The Nordkalottruta is an 800 km long trail that spans Finland, Norway, and Sweden. It goes by different names: in Norway it is known as the Nordkalottruta, in Sweden it is known as the Nordkalottleden, and Finland it is known as Kalottireitti. Because the whole trail is well above the Arctic circle, it is also known as the Arctic trail (not to be confused with the Arctic circle trail, which is in Greenland).
The Northern terminus of the trail is in Kautokeino (Guovdageaidnu in the Sami language) in Finland. There are two options for the Southern terminus: Sulitjelma in Norway or Kvikkjokk in Sweden.
In the second half of August 2022, we hiked a roughly 300 km section of the Nordkalottruta. Originally we planned to hike Southbound from Kilpisjärvi in Finland to Ritsem in Sweden. However, once we reached Gautelishytta we changed plan and hiked out via Katterat to avoid flooded trails between Røysvatn and Ritsem and to deal with a foot injury.
This blog gives a detailed day-by-day report of the hike with maps and photos, and also some other practical tips at the end.
Full photo album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brijsman/albums/72177720306579888
Day 1: Kilpisjärvi to Gappohytta (13 August 20)
From the dock of the Kilpisjärven Retkeilykeskus hotel we took the Malla boat (which, in high season, leaves at 10am and 3pm, costs 35 Euro, and takes 30 minutes) to the other side of the lake and started our hike towards Gappohytta. We soon passed the popular three country cairn and not long after the Goldahytta. The trail was well marked with red dots or red letters T on rocks or trees. Muddy sections were mostly covered by boardwalks and all in all it was a very easy and enjoyable hike. We stopped briefly just before the Gappohytta to enjoy the beautiful landscape: waterfalls, a canyon and huge boulders. This was our first stay in a Norwegian hut and it was more than we could have dreamt off: super cozy, a fireplace with plenty of wood, buckets with fresh drinking water, candles, a fully equipped kitchen including a stove with gas, bunkbeds with down comforters and pillows (though it’s obligatory to bring bedsheets or a sleeping bag). We learnt that the huts are maintained by volunteers; an amazing job and a such haven when you are hiking in inclement weather! You can dry your clothes, eat your meal by candlelight, and you are protected from rain, wind or snow. More practical information about the huts at the end of this blog.
Distance 18 km, elevation gain 507 m
Gappohytta webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/101114/gappohytta
Day 2: Gappohytta to camping spot before Rostahytta via Isdalen (14 August 2022)
After a restful night we took off the next morning towards Rostahytta. We had two options here: the high route via Isdalen or the lower, easier route via Pältsa Fjällstuga. Since the weather looked promising, we choose the high route through Isdalen, the wilder and more beautiful option. There was no snow on the trail anymore (only some snow higher up on the mountains) and the views were stunning. Since we were hiking in August, the river crossings didn’t cause any problems although our Crocs did come in handy 😁. The weather cleared up completely and we decided to camp a couple of kilometers before the the hut next to a small lake and right below a huge waterfall.
Distance 15 km, elevation gain 404 m
Camping spot location: Lat: 68.960966 Lon: 20.081591
Rostahytta hut webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/101061/rostahytta
Day 3: Rostahytta to Dærtahytta (15 August 20)
This was another beautiful section which took us extra long since we stopped many times to eat the delicious cloudberries along the way. Most of it is easy and almost flat, but the last section towards the Daertahytta is quite rocky and long, and since it had started to rain it took us more than a couple of hours to navigate this approximately 6 km stretch. The big hut at Daertahytta is brand new and almost looks more like 5 star accommodation than a mountain hut!
