Nuuksio National Park: what to see and do

Nuuksio National Park has some of the most spectacular landscapes in southern Finland. And the good news is, it’s super easy to reach from Helsinki, either by public transport or with your own wheels.

Another thing we love about this place is that you can go at any time of the year.

In fact, it’s one of our favourite choices for an easy, outdoorsy day trip from the Finnish capital.

Nuuksio National Park in winter
Pic: L.Giacomuzzi for Routes North (c)

But what else does Nuuksio have to offer?

Well, the park is home to loads of wildlife and lots of fun activities. If you’ve been in Helsinki for a few days and want to get a taste for the ‘real’ Finland without spending hours and hours travelling, this is a solid choice.

Intrigued? Here are our top picks for things to do in Nuuksio National Park, from hiking and skiing through ancient forests to simply admiring the landscapes from wonderfully peaceful viewpoints.

Tours to Nuuksio National Park

The park is easy to reach by yourself on a day trip from Helsinki, but if time is tight we’d recommend taking a guided tour with a local expert.

If you’re keen to spot wildlife and learn about the park’s rare fauna, which includes the timid flying squirrel, then this half-day trip from Helsinki, guided by a biologist, is a good option.

Otherwise we like this half-day tour which includes hiking in summer or snowshoeing during winter, with basic food and local drinks like blackcurrant syrup and included.

Getting there from Helsinki

Nuuksio National Park is only around 35 kilometers northwest of Helsinki.

But trust us when we say that being in the park could not feel further away from the hubbub of the city.

By car, it takes around 35 minutes to get to the park from downtown Helsinki, but it is actually pretty easy to get there using public transport too – just take an E, L, U, X or Y train from Helsinki Central Station to Espoo, the nearest big city, then change to northbound bus #245.

After around 20 minutes, jump off at Haltia, the de facto park entrance, where The Finnish Nature Centre offers rental equipment, a restaurant and info on all the trails and activities you can try.

Expect to be treated to stunning lake and forest views on the bus journey, all serving as a delightful appetiser for your visit. We travelled on an ABC day ticket (around 11 EUR), which you can buy on the HSL app or from a ticket machine.

Just across the car park from the Nature Centre, Haltia Lake Lodge offers fancy glamping pods for overnight stay. And – this being Finland – it also has an onsite sauna to retreat to after a day outdoors.

Pic: D Berclouw for Routes North (c)

What to do when you arrive

Hiking is the big draw during summer, while winter opens up loads of opportunities for snowshoeing and skiing.

In autumn, you can forage for berries and mushrooms and soak up the colours of ruska (autumn foliage), while in spring, you can spend your days bird watching and forest bathing.

Here are some of our favourite things to do.

1. Go canoeing

There are more than 80 mesmerising lakes and ponds inside the national park, and most of them can be explored by canoe.

If the weather allows, this is a great way to commune with nature and enjoy the park’s beautiful waterways. Our tip? Spend your day gliding across Haukkalampi Lake and pause at the Haukanholma fireplace to grill a sausage over a roaring fire.

Didn’t bring your own canoe? Don’t worry, you can rent one from Nuuksio Hawk Nest, a recreational centre inside the national park.

2. Take a dip

After a long hike on a warm day, take a dip: a quintessentially Finnish way to while away a summer afternoon.

You’ll feel all your worries melt away as you float on your back and marvel at the blue sky, bright sun, and birds swooping overhead.

This map (in English) highlights some of the park’s designated swimming spots and saunas.

3. Cast a line

Avid anglers can cast their lines to the middle of a glassy lake and decide to do nothing all day but fish.

Apart from a few protected areas, ice fishing, hook and line fishing, and lure fishing with a single rod are all permitted in Nuuksio.

The Finnish Nature Centre (see above) is a good place for info on what’s allowed.

Hiking trails in Nuuksio National Park
The park has dozens of well-marked trails / Pic: D.Berclouw for Routes North (c)

4. Take a hike

With over 30 kilometers of maintained trails, Nuuksio is a hiker’s paradise.

Circular routes start from the Haukkalampi Nature Information Hut and take you past lichen-covered rocky hills, old-growth forests, and mirror-like lakes, all to a soundtrack of a woodpecker’s gentle tap-tap-tap.

The park’s circular trails range from two to seven kilometers and cater to every skill level, whether you’re a novice hiker or a seasoned adventurer.

5. Forage for berries and mushrooms

We’ve yet to meet a Finn who doesn’t forage for berries and mushrooms in summer and autumn.

And if you’re lucky enough to be in Nuuksio at that time, we recommend you follow suit. Whether you bring a basket to save your bounty for later or munch on Nuuksio’s bilberries and lingonberries along the way is up to you.

There are plenty of chanterelles mushrooms — the holy grail of Finnish foraging — to go around, too.

Lakes at Nuuksio National Park
Just another lake / Pic: D.Berclouw for Routes North (c)

6. Spot a Siberian flying squirrel

Keep your eyes peeled on your visit as the national park provides refuge for various wild animals.

Sightings might include the Siberian flying squirrel —the emblem animal of the National Park — a fox or a linx. Or you may spot an uncommon bird, such as a woodlark or European nightjar, swoop overhead.

The largest Finnish land herbivore, the moose, is common in Nuuksio, while the biggest land predator, the brown bear, only occasionally inhabits the area. Phew.

For a chance of seeing any of those, it’s well worth joining a tour like this one (you’ll get an expert guide who can take you to places where you’re more likely to spot wildlife).

7. Hit the slopes

If downhill skiing is your thing, then Solvalla Swinghill Ski Resort, on the western edge of the national park, is where you should be headed.

While the two slopes might not have the cache of St. Moritz or Verbier, their uncrowded runs mean you’ll practically have them all to yourself, and what’s not to love about that?

The resort has two lifts and a rental shop and offers courses covering the basics of skiing and snowboarding. Don’t leave without gorging on a voisilmäpulla (butter-eye pastry) at the café on the slope. Spiced with cardamom and sprinkled with pearled sugar, the butter-filled buns are among the tastiest we’ve ever had.

Chopping your own wood for the sauna in this National Park near Helsinki
Chop your own wood for the sauna / Pic: D.Berclouw for Routes North (c)

8. Stay overnight

Given the number of things to see and do in Nuuksio, we’d recommend staying overnight. The Haltia Lake Lodge is, without a doubt, your best option.

The award-winning eco-lodge on the park’s edge is a lesson in sustainable travel. The lodge runs on wind power, its staff recycle everything and only work with local suppliers.

And then there’s the hotel’s cloud-like duvets, friendly staff and cosy lounge. You can stay in a hotel room or enjoy the immersive experience of sleeping in a luxury tent in the woods. Best of all? The lodge is within a stone’s throw of the slopes, trails and visitor centre.

9. Get clued up

No matter how long you’re visiting for, it’s important to be clued up. This is a real national park that can experience extreme weather, so it’s important to plan your visit carefully and not take unnecessary risks.

Our tip is to start every trip at the Finnish Nature Centre, where you can pick up leaflets and ask the expert staff anything you’d like to know about the park’s trails, rest areas, wildlife and more.

The centre offers rental gear for all types of outdoor recreation, has an excellent gift shop and a must-visit exhibition where you can listen to an artist’s recording of heavy rain and even crawl into a replica of a brown bear’s den. Better than ending up in the real thing!

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