The legendary “King’s Trail” in northern Sweden winds 442 Kilometres through the last true wilderness of Europe. Untouched and protected since the early 1900s, hikers find themselves in awe of this stunning Arctic landscape – the air so crisp, the low sunlight so icy blue, the majestic beauty of tundras, glaciers and emptiness.
Comfortable mountain huts a day’s hike apart make the King’s Trail an ideal challenge even for less experienced hikers.
The Lapponian Gate (“Lapporten”)
Abisko Mountain Station is almost Sweden’s northernmost point – it’s a great starting point for the northern sections of the King’s Trail. The scenery is gorgeous with views of the monumental u-shaped mountain formation “Lapporten” and grand lakes Torneträsk and Sjumilasjön.
View from the Tjäkta Pass
One of the best views of the King’s trail and a beautiful descent into a lush valley with endless flowing rivers and a fantastic backdrop of surrounding mountains.
Climbing up Sweden’s highest mountain top, 2,111 metres, does not require mountaineering equipment. You can take a guided tour from Kebnekaise Mountain Station to to the southern peak. On each side of the mountain flow the largest glaciers in Sweden – the top is actually part of a glacier, so the height constantly changes.
View over Sarek National Park
The trail from Teusajaure to Vakkotavare begins with a scenic boat crossing of lake Teusajaure. A long ascent leads to a grassy high mountain plateau with amazing views of the glacier filled mountains of Sarek National Park off in the distance.
View from Skierfe over Rapadalen
Skierfe is a mountain in Sarek National Park, its western wall is almost vertical and goes down to Rapa River and the Laitaure delta. Skierfe boasts a spectacular view of the river delta below and is a popular detour thanks to the easy hike to the top.
The little mountain village Kvikkjokk at the river delta is home to some of the oldest history of the area. The village is a hub for hiking trails with unforgettable views of the Laponia National Parks. These parks have been completely untouched (not even a hut) for over a hundred years and are some of the rare places in Sweden where you can spot wild predators such as bears, wolves and lynx.
This lush u-shaped valley is beautifully framed by the steep walls of Vindelfjällen – the trail goes down the valley in a dramatic 10 km long corridor. Syterskalet is arguably the most awe-inspiring stretch of the southern King’s Trail.
Midnight Sun & Aurora Borealis
One of the most memorable oddities of the far north is surely the Midnight Sun – sunlight around the clock! Great places to experience the midnight sun is the top of Kebnekaise, Abisko (end of May-mid July) or Kvikkjokk (early June-mid July).
Aurora Borealis may be visible from mid September to late April. Abisko is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Light. Read more: auroraskystation.se
Reindeers & Sami life
It is very likely to encounter lots of reindeer on the King’s Trail. They are migratory animals that cover vast areas of the mountains grazing lichens and grass. Sweden’s indigenous people, the Samis, have a deep rooted tradition of herding reindeer as their way of life. Sami culture and history permeate these lands and the mountain villages are good places to learn more.
LAPONIA NATIONAL PARKS
Laponia is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It’s a collective name for Sarek, Stora Sjöfallet and Padjelanta National Parks – hiking the King’s Trail is a great way to access them.
WHEN TO GO
Hiking season on the King’s Trail lasts from mid June to mid September. The most popular month by far is August, when especially the northern parts of the trail can get pretty crowded. Many experienced hikers prefer September, it’s a little colder but far less busy and less mosquitos. Autumn colours on the King’s Trail are absolutely amazing.
Early Season – mid-June to mid-July
In the land of the Midnight Sun, spring means endless daylight and snow-capped mountains in the distance. All the way into early July, you can expect lots of snow in the higher passes of the trail. As summer arrives, melting winter snow feeds into gushing rivers that are safely crossed on sturdy suspension bridges. The ground can be quite wet, but with spring bursting through everywhere, it’s beautiful, bright green, and wet. Early season is suitable for more experienced hikers.
Peak Season – mid-July to late August
In the summer the mountains come alive with colours, scents and sounds. Any lingering snow should be gone and a pleasant warm breeze rolls through the mountains. It’s a magical time to hike the King’s Trail – rippling streams to quench your thirst, echoes of new offspring from the valleys, a mountain-side in full blossom.
Mosquitos during high season can however be terrible and the huts on the northern sections of the trail will be crowded. You do have a guaranteed place to sleep in the huts no matter what. Tip: Swedish schools start around Aug 20th – the trail will become significantly less crowded after.
