The Kungsleden, or King's Trail, is the most famous hiking trail in northern Sweden. The hiking trail is over 400 kilometers (249 miles) long, going from Abisko to Hemavan through rugged landscapes. The most popular stretch of the King’s Trail hikes is the Abisko-Nikkaluokta route.
I hiked from Nikkaluokta to Alesjaure in the last week of August, slightly outside the peak season. At the same time, I also visited Sweden's highest mountain, Kebnekaise. I returned back to Nikkaluokta via the lush green Vistas valley.
The King's Trail
The most popular hike on King’s Trail / Kungsleden is the 107 km (66.5 miles) Abisko-Nikkaluokta (or Nikkaluokta-Abisko) route, which is also the route of the annual Fjällräven Classic hike in Mid-August (a free tip to stay away if you are looking for peace and quiet!). From Nikkaluokta to Kebnekaise runs a pilgrimage trail, Dag Hammarskjölsleden, and the pilgrimage route continues all the way to Abisko.
King’s Trail / Kungsleden is divided into the following hikes:
Among these hikes, the Abisko-Nikkaluokta hike and Ammarnäs-Hemavan have been selected among the 12 most beautiful hikes in Sweden. From the Abisko-Nikkaluokta hike, the Nikkaluokta-Singi section (about 34 km / 21 miles) does not run on the actual King’s Trail.
The beautiful scenery on King’s Trail is somewhat similar to the Halti hike in Finland, but King’s Trail is somewhat easier to hike. King’s Trail would also be very suitable for trail running.
King’s Trail hiking and accommodation
According to the Swedish Tourist Association (Svenska Turistföreningen STF), the Abisko-Nikkaluokta hike takes 7 days (7 stretches), but with light equipment or trail running, the journey is faster. My own 148 km (92 miles) journey (Nikkaluokta – Kebnekaise – Alesjaure – Vistas – Nikkaluokta) took 5 nights with a relatively heavy pack.
STF maintains a comprehensive network of cabins along King’s Trail. You can book overnight accommodation in the cabins if you don't want to stay in a tent. STF members get a discount on prices, membership of the Finnish Suomen Latu no longer entitles to a discount.
Many cabins on King’s Trail also have a store with a large or small selection, where you can replenish your food stock. On STF's website, you can find more detailed information about store selections, prices and opening hours. Larger mountain stations also have a restaurant that serves both breakfast and dinner.
In northern latitudes, fresh water can be obtained from streams and rivers flowing from fells and mountains. It is up to you if you wish to purify or cook the water before use.
Nikkaluokta as the starting point for the King’s Trail hike – my adventure
I woke up in the early morning after an adventurous night in the back seat of the car. It was still drizzling and foggy. I ate the breakfast goodies I bought in Kilpisjärvi and set off.
The Dag Hammarskjöldsleden Trail starts right from Nikkaluokta Sarri's main building. You go to the trail under some red painted wooden sticks, it is impossible to go on the wrong trail. From Nikkaluokta to the Kebnekaise mountain station, the distance is about 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) on an easy trail.
It was about 6 kilometers to Lake Láddujávri. You could cross the lake by boat, the timetable and price list can be found on a post. There is also a charge for the dry toilet on the boat shore. Since I came here to walk, I didn’t need a boat ride.
It was nice and fast to hike in the valley. At the end of August, the leaves had already started to fall from the trees. I took quiet breaks from time to time sitting on the round stones.
Traces of camping began to appear by the trail in the woods. There were more and more nice camping spots the closer I walked to Kebnekaise. Under the southwest slope of Cievrracohkka, there were a lot of campsites in the woods along the streams.
I arrived at the bridge at the intersection of the trail leading to Tarfala. River Darfaljohka roared in the canyon. It was only about a kilometer to the Kebnekaise mountain station.
The Kebnekaise mountain station is located right at the foot of the mountain. Camping near the station costs SEK 250 (members) or SEK 350 (non-members). The camping price includes station services, such as a kitchen, showers and a drying room.
If you want to camp for free, you must set up your tent at least one kilometer away from the buildings. I continued past the station for about a kilometer and a half, and I found a nice slope spot for my tent. A wonderful view of the valley below and the mountains opened up in front of my eyes, and the trail leading to Kebnekaise could be reached quickly in the morning.
My tent was already up after 2 pm in the afternoon. Somehow, I had calculated that I would have time to visit Kebnekaise the same day after that twenty-kilometer morning hike, but then it started to rain. Nothing would happen during the rest of the day, so I decided to take a nap in my sleeping bag in peace.
