Iso-Palonen is a nature reserve in the Friendship Park, where you can admire beautiful ridge and lake landscapes and historical sites along the trails.

Photo: Metsähallitus/Harri Tarvainen

The departure points of Iso-Palonen

The most popular departure point is Matokangas, at the western end of the region. Be careful not to accidentally head towards the wrong Matokangas,from theLake Lentua you’ll find a place with the same name. Click on the link below to find the right place.

Google Maps


An alternative departure point can be found at the northern end of the area in Valkeiskangas.

Google Maps


Photo: Metsähallitus/Harri Tarvainen

History of Iso-Palonen

Iso-Palonen is part of the Friendship Park, which was originally established to protect the wild forest rendeers. The protected area extends all the way to the Russian border. At one time, the wild forest reindeers disappeared from Finland completely, but the deers that had been living in Russia began to slowly spread back to Finland in the 1950s.

Iso-Palonen also shows signs of human activity. Along the trails, the discerning will spot the remains of tar pits and deer hunting pits.

The most popular rest stop in the area, Saunaniemi, has served as a stopping point for hunting and church trips in the past.

The area also contains memories of the WW2. Near Papinsalmi you will find the remains of trenches. There was never any fighting in the area, but trenches were dug in the ridge just in case.

Photo: Metsähallitus/Harri Tarvainen

Cycling in Iso-Palonen

You can also head to Iso-Palonen with a mountain bike. There is no official mountain bike trail here, but you can cycle on the hiking trails with everyman’s rights.

It’s not a route for a first-timer. On the paths you will encounter rocks and roots, sometimes you will be cycling on a flat terrain. There are duckboards on the route.

My own mountain biking trip in autumn 2022 was a lot of fumbling and walking with my bicycle. Just before we started, rain swept over the area, making the rocks and roots slippery. The tyres on my “normal mountain bike” slipped a lot, my friends on fat bikes had a much easier time.

The path is very narrow in places and blueberries grow on the edges, so be prepared to find blueberries inside your shoes after your bike ride!

Experiences of Iso-Palonen – a summer day trip around the Iso-Palonen lake

I’ve been to Iso-Palonen four times, but here I’m telling you about a day trip I made in June 2023. I hiked the most popular trail in the area, the 13-kilometre-long Iso-Palonen trail, which goes around a lake.

On the day of my trip, the weather was perfect, about 20 degrees and the sun was shining. As usual, I drove to the Matokangas parking lot.

When I arrived in the area, I remembered that I was quite close to Viiksimo, where there had been a bear attack just a couple of weeks earlier – a jogger had accidentally surprised a bear and had to pretend to be dead when it attacked. (Luckily she survived!) I thought, I have to remember to make noise to keep any possible bears away.

I like to walk the route counter-clockwise, so the best views are towards the end. So I went around the lake first from the south side. At the beginning, you cross a small wetland along duckboards, then you climb to the top of a ridge.

In the hilly terrain, the walk was easy and there were not many mosquitoes. In some spots, you descend downwards to wetter terrain. After the Rapalampi, I crossed a small bog, the tufted wool swaying beautifully in the wind.

A little before Saunaniemi, the path runs alongside a fine sandy beach, after which the steepest part of the route climbs up the steep Haapasärkkä. Here I spotted a big pile of poo in the middle of the path. At first I thought it was a bear, but wiser followers of my social media told me that it has fell from a wolf’s butt.

The Saunaniemi shelter

At the halfway break, at the Saunaniemi shelter, no other hikers were seen this time. When planning your picnic, note that there is no grill in the fireplace, only a metal stick to hang a coffee pot or kettle on. There are sausage frying sticks, and luckily I had brought sausages, because I only remembered that there was no grill when I arrived.

After eating my lunch, I headed towards the north side of the lake. There was a new bridge at Papinsalmi, and the spring flood had eased, so I crossed with dry feet. I also stopped to admire the long depressions in the ground – the remains of the trenches from WW2.

An alternative break/night stop near Saunaniemi: the Papinsalmi fireplace. There is no lodge, but the place is perfect for hammocking.

There is less wind to the north of the route, and now a larger number of mosquitoes joined me. I didn’t have any repellant with me, so I just had to put one foot in front of the other a little more quickly than before. (Because of this there are fewer photos of the end of the route, but fortunately I have some old ones in storage to fill the article.)

At the very end of the trail you will come across the beautiful Tammapuro and the lean-to shelter next to it. This is a very nice place to stay, my boyfriend and I stayed here during the Sleep Outdoors challenge last autumn. While you sleep, you can listen to the relaxing sound of the Tammapuro stream. It’s also a good idea to bring a fishing rod, as there were plenty of fish jumping on the lake next to the shelter.

The final highlight of the route, just 100 meters from the parking, is one of my favourite spots in Kuhmo – a beautiful pond lined with mysterious looking dryad pine trees. I remembered how I once got to photograph this place in the moonlight, with the mist rising from the swamp behind. It was one of the most unforgettable sights of my life.

I felt very refreshed when returning to the car. This hike took me 6 hours with breaks. It can certainly be done faster, I am a slow hiker that takes a lot of photos.

The Iso-Palonen route is suitable for anyone who is able to walk 13 kilometres. The terrain is flat, so it is also suitable for beginner hikers. A big recommendation!

Try also other destinations in the Friendship Park!

HugeLentua – lake and the raging Lentuankoski rapid

An island you can reach by wading in shallow water – Harakkasaari Island

Stunning old-growth forests, flooding from beavers and an old wilderness area – Elimyssalo