Lake Luirojärvi Trail in Urho Kekkonen National Park, in Lapland Finland is a year-round classic hike. The route goes through the peak of Kiilopää fell to Lake Luirojärvi and Sokosti fell in wonderful open fell and forest landscapes. The Lake Luirojärvi hike can be done as a summer and fall hike as well as a winter ski excursion.
In Urho Kekkonen National Park, I did a four-day autumn colors hike to Lake Luirojärvi. My lightweight hiking gear made backpacking light and comfortable, and without rushing despite the long days on trails. I slept in ‘laavu’ shelter for the first time of my life, I enjoyed great fall and autumn colors in the sunshine and I also experienced amazingly pouring rainy days.
Urho Kekkonen National Park
Urho Kekkonen National Park in eastern Lapland is one of Finland's most spectacular nature areas and the second largest of our national parks. The park has a large network of open wilderness cabins and reservation cabins, and you can also stay in laavu shelters, or in tents.
The UKK park charms the hiker with its wonderful scenery and diverse nature. The nature of the park is dominated by huge forests, clear lakes and rivers, and vast and rugged fell areas, which offer stunning views of the surrounding wilderness.
Urho Kekkonen National Park has a huge variety of trails and routes, marked routes suitable for day trips and unmarked wilderness routes. The most popular of the long wilderness hiking trails is the Lake Luirojärvi hike, which is 70-80 kilometers (44-50 miles) long. By combining routes, the Lake Luirojärvi hike can be as long as you wish.
Climbing Sokosti (718 m / 2356 ft) is part of the plans of many hikers in Urho Kekkonen National Park. Sokosti, rising in the middle of the national park on the east side of Lake Luirojärvi, is the highest fell in the UKK park and also in Eastern Lapland. Other great sights are e.g., the magnificent and green Paratiisikuru gorge, the park's second highest fell Ukselmapää, Niilanpää's reindeer herder’s hut and Raappana's kammi (a tiny hut carved half in the ground).
Lake Luirojärvi Trail
The Lake Luirojärvi Trail is a wilderness trail that can be traveled all year round. The route is not marked on the terrain, but there are clear paths all along the way. The route usually runs from hut to hut (counter-clockwise) as follows:
Niilanpää reindeer day hut - Suomunruoktu open wilderness and reservation hut - Tuiskukuru open wilderness and reservation hut - Luirojärvi open wilderness and reservation hut / Kuusela rental hut - Lankojärvi open wilderness and reservation hut and Rautulammi open wilderness and reservation hut.
The duration of the Lake Luirojärvi hike is estimated to be 4-6 days. The map of the hike can be found at the retkikartta.fi service.
My longer Lake Luirojärvi hike followed the route: Kiilopää – Rautulampi – Kotaköngäs – Padagova – Lankojärvi – Porttikoski – Sarvijoki – Paratiisikuru – Ukselmapäät – Lumipäät – Pälkkimäoja – Raappana’s kammi – Lake Luirojärvi – Tuiskukuru – Suomunruoktu – Suomunlatva – Niilanpää – Kiilopää.
Due to rain and fog, the route plan Lumipäät – Riitelmäpäät – Sokosti – Lake Luirojärvi changed to Pälkkimäoja. According to the sports watch, the four-night (and quite precisely four-day) hike was a little over 112 km (70 miles).
Lake Luirojärvi hike - experiences from the autumn hike in September
Eskelinen's bus turned into the yard of the Kiilopää fell center a little after ten in the morning. I got a coffee and the half-empty gas bottle I had reserved at the visitor centre. Actually, the big gas bottle was almost full, and to my surprise, it didn't even cost anything.
Summitting Kiilopää fell
The most amazing hiking weather – pleasantly cool and semi-cloudy autumn-scented air – accompanied the journey towards the fells. Previously, I had only been to the top of Kiilopää in the winter with steep snow, now I climbed the slope in half an hour to a large pile of stones. A great fall hike was ahead, and I felt great.
There was a lot of people at the top of Kiilopää. I looked at the scenery in every direction, because I would take another route back to Kiilopää at the end of the hike. I noticed a small path on the eastern slopes and started to descend.
The path seemed to continue in the direction of Niilanpää, so I turned left and started go down the treeless fell towards Rautuvanka. The autumn colors on the ground glowed like a sea of red and orange. Ripe blueberries and lingonberries were still growing on the slopes.
In the distance, I could see a wide trail that leads to Luulampi and Rautulampi. There were so many people on the trail that I decided to continue on a quieter route. I crossed the branches of River Rautuvanganoja, where there was only little water. I noticed the snowmobile trail sign and started to follow the track on the west side of the hiking trail.
