I have received lots of positive reactions on my Trekking Kungsleden post and many people have emailed me asking for more info on trekking Kungsleden. This makes me very happy! Based on the reactions so far, I have tried to put together my thoughts on the questions that typically arise:
- When to go?
- What to bring?
- What supplies can you buy in the cabins?
- Recommendations on detours from the trail.
When to go?
The summer season runs from mid June to late September (this post will only cover the summer season). So how do I decide when to go? I typically divide the summer season into three parts: early, mid and late. Early part is roughly between mid June to mid July; mid part would be between mid July to mid August and late part mid August to late September. So what characterizes these different parts? Well, let’s just begin with considering that on the other side of both the early and late part, we have basically winter conditions this far north. This means that before mid June, the King’s Trail is normally not passable with boots – you either need skis or snowshoes. Come end of September, it can snow at anytime and you can actually be snowed in, if the weather turns and the temperature drops. It is also common to have subzero temperatures throughout September at night.
The early part is characterized by two things (in my opinion): light spring shades of green combined with snowcapped mountains and the midnight sun. Massive amounts of snow has melted the months before and the ground is wet, but with spring bursting through everywhere. It’s beautiful, bright and wet. Be advised that the snow melting process differs in time from year to year so while it can be relatively green and dry late June one year, you may need to plow through large patches of snow at the higher stretches of the trail at the same time another year. Depending on the temperature, mosquitoes will start to be a nuisance this time. But again, if it is a chilly spring, mosquitoes will not be as plentiful above the tree line as if there is a sudden burst of warm weather.
I like the early part because of the wonderful spring greenness and the lingering snow fields. I also like brightness – no need to even bring a torch – it is daylight 24 hours.
The mid part is also the peak season. This is when most people come visit the King’s Trail. This is high summer in the mountains. The nights are getting darker, although in mid July you still get the “daylight-all-around” feeling. This is also peak season for the mosquitoes. Try to stay above the tree line. In the forests the mosquitoes can be a bloody pest. The chance of getting really warm and sunny weather is highest during this part of the season.
The mid part is a nice period – no doubt – that’s why it is the most popular.
My favorite time to go! There is something special with the late part of the season. In particular, the last weeks of August – after the schools have started around 20 August or so – are my favorites. The air is high, the nights are dark and cool, the fall colors start to show (or, in September, are in full show) and after a few subzero nights there are no mosquitoes! Even though there are hardly any crowds to speak of at any time along the King’s Trail, at this time there are hardly anyone. Maybe you will meet some people in late August, but in September you can pretty much alone on the trail!
What to bring?
I’m not going to share a detailed packing list – more some general thoughts on how to think when planning a hike on in Swedish Lapland.
One of the things you need to decide when planning your trek is if you are going to stay at the mountain cabins along the trail or in your own tent. If you choose to stay in the cabins you can actually go very, very light. Note though, that the part of the King’s Trail between Kvikkjokk (via Jäkkvik) and Ammarnäs does not have any huts – so if you are trying out this relatively unfrequented part, you definitely need to bring a tent and more supplies. The by far most popular stretch of Kungsleden is the northernmost part between Abisko and Vakkotavare. Most people actually cuts even this stretch short and turn east towards Kebnekaise Mountain Station (eventually ending in Nikkaluokta) at the Singi huts. The obvious logistic benefit with the Abisko – Nikkaluokta trip is that you can have Kiruna as your long haul transport hub, whereas if you go further south you may need to fly (or take the train) to Kiruna and then find another connection (flight or train) back south in Gällivare meaning that you are unable to book a return ticket to and from the same destination.
Anyway, back to the topic.
I recommend the following mindset when planning what to bring: 0 – 5 degrees C, rain and very windy. You will hopefully have sunshine and warm weather, but if you aim to be comfortable in these conditions you will not go wrong. What does this mean? Well, in terms of clothing, it is important to bring waterproof jacket and pants. Good trekking boots that can take wet weather (for example Gore Tex lined medium height boots) are also essential. I would personally stay away from lighter trail running (or similar) shoes. Also make sure you can dress in layers and adjust them easily. One warm jacket (fleece or light down) is also necessary for breaks and in the evenings, especially if you stay in a tent. Otherwise, wear what you typically wear on a multi day trek.
The Mountain Stations (Abisko, Kebnekaise, Saltoluokta, Kvikkjokk and Hemavan) all have very good stores with supplies. You can rely on buying gas for your stove at any of these. Nikkaluokta, Jäkkvik and Ammarnäs also have stores where you can stock all you need (within reason of course).
In addition to the Mountain Stations, there are small stores in basically every other cabin along the trail. As to the norther part (Abisko – Nikkaluokta), the following cabins have stores: Abiskojaure, Alesjaure, and Sälka. If you continue south instead of going east to Nikkaluokta, there are stores in Kaitumjaure and Vakkotavare. The cabins do not have refrigeration, so nothing that needs to be stored cold is available. So is it possible to exclusively rely on the cabin stores and not bring all food? Yes. No problem. The stores in the cabins all have a reasonable selection of freeze dried food, canned stuff, pasta, rice, snacks, chocolate, candy, band aids, ear plugs etc. As long as you are not picky (for certain types of freeze dried portions for example) you only need to bring enough food to get you to the next cabin with a store. At the moment, you can either pay cash or by taking with you an invoice and settle it later. I know that the Swedish Tourism Association (who runs the cabins) are planning some sort of credit card payment option, but do not know if it is up and running yet.
The prices are higher than in civilized areas. Of course. Everything is transported out to the cabins late winter on snow mobiles or by helicopter. Even so I actually think the prices are quite fair considering the remoteness.
The Swedish Tourism Association has a website (available in Swedish, English and German) where you can search for the specific cabins and get a sample of its stock.
If you stay in the cabins, you do not need to bring a sleeping bag. Honestly, you don’t. All you need is a travel sheet or sleeping bag liner. All guests will get a mattress, pillow and blanket and there are stoves in the cabins to heat them up.
If you camp out, I recommend bringing a good tent that can take a lot of wind and a sleeping bag that keeps you comfortable down to a few degrees below zero.
You don’t need to bring a stove if you stay in the cabins – all cabins have kitchens with gas stoves. Choosing the right size backpack is very individual, but I can definitely fit everything I need for a six or seven day cabin-to-cabin hike into a 55 liter backpack. Maybe even 45 liters would be ok considering no tent and no sleeping bag, but I haven’t tried it.
Bring a couple of plastic shopping bags to collect your own garbage along the trail (and do please collect it!). All cabins have outhouses equipped with toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Recommendations on detours
My and many other hikers’ favorite detour from the King’s Trail is to head southeast from Alesjaure into Vistasvaggi to the Vistas cabins (small store with supplies). Stay the night at Vistas and then head northwest through Stuor Reidavaggi. Stay (or pass) the small Nallo cabin (no supplies). Continue west back to the King’s Trail at Sälka.
This is a great detour! Check out the first picture in this post for a wonderful view from above the Vistas cabin into Stuor Reidavaggi. There is a path to follow, but no markers. There are also signs at the relevant crossroads so it’s actually not hard to find your way. Vistasvaggi and Stuor Reidavaggi are two of the most beautiful valleys in Swedish Lapland so it’s well worth it.
Well guys, I hope you find something useful in this post when planning a hike along Kungsleden. Let me know if there is anything else you want info on, and I will do my best to answer.