Distance 19.5 km, elevation gain 707 m
Hut webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/101118/drtahytta
Day 4: Dærtahytta to Dividalshytta (16 August)
The day started out sunny but heavy rain was in the forecast. We left Daertahytta early, hoping that we could make quite some kilometers before the rain would start. In itself this was an easy section and just as most other sections, gorgeous, but very muddy. A word of advice: when trying to find your way through the swamps, use your pole and don’t lean on it until you know the depth of the mud pools. Tecla sank waist deep into the mud and there are quite a few entries in the hut logbook from people who met the same fate 😯. Once we reached the high plateau, the rain caught up with us, but luckily we still had visibility and could still admire the beautiful surroundings and a rainbow close to Dividalshytta.
Distance 23.8 km, elevation gain 826 m
Hut webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/10659/dividalshytta
Day 5: Dividalshytta to Vuomahytta (17 August 2022)
The first part of the day was beautiful. We followed a trail on the edge of a large canyon with fantastic views of the wild river and waterfalls deep below. After we crossed the bridge over a side river it started to rain. Suddenly, the path, while still clear, was not marked with red dots anymore and became extremely muddy. It winded its way through birch forests and bushes. It was very time consuming to find our way. In retrospect, we think that we may not have followed the official path. We were always at least 200 meters from the river but some maps (e.g. AllTrails.com) trail much closer to the river. Maybe we missed a split. We did eventually end up back on the marked trail. Once we turned left to start the last climb up to the Vuomahytta, we left mud and trees behind us and entered beautiful alpine country again. At the very end, the sun even made an appearance to to accompany us for the last bit.
Distance 18.3 km, elevation gain 524 m (according to the map, there is also a trail closer to the river which may be better)
Hut webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/10389/vuomahytta
Day 6: Vuomahytta to Gaskashytta (18 August 2022)
This section is marvelous high country. We took our time, enjoying the sun. The tundra was dotted with lakes and surrounded by mountains from which waterfalls came tumbling down. We arrived at the very cozy Gaskashytta with a bit of an issue: unfortunately Bruno’s Italian hiking boots could not withstand the Norwegian mountains and his sole came off. We didn’t think that a temporary fix with ducktape would do the trick, so we decided to hike out at Innset to see if we could buy new shoes.
Distance 17 km, elevation gain 345 m
Hut webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/101066/gaskashytta
Day 7: Gaskashytta to Innset, exit to Setermoen (19 August 2022)
The hike grom Gaskashytta to Insset was only a couple of easy hours from. Once in Innset we hitchhiked to Setermoen (there is almost no traffic, but we got a very lucky break). Bardu Sports, the local sports store, had a surprisingly good and wide selection of shoes (and lots of other hiking and sports gear, including freeze dried food). Within no time Bruno was the owner of a pair of Crispi hiking boots (a Norwegian brand), which he absolutely loves and which he has been unable to destroy so far. We decided to stay in Setermoen for the night and stayed at the Bardu hotel, a wonderful family hotel with a very good restaurant. The owner suggested that we hike up through the canyon to Lappjordhytta instead of backtracking to Innset so we decided to do so.
Distance 9.9 km, elevation gain 164 m
Bardu hotel webpage: https://www.barduhotell.no/
Day 8: Setermoen to Lappjordhytta via Canyon (20 August 2022)
There was rain in the afternoon weather forecast, so again an early start. The trail along the canyon was beautiful, flat, and easy with great views of the river and canyon. We very much enjoyed our “stroll” along the river. The ascent up to the high country at the end of the valley is quite steep in the beginning. After the initial climb you gradually ascend to an alpine plateau where the rain accompanied us. Tip: at a certain point there is a sign in Norwegian pointing you to a hanging bridge; follow the first sign you see. We didn’t, we followed the second sign and had to descend quite a bit to reach the bridge. Despite the rain the high plateau was still beautiful and we arrived in good spirits at the Lappjordhytta where we spent a wonderful evening with fellow hikers.
Distance 14.6 km, elevation gain 634 m
Lappjordhytta webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/10391/lappjordhytta
Day 9: Lappjordhytta to Abisko (21 August 2022)
The hike to Abisko was kind of long with a lot ups and downs. Probably the perspective of a shower, some nice food and a beer did make it seem extra long. For the last seven kilometeres we followed a wide, grassy trail (unfortunately wedged in by the road and railroad) but it means that we could make good speed. We arrived at the Bjørkliden train station where we took the train to Abisko and checked in at the wonderful Abisko Mountain Lodge. Superb food, super friendly staff and a very cozy ambience: all that one can wish for after nine days in the mountains.
