Little Finland: Frequently seen online, rarely seen in real life
For a very long time I've wanted to come to Little Finland. Like most visitors to this place, I saw somebody's incredible photography online and determined to venture there; this was about 10 years ago. I was a bit dismayed reading about the difficulties of getting there and didn't have the vehicle. As time passed, I continued to gawk at online photos and studied trip reports and routes. Finally, with the time off and the right vehicle, I made my way! Here's a bit of guidance and advice for others seeking this elusive desintation
Map of Little Finland with Driving and Hiking Directions
Overview of Driving Route
Little Finland is located in a recently designated Gold Butte National Monument. In spite of its status, it remains undeveloped and remote. From nearly anywhere, you start the journey from Mesquite, Nevada and begin traveling down the Gold Butte Highway. This is a 62 mile road that is paved for 21 miles up to Whitney Pockets. Its paved in the loosest sense of the term but any 2-wheel drive vehicle can make it the first 21 miles. Its a gorgeous drive.
Whitney Pocket is worth seeing itself but many use it as a campground and staging area for the rest of the monument. I included detailed directions above on the map for guidance but know a few more things.
Whitney Pocket to 2-wheel parking area and 4x4 parking area
Here's where things get interesting. First of all, thanks to the folks at American Southwest, I discovered a 2-wheel drive parking area. If you're not adverse to hiking, drive just 3.6 miles south of Whitney Pocket to an obvious bend in the road and park off the highway. This is graded and gravel but easily covered by low-clearance vehicles. This involves about a 6 mile out-and-back overland hike to the location that I'll describe later.
If your destination is the actual parking area, you have a ways to go. My Google Maps GPS was unreliable after this point- I recommend taking a detailed map or Gazetteer. Here's my directions:
- Set Odometer at Zero at Whitney Pockets: Where the Whitney Pass Road deviates to the East. Watch for signs to Little Finland
- Drive 3.9 miles on the rough but low clearance Gold Butte Highway. Watch for signs for Little Finland and turn right after 3.9 miles
- Take "Mud Wash Road North" 3.2 miles to the intersection with Mud Wash Road. This is through a canyon and is 4x4 with high clearance recommended. I had trouble in my Subaru Outback
- At the intersection, take a right and follow "Mud Wash Road" 4.0 miles to the fork in the road with Little Finland Road. This is also rough and generally muddy. Also, multiple tracks exist through this arroyo- stay safe.
- At the juction, there's a sign for Little Finland- take a right and take it 1.7 miles to the end. There's no official trailhead but the road abruptly ends. Its muddy and defintely high clearance, especially towards the end. I saw some folks who found a place to park before the end of the road and wished I'd done the same.
Whew! Still with me? It took me roughly 2 hours to make it to Little Finland from the interstate. I'm sure more aggressive drivers probably half that time.
Little Finland Hike
Geez was I ever excited to finally make it here! Note that there are no directions, mileages or anything marking "you're here in Little Finland". After the parking area, there's a rudimentary fence and opening that you pass through. A well traveled trail wanders through a small canyon and I looked for an opening to get up to the mesa. It took me about 20 minutes.
So where's Little Finland? I was confused at first and aimlessly walked around. Eventually I went the wrong direction- South. Although there were several smaller formations and interesting canyons, the good stuff is to the North. I recommend following the ledge of the mesa North until you arrive at the fascinating formations (reference the map above)
The formations are endless. I continually gawked as I strolled along. Every one of them had a life of their own. Walking just a few inches to the left or right revealed a different face of each formation. It was like an abstract painting except with geology.
If you're like me, you've seen the photographs of this place, probably by a professional. Note that while several of them have become internet-famous, none of them are actually labeled or formally named. I suggest finding your own path and discovering as much as you can without having specific formation to see.
Although the formations themselves are the highlight of the trip, I suggest wandering into the small canyons that line Little Finland. They offer different perspectives and several less-photographed areas that are just as enticing.
Photography at Little Finland: A few of my notes
Disclaimer: I'm by no means a professional photographer. I've never taken any classes and I don't own a D-SLR. But I noticed a few things that might help the more skilled:
- Little Finland is West-facing; I believe most of the great photographs are taken in the afternoon and evening
- My total walking distance was less than 5 miles and involved minimal scrambling. I anticipate its easy to bring more professional equipment without risk of damage
- In spite of its notoriety, I saw less than 5 people here- note this was a winter weekend but I doubt many make it on the rough road
- The fins are smaller than portrayed in professional photography
- Camping is permitted in the area as long as its leave-no-trace
Notes on Little Finland Hike from the 2-wheel drive area
Again, please reference the excellent piece by American Southwest on the hike. Here's a few additions in my scouting:
- Parking seemed straightforward- just make sure you park off the Gold Butte Highway. There is no sign for the turnoff but its fairly clear as long as you look for a bare area at the only major bend in the road from Whitney Pocket
- As they mention, its an overland hike across the desert. There's no water sources nor directions.
- Its a generally easy hike taking the trail-less nature into account.
- GPS and abundant water are a must
More questions? Reach out to me!
In spite of the swath of online information, I felt a bit unprepared getting to and wandering this destination. So feel free to reach out! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a line on Instagram or Facebook!.