Late Season – September
In September, nights grow longer and if you’re really lucky you may see the Northern Lights. The mountains put on a truly spectacular autumn show! Birch leaves turn bright yellow and a rainbow of vibrant colors grace the mountain-side as far as the eye can see. As temperatures along the trail drop, mosquitos disappear and the weather becomes somewhat unpredictable – snow and strong winds perhaps. By mid September the trail goes quiet and the Aurora Borealis may dance across the dark night sky for the brave and lucky few that are left in the Arctic wilderness.
Swedish Tourism Association (STF)
You will receive a considerable discount on staying in the mountain huts and some boat transports, if you become a member of the Swedish Tourism Association. Membership cost 295 Skr per person, or 450 Skr for a family. swedishtouristassociation.com/join-us. You can join online or at any of the STF mountain stations.
During peak season a night in a large mountain station is 495 Skr per person, but 100 Skr cheaper if you’re a member of STF. These huts are like small villages with a shop, sauna and even a restaurant. You can pay for huts in advance online at a discount. Bookings are valid for any cabin within a 4 week period so you have lots of flexibility. Print the booking confirmation and show the cabin host.
Boat crossings vary in prices, for example Teusajaure is 150 Skr, with a 50 Skr discount if you are an STF member.
There are sixteen STF mountain stations and cabins along the King’s Trail, located a day’s hike apart (10-20 km). The cabins are self-catered with a simple and cozy vibe. You cook your own food and help out fetching water, chopping wood and cleaning. Kitchens are equipped with a propane stove, pots & pans, plates, mugs and utensils. Cabins are heated by wood or propane, there’s no electricity. 12 of the 16 cabins have shops selling food, some also have a restaurant. There is a cabin host present during summer and winter season.
Season: Mid february – early May, mid June – September (some exceptions)
Accommodation: Dorm style rooms (often 4 beds) with wide beds, mattress, pillow and duvet. Bring your own sheets/sleeping bag. You are always guaranteed a place to sleep.
Payment: Pay in advance on the STF website at a discount, or pay cash at the cabin. Some mountain huts also accept credit cards.
You can search all STF stations and cabins for information of when they are open, what facilities and activities they offer and how to book: swedishtouristassociation/facilities
You will also find links to each cabin along the trail in the detailed description in “Sections of the King’s Trail” that follows below.
You are allowed to wild camp in most areas along the King’s Trail, but it can sometimes be difficult to find good places. Since there is no shortage of established camping areas where many hikers have camped before you, it’s unnecessary to damage the tundra for no reason. Typically, there are great camping spots by any major water crossing. For a service fee of 100 Skr you can stay near a mountain station and get access to all their facilities. It’s a good idea to camp by a station every few days to dry out equipment and replenish food supply.
There are multiple lakes along the King’s Trail that require crossing by boat. When hiking from Abisko to Kvikkjokk you need to cross Teusajaure, Langas, Sitojaure, and Laitaure. STF or locals operate boat taxis that typically run twice a day, in the morning and afternoon. Almost all mountain stations are located on the northern shore, which is why hiking the trail from north to south makes a lot of sense. Boat taxis are not cheap, around 200 Skr, and you need to pay in cash. If the boat taxi schedule doesn’t work for you at all, it is generally possible to book a transport in advance by phone.
Schedules and prices of boat transports are available in Swedish on STF’s site. It’s not too difficult to figure it out in spite of the language barrier: svenskaturistforeningen.se/batar-i-fjallen
A cheaper and more flexible option is to use the row boats available for use at each lake. The traditional system is to have three boats on a lake, so that there is always at least one boat on each side. What this means is that if there’s only one boat on your side, you have to row across and tow a boat back before you can keep going. On a lake like Laitaure, at 4 km across, this could mean rowing up to 12 km, so it’s not for the faint of heart! Sometimes weather conditions make it dangerous to row, in which case a water taxi is a much better option.
North to South vs South to North
Most hikers walk the trail from north to south. You will have the low-angled sunlight in your eyes the whole way so bring a cap, sun glasses and sunscreen. It’s generally easier to access the trail from the north and schedules for boat transports are better adapted for a north to south trekk.
The Outdoor Map (“Outdoorkartan”) is a series of topographical maps covering popular hiking routes in northern Sweden. Specific information for the mountains include marked summer and winter trails, mountain stations, resting huts and emergency phones.
