Distant North - Hiking the Kungsleden | Full DocumentaryVideo: The Indie Projects
- Name Kungsleden
- Length of trail 420 km, 261 miles
- Length in days 28 days
- Start of trail Abisko
- End of trail Hemavan
- Traildino grading MW, Moderate walk, backpacking trail
- Hut tour grading T1, Walk
One of the world's most popular trails, Kungsleden runs through vast and unspoiled mountain areas of Sweden. The trail attracts hikers from all over the world ("even Swedes", the joke goes) and therefore it's a busy trail. Some hikers for this reason choose quieter, not less beautiful, paths, like nearby Padjelanteleden or Nordkalottleden or make survival trips into Sarek. Other hikers enjoy the chat and like to share dreams of a boundless world.
Most people walk north-south. The lake crossings are more convenient this way because most huts are located on the north side of the lakes.
Kungsleden can be divided into three parts. The northern and by far the most popular part starts in Abisko and ends in Kvikkjokk, 180 km. Facilities are good, huts every 10 to 20 km. The trail however is worn out and strenuous. The central part from Kvikkjokk to Ammarnäs, 185 km, is void of STF huts and attracts far fewer hikers, mostly thru-hikers with big backpacks. The saying goes this part is less beautiful and why not stick to this myth (hint)? The southern part again counts good STF huts at regular intervals. The 80 km long path is easy going and offers fantastic views. In Hemavan, the trail ends.
Be aware that most STF huts have shops with a good assortment of food. Many hikers still choose to carry their own food as if they are unaware of this. Some words on the STF huts. A host will welcome you, offer you a drink, show you your bed, where to get water, etc. Do some shoppings, help yourself in the kitchen, socialise with the other folks, dive into the sauna. Campers may use the kitchen and facilities against a fair charge. These huts are great but for one drawback: they are costly. STF members get a discount. The membership cost will pay back from the fourth hut onwards. Camping is a cheap alternative.
The lack of STF huts in the middle section makes a thru-hike without a tent difficult. You will find accommodation in the villages Ammarnäs, Adolfström, Jäckvikk, private accommodation in Vuonatjviken and Bäverholm, unstaffed huts Rävfall and Pieljekaise (key in the shops of Jäckvikk, Adolfström, Ammarnäs). The beautiful and lonely 60 km stretch between Vuonatjviken and Kvikkjokk only has a leaking Samen tipi (Tjäurakotan) and an emergency shelter (Tsielekjokk). Along the trail emergency shelters have been pitched in exposed areas. They can be used for a rest but not for a regular overnight stay.
All in all there are seven lake crossings (and one bus transfer), two short ones and five long ones. Rowing boats are available but don't count on them. The larger lakes can only be crossed this way on fair days of which there are not many. Finding the landing spot on the other lake side, sometimes several km afar, is a challenge in itself. When it's windy, better drop the idea of rowing and wait for the motorboat to arrive. They charge 10 to 40 euro's per person. Usually there is a service around nine a.m. and 5 p.m. Sometimes, you may be able to arrange a crossing in between. Inform in the nearest hut, they know all details.
Many people want to thru-hike Kungsleden. For quite a few of them this is their first such challenge. Common mistakes are: too much luggage (if yours is above 15 kg, you are on the wrong side) and too little stamina and strength (count on very bad weather, mosquitoes, blisters etc.) Usually, it will take four weeks. Experienced hikers can do it in three. Trail runners in two.
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