The streams flowing from the fell marked on the map were completely dry, as if predicting a flood in the coming days. Four hikers who were walking in the opposite direction said that they had seen a grouse near the pond ahead. After walking to the pond, I spent some time gazing at bushes, but I didn't manage to make any animal observations.
A visit at Rautulampi open wilderness and reservation huts
The air became warmer, the sun was surprisingly hot. Rautuvanka seemed to go on forever, as I didn’t have any drinking water and there were only stones in the river. Just before Rautulampi, the map showed a spring. A lovely clear spring bubbled under the path and I filled up with fresh Lapland water with both hands and fill also my bottle.
Rautulampi's new wooden buildings looked great, in the style of what you see in Norway. People were already there and more arrived at the campfire sites. There were a couple of camps near the beach. Despite of the crowd, Rautulampi seemed like a beautiful place in the early afternoon sun.
I continued up the Raututunturi fell. The rocky trail rose steeply to the fell, and continued in the wrong direction, so I left the path to cross the fell towards Hikioja. The terrain was easy to walk, fell birch grew in orange bushes here and there.
I looked at the scenery on top of the fell before I went down. Aslakkapäät fells rose boldly in the middle of autumn colors, which were at their best at that time. The wonderful atmosphere of the autumn hike felt like lightness down to the fingertips.
The Hikijoja path was densely overgrown and narrow until it turned into a wide trail or an ATV track. The terrain was mostly a pine forest decorated with red ground vegetation. For some reason, the obligatory thought of a bear on every hike arose along the Hikioja, and I looked in every direction to make sure there wasn't a tufted ear lurking behind a stone or a pine trunk.
Kotaköngäs and Padakova
If Rautavanka trail was long, so was Hikioja. The stream was almost dry, sometimes you could hear a gurgling sound from under the rocks. Finally, the path arrived at a lush green backwater, where the clear water made a bend before plunging into the rapids.
Kotaköngäs rapids was as gorgeous as a painting in an autumn outfit. I stood for a long time on the rocks and on the bridge, watching the roar of the water. I had thought that I could stay the night on Kotaköngäs laavu shelter if it was late. Unfortunately, the nice place was also in the minds of other hikers, because there was already a group sitting by the fire on the shelter and more wandered in. I decided to continue the journey, even though it was already late.
After Kotaköngäs, the terrain became rocky. Between the cliffs there was some boggy trail parts. It was three kilometers to the next campfire site.
It was quiet in the Padakova camping area, no other hikers. I set up my camp near the edge of the cliff, from where I could see River Palovanganjoki. I decided to set up a fire and have dinner, the evening was already getting dark.
The saw was rusty and all that was left were enormously large logs. I lost the battle against the log, but I was able to make and collect enough wood pieces from the ground before a short rain and got my fire. Even though it was the first night of the adventure, I slept soundly in the gentle roar of the rapids.
Along River Suomujoki to Porttikoski
I slept for a long time and I was slow in the morning anyway. After having breakfast, I packed my bags and started down the slope towards River Suomujoki. The shorter version of the Lake Luirojärvi hike could have been taken in the opposite direction as well – along the River Palovanganjoki to Vasanlyömäpää fell and further to Lake Luirojärvi. The routes of Urho Kekkonen National Park are so great precisely because you can plan endless different hikes.
The Palovanganjoki bridge had been taken down and the route realigned, the wading place was marked 250 meters (820 ft) upstream. A large tree trunk was lying at the crossing, there was only 20-30 centimeters of water. A refreshing morning walk in ice-cold water is always nice.
I walked along River Suomujoki in the pine forest on the east side of the river and stopped at the beautiful Kaustanlammi ponds. The rocky path arrived at the wading place of Lankojärvi. The water seemed to be really shallow, and the smooth rocks on the bottom almost made it tempting to go in the water. However, I skipped the Lankojärvi huts, it was too early for lunch.
The trail made a loop over the branch of River Suomujoki. After a short stretch of forest, there was a long bog ahead. Wet bushes soaked my pants. A couple of foreign hikers walked towards me in an otherwise deserted trail.
The trail ran along the shoreline of the beautiful Lake Lankojärvi. Shortly before the campfire site, I went right by the water to admire the rapids. Kalvavankka's fireplace was located in a nice spot, but it was not in a very good shape.
The stream coming down from Kalavanganlammi pond was shallow and nice to wade. I walked a long way right by the river, listening to its roar. After half an hour's walk, the River Suomujoki was surging in wonderful rapids, and I went on an adventure to the rocks. The scenery was so eye-catching that I wanted to just stay there forever.