The map is printed on durable and waterproof Polyart and the scale for northern Sweden is
The King’s Trail is covered by six Outdoor Maps:
#1 Abisko Kebnekaise Nikkaluokta
#2 Nikkaluokta Sarek Saltoluokta
#3 Saltoluokta Padjelanta Kvikkjokk
#4 Kvikkjokk Jäkkvik
#5 Jäkkvik Ammarnäs
#6 Ammarnäs Hemavan Lill-Björkvattnet
Bring appropriate Outdoor Maps, a compass and a whistle. A GPS is a great tool, but never ever neglect to bring a regular compass too. Cell phones do not have coverage in these mountain ranges. The northern part of the trail will be pretty busy during peak season and it’s safe to trekk solo. If you choose early or late season, or less populated sections of the trail, you should not hike alone.
All STF cabins have an emergency shelter for the off season – it’s typically an unlocked room with 2 to 4 beds, a wood burning stove and some kitchen utensils. You also have access to the woodshed and toilets. It’s not free, 250 Skr for non-member and 150 Skr for members, due to STF by bank transfer. If you are hiking in September, when many of the cabins close for the season, these shelters may be full as there are still hikers along the trail. Each STF cabin has an emergency phone that connects to local police.
There are also several basic emergency shelters along the trail, mainly located at high altitudes. They are only to be used overnight in case of emergency, but they make great resting shelters in bad weather.
You will generally cross a stream or river every other hour or less. The water is safe to drink and it’s enough to bring a one liter water bottle.
Hiking the entire trail
Walking all of the King’s Trail will surely be one of the most memorable accomplishments of your life. It takes around a month, including several days for resting or detours. The best time to start is mid July and finish around mid August. Before and after you can expect a lot of snow in the higher passes of the trail, which may require special equipment. The obvious choice is to start in Abisko and head south.
A month staying in STF cabins will be very costly, so plan to camp mostly and treat yourself to a night in a cabin now and then. You cannot carry food for a month, stock up in the stores in Hemavan, Ammarnäs, Adolfström and Jäkkvik, as well as the STF cabin shops. You can also send food packages to STF Mountain Stations in the mail. Contact them in advance. Plan a stop at the Saltoluokta station, it’s gorgeous and the restaurant serves an excellent three course dinner. The section between Kvikkjokk and Ammarnäs has few facilities, no STF cabins or shops.
There are six entry points to the King’s Trail from north to south:
The most popular stretch of the King’s Trail is Abisko-Nikkaluokta. The obvious logistic benefit of starting at Abisko is the proximity to Kiruna – a major hub for domestic connections. If you plan to hike the southern parts of the trail, Ammarnäs and Hemavan, it makes sense to start from Hemavan and head north.
Train or flight to Kiruna or Gällivare. Bus 92 from Kiruna to Nikkaluokta, alternatively bus 93 from Gällivare via Vakkotavare.
Connections from Kiruna airport: kirunalapland.se/en/travel-here
Direct flights from Stockholm to Hemavan, or direct bus Lapplandspilen. Alternatively flight or train to Umeå and then bus 31 to Hemavan.
Direct bus from Stockholm: lapplandspilen.se
Local bus: stromlinjer.fskab.se/stromlinjer
WHAT TO BRING
A good mindset when planning what to bring for a summertime hike in northern Sweden is 0 – 5 degrees Celsius, rain and very windy. Hopefully it will be all sunshine and warm weather! However, there are some high passes and if your goal is to be comfortable in these conditions you can’t go wrong. Packing list for summertime hiking in Swedish mountains
SECTIONS OF THE KING’S TRAIL
The Swedish Tourist Association provides detailed information of the different sections of the King’s Trail: swedishtouristassociation.com/areas/kungsleden
#1 Abisko – Nikkaloukta
Distance/duration of this section: 108 km / 6-7 days
This area is mountains and Arctic tundra as far as the eye can see. The landscape is varied with grand plateaus, moor-covered hills, lake systems, gushing rivers and high snow-clad peaks. The hike begins through a majestic landscape towards the highest point at “Tjäktapasset”, and mainly trails above the alpine tree line. The lower altitudes of your first and last days allow for mountain birch forests. STF has five mountain stations/huts along the trail as well as the Kebnekaise Mountain Station.
There are significant amounts of reindeers in the area, please show respect.
STF ABISKO – STF ABISKOJAURE
Distance/duration: 15 km / 4 – 6 hours Altitudes: 380 – 490 meters
STF Abisko Mountain Station has its own train station and is located almost as far north as Sweden goes. The scenery at Abisko is magnificent – gr