Pyhä-Häkki National Park, Finland

Pyhä-Häkki is the largest virgin forest in southern Finland, particularly known for its old Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris). Half of the park (13 km2) is forest and half bog. Most of the forest has grown without noticeable human disturbance, human traces being absent outside the trails. Only on Mastomäki, some pines have been logged for sailing ship masts1 but so long ago that the stumps have rotten away. However along the boundaries (outside the trails), there are forest patches that have been logged before the establishment of Pyhä-Häkki. The abundance of bogs together with the lack of a suitable waterway for transporting timber have contributed to the preservation of the forest; it was protected as early as in 1912 1. The forest fire history of Pyhä-Häkki is known since 1508. Before the introduction of modern fire suppression, the fire return interval was approximately 52 years 2. The last fire in Pyhä-Häkki was in 1921 1. However, these fires were mostly of human origin.

Scots pine and Norway spruce (Picea abies) dominate. Pine is present everywhere, from bogs to the driest areas; on dry soils, it continues to maintain its dominance, but in the absence of fire, spruce is invading mesic soils. The dark spruce stands (photo below) contrast with light pine stands. The other large tree species of Pyhä-Häkki are silver birch (Betula pendula), downy birch (B. pubescens), common aspen (Populus tremula) and on a few wet sites black alder (Alnus glutinosa). The smaller trees are grey alder (Alnus incana), goat willow (Salix caprea) and European rowan (Sorbus aucuparia). The forest is mostly not particularly productive but near Kotajärvi lake there is a patch of fertile soil with spruce and pine reaching 35 m. The undergrowth is typical for boreal forest mostly consisting of dwarf-shrubs, like bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), lingonberry (V. vitis-idaea) and common heather (Calluna vulgaris), and mosses and lichens. The abovementioned patch of fertile soil has bilberry, wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), false lily (Maianthemum bifolium), mosses and club mosses. Pyhä-Häkki is located at an elevation of approx. 160–190 metres. Annual precipitation is 600 mm and average annual temperature 2.5°C. The bedrock consists of granite.

Mesic spruce forest. Also aspen (extreme left) and dead birch (left)

Marked trails of different lengths lead visitors through old-growth forests and on duckboards over bogs. Off-trail hiking is also very easy, apart from bogs. The largest tree of Pyhä-Häkki, a now dead pine (“Vanha iso puu”) has been marked along the longest circular trail. Nearby there is also “Uusi iso puu” (“New big tree”) though in fact the true second largest tree grew right at the parking place. The latter lies today on the ground. It is unclear if the “New big tree” has really been measured to be the next largest one or it is just a big tree that happens to grow nicely at a trail. The death of the two largest trees may have been influenced by the trampling of the ground around the bases; a boardwalk has been made around the “New big tree”. Temporary camping is allowed. It is recommended to camp close to the cooking shelter at beautiful Kotajärvi Lake. Unfortunately, the Saarijärvi–Viitasaari road runs through Pyhä-Häkki separating a small section from the rest of the park. However, the traffic is so sparse that distant road noise barely disturbs Pyhä-Häkki’s wilderness feeling.



  2. Karvinen, T. (2017): Kansallispuistot: maamme luonnon helmet. Docendo.