Sweden is a wonderland for hikers. In Sweden’s you will find nearly 400 hiking trails that criss-cross the country, clearly marked and dotted with 350 well-maintained hostels, mountain stations and huts. These are run and maintained by the excellent STF - a great resource for hikers and others visiting Sweden’s great outdoors.
The Padjelanta trail
At a length of 150 kilometre in the far northwest corner of Sweden, between the villages of Kvikkjokk and Ritsem, this is both one of Sweden’s most beautiful trails and a unique cultural experience.
The name Padjelanta means "highland" in the local Sami language, and the trail passes through several summer settlements of the Sami people and the grazing grounds of their reindeer.
Highlights include tasting the smoked arctic char – a delicacy that abounds in the lakes up here – as well as a visit to the turf church in the Sami village of Staloluokta, complete with wooden altar and reindeer hides instead of pews.
If you come in early July, you might even be lucky enough to witness the age-old tradition of the marking of the reindeer calves under the midnight sun. Count on ten days to complete the trail, or, if you’re pressed for time, take a helicopter to Staloluokta and hike out in 4-5 days to the trailhead. While it may be possible to buy some very basic foodstuffs en route, it’s better to carry your own supplies.
Sweden’s most famous trail, and a knee-jarring 440-km long, much of the Kungsleden ('The Royal Trail') lies above the Arctic Circle. The most popular section lies between the villages of Abisko and Nikkaluokta, with many hikers also opting to summit Sweden’s highest peak, Kebnekaise (2,117 metres) as part of a week-long route.
However, a beautiful, shorter section, is the 81-km stretch between Saltoluokta and Kvikkjokk, which takes 4-5 days. A good option en route is spending two nights in the small settlement of Aktse, where the Swedish Tourist Association operates overnight cabins.
It’s a wonderfully soothing place on the edge of Sarek national park – often cited as Western Europe’s last wilderness. Another must do is a walk up to the prominent cliff-like peak of Skierffe. From the summit, the south face plummets precipitously into a river delta, with the bird’s eye view being one of the most breathtaking anywhere in Scandinavia.
If you’re looking for fewer trekkers, the 166-km stretch heading south from Kvikkjokk is well off the beaten track. Some of the larger huts on the trail stock food provisions, but they tend to be expensive and there is a limited selection as everything has to be helicoptered in.
The Vasalopp Trail
The Vasalopp Trail in central Sweden in the province of Dalarna is also a great option for hikers. This trail is also famous for the “Vasalopp” ski event every year. So if you’re coming in spring, summer and autumn you can hike it, or in wintertime you can cross-country ski it.
Höga Kusten trail
Sweden’s only long-distance coastal trail passes through a land that is still rising: getting higher by nearly one centimetre per year – the land here has risen some 300 metres since the ice age. As such, the 'High Coast' in the County of Västernorrland is one of the world’s most prominent examples of land uplift.
Skuleskogen national park is arguably the jewel along the Höga Kusten trail’s 130-km length. Extensively shaped by glaciation, the park is characterised by stony peaks rising out of the Gulf of Bothnia, separated by ravines. The park also boasts a 40-metre high narrow rock canyon.
The trail starts in Hornöberget in the south and stretches to Örnsköldsvik in the north. It’s possible to hike the trail in a week or to complete it in sections. Located close to the E4 highway, it’s also easy to access by car.
While most associate Sweden’s best trekking with the north of the country, the south also has plenty to offer. Collectively known as Skåneleden and located in Sweden’s southernmost county, the trail actually consists of four designated routes that total over 1,000 km in length.
Criss-crossing Skåne from coast to coast as well as from north to south, the trails can be divided into many smaller day trips or week-long treks. Close to the city of Lund, the southern part of the North-South trail passes Skåne’s oldest national park, Dalby Söderskog, which is famed for its deciduous forests and rich birdlife.
The Upplandsleden is situated close to Stockholm and Uppsala and is perfect for day getaways as well as staying overnight in cabins. About 400 kilometres long, the trail passes predominantly through pine-scented forests, but also through sleepy bucolic villages and farms complete with windmills.