The beautiful nature in Helsinki invites you to explore and relax. Time seems to last much longer in nature, and it refreshes your mind. Although not everyone can hike over duckboards and down bumpy trails, Helsinki also has plenty of wide and flat paths that enable people with wheelchairs and strollers to enjoy the nature. Here are seven easily accessible nature destinations to choose from in and around Helsinki.
Pornaistenniemi nature trail and Lammassaari birdwatching platform
An outing to Pornaistenniemi and Lammassaari is an over-three-kilometre accessible adventure in the forest, through the reeds and across duckboards. The Luonnon syli (“Lap of Nature”) wellness trail meanders through a lush alder grove, skirts the reeds along the shoreline, and peers down an alley of birches. The length of the trail is approximately one kilometre. Wooden information boards along the way feature poems that encourage you to experience your surroundings. There are also nice wooden benches, a picnic area with tables and a birdwatching tower with a mirror reflecting the views. A detailed map of Vanhankaupunginlahti (“Old Town Bay”) with information and directions can be found on the citynature.eu website.
The nature trail connects directly to the pretty and accessible duckboard path to the island of Lammassaari. The specially designed duckboards have wider areas for overtaking and viewing platforms with ramps. The path crosses through the reeds and trees, leading you eventually to the spacious birdwatching platform at Lammassaari. Pack with a pair of binoculars to fully enjoy the unobstructed views across the bay from the viewing and birdwatching platforms. By the parking area in Pornaistenniemi there is also an accessible fishing area and a portable toilet.
Where? The parking area is at the southern end of Jokisuuntie, from where it is 100 metres to the nature trail and 200 metres to the Lammassaari duckboards.
Kivinokka nature trail
Kivinokka is a rocky headland nestled between the Herttoniemi and Kulosaari districts that is perfect for an accessible outing in the forest. The trees invite you to stop and sit on a bench along the nature trail and enjoy the peace and quiet. The 330-metre marked trail presents the tree species along the way and offers help in identifying the birds. The trail has railings to guide the way, and the information boards have information in both Braille and tactile pictures. The trail leads to a birdwatching platform with views over the Old Town Bay, where you can spot swans, coots, jays and even eagle owls. Bat watching tours are also organised in the area.
The benches by the birdwatching platform and adjacent lean-to are perfect for a picnic. In early autumn your mouth will be all black from eating the wild blueberries, and in summertime the locals organise an environmental art exhibition along the trail. The distance from the Kulosaari metro station to the nature trail is 1.5 kilometres, and the route is partially along the side of a dirt road. There is a disabled parking space at the start of the nature trail, and the main parking area is 300 metres away. There are outdoor toilets in summertime no accessible WC.
Where? Kivinokka, Rajatie, Kipparlahti exit
The recreational island of Seurasaari offers a wide range of accessible nature experiences close to the heart of the city. To get to the island, you cross a long wooden bridge, and once on the island you can relax by the sea, forest and even an open fire. In springtime the ponds are filled with croaking frogs, and in summertime you might see common redshanks wading in the pools. If you bring nuts with you and hold them out in your hand, small birds will be happy to make your acquaintance. You can enjoy your own snacks and grill sausages at the grilling area, where the wood is supplied on a regular basis by the City of Helsinki. Next to the grilling area there is a kiosk that is open from 11am to 4pm on weekends and public holidays, and there is also an accessible WC.
The paths on the island are maintained also in wintertime, and they are quite easy to negotiate all year round for wheelchairs and strollers. In summertime you can circle the entire island along the 3-kilometre shoreline path. The Seurasaari Foundation considers the path to be accessible, but it can be demanding in places. Fortunately, there are numerous benches along the way where you can relax. A map with recommended routes, sights and directions can be found on the citynature.eu website. You can get to the start of the pretty white bridge from the centre of Helsinki in just over 20 minutes by taking bus number 24. You can also drive onto the island in a car that has a disabled parking permit, but there is no parking on the island. There is a parking lot on the mainland by the start of the bridge, but there are no separate disabled parking spaces.
Where? Seurasaari, Meilahti
Rhododendron park in Haaga
The magnificent Alppiruusupuisto rhododendron park in the Haaga district is always a pleasant surprise. Many locals have heard about the brilliant blossoms in springtime, but the sheer beauty really has to be experienced in person. What’s best is that the entire park is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. The oldest rhododendrons were planted in 1975 and have since grown tall, but you can admire the flowers from above from a viewing platform. There are broad paths throughout the park, as well as accessible duckboards that take you through the bushes. The entire park covers an area of eight hectares, and you can’t avoid feeling like you’re in a jungle.
