The Arctic Trail (Nordkalottleden)
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Arctic Circle Trail is in Greenland, while The Arctic Trail is in Finland, Norway and Sweden.
Duration: About 45 days to do the full trail
Max Altitude: 1,328m (Halti in Finland)
Starting Point: Sulitjelma
Ending Point: Kvikkjokk
This trail is absolutely incredible, both in terms of scenery and then enormity of the actual route. Doing the full route, you can expect to cross international borders 10 times. With the largest distance in Norway (380km), then 350km in Sweden and a much shorter 70km in Finland. In my books this is the very small European version of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Most people unfortunately don’t have 45 days spare to go on a trek but you can start the trail at any point and end it any point so don’t let the duration put you off this iconic trail.
The 6 BEST Things To Know About This High Altitude Trek
The best time of year to go is summer (May, June, July, August).
The trail is not super well marked in some areas so take a map and compass with you. You can easily order them online.
You will have to cross-rivers at certain points. This can be challenging depending on the river levels that can rise because of melting snow. Be prepared to take alternative routes.
Remember, although this is not a super high altitude trail, it is still high altitude and high in the Northern Hemisphere and what more, predominantly in mountain terrain. All of that means the weather can change very, very quickly so pack accordingly.
At each cabin, be sure to write a little note and say when you arrived and where you are going next. Cell reception is limited on this trail and leaving a note behind you at each cabin is one way of keeping safe and leaving a bread trail if anything goes wrong.
There are over 50 places to stay along the Arctic Trail, making it a fantastic option for those who prefer cabins and huts to tents and wild camping. Many of the huts are unlocked and unmanned sleeping a limited number of people so prepare to squeeze in and still pack a tent. Some of the cabins are further than a day a part meaning you will need to wild camp on some nights. Some of the huts and cabins require a standard DNT key to unlock them so make sure to pack a couple of those.
What I love about this trail is the uncertainty and pure adventure of it. Despite being able to plan a lot of the route, you are still faced with certain factors that make it a pure and spontaneous adventure – river crossing, weather, not so well marked areas and the varied distance between cabins.
If you’re looking for adventure – this is it!
This is a big undertaking and if you are considering doing it then you need put just as much time into your training as you will planning it.