Hiking in Lapland: Lake Pallasjärvi & Punainenhiekka

Hiking in Lapland: Lake Pallasjärvi & Punainenhiekka

What could be more astonishing than starting your day by taking a dip into the still and foggy arctic Lake Pallasjärvi and have hot oatmeal afterwards in the warmth of Punainenhiekka day hut?

Lake Pallasjärvi is located in Western Lapland in Finland, at the border of Kittilä and Muonio. The beautiful lake with red sand beach is in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, on the South-East side of Pallastunturi fells. Visiting Lake Pallasjärvi and the Punainenhiekka day hut is convenient to include in a hiking trip such as the classic Hetta-Pallas hike in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.

Due to the popularity of the destination in recent years, the beach area has suffered from major erosion. In order to prevent further damage, there are now strict restrictions concerning camping at Lake Pallasjärvi.

When I’m preparing my hiking trips to Lapland, I always try to find some new places to visit in addition to the main hiking route. In Muonio, there are over 20 fells and over 200 lakes. The last stretch of my autumn hike from Hetta to Pallas in Pallas-Ylläs National Park ended at Pallastunturi Visitor Centre. The most exciting nearby destinations were Palkaskero fell and Lake Pallasjärvi.

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is a great fells area with plenty of trails to experience year-round. The landscape of Pallastunturi is one of Finland's national landscapes. Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is also one of the oldest national parks in Finland.

The Pallas-Yllästunturi area consists of coniferous forests, pine woodland, fell birches and treeless fell tops. The Finnish Lapland area has the purest air in the world, according to research. Here you can also experience incredible silence along with stars and Auroras in the night.

How to get to the red sands of Lake Pallasjärvi?

Lake Pallasjärvi and the Punainenhiekka day hut are easily accessible by car or by hiking from Pallastunturi Visitor Centre. By car you take the Pallaksentie road to Majavaojantie road parking area, and it's less than half a kilometer (1,300 ft) to the beach. Hiking from the Visitor Centre to Punainenhiekka is around 11 km (6.8 miles).

First, you walk 800 meters on a wide gravel road called Orava Avenue (Squirrel Avenue in English) to Pallaskota Lappish hut. Behind Pallaskota there’s a stream that is crossed by a bridge. From there on, the trail runs through a beautiful forest for around four and a half kilometers. You end up on a bigger road. After walking about 300 meters, you’ll turn left onto a gravel road. The road goes along the southern coast of Lake Pallasjärvi.

Just at the southern end of Lake Pallaslompolo right next to the road there’s a small Lappish hut and a place where the boats are put into the water. Camping is not allowed here. Then, it’s around two kilometers hike to the parking area (just a slightly wider stretch of road) of Punainenhiekka. From the road it’s only around 300 meters of forest trail covered with crushed stone to the beach and to the Punainenhiekka day hut.

Punainenhiekka day hut

The Punainenhiekka day hut is, as the name suggests, a hut meant only for daytime use. Inside there’s a wooden table and benches, a fireplace and firewood. You can see the beautiful lake and fells behind it from the window. In the backyard there’s a new dry toilet, firewood shelter and a fireplace with benches. There’s no waste management at the site, you should take all the litter with you when you leave the site.

Setting up a fire is only allowed inside the hut and at the fireplace outside. It’s not allowed to make your own fireplaces in the forest or on the beach. You shouldn’t burn any driftwood or dry branches as they are essential for the insects.

When I arrived at the fireplace, I could barely see the empty benches in the dark night. But there was some red firebrand in the fireplace. I picked up some logs from the shelter and got easily a fire. It was nice to warm up cold fingers and gaze the orange flames against the black sky. It was completely cloudy, so the chance to see any northern lights was zero. But I didn’t mind, I had had my aurora show a few days earlier at Pahakuru.

You can walk in Lake Pallasjärvi far in shallow water, with the fine red sand continuing from the beach. The water is crystal clear and ice cold, at least in September.

Camping at Punainenhiekka and Lake Pallasjärvi

In order to prevent erosion at Lake Pallasjärvi, camping has been restricted. There’s now a small camping area near the beach. You can find a sign pointing at the tenting spot. There’s room for six tents. The area is only for random camping. It is strictly prohibited to camp on the sand and on the beach area. There’s a fence showing where you should not camp.

The new restrictions were made in the summer 2022 after the drastic increase of visitors and due to the rapid erosion of the red sands area. I camped at Lake Pallasjärvi in 2020 just before the place became extremely popular. I found my tent spot from some forestry place in the beam of my head torch. At that time, I didn’t think about setting up scenes for pretty IG pics, and I didn’t know you could actually tent on sand either. Well, the tent view pics from red sands are no longer possible. Tip: it’s possible to fully enjoy the place without taking any photos!

Cold swimming in crystal clear Lake Pallasjärvi

What could be more astonishing than starting your day by taking a dip into the still and foggy arctic Lake Pallasjärvi and have hot oatmeal afterwards in the warmth of Punainenhiekka day hut? Especially, if there’s nobody to distract the moment. You can walk in Lake Pallasjärvi far in shallow water, with the fine red sand continuing from the beach. The water is crystal clear and ice cold, at least in September. Even if there’s fog, you may see the silhouettes of Lommoltunturi fell and Pallastunturi fells on the other side of the lake.

If I was asked to describe the phrase arctic paradise, I think I’d describe this beautiful morning and moment at Lake Pallasjärvi. I truly wish the scenery and the unique nature will be there for the new generations to enjoy.

Tips for using the day huts in Finland

People who are walking or moving in nature by their own, are allowed to freely use the day huts maintained by Metsähallitus. Businesses have to ask for permission. The day huts are meant to be used for breaks, for eating, warming up and drying clothes and equipment. Overnight stays are only allowed in emergency situations.

Even though fire is cozy and warm, you should use firewood sparely. You should burn only clean paper in the fireplace, other litter needs to be taken with you from the site. When you leave, clean up the hut and the environment, clean up the ashes, empty water buckets, and chop new firewood for the next visitors.

Some links

Luontoon.fi - Pallas-Yllästunturi Nationalpark
Luontoon.fi - Punainenhiekka day hut
Discover Muonio

Finland Pallas-Yllästunturi Nationalpark Hiking Backpacking Outdoors Forest Fells Autumn Autumn colors


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