In addition to all the rhododendrons, you can also admire and smell the colourful azaleas. The blossoms at the start of June attract thousands of visitors to the park. Weekends especially can get busy, making access along the duckboards rather congested. You can also visit the park at other times of the year and enjoy the lush surroundings, listen to all the small birds and have a picnic at one of the picnic tables. The route from the nearby Huopalahti train station to the park is accessible.
Where? Laajasuontie 37, Haaga
Nature House Villa Elfvik
Villa Elfvik is situated by the Laajalahti Nature Reserve and is a nice compact destination that is suitable for your first nature outing, for example. Outside the Nature House there is a birdwatching tower with an accessible ramp to the lower level, where you can watch birds and even grazing cows in summertime. There is also a 700-metre nature trail that is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. The trail winds through the surrounding nature and takes you to the reeds along the shore of the bay, where you will find a boathouse, picnic tables and a small gazebo that is only accessible up climbing steps.
At the Nature House you can borrow binoculars, magnifying glasses and educational material for children. The free-of-charge nature exhibition and café are accessible for wheelchairs. The front door is just 70 centimetres wide, but it expands to a metre by opening the side door. The WC door is also 70 centimetres wide. The main parking area is on Elfvikintie, approximately 200 metres away, and there is a dirt road leading to the Nature House. The nearest bus stops are on the Kehä I ring road, but there are steep ramps that make it tricky for wheelchair users. Villa Elfvik is open weekdays 9am to 3pm and weekends 10am to 4pm. The café is open on Sundays and public holidays during the opening hours of the Nature House.
Where? Elfvikintie 4, Espoo
Longinoja nature trail
Longinoja in northeast Helsinki is an urban brook that has undergone a major restoration, transforming it from a drainage ditch to a beautiful trout stream. The long-term volunteer project was awarded the Biodiversity Award for 2017-2018. A 2-kilometre nature trail follows the stream, allowing you to get a close-up view of all the plants and fish. There are numerous accessible bridges, where you can observe and listen to the nature. The spawning season begins in October, when large numbers of trout make their way up the stream from the sea. Other wildlife in the area includes white-throated dippers, white-backed woodpeckers, foxes, badgers and even flying squirrels.
When there is no snow on the ground, the nature trail is completely accessible with the exception of the steep bridge over the Kehä I ring road, but you can bypass this via Malminkaari or the Pukinmäki train station. There are benches along the stream, and picnic areas are being constructed. The longinoja.fi website is an excellent source of information and also serves as a handy guide for exploring the nature trail if you cannot read the information boards. The website has lots of useful information about accessibility, for example about winter maintenance and WC facilities. You can get to the start of the nature trail in Ala-Malmi from Latokartanontie, which you can get to by taking bus number 560. Parking is available near the main information board in the Haaga-Helia parking lot. You can also enter the middle of the nature trail from the Pukinmäki train station.
Where? The main information boards for the nature trail can be found in Savela (downstream) and Ala-Malmi next to the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences (upstream).
Storträsk pond in Sipoonkorpi National Park
Sipoonkorpi National Park introduced a new accessible trail in summer 2019 from the Tasakalliontie parking area to the shore of the Storträsk lake.. Storträsk is a pretty little pond that you can walk around along the duckboards and forest paths. Small pine trees and lots of marsh tea grow by the pond, and in springtime you may come across toads and even grass snakes soaking up the sun. Storträsk is also popular among fishing enthusiasts, as the pond is stocked with lots of rainbow trout. A fishing permit is required.
The easy and clearly marked trail extends 1.5 kilometres through the woods from the Tasakalliontie parking area all the way to the pond. There is quite a steep climb and descent before you get to the pond, making the final section rather demanding. Metsähallitus supplies firewood to the woodshed by the pond, which you can access along a ramp. Next to the water there is a lean-to for campfires with benches. At the time of writing, the construction work is ongoing. The forest path is being surfaced, access to the woodshed is being facilitated, and an accessible WC is being installed. You can get to the start of the path by car or bus number 719. The Kuusikorvenkuja bus stop is approximately 300 metres from the Tasakalliontie parking area.
Where? Sipoonkorpi National Park, Tasakalliontie parking area
Sources: City of Helsinki, City of Espoo, Metsähallitus, Vihreätsylit.fi, Seurasaarisäätiö, Longinoja.fi