The journey continued in dry pine forest. The river reflected orange and yellow trees from its calm surface. At Kalajyrävä there was a big marsh and dirt, but my shoes kept quite dry.
Porttikoski and postcard landscapes
I arrived at Porttikoski at three pm. Another solo hiker who was on his way to Lake Luirojärvi came from the hut. Apparently, there had been water almost up to the bottom in the wading area. The hut was empty, dark and warm. I ate fresh bread (when the gear is light, it's okay to carry fresh homemade bread in your bag!) and went to the river to photograph.
At Porttikoski, it would be nice to take a dip in the clear water and swim from the smooth beach rocks. When I left the hut at half past five, a couple who didn't have any backpacks came up to the place. I looked back wistfully from the trail – Porttikoski seemed like such a wonderful place that I would have loved to stay there.
The evening sun filtered beautifully from behind the tree trunks, I admired the pretty pine forest and the burning autumn colors. I walked to the cliffs of the River Suomujoki to look at the steep bridge of Porttikoski. It didn't really look like something you'd be happy to walk on.
I had made a route plan over Peurapää on the map, so I turned onto the slope of Peurapää and surprisingly found a path there. After some time, however, I turned from the trail up into the forest, when I thought of turning right to Sotavaaranoja.
The terrain in Peurapää was actually quite nice to walk, like in a blueberry forest when I was a child. I reached the highest point of the gentle slopes and continued down. The path was found again right by the river. I started walking along the Sotavaaranoja riverside and immediately started looking for a good wading spot as it was getting late.
After about half a kilometer of walking, I arrived at an insanely beautiful rapids with waterfalls. The water flowed between two vertical walls for a long distance and somehow reminded me of Kevo adventure. I admired the wonder of nature a long time. I wouldn't have found this if I had only taken the usual Lake Luirojärvi route.
A suitable crossing point was above the waterfall, where the water was at most calf-deep. I moved to the northern shore of Sotavaaranoja, where I found a decent trail. It was already late, and it was gradually getting dark.
My intention was to make it somewhere in the direction of Sarvijoki open wilderness hut, but I would make it to Maantiekuru gorge before dark at the most. Just to be sure, I filled the water bottle from the spring I had found already at this point. And then briskly one foot in front of the other along the forest trail, in search of a suitable flat tent spot.
I passed a small tent with a hiker saying hello in the yard. In the terrain, you could see some stone-built fireplaces along the path. I went from Sotavaaranoja to Maantiekuru. Just before it got dark, I found a good place to camp. I was tired enough so that the lack of fire didn't bother me at all.
Past the Sarvijoki huts
In the morning I would have slept for a long time again, but I got going at half past eight. A hundred meters away would have been a nice camping area, where there were a couple of tents. So, this is where the noise I heard at night came from, I thought.
The weather was still the best, and autumn was really colorful in Maantiekuru. While admiring the colors, I accidentally walked past the intersection for about a kilometer. I couldn't bring myself to go back, so I went into the forest and up the slope to take a shortcut to the lower slopes of Kaarnepää fell. Despite the steepness, the terrain was relatively easy to walk, and eventually I ended up back on the trail.
I started to descend down the winding sandy and rocky path. The fells were rolling on all sides. When I got down to River Sarvijoki, I met a couple who wondered how early I was on trails. They obviously thought I was coming from a hut.
I arrived at the hut, next to which there was a dry toilet. I realized that it was only Sudenpesä rental cabin and continued on my way. There were a lot of people in Sarvijoki hut area. There were sleeping bags and towels hanging on the ropes and porches and trees of the open wilderness and reservation huts.
At the marked crossing, two tree trunks had been put across the river. I didn't trust my balance skills, so I preferred to wade. A good crossing point was located in a wide part of the river, where you could see a shallow and rocky area.
Toward Paratiisikuru gorge
I dried my feet and put my hiking boots back on. Next, I would go over the northern slopes of Vaulopää towards Paratiisikuru gorge. The trail went up a bit steeply at times. I admired the wonderful fall again. I was in a joking mood and happy that I could laugh at bad humour in my own peace.
The pale sand path meandered through the colourful fells. There was little water in the branches of River Sarvijoki, you could cross it by walking along the rocks. The trail curved to Paratiisikuru gorge. After a kilometer, the landscape began to look more and more like the Garden of Eden.
A beautiful white sand path meandered along the riverbank and arrived at an oval fell pond and a waterfall. A wonderful pond shimmered in the middle of the steep and colorful walls like a funnel. I hiked up to a small waterfall and took a scenic spot for a lunch break.