Distance 16.4 km, elevation gain 446 m
Hotel website: https://abiskomountainlodge.se/?lang=en
Day 10: Resupply day in Abisko / Narvik (22 August 2022)
Once in Abisko, we found out that the resupply package with freeze dried meals that we had mailed from Tromsø in Norway to Abisko Turiststation had gotten stuck in the Swedish customs. So we decided to stay an extra day in Abisko and make a day trip by train to Narvik to buy resupplies and new maps in the excellent store Sportscentret in Narvik.
Day 11: Abisko to camping spot after Abiskojaure (23 August 2022)
With fresh energy and a backpack full of yummy food we took off on a beautiful but windy and cold morning. The Nordkalottruta leaves from the Abisko Turiststation, so we took an early morning bus from Abisko Östra (you could hike as well, an additional 3 km). The first couple of days on this section of the Nordkalottruta coincide with the famous Kungsleden. After having had the trail to ourselves for the first part, we were mentally prepared for crowds of people. We had heard stories of hundreds of people on the trail and even having difficulties to find a camping spot. Since schools had started and many people had finished their holidays, it was far less busy than we had feared. We met many hikers (about 50-100 per day) but we could always find beautiful, secluded campsites. And it was nice to have people to chat with once in a while. The hike along the river to Abiskojaure is nice and easy so we made good time and arrived around 3pm at Abiskojaure. Since the wind had really picked up we decided to camp at the river crossing a couple of kilometers past the hut where we would still have the protection of a little birch forest.
Distance 16.5 km, elevation gain 528 m
Camping spot location: Lat: 68.260900 Lon: 18.579833
Day 12: Camping spot after Abiskojaure to camping spot after Alesjaure (24 August 2022)
We woke up to a sunny and beautiful day. We got an early start and had breakfast at a little alpine lake instead of at our tent in the forest. The weather was stunning and so were the views: wide, open alpine tundras with snow-covered mountains in the background. After more or less 10 km we reached a very large lake whose shore we followed all the way to the Alesjaure hut. From the mouth of the lake you can even opt to take a ferry that stops close by the hut (the ferry schedule is posted at the Abisko Turiststation, at the Abiskojaure hut, and at the lake itself). The hike along the lake was quite pleasurable: not too difficult, not too interesting, but definitely enjoyable because of the sun. At Alesjaure we treated ourselves to a beer. Looking at all our fellow hikers, it must have been the best selling item of the day! Alesjaure is spacious, looks brand new, and is built in a stunning location. It looked like many people had changed their mind and stayed the night, either in the hut or at the campsite. We continued for another 5 kilometers and camped in a magnificent spot along the river with only the company of some curious reindeer.
Distance 22.2 km, elevation gain 634 m
Camping spot location: Lat: 68.107348 Lon: 18.338928
Day 13: Camping spot after Alesjaure to camping spot after Sälka (25 August 2022)
Another sunny day, we could hardly believe our luck! We took off, passed Tjäktajaure hut and continued to make our way to the pass. The trail was quite rocky and boggy but fortunately, boardwalks had been put in place to cross the biggest bogs. Along the whole Nordkalottleden, the passes are generally fairly easy with modest altitude gain. So it was with the Tjäktja pass: we arrived at the saddle in no time to enjoy our lunch and the views. We descended into the next valley where the going became slower due to all the stones and rocks. There seemed to be no end to it and we prepared ourselves mentally that they would continue all the way to the hut, which was more or less true. We made a quick stop at the Sälkajaure hut and continued for a couple of kilometers to once again find a beautiful, secluded camping spot with incredible views.
