The Bay Trail (Lahtipolku in Finnish) is located in the suburbs of Puotila, Vartiokylä, Vuosaari, and Rastila in the eastern part of Helsinki, along the Vartiokylänlahti bay. The trail runs past old manor houses, thick woodlands, and shingle beaches called Devil’s fields (pirunpelto) in Finnish. I checked out the easternmost bit of it in Meri-Rastila and fell in love with its undulating landscapes, marvelous ice age formations, and giant pine trees.
Dodging the ever-present covid-19 obstructing normal socialising with friends, my friend and I met up in Meri-Rastila to go explore yet another great accessible outdoor destination in the capital area. We began our trek by the entering the Bay trail near the Rastila metro station, from where it was only 100m to the trail itself. Situated right next to Vuotie, the main east-west thoroughfare, we expected the trail to be noisy and crowded. What we found was thick forests and a lovely sandy trail now covered with fresh snow. And surprising solitude.
Map of Meri-Rastila and the bay trail
We stepped on the bay trail near the Meri-Rastila boat harbour nestled between lovely old trees. There are several sand and gravel covered roads, and we headed away from the big road, deeper into the woods. The Vartiokylänlahti bay is a long one so there is a lot of variation in the scenery and plenty to see. As soon as we moved away from the seashore, we were surrounded by massively tall pine trees, now slightly sprinkled with snow. Needless to say, we definitely made some snowballs of the freshly fallen snow. And no, no one will tell you who won by throwing it the furthest distance.
Sights for all ages
The path has lots of forks to it but we decided we wanted to walk as close to the seashore as possible because the views that way were simply lovely.
We soon came upon an incredibly thick pine, which had to be at least 3m in diameter. It is called Story Tree (tarinapuu), and I’m sure it has seen a lot of history… at least a few hundred years worth. I put my backpack next to the tree for reference but you can barely notice it at the bottom of the massive tree. So, I had to put a red circle around it for our dear readers to see it. Yes, it really was a humongous tree!
We soon arrived at the fireplace lean-to but decided not to stay there as it was already full of people. But oh, the smell of food roasting on an open fire! We both noticed that there was a lovely little beach there where it would be easy to dip into the sea during hot summer days. However, this time we simply continued on an unofficial path leaving right behind the lean-to because it looked more adventurous than the smooth covered trail.
We found ourselves carefully climbing on billowy soft cliffs. Around us were hundreds of Ice age glacial erratics (siirtolohkare in Finnish), scattered round like pebbles from a toddler’s hands. The most impressive erratic was by the sea and it looked like anyone could just push it over and into the water. We looked at it and laughed: “Nope. We’re good”.
The pine needle covered path wound down from the cliffs towards the sea. We soon saw the trail ahead of us and made our way through the trees to it. We were almost at the end of this part of the peninsula, so we decided to head back towards Meri-Rastila.
The centre of the peninsula is slightly more elevated than its edges. It’s still not demanding by any means but rather, a nice change. We also spotted some blueberry (or bilberry) shrubs on our way up, so maybe in the summer, we can come by and have a picnic while walking.
Ancient shoreline of Meri-Rastila
Our next stop took us to rock formations caused by the last Ice age. Next to each other were huge glacial erratics and also a shingle beach… in the middle of a forest, of course. The shingle beach is an ancient seashore of the Litorina sea, and it was created about 7500-4000 BP (Before Present), so after the last Ice age.
These shingle beaches are called Devil’s fields (pirunpelto) in Finnish because earlier on, people thought the Devil had thrown rocks willy-nilly. Another explanation was that only the Devil is able to have plowed this field of rocks. These rock formations are common in the ancient shorelines of the Litorina sea, and they can be seen easily due to their lack of vegetation. The rocks are loose, so animals nor trees find them suitable. Still, they are an exciting reminder of all the curious wonders we find in our nearby forests.
Directions to Meri-Rastila and the bay trail
Address: There are several places where you can get to the trail but one of the closest addresses is Märssykuja 2, Helsinki.
How to get there: The best way to get to Meri-Rastila is to use public transport and to walk the rest. There is some parking available for cars but due to the popularity of the area and the fact that it’s near housing, it is best to leave your car at home.
- Car: If you desperately want to take your car, there is some parking spots available near an S-market near the metro station. Meri-Rastilan kuja on your navigator and it will take you to a small carpark.
- Public transport: You can take the metro right next to the trail head. Just get off at Rastila metro station and walk a few hundred metres.
Accessibility: The area of Meri-Rastila and the bay trail can be accessed by wheelchairs and children’s buggies at all times of the year.
Facilities: There is a fireplace lean-to in the area which can be used. You are allowed to make a fire in this barbecue pit when there is no forest fire warning announced. For current information about the forest fire warning, please check the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s website.
When to go: You can visit this area at any time of the year.
Since you’re there…
Also check out Rastila swimming beach on the other side of Vuotie. You can go under the bridge and visit the lovely sandy beach at Meri-Rastila.