I had already noticed people having dinner in the distance and more people arrived from all directions. People kept coming down the slope of Ukselmapää fell, and several groups followed me along the trail as well. All roads lead to Paratiisikuru. I had just finished eating half of my lunch when it started to drizzle.
I had to put on the rain gear, pack the things and leave in a hurry to continue the journey. I knew to expect heavy rains during the hiking week, but I was hoping for a later time. I wanted to see the stunning scenery from the top of the fells, so my Lake Luirojärvi hike included crossing the fells from Paratiisikuru to Sokosti.
I hurried up the slope to Ukselmapää fell. Shortly before I reached the top, I turned right from the trail onto the slopes of the fell. Then there was a lot of fog and a total whiteout.
On the tops of the fells and Pälkkimäoja
The slopes of Ukselmäpää fell were easy to walk, the stones were small. I navigated with a compass, as the visibility quickly dropped to less than twenty meters. I skipped the sight Pirunportti (Devil’s Gate) because of the bad weather. I headed for Lumipää (Snow Head) fell and finally found a small pile of stones. I joked that everything is snow white.
After summiting Lumipää, I continued to the saddle between Lumipää and Riitelmäpäät fells, when the sky seemed to clear up from time to time. The scenery was otherwise beautiful, but the fog seemed to thicken. It didn't help but to skip also Riitelmäpäät and Sokosti fells, descend from the fell and continue along the River Pälkkimäoja path.
I saw a beautiful reindeer herd (maybe a hundred reindeer) in the distance. At the same time, I noticed that my glove was missing. I had to turn back and go looking. Miraculously, I found my glove. Then I waited for the reindeer to cross the path in peace towards Riitelmäpäät fell slopes.
After Paratiisikuru gorge, I hadn't seen any other hikers. I met one hiker at River Pälkkimäoja. I descended down the riverbank, Apujoukkojenvaara and Siliäselkä had disappeared into the fog. The trail jumped from one side of the river to the other, but there was no need to wade.
Pälkkimäoja laavu shelter was on the other side of the river at the northwest corner of Apujoukkojenvaara. There were big rocks in the stream, which I could cross by jumping over them. There were a couple of glowing embers in the fireplace, and a couple of wooden sticks I threw on them caught fire easily.
On a rainy day, a short dry break is always welcome, so I rested my feet in peace and started eating snacks. Pälkkimäoja's shelter would also have been a nice place to camp. Just as I was about to leave, a couple of women arrived and thanked me when I had added more wood to the fire as I saw them on the opposite bank. I jumped back across the river along the rocks.
Lake Luirojärvi accommodation
I continued hiking towards Lake Luirojärvi. The trail was smooth and fast, and I calculated that I would be able to make it before dark. At exactly 7 pm, it started pouring down rain. I made it to Raappana's kammi just in time, when it started to get dark, and I quickly set up the tent.
I could see that someone had burned wood in the fireplace inside, so I put the fire too from dry wood, pieces of bark and branches that I found. Although there was no window glass in the door and the stove didn't really warm up, it was nice and dry to eat dinner there.
Raappana’s kammi, or Sokosti's cabin, between Lake Luirojärvi and Lake Raappananlammi, is nowadays more of a sight than a place to stay, but as a rain shelter, a small hut in poor condition was perfect. Luirojärvi's ‘Hilton’ hut and sauna must be a great luxury compared to Raappana, but, a roof over my head and fire in the corner on a rainy night felt like real luxury to me.
From Lake Luirojärvi to Suomunruoktu
I was slow again in the morning, sleep is sweet on an autumn hike! Well, the real reason was that it was raining and a bit cold outside. Especially when hiking in autumn, the most annoying thing is getting out of your sleeping bag in the morning and changing your warm socks to cold and damp ones.
I put breakfast in the tiny hut and packed my stuff. It was still dry and almost warm in the cabin. I set off a little after eight and was glad that the rain had stopped. Before Lake Luirojärvi, I had to cross River Sokostinoja, which I mostly managed to do along the rocks.
The paths crossed the forest more as the Lake Luirojärvi buildings approached. I first ended up at Rajankämppä and visited the dry toilet. Rajankämppa is an open wilderness hut for five persons, which was probably full of people.
Little by little, the Luirojärvi sauna and other huts started to appear. Campfire and tent sites could be seen along the lakeshore, people seemed to be everywhere. I was happy that I had ended up camping in the deserted courtyard of Raappana's kammi.
Several paths led to the wading place, next to which was a tree trunk suitable for a seat and for changing shoes. I put the electronics in a dry bag and waded across the river like many other hikers. The water was barely up to the calf.
