I sat in silence for a long time before I went to sleep.
But I couldn’t sleep while thinking about the stars, and the possibility of the northern lights also crossed my mind. At 10:15 pm, I opened the tent's zipper and got amazed: the sky had turned into a northern light show filled with green and turquoise blaze! I rushed out with the camera.
The light filled the whole sky, I had never seen anything so magical. The auroras sometimes played upwards, sometimes forming soft circles, sometimes speeding wildly across the sky. The mystical fire fox had waved its tail and made so many sparkles!
I admired and photographed the northern lights show until my fingers and toes froze. The aurora borealis photos of a first timer lack accuracy and composition, but the amount of light and my excitement may be conveyed. Though, they weren't exactly that great from the Kevo's adventure and northern lights either.
From Pahakuru to Suaskuru's Lappish hut
The morning dawned behind thin clouds, and the coldness of the night was only a memory in crisp northern air. The other hikers had continued their journey and left behind a warm hut. I dried the sleeping bag inside while making breakfast. Another solo hiker stopped by. Being awake late took its toll, the morning activities took a long time.
Hannukuru mansion is very close. First, you descend to the wooded plain in the gorge valley, cross the wetland with duckboards, and finally dive into the forest. The gorge valley was born 30-50 million years ago when the bedrock moved. The quartzite of the bedrock in the Ounastunturi area is sand deposited almost 2000 million years ago. You can feel the continuum of nature at every step.
Hannukuru's reservation and wilderness hut is the stopping point for most hikers on the Hetta-Pallas trail. There are 24 beds on the reservation huts, more beds can be found in the open wilderness cabin on top of the cliff, Haukkalinna. Many people relax in the Hannukuru sauna in the wilderness. There are several fireplaces, a Lappish hut, a well, and dry toilets in the courtyard area. I was satisfied after staying in peace of Pahakuru to watch the northern lights show alone.
From Hannukuru, the journey continues along the rocky trail towards Suastunturi, it is 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) to Pallas. Hannukuru is a halfway stop. Immediately after crossing the wetland and stream, the trail rose steeply to the fell. Hannukuru's hut could only be seen as a small dot in the middle of the trees.
The ascent to Suastunturi was hard. On the top of the fell, the trail sometimes went up and sometimes down between smaller peaks. The landscape faded beautifully into the distance. A long descent led to duckboards across a swamp and into a dense forest.
There were several groups at Suaskuru Lappish hut in the forest. I had lunch sitting on a fallen tree trunk and looked inside the hut. If necessary, you can stay overnight at Suaskuru Lappish hut. The place was somehow so dark that I hoped I would never need to spend the night there.
To Montellinmaja across Lumikero and Vuontiskero fells
After a quick snack break, I shook the dust of Suaskuru and the forest off my feet. What else was waiting ahead, but an ascending trail again. Blueberries formed colorful carpets as far as the eye could see.
The slope was steep in places, boggy in places, but mostly a gravel path. The landscapes looked more beautiful the higher you went. Looking back, the trail over the fells looked like a shimmering thread.
Finally, a pile of stones rose up against the sky in front of me. It took about four and a half hours from Pahakuru to the top of Lumikero. The day had been cloudy, but the horizon was promising. I wasn't in a hurry, I just was.
Lumikero also has two peaks, and between them you descend and ascend several tens of meters in height. The latter bump is lower, though, and the trail doesn't quite go through its highest point.
Lumikero gorge was deep and steep-sided. The reindeer fence ran parallel to the gorge, separating Lumikero and Vuontiskero fells from each other. I had to think about how to open the gate for a while. After leaving the fence, I continued to climb the slopes of Vuontiskero, where the evening sun finally started to shine.
I don't remember seeing such an orange and red sunset ever before. I sat on the slope for a long time. The grasses trembled golden yellow in the wind. The radio in my mind was playing Avicii. Only when the red ball started to sink down behind the horizon, I quickly started hiking again.
Montellinmaja hut was visible as soon as the fell slope turned downhill. The glow of the sky refracted into a cold palette along with the drop in temperature. It was getting freezing cold at night.