Distance 22.9 km, elevation gain 502 m
Camping spot location: Lat: 67.923896 Lon: 18.284425
Day 14: Camping spot after Sälka to camping spot after Hukejaure (26 August 2022)
It’s difficult to not talk in superlatives since this is a spectacular hike. Despite quite some rocks and mud, the beauty takes your breath away. So also with this section 🤩. After 2 km we left the Kungsleden and turned west into a valley heading back towards Norway. Suddenly, the crowds were gone and we were completely alone again, accompanied only by the sun. We followed the mountain slopes high above the river, ever so slowly because we encountered quite some mud that made the trail invisible in many places. What made it even more complicated was that people had left many cairns at different altitudes. We kept zigzagging on the slopes above the river; quite an exhausting ordeal. At one point we decided to put the river crossing point into the GPS and just aim for that. At the crossing, our feet, tired from all the mud walking and rock hopping, really appreciated the refreshingly cold water. After the crossing, we slowly started to ascend and soon we arrived at a beautiful alpine plateau. The landscape, filled with rocky mountains and little lakes, was stark, desolate and majestic. We took our time, especially since this was supposedly the last sunny day. After getting an updated weather forecast on our InReach confirming a quiet night, we find a nice campsite at the end of the day instead of heading to Hukejaure.
Distance 22 km, elevation gain 550 m
Camping spot location: Lat: 67.985586 Lon: 17.928335
Day 15: Camping spot after Hukejaure to Gautelishytta (27 August 2022)
We woke up to rain so we donned our rain gear and took off. We had to take extra care with the rocks and stones since they have become slippery with the rain. Unfortunately, Tecla’s feet had started to develop an injury from the heavy pack and the long days, and the terrain was definitely not improving it. After what felt like an eternity we reached the Gautelishytta where we enjoyed a fire and some soup. At Gautelishytta we made the decision to head north towards Katterat instead of continuing south towards Ritsem (which was our original destination) on the Nordkalottleden. There were a few factors that made us decide that. One: we had recently learned that we would arrive at Vaisaluokta too late for the last scheduled boat or helicopter to Ritsem (both stop on 4 September). Two: We had planned to solve this problem by hiking the Gränsleden trail from Røsvatnhytta to Ritsem, but the STF in Ritsem had warned us that some sections of the Gränsleden trail were flooded with one meter of water. Also, the hut logbook in Gautelishytta contained recent entries describing unusual high water levels and flooding after Røsvatnhytta. There is a 50 km section without any huts or shelters, and we did not relish the thought of doing that in deep mud. The third and final straw was that Tecla’s foot injury was worsening. The trail north towards Katterat consisted of short 12 km sections whereas the trail south to Ritsem had long 25+ km sections. The cherry on the cake was that we had heard that the section from Gautelishytta to Katterat through the Narvik mountains was very beautiful (which, indeed, it was).
Distance 8 km, elevation gain 114 m
Hut webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/10396/gautelishytta
Day 16: Gautelishytta to Cáihnavággihytta (28 August 2022)
The next day we took off in rain and wind and started to climb up slowly towards the pass at about 1200 meters. Right from the get-go it was quite rocky. As we kept ascending towards the pass, the rain and wind increased in ferocity and the rocks became increasingly big and challenging. Soon it reached the level of silliness. For what seemed to be endless kilometers, the terrain changed into a huge field of boulders, each up to 2 or 3 meters big. They stretched as far as we could see in any direction. Progress became painfully slow as we spent hours and hours scrambling over the boulders. The driving rain and wind had made the boulders very slippery, which made jumping from boulder to boulder none the easier. Especially not with a foot injury. Due to the poor visibility it was sometimes challenging to locate the trail. We kinda lost track of time and just kept on ploughing through. After leaving the rockiest part behind us after what seemed like an eternity and rock-hopping across a final fast-flowing river, we finally arrived at Cáihnavággihytta, exhausted. What was supposed to be an easy 12 km turned out to be anything but.
