I asked my children, 3,5 and 5 years if they’ll be able to climb up Saana, the famous fell (Finnish worn out mountains) above Kilpisjärvi just before the Norwegian border at the end of the “Finnish arm”: “of course, we have two feet”. So that is all it takes to hike up to more than 1000 metres above sea level.
There is a well marked path to follow, first through a forest of birches, often on planks to keep your feet dry (and to make it more interesting for kids?).
Above the tree line the real climb starts but is heavily assisted by the about 750 steps (well, according to other climbers who were counting and who were writing it on the initial sign). The views are definitively worth the climb (kids are kept going with a few breaks on the way and a promise of chocolate at the top. Superb parenting, as afterwards they still talked about the cars that looked tiny)!
There were just small patches of snow on Saana. The weather here can change very quickly though, the previous day some hikers told is they left in sunshine, bit half way up were surprised by a heavy snowfall that lasted 20 minutes. We spent the night in a tent just below Saana and it was -1 degrees in the night early July (I wasn’t overly keen on that one as it was 29 in Helsinki. As beautiful as the far north is, next year we are not missing out on warm sun!)
Saana has a very recognisable shape with an almost flat top. We only got to the lower end of the flat top (we had to get back too…) and then a steep drop. I realise I haven’t taken any good pictures of the fell, we stayed the night too close to it. To give an idea, the first picture below shows the drop and is taken in the afternoon, the second one showing the flayter part is taken at 4am as in July the sun never goes down.
It takes about 4 hours for an average adult to walk up to the highest point of Saana. We only went up the stairs to the lower end of the flat at the top (we had to get back too…) but after the stairs it’s mainly walking on rocks. I know, terrible pictures as had to take them to the sun.
We stayed the night in a tent at Kilpisjärven Retkeilykeskus (“travel centre”), not really a campsite as such but has rooms and cabins to let, a few even spits for tents, basic facilities like showers, sauna and camp kitchen. We paid 24e for the night.
The good thing with the centre is the main building with descent meals, play room for children and information for those who are about to go hiking. If not familiar with the terrain and the weather conditions, they are the ones to consult. You can also leave your intended route information there. And they rent backbacks to carry small kids in.
The other most popular small walk from Kilpisjärvi, in addition to climbing Saana, is walking 11 kms to the point where Finland, Sweden and Norway meet. We were about to do it the cruisy way by taking a boat to a bit less than 3 kms away. But the weather was turning really bad, so we decided to drive south to a warmer location.
To sum it up: if you want children to be happy sitting the next few hours in the car, have them climb up a mountain first!