Abisko Canyon Trail in Swedish Lapland: A Stunning Evening Hike

Abisko Canyon Trail in Swedish Lapland: A Stunning Evening Hike

Abisko Canyon is the most easily accessible attraction in the area. The turquoise river Abiskojåkka (Ábeskoeatnu) flows through the canyon carved by glacial waters, ultimately pouring into Lake Torneträsk, formed by a glacier.

Abisko serves as the gateway to nature in northern Sweden, offering the most breathtaking attractions and easily accessible trails. Numerous hiking routes originate from Abisko, ranging from short day hikes to treks covering hundreds of kilometers.

The Abisko Canyon Trail is a marked route by STF (Swedish Tourist Association). It’s not really a “day hike”, as the trail spans only 1.6 kilometers (1 mile), which you can walk in about half an hour. But it can easily take longer, since the entire journey unfolds as a picturesque landscape.

The Canyon Trail in the summer is an excellent evening hike, perhaps after conquering Abisko’s Mount Nuolja (Njullá) fell or a relaxing walk following a multi-day King’s Trail (Kungsleden) hike from Nikkaluokta to Abisko.

Abisko – A Destination for Hiking and Trekking

The village of Abisko is situated in the Kiruna municipality of northern Sweden's Norrbotten County, approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) and just over an hour's drive west of Kiruna. The area is well-connected by public transport via train and bus from Kiruna or Narvik. The European route E10 and the railway pass right by Abisko Turiststation and Naturum visitor center.

Next to Naturum, there is an information board, a map, and a couple of parking lots. Parking is allowed at STF's Turiststation only for those staying at the mountain station. South of the railway tracks, there is a large free parking lot intended for long-term parking as well.

One of the most renowned long-distance hiking trails originating from Abisko is the classic Abisko-Nikkaluokta hike. From the same signpost, you can head towards the beautiful Kårsavagge valley and Mount Nuollá, or towards Lapporten. The Nordkalott Trail (Arctic Trail) also passes through Abisko, continuing to Kilpisjärvi in Finland via Malla Nature Reserve and towards Finland's highest point, Halti.

You may easily just pass by Abisko on your way to the Lofoten Islands from Finland, but the Canyon is worth stopping by!

Abisko National Park

Established in 1909 near the Norwegian border, Abisko National Park attracts visitors throughout the year. North of the Arctic Circle, the terrain varies from rugged mountains to lush birch forests and vast moorlands and marshes. By late August and early September, frosty nights may have already colored the vegetation.

Stricter regulations apply to Abisko National Park compared to other hiking areas. Camping and making fires are only allowed at designated campsites in Abiskojaure and Abisko Turiststation, and at the free camping area by the river Nissonjohka. There are restrictions in the bird protection area during late spring and summer, and dogs must be leashed within the national park.

Abisko Canyon

Abisko Canyon is the most easily accessible attraction in the area. The turquoise river Abiskojåkka (Ábeskoeatnu) flows through the canyon carved by glacial waters, ultimately pouring into Lake Torneträsk, formed by a glacier. The large, mountain-surrounded lake is also a spectacular sight.

Originally, the waterfall flowed through a narrow gorge located next to the current tunnel. It has been said, that only the biggest and bravest reindeer dared to leap over the canyon and its turbulent waters.

The old gorge was sealed off, and the tunnel was blasted in 1899. Apparently, it was easier to blast the mountain than to build a railway bridge over the waterfall. A hydroelectric power plant was also built in the canyon, operating for only a few years.

Despite the tunnel being a human-made structure, the canyon itself is a natural work of art.

Abisko Canyon Trail

The Abisko Canyon Trail forms a loop north of the main road (E10). The most majestic and picturesque canyon landscapes are found in this area.

The Canyon Trail can be started from several points, and the route can be walked clockwise or counterclockwise. Having parked my car by the railway station, I began the trail from there and followed the scenic circle clockwise from the underpass.

A gravel road leads through the underpass, along with the "The Waterfall of the Wild Reindeer" environmental artwork. The tunnel walls are painted by artist Annica Waara with colorful pictures depicting the waterfall's seasons and the life of northern reindeer. Simon Marainen's music was created for the artwork. You can hear the sounds at just the right volume, echoing through the tunnel.

Immediately after the tunnel, the actual trail begins. The information board displays a clear map of the area, marking the route and points of interest along the way. Several information boards along the trail provide insights into the area's history and nature. It may only become apparent on-site that the magnificent water mass of the canyon doesn't plunge from a natural cavern but rather through a symmetrical hole created by humans.

The first part of the trail is covered with a wide wooden walkway. It's safe to reach over the sturdy railing to capture memories of the scenic views. STF's Abisko Turiststation stands boldly on a rock rising behind the canyon.

You don't need to walk many minutes before reaching the first fantastic spot. The water literally bursts out in white from the dark tunnel into freedom. Just above it, a train sparkles, its rust-brown cars gliding through the birch forest endlessly.

The majority of the canyon consists of hard black slate and dolomitic limestone. Rich vegetation thrives on the dark vertical walls, from flowers to moss. The crystal-clear water flows, revealing boulders in precise detail even in meters of depth. The roar of the waterfall echoes in the ears, drowning out other sounds.

The trail is marked with yellow, but it's nearly impossible to stray from the boardwalk. A large golden crown awaits about three hundred meters away, symbolizing Sweden's national parks. At this point, there's a picnic area, ideal for sitting with snacks – at least in good weather. The path to the resting place is wheelchair-accessible.

The wooden walkway ends at the rest area, where you can continue the loop along a smaller sandy and muddy path. At one point, there's a comfortable boulder and a photo spot. You can cross the canyon on a long bridge.

The bridge looks rusty but is sturdy – you can confidently take out your camera and stand in the middle of the landscape. A magnificent view opens towards the south, with Mount Nuollá rising behind the canyon. The lift and Rihtonjira waterfall are visible on the slopes, with the lift station on the lower summit.

Duckboards have been built on the east side of the canyon in the wettest areas, and a natural trail winds along the canyon's edge. You could also continue the path to the left onto the rocks, offering a fantastic viewpoint. The sandy road leads to the shore of Lake Torneträsk.

On the east side of the canyon, there are no guardrails, and the ground may be muddy and slippery, especially after rain. It may not be a good idea to venture too close to the edge with a selfie stick.

Towards the end of the route, the roar of the canyon begins to fade. The ground may be somewhat marshy in places as you pass a small cabin. After the cabin, you reach the museum courtyard. An egg-shaped stone and a cross indicate that you are walking on a pilgrimage trail. A few spirited steps along the sandy road, and you have already returned to the underpass tunnel.

Passing through the tunnel allows you to explore the south side of the road. Under the bridge, you can walk right to the water's edge to watch the cascades of the river Abiskojåkka and the water rushing into the foamy, dark tunnel. A short detour along Kungsleden along the riverbank is definitely worth it – the impressive rugged river valley continues for a long way!


Abisko Map & Information (Swedish National Parks)

Abisko Canyon Trail

  • Destination: Abisko, Norrbotten, Lapland, Sweden
  • Distance: 1.6 km / 1 mile
  • Difficulty: easy
  • When to go: year-round destination
  • Duration: 30 min

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