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Stay on trail

Enjoy nature in Helsinki responsibly

Moving about in nature is increasingly popular, and Helsinki offers plenty of opportunities for enjoying local nature at sea, in the forests and in other natural environments. However, the nature excursion boom has left its marks on urban nature: littering has increased, and vegetation has fled from the new paths in the nature reserves. On this page, you can find tips for enjoying nature and moving about on the trails in Helsinki responsibly.

Responsible hiking does not leave marks in nature.

Nature degradation – what does it mean?

Popular recreational areas have many visitors, which may cause nature degradation. Sensitive natural areas cannot withstand constant treading on them outside the marked trails. When the ground is trampled on, the vegetation will disappear, the trails will widen and new paths may be created. The environment and the species will change, and nature may never recover even if the number of visitors is reduced. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased visits and wear on Helsinki’s local nature areas, and the trails in nature reserves have also widened under a short period.

In 2020, fences were built in the nature reserves of Pornaistenniemi and Kallahdenharju to protect the environment outside the trails and help the damaged areas recover.

In popular outdoor areas, smaller paths are easily formed next to the marked routes and nature trails. Staying on the marked routes and main trails is an easy way to protect nature.

Protect nature – stay on the trail.

Learn about your destination in advance

Learning about your nature destination beforehand makes your trip easier and helps you find suitable routes and services available. Browse the hiking tips and read about the nature destinations in Helsinki:

  • Read the nature brochures and guides
  • The book ‘Helsinki’s green treasures – 200 natural attractions’ (pdf) provides you with excursion ideas for the whole year!
  • The forest adventure booklet (pdf) takes you on the responsible adventure and offers activity ideas for the whole family.
  • The website includes detailed descriptions of 12 nature destinations in Helsinki with maps and nature information. You can easily follow the mobile trails at the location by using the location data of your phone.
  • The updated website of Helsinki-Uusimaa Outdoors, Uuvi, includes other great nature destinations in Uusimaa, in addition to Helsinki.
  • The protection regulations on nature reserves govern the visits to these particularly sensitive natural areas. Via the map service of the City of Helsinki, under the layers icon ‘Environment and nature’, you can look at valuable nature areas and protected attractions. 
  • The cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area provide outdoor opportunities for their citizens by organizing guided nature tours from the beginning of June 2021. Read more about guided excursions.
  • You can see species observations of hikers via the iNaturalist species identification app. The app helps you identify the species you have observed and transfers data to the Finnish portal, which is also used for research.

Boundary mark of a nature reserve.

How is a nature reserve different from an ordinary recreational area?

The primary purpose of nature reserves is to protect local nature. This is why the use of nature reserves has been restricted by protection regulations. However, many nature reserves also serve as popular recreational areas. Check on the map if your destination is within a nature reserve. The restrictions on nature reserves vary by area, but there are many common rules and recommendations.

A trip to a nature reserve – please consider these things, at the very least

• The nature reserves in Helsinki are marked with green and white boundary markers and signs about the protection regulations. These signs state the rules specific for each nature reserve.
• Making a fire, barbecuing and camping are forbidden in all nature reserves in Helsinki.
• Animals or plants must not be harmed in nature reserves.
• Collecting plants or parts of them is forbidden, except for foraging for berries and mushrooms, which is allowed in most cases.
• In some nature reserves, moving is only allowed on designated trails by foot or skiing. 
• Cycling is allowed in some areas, but only on specifically marked trails. Cycling on duckboards may also be forbidden for safety reasons, as in the accessible plank trail in Lammassaari.
• Always keep pets on a lead, like everywhere else in the city.
• Stay on the marked routes and main trails – the sensitive nature cannot withstand constant treading on it.

You are allowed to enjoy nature in the nature reserves – on its terms.

Be smart about water traffic and visits to local islands

Helsinki has about 130 kilometres of coastline and 300 islands. The new campaign page instructs both seasoned sailors and new boaters to enjoy maritime Helsinki while paying attention to nature. About half of Helsinki’s nature reserves are located in the archipelago.

Landing on some islands and bird islets is entirely forbidden during the nesting season (generally from 1 April to 15 August). You also need to keep a distance of 25–50 metres to these islets when moving about at sea.

The archipelago nature is sensitive to wearing and littering. You can easily protect the maritime nature destinations by learning about the routes and rules in advance. 
You can also read about fishing in Helsinki and see Helsinki’s map for fishing waters.

You can find the timetables of the boat connections to Helsinki’s islands in HSL’s route planner.

The harsh archipelago nature provides little protection for the hatching female eider that relies on its camouflage colours.

You can protect nature by moving about responsibly

People moving about in nature have a huge responsibility for nature’s well-being, but luckily, responsible visits are easy. When there are many visitors to nature areas, their responsibility is even greater. Then again, even one instance of careless fire-making, an illegal fire or a loose dog on a bird islet may cause immeasurable damage.

With these tips, you can enjoy Helsinki nature in a smart way

• Only make a fire at the designated spots. Bring firewood with you – do not take materials from nature. See all cooking shelters on Helsinki’s service map and read the rules for making a fire in the natural areas and parks of Helsinki.
• When a warning for wildland fires or forest fires is in effect, you are only allowed to make a fire in the cooking shelters that have a flue, and with extreme care. When the warnings are in effect, we recommend enjoying food that does not require a fire. Check the current warnings on the website of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
• The rubbish bins in outdoor areas fill up quickly. You can hike without trash by packing your food in containers and thermos bottles at home. Also bring your own trash bag – you can also prevent other people’s trash from spreading into nature.
• Always keep your pets on a lead. During birds’ nesting season, ensure that your pet cannot scare the birds or other animals or their young. Also keep a distance from the animals, yourself. Birds nest close to people’s routes in places such as Töölönlahti in Helsinki city centre. Watch a video about ensuring peaceful nesting (in Finnish).
• Protect nature from wearing away – stay on the marked routes and trails.
• Enjoy peaceful nature and protect its peace.
• Read more about responsible nature trips in the Outdoor Etiquette.

Disturbances in nature areas – how to report them?

If you see a wildfire in a nature area, always call the emergency number 112. You can also contact the police or boat police via the same emergency number.

If you see people landing on protected islands or moving about in protected bird areas during the summer, 1 April–15 August, please call 112. If you are unsure if someone’s actions are illegal, you can contact the nature supervisor (tel. +358 (0)50 364 9001) or the Environmental Services (customer service tel. +358 (0)9 310 22111) during office hours.

You can inform the City of Helsinki about illegal fire-making or littered cooking shelters via the feedback system. Open fires in nature reserves are always illegal and should be put out. In an emergency, please contact the police via the emergency number 112.

Are you interested in volunteering?

You can find more information about volunteer work for Helsinki’s nature and parks on the website of the volunteer activities.

Responsible nature trips are easy.

How is the City of Helsinki responding to the nature boom?

The natural areas in Helsinki have plenty of visitors. Lammassaari alone saw as many as 200,000 visits in 2020, which equals the visitor numbers of Sipoonkorpi national park and close to those of Koli and Repovesi national parks. It is estimated that the visitor numbers of some areas of Helsinki can be counted in the millions every year.

Sustainable recreational activities can be supported significantly by measures such as marking the routes, improving the signage, and having hiking structures that direct the visitors. The Environmental Services of the City of Helsinki prepares a nature service policy. The nature service policy, to be completed in 2023, will be an overall plan of what kinds of services, such as nature trails, birdwatching towers and signposts, will be placed in different parts of Helsinki.

Signage and hiking structures support sustainable recreational activities.

Photos: Raisa Ranta

13.04.2022 10:46
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