At the same time, another solo hiker arrived at the small Montellinmaja hut. We agreed that it would not be worthwhile to continue the journey to the big Nammalakuru hut in the dark, even if it was only a kilometer away. We both set up tents just in case, but we planned to stay in the cabin for the night in the warmth.
As the evening darkened, the fireplace warmed the hut, and two faces took turns watching through the tiny window at the lights of other hikers. According to the wilderness hut etiquette, the last person who came can stay, those who have rested should continue the journey. At ten pm we decided to stop worrying and go to sleep - if anyone else came, they could sleep on the floor or carry us outside.
Crossing Pallastunturi and summitting Taivaskero
I woke up at dawn after a bad night's sleep (hot in the hut, presence of others, etc.) and went for a walk in the neighborhood. The frost had bitten the bright red leaves and decorated the edges with spiky crystals. Morning painted the sky orange and the fells purple. In the silence, the view sank deep into my mind, with the label "the world's finest landscapes, presence, love, etc.".
To the delight of the last day of hiking, the sun was shining from a clear sky. I put on my backpack a little after ten am and set off from the middle of the fells for a gentle climb to Pikkuvaarat hills.
The small hills were quickly crossed, the Nammalakuru buildings were immediately visible at the bottom of the next gorge. The planks leading over the stream were covered in thick snow, I was the first to leave footprints. From the yard of the Nammalakuru hut, great forested hill and fell landscapes opened up. I continued my journey past Jäkäläkero towards the Rihmakurunvaarat towering ahead.
The trail was wide, flat and rocky. Rihmakuru Lappish hut came quickly. Since Pallas was only eight kilometers away, I didn't stay to eat. There was only Pallastunturi fells to cross before the hike ends at the Pallastunturi Visitor Centre. My mind lingered in joy and longing at the same time.
At Rihmakurunvaarat hills, the ground became rockier. The batteries of my cell phone and sports watch ran out at the same time, so I took a power bank and a bunch of wires. While the electronics were being charged, I also charged my own batteries by laying down on a sunny slope.
On the slopes of Lehmäkero, the trail became wet and muddy. And after a while it becomes a rock trail. Suddenly, people started appearing here and there at the end of the trail. The trail to Taivaskero fell turned to the right, I followed the day hikers to the top.
Taivaskero or Himmelriiki is the highest peak of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park and Pallastunturi, which rises to 809 meters (2654 ft). The Olympic flame was lit on Taivaskero in 1952, which is commemorated by a stone plaque on the top. On the commemorative plaque of the Olympic flame, a lot of people gather to take selfies. I joined the group, but a little further from the top.
When I climb to the top of a fell or a mountain as part of a long-distance hike, and especially with a heavy backpack on my back, it always feels sweeter than a summit day hike. Maybe the effort somehow adds depth to the experience. But I had a big smile on my face, as the Pallastunturi Visitor Centre was already far below.
From Taivaskero, I descended towards the beautiful Laukukero fell, through which I could have hiked at the same time. However, I decided to go from Liisansatula to Vatikuru, because my legs were already hurting. Sitting on the rock, I gazed at the rugged landscapes gilded by the sun before I finally descended from the fells.
The rest of the journey was first along the stream, then along a hard sandy trail to the Pallastunturi Visitor Centre. The visitor centre didn't have any food for sale, so I grabbed a couple of bags of candy raisins for a snack. I hiked the next kilometers to the beautiful Lake Pallasjärvi and Punainenhiekka day hut, still thinking about the incredibly amazing Hetta-Pallas hike.
PS. The Hetta-Pallas Hiking Trail is now officially litter-free - remember to bring back all your waste with you from nature!
Other wonderful hiking routes to see autumn colors:
- Kevo canyon trail 63 km
- Peltojärvi tour in Muotkatunturi Wilderness
- Luirojärvi route in Urho Kekkonen National Park
Hetta-Pallas Hiking Trail
- Destination: Enontekiö and Muonio, Lapland, Finland
- Distance: 50 km (31miles, one direction)
- Difficulty: physically demanding but suitable for beginners
- When to go: in September for backpacking in autumn
- Duration: 3-4 days
- Where to stay: camping in tent, in reservation or open wilderness huts, some Lappish huts