I woke up at six pm and found that the rain was still continuing, less but still. I carefully put dinner under the vestibule. The rest of the evening passed just thinking about this and that, before I fell asleep. I don't usually like to spend time doing nothing on a hike, even if it’s raining, but sometimes you have to wait for a weather window for the peaks - and on the other hand, I was lacking some sleep.
The morning dawned dim and foggy, but the rain had stopped. I thought I made my way towards Kebnekaise early, although most of the other hikers had apparently left for the mountain much earlier. My camera was still broken after the wet Halti hike in Finland, the controls only worked partially, and the remote control was mute.
There are practically two main routes to Kebnekaise: eastern and western. A via ferrata has been built on the eastern route and crossing glaciers as well as glacier and climbing equipment is required. Hikers going on their own should therefore choose the western route (Västra leden), which does not require special skills.
The length of the day trip from my camp to Kebnekaise and back was a total of twenty kilometers (12.4 miles), the ascent was about 1800 meters (5905 ft). The Kebnekaise hike took the whole day, and the most beautiful landscapes unfortunately remained behind the cloud curtains. It was already dusk when I returned from my adventure.
Kebnekaise-Singi 15 km / 9.3 miles
When I woke up in the morning, the sky was the brightest blue, the sun was shining from a cloudless sky. The weather was absolutely perfect for climbing Kebnekaise, but unfortunately a day late. I packed my stuff and set out to pass Kebnekaise and Tolpaguorni in the Láddjuvággi valley.
A wobbly bridge led over the bubbling River Giebmejohka and to a beautiful meditation spot. Sitting on an egg-shaped white rock, the golden rays of the morning sun in the quiet and rugged valley conjured up a magical moment.
The valley was surrounded by almost vertical dark mountain walls. After the rocky trail there were some wetland and willow bushes. You could get over the worst puddles by some wooden planks.
The trail went right by River Láddujohka above the snowmobile route. Four kilometers before Singi, the trail forks to the right. You can take a short cut towards Abisko if there is no need to visit Singi cabins. The route ascended for a long way towards the lake and the plateau, from which finally opened wide and wonderful landscapes to the snow-capped mountains and the Tjäktjavagge valley.
Singi-Sälka 12 km / 7.5 miles
From the lake, the descent began on a gentle slope towards the actual King’s Trail. From time to time, groups of people walked by, one young couple had a huge boombox with them, playing music in the desert. Somehow there seemed to be an error in the universe for a while.
A little before arriving at River Sinnijohka, a smaller stream flowed across the trail. A big stone was on the slope as if waiting for me, and I was hungry. I made goat cheese-tomato soup with bread. It felt peaceful to sit eating on a stone in a stunning landscape in the most beautiful August afternoon sun.
The journey continued along a wide sandy trail at the bottom of a spacious valley. The weather was most wonderful: sunny but cold enough that fleece and a headscarf were necessary.
Before the River Guobirjohka bridge, I arrived at Kuoperjåkka's little hut, where apparently you can spend the night in bad weather. I visited the dry toilet but didn't look inside the cabin. The clock was already approaching 6 pm, and I quickly continued on my way.
The rusty bridge creaked under my steps. Next to River Guobirjohka would also be a great place to take a break.
Four kilometers before Sälka's cabins, a few reindeer were running by the side of the trail. A meditation spot was placed on a nice spot of the rolling slope, where I took a short quiet moment. Usually, in moments of silence, I automatically get the 'right' experience, whether it's dialogue, incoming thoughts or the emptying of the mind, but on this pilgrimage route it felt like there was at most a dark and cold wall in front of me, if nothing at all.
Several bridges covered the branches of River Gaskkasjohka. After a good half an hour, Sälka's huts appeared as black dots on the horizon. I continued past the buildings.
Sälka-Tjäkta 12 km / 7.5 miles
I decided to walk as long as I could and find a suitable campsite near some water. In an hour, I could walk the relatively flat sandy trail maybe three kilometers closer to Alesjaure.
I walked through the duckboards across the wetland. And there it was, a clear stream gurgling from the mountains. I climbed up the slope in search of a dry and flat spot. The tent and camp were up just in time before it started to get dark, a quarter past nine in the evening.
I just listened to the silence as the mountains silhouetted against the darkening sky. I felt the day’s journey of 29 km in my legs, especially in the feet. You could probably hike with a lighter backpack, I thought. I made dinner and cocoa in the cooling night.
The last stretch towards Alesjaure
The clouds hung low and the weather predicted rain right from the morning. I set off at eight o'clock.
As Tjäktjapasset approached, there were more and more rocks, and the trail began a gentle ascent. Reindeer could also be seen further away. At the foot of Tjäktjapasset, a clear water area sparkled, and I saw a tent on the shore. After this point, it is difficult to find good camping spots for a while.