The trail went up a good kilometer to Luusuanvaara and went down the other slope of the hill. Next, the ascent to the slopes of the larger Ampupää fell began. The top of Ampupäät fell was quite a pile of stones, but the abundant fall and the scenery in the direction of Sokosti fell looked great.
I descended the steep slope to Tuiskukuru at half past twelve pm. I was also amazed at the number of people in Tuiskukuru hut area and continued my journey without going to the huts.
I crossed a small bridge, from where the path continued steeply uphill in the direction of Salonlammi. I wasn't quite sure which of the trails led where, but I decided to go along the south side of Vintilätunturi fell - the route of the winter Lake Luirojärvi ski excursion would become more familiar.
In the bushes, there were birds running around and some bunny jumped there too. In the open, the trail went through a bog, which after the rains was quite a field of wet mud. I went up to the plateau of Vintilätunturi and Solustamaselkä fells and further to the lower slopes of Vintilätunturi fell.
It hadn't rained a drop since morning. At one point in the afternoon, a fog rose, which decorated the landscape in an insanely beautiful way. Every now and then it looked like it would clear up, the edge of the fog was clearly visible above the fell.
The trail looked like an ATV track, and apparently it was. After a while some vehicles drove by. The ATV track was quick to walk, but the journey was a bit boring sometimes.
I continued along the edge of Vintilätunturi fell in wonderful misty landscapes. With the conifers, the landscape began to look like an enchanted forest. The path descended endlessly under the gallant trees to the Aitalampi fireplace. I took a snack break and stayed to chat with a hiker who had arrived on the spot about lightweight backpacking.
I quickly hiked to Suomunruoktu huts. The conifer forest trail was nice and fast to walk. Just as I stepped into Suomunruoktu's courtyard, it started to drizzle. I still wanted to continue the journey to a more peaceful place, so I waded across the river. Wading was easy, the water was still and shallow.
First night at laavu shelter
I hurriedly continued the journey because the rain started to pour down. A passed by couple of solo hikers, otherwise it was quiet. I crossed a small stream along the rocks. After a few kilometers of steady hiking, I turned right at the intersection, from where it was only a short distance to the campfire site. To my delight, there were no others on Suomunlatva's laavu shelter.
In the drizzling rain and wind, I pitched the tent on the shore of the river and returned to the shelter to light the fire. A couple of hiking women stopped by to eat snacks on their way to Suomunruoktu. I wished luck for the hikers, they would have to wade in the dark and rain.
I found a big pot in the shelter, which I put on the grate to protect the campfire from the rain. Sitting there comfortably, I figured out that I could sleep in the laavu shelter. If I felt uncomfortable or got cold, I could always move to the tent in the middle of the night.
I hung seasonal lights on the roof of the shelter and enjoyed the evening while the campfire warmed the shelter. The darkness of the night, the drizzling rain, the fires and lounging in a sleeping bag in the shelter, munching on candy, felt almost exotic.
Wrapping up Lake Luirojärvi hike
I had slept like a log all night - the first night of my life in a laavu shelter was an insanely great experience! It hadn't gotten cold at all during the night, and there was even a little sweat in the morning. The campfire had stayed alive in the light drizzle, because in the morning there was still a red ember, from which I got new fire.
I went to take down the tent and hung it up to dry for a while. I boiled water in the kettle for morning porridge and coffee, ate, packed and set off in a small drizzle at half past eight.
A perfect fog surrounded the scenery, nothing was visible beyond the trail. I wandered along the gravel road. There was a long gentle climb to the slopes of Niilanpää, Niilanpää itself had disappeared into the white.
According to the map, the day hut of Niilanpää was quite close to the intersection, so I stopped by the hut and peeked in through the window. I accidentally woke up a hiker from the bench next, he just said good morning from his sleeping bag. I did the same and left the place.
The trail from Niilanpää to Kiilopää was a wide and rocky dirt road. I arrived at the Kiilopää fell center at exactly 10 am. Fresh coffee and a donut from the visitor centre’s cafe tasted delicious after a few days of hiking. At the same time, I put the electronics to charge and waited contentedly for the bus that would take me to the next rainy adventure in the Hammastunturi wilderness!
Lake Luirojärvi Trail
- Destination: Saariselkä/Kiilopää, Urho Kekkonen National Park, Lapland, Finland
- Length: 70-80 km / 44-50 miles (normal route), longer routes possible
- Difficulty level: moderate/demanding (quite easy trails, but includes river crossings and unmarked wilderness routes)
- When to go: from June to October (year-round destination)
- Duration: 4-6 days