Distance 12 km, elevation gain 457 m
Hut webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/10967/caihnavaggihytta
Day 17: Cáihnavággihytta to Cunojávrihytta (29 August 2022)
The day started out quite nice and with new courage. I mean, it couldn’t be as bad as yesterday, right? 🤪 Indeed, we left the rock fields behind us in exchange for green tundras with alpine lakes, which was a welcome change. We followed a big river, which -according to the Cáihnavággihytta hut book- had a bridge crossing. That left us with only 2 river fords for the day. We slowly descended and enjoyed the gentle surroundings. We crossed the bridge and started to make our way over a wide and open tundra, fording the 2 rivers. Surprisingly fast we saw the Cunojávrihytta. When we opened the door of the smallest hut we could hardly believe it: a big picture window with a view of the lake and mountains, a lazy chair and a comfortable couch. It felt more like a first class resort than a mountain hut! We installed ourselves and just as most other nights, no other hikers turned up, so again we had the hut to ourselves.
Distance 13.5 km, elevation gain 158 m
Cunojávrihytta webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/10395/cunojavrihytta
Day 18: Cunojávrihytta to Hunddalshytta (30 August 2022)
The day’s beginning was quite easy and straightforward. Down a lovely valley and which turned into another valley. Halfway we had lunch at the adorable Ollavaggihytta (we thought it was just an emergency shelter but it was actually a small two person hut). We continued on to the last bit, or so we thought. A few hundred meters past the hut we could choose between hiking straight to Katterat or first to the Hunddalshytta and then on to Katterat. We didn’t have the trail that goes straight to Katterat on any of our paper or electronic maps so we chose the route via Hunddalshytta. This route took us high over the mountains and was absolutely breathtaking. The weather was not the best but luckily we were used to that by now so we were in an excellent mood and enjoyed the beauty around us. Waterfalls, snowfields, rocky mountains that seem polished, and lots of little lakes. Suddenly we saw the dam. We quickly descended, crossed under the dam, and walked the final 1 km to the hut. Here we were welcomed by a sweet American couple who had already lit the fire and some candles.
Distance 19.6 km, elevation gain 407 m
Hut webpage: https://ut.no/hytte/10395/cunojavrihytta
Day 19: Hunddalshytta to Katterat station, train to Abisko (31 August 2022)
The last 10 km to the Katterat train station were along a service road, so we arrive in Katterat with plenty of time left to catch the train to Narvik.
Distance 10.9 km, elevation gain 81 m
The Norwegian Tourist Association (DNT) website covers the Norwegian sections of the Nordkalottruta. It contains overview maps, detailed trail information, and detailed hut information. You can book and pay for Norwegian huts and become a DNT member online or using a phone app.
The Swedish Tourist Association (SFT) website covers the Kungsleden sections of the Nordkalottruta (which they call the Nordkalottleden). It contains an overview of the Abisko section of the Kungsleden trail, detailed hut information, and an overview maps of huts with shops.
If you hike the Padjelanta section of the Nordkalottleden, you should know that the huts on this section are managed by the Sami villages and not the SFT. They have different opening times and prices. See the Padjelanta Laponia Tourism website for more details.
The Finnish national park service website covers the Finnish sections of the Nordkalottruta (which they call the Kalottireitti). It contains maps, section summaries, and hut details.
The European E1 long distance trail is 8000 km long and goes all the way from the Northern tip of Norway (Nordkapp) to the Southern tip of Italy (Capo Passero). The Nordkalottruta is part of the E1. The E1 website has a good overview maps of the North, Central, and South sections of Nordkalottruta.
Trailindo has a useful interactive online map of the Nordkalottleden.
Wikivoyage has a detailed section on the Nordkalottleden.
We found a few blogs about hiking all or parts of the Nordkalottleden:
- Backpackingbongos: Above the Arctic circle – trekking in Swedish Lapland (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, shakedown and photos).
- Tursinden: Nordkalottruta trip report.