If your backpack weighs a lot, the climb to Tjäktjapasset is a tough workout. Especially when approaching the highest point, the slope steepens so much that you may have to take your hands for support in places. A little before crossing the saddle, the 'Meditationsplats' sign can be seen again - from which stunning landscapes open up in the direction of the Tjäktjavagge valley.
After the last climb, the scenery in the direction of the Tjäktja cabins and the Alisvaggi valley will reward all the effort on the other side as well. A chocolate bar break on the mountain plateau is very welcome.
There is often snow or patches of snow on the Tjäktjapass plateau even in summer, the air feels cool. A small cabin peeks out on the top, perhaps a shelter in case of bad weather. The slopes are rocky as far as the eye can see. A strip of duckboards leads over the wetland and the rocks.
Right here, at the rockiest place on Earth, bounced a couple of fatbikes. I heard the men shouting at each other in Finnish. A hiking group of three people also walked by before Tjäktja cabins, otherwise it had been very quiet during the day.
Tjäktja cabins could be seen on the left, behind a white ocean of cotton tussocks. In Tjäktja area, the landscape is probably at its most rugged - perhaps that's why it's at its most beautiful.
Tjäktja-Alesjaure 13 km / 8.1 miles
From Tjäktja, the journey continued, descending into the beautiful Alisvággi valley in a light drizzle. River Sielmmanjira was a wide and shallow stream full of stones, my shoes didn't get wet. Reindeer began to appear more and more and in larger herds, but they were shy and run away soon.
Although the valley was beautiful to walk through, I remembered the Halti hike I had just made. The Halti route had numerous individual sights and the terrain was somehow more varied. The King’s Trail seemed to be traveling somehow more in the 'same landscape'. In a way, the quiet and monotonous landscape is well suited for a pilgrimage.
In the Alisvággi valley, there were a lot of duckboards. One river crossing required a bit of balancing while jumping from one stone to another. Since the water was clear and there were fine, smooth stones next to the river, I decided to take the last lunch break before Alesjaure, which was already on the horizon.
I passed the Alesjaure cabins a little after four in the afternoon local time. The cabins are located on the shore of the beautiful Lake Alisjávri on the other side of River Aliseatnu, which can be reached by a bridge. If it wasn't raining and dull grey weather, Alesjaure would certainly look 'instagrammable'.
The trail curved to the right and up the slope. The sign said the next destination was the Vistas valley. It was time to leave King’s Trail behind. During my exciting hike in Vistas valley, it rained heavily, and I met moose in the storm!
King’s Trail hike: my experiences and tips
- Between Nikkaluokta and Abisko on the King’s Trail there is an easy-to-navigate terrain, mainly a wide and sandy and stony trail.
- Bridges have been built over King’s Trail 's bigger rivers, and usually you can get through the wetlands along duckboards. If it has been raining, your shoes can get wet in places, but there are no wading or crossing rivers on Nikkaluokta-Alesjaure and Nikkaluokta-Vakkotavare hikes.
- The highest point between Nikkaluokta-Abisko is Tjäktjapasset (1150 m / 3773 ft), which can be climbed with a normal-weight backpack with basic fitness.
- There are frequent STF cabins along the way. You may book a bed and stay overnight, cook and dry your equipment in the cabins.
- Along the King’s Trail hiking trail, it is nice to sleep in a tent as well – you can find flat and dry terrain, fresh water and amazing scenery are along the way.
- Dag Hammarskjöldsleden starting from Nikkaluokta is a pilgrimage trail, and the pilgrim’s way continues on King’s Trail to Abisko as well. White egg-shaped 'meditation stones' have been placed in great spots, where the hiker can rest and enjoy the silence.
- King’s Trail mainly runs in open valleys surrounded by mountains. You can add variety and excitement to your hike by climbing mountains on your way. With the help of the map, you can plan additional routes.
- You can easily go hiking in Northern Sweden by public transport: for example, there are trains and buses between Kiiruna and Abisko, buses between Kiiruna and Nikkaluokta.
- If you drive a car to Nikkaluokta and want to return to the starting point, you can make a nice ring route, by turning from Alesjaure to the Vistas valley or by taking an even longer route through e.g., Mårmastugan. Parking can be arranged in advance at Nikkaluokta if you arrive after closing time.
King's Trail hike Nikkaluokta-Alesjaure (Abisko)
- Destination: Nikkaluokta, Norrbotten, Lapland, Sweden
- Distance: Nikkaluokta-Alesjaure 71 km (Nikkaluokta-Abisko 107 km)
- Difficulty: easy-moderate
- When to go: from July to August for a summer hike
- Duration: 3-5 days (Nikkaluokta-Abisko 5-7 days)
- Where to stay: camping in tent, or in STF cabins