- The Yamo: Notes for Nordkalottleden / Nordkalottruta / Kalottireitti
- Lustwandler: a detailed trip report including the Gränsleden trail, which is the alternative route from Røysvatn to Ritsem along the north side of the lake, but which we ended up not taking because it was flooded.
- Caersbart.be: Kungsleden – Abisko – Nikkaluokta.
- My Wanderful Life: Trekking tour in Lapland, crossing borders on Nordkalottleden and Gränsleden.
There are few books about the Nordkalottleden (none in English, as far as we know).
- Fjällvandra Nordkalottleden : en komplett guide till samtliga etapper från. Only available in Norwegian and only in print (not ebook) but very good with lots of photos and detailed information.
- Nordskandinavien – Der Wanderführer: Nordkalottleden, Kungsleden, Padjelantaleden. German.
- Outdoor. Skandinavien: Nordkalottleden. German.
Getting from Tromsø to Kilpisjärvi
As of September 2022, there is one daily bus from Tromsø to Kilpisjärvi in the early morning.
Getting out of Katterat
As of September 2022, there are two daily trains from Katterat to Abisko and beyond in Sweden and two daily trains to Narvik in Norway. See vy.se for the current train schedule.
The hut systems
One of the great surprises of hiking the Nordkalottleden is that you can stay often sleep in a very comfortable hut. Although these huts are located in very remote locations, often several days walking from the nearest town, they are surprisingly luxurious, particularly the Norwegian ones.
The Norwegian huts are amazing and put the hut system in any other country to shame.
Each location typically has two or three separate huts plus a separate building for wood and toilets. Each hut typically has two or three separate bed rooms, each with four to six bunk beds. The bunk beds have very comfortable and clean mattresses, duvet covers, and pillows – it is mandatory to use a sleeping bag or liner for hygiene reasons. They have a wood burning stove with plenty of wood to heat the cabin and dry your wet clothes. There is a kitchen with a gas stove (you do not need to bring your own gas) and cooking utensils: not just pots and pans and forks and knives, but even cups and wine glasses. The large common room always has a dining table with chairs, and usually also very comfortable couches.
There are several ways to pay for the huts. You can book and pay online in advance. You can use a phone app to pay before or after your stay (there is typically no coverage at the huts). You can pay by bank transfer or sometimes PayPal after your stay. They Norwegian huts operate on the honor system. When you enter the hut, you enter your details in the “protocol book” and when you pay afterwards you refer to the hut and the protocol book entry number.
Swedish huts on the Northern section
We passed several Swedish huts on our hike, but we did not stay in any of them (we always camped in our tent on the Swedish sections).
We passed one unmanned Swedish hut a few km after Lappjordhytta; it was unlocked and usable but very shabby (see photo in day 9 below). We don’t know whether all unmanned Swedish huts are of this low standard.
The huts on the Kungsleden section of the hike are managed (they have a care taker) and they have small shops and often saunas. They are large and utilitarian but are expensive and lack the charm of the Norwegian huts. Since the Kungsleden is very popular and can be very busy, pre-booking is highly recommended.
The Swedish huts are expensive: a bunkbed in a shared room in a hut on the Kungsleden costs 500 SEK per adult per night for STF members (600 SEK for non-members). The cost for camping close to a hut and using the hut services is 250 SEK (350 SEK for non-members). Wild camping (more than 150 meters away from the hut) is free. Not that you are not allowed to camp within the boundaries of Abisko national park, i.e. not between Abisko Turiststation and several km after Abiskojaure hut. See this page for more details on Swedish hut pricing and payments.
Unlike the Norwegian huts, the Swedish huts are not open year round: most of them are closed between early to mid September.
We always wild camped on the Kungsleden section, so we don’t have any first-hand experience with staying in Swedish huts.
Swedish huts on the Southern section
We did not hike the Southern section of the Nordkalottleden, but if you are, you should be aware that the Swedish huts on this section are managed by Sami and not by the STF.
What a great hike!