The fjelds cover a vast expanse, and conditions vary greatly along the length of the range. Some areas are very high and jagged, whereas others are mostly flat and open. Some are traversed in all directions by a multitude of trails between manned cottages and see thousands of visits each year, whereas others are more neglected and offer neither aids nor company. Some are remote and require a higher level of experience, whereas others are easily accessible and place no particular demands on prospective visitors – and all of them have something unique and valuable to offer. Here are some brief overviews of a selection of areas, ordered from north to south, as well as a few major trails.
The images below show the location of the areas described in this section, in relation both to each other and to the countries of Sweden and Norway. For interactive versions and a representation of the trails, please refer to the Map section of the site, which is also the source of the colors used here.
This term, which means Alps of Abisko, is not very strictly defined – it is usually applied to the line of fjelds directly south of Abisko proper, but sometimes the massifs to the west in the direction of Riksgränsen are included as well. In either case the name as such is a bit surprising as the fjelds in question are not very Alp-like at all.
Using the former definition there are no trails in this area, but Kungsleden skirts its western edge and the valleys of Šiellavággi, Ballinvággi, Nissonvággi and Čuonjávággi – the last of which is more popularly known as Lapporten (Lapp Gate) – provide easy routes through the massifs and contitute well-utilized alternatives to Kungsleden and the forests of Abisko National Park in the northwest. The vale of Aliseatnu south of the ”alps” is very rich in osier, and presents an obstacle to be reckoned with for hikers trying for Rautasjaure or Mårma. Abiskoalperna is also a popular area for heliskiing, but non-motorized alpine skiing is common as well, especially on and around Čoamohas.
This area is comprised of the complex massif system between Visttasvággi and the vale of Aliseatnu, in which lie many high and pointed peaks and several large glaciers. The highest of these peaks is Godučohkka in the northwest at 1991 meters, which is purportedly the northernmost point of such altitude in Scandinavia. This is the peak one sees from Abiskojaure along the continuation of Kungsleden, but due to its location well beside the frequented trails it is very seldom climbed, while offering supreme views to those who make the attempt.
Southeast of Godučohkka lie the peaks from which the name Mårma derives (the names of the individual peaks have been subject to extensive changes between map revisions, so there is some confusion about what should be called what, and it is safest to refer to them by their height figures instead), and these are much worthy of note even though they do not reach as high. They are centered around two large glaciers, on the narrow ridge between which rise the striking shapes of Höktopparna (Hawk Peaks); these are among the sharpest formations in the Swedish fjelds, and belong to the handful of summits in the entire range that cannot be reached without outright climbing.
In the valley immediately east of this massif lies the small but cozy Mårma cabin, which is reachable by trail from the north. There is also an unofficial but often utilized route leading southwards over the so-called Mårma Pass to Vistas – an arduous passage. East of the cabin the massifs are more gently shaped, and the summits of Vierročohkka and Rássebávttáščohkka see very few visits even though the topography here is still interesting. South of those heights extends the large valley Leavášvággi, which offers an easy route to or from the central parts of Mårma for those who do not wish to make the Vistas climb.
The highest peak in Sweden, Giebmegáisi, is part of a well held-together area of alpine massifs, limited by the great valleys Láddjuvággi in the south, Čeakčavággi in the west, and Visttasvággi in the northeast. These are also the boundaries of the proposed Kebnekaise National Park, which is currently under consideration. Kungsleden runs through the aforementioned Čeakčavággi, and the other two valleys host frequented hiking trails as well, with places of accommodation all around.
The Nallo cottage and the Unna Räita cabin lie embedded in the northern parts of the area, and enjoy special repute due to the unusually sharp topography in the vicinity. There is also a shelter called Kaskavagge in the eastern part of Gaskkasvággi, which is one of a number of somewhat smaller valleys decidedly more narrow, stony and sterile in character that traverse the massifs, making it possible to go back and forth across the area for quite some time without actually having to climb over passes. That is certainly an alternative, though, and there is an informal and mostly unmarked route called Jojoleden (Yo-yo Trail) which does just that.
The Kebnekaise region is generally very alpine in appearance, with sharp and precipitous formations as well as quite a few glaciers. The Tarfala cottage is situated at the base of the glacier system of Giebmegáisi itself, together with a well-known glaciological research station monitoring said ice masses. The number of individual peaks is rather high for such a confined area, which gives it a wild look when viewed from an altitude.
The natural center point – even though it is in the outskirts of the borders defined above – is Kebnekaise fjeld station in Láddjuvággi, 19 km west of Nikkaluokta where the road from Kiruna ends, and from this place many an expedition to Giebmegáisi and its immediate neighbors have been mounted over the years. This is, after all, the highest fjeld region in the country, and since it is easily accessible it is also rather popular, although most people tend to stick to the trails in the surrounding valleys and content themselves with a guided tour to the South Peak of Giebmegáisi itself, which is technically easy (but physically exhausting) to reach.
Established in 1963, Padjelanta National Park is the largest national park in Sweden, and since 1996 it is part of the World Heritage Site Laponia. The name comes from the Lule Sámi word Badjelánnda, which means higher land, and this is precisely what the park is – it is almost entirely situated above the tree line. It is primarily constituted by a vast highland plateau centered around the two lakes Virihávrre and Vásstenjávrre, which are unusually large for natural bodies of water in the fjelds, between the Norwegian border and Sarek National Park. Most of this higher land consists of undulated meadowland and heathland, and what larger rises there are are in most cases neither very high nor alpine in character, but the proximity to Sarek with its line of sharp peaks makes for an appealing backdrop. The flora is diverse in the extreme considering the location, and the fauna is not bad either in that regard.
The terrain is ideal for reindeer grazing so it is not surprising that Badjelánnda is a traditional grazing area for the local Sámi, who belong to the three Sámi villages Sirges, Jåhkågasska and Duorbun, and therefore there are a number of encampments all situated by the central lakes. The most widely known one is Stáloluokta at the southeastern bay of Virihávrre, which is not without reason itself often called the most beautiful lake in Sweden. These Sámi have formed an organization called Badjelánnda Laponia Turism (BLT) that nowadays runs the tourist cottages within the borders of the park, which were previously maintained by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the County Administration of Norrbotten. Between these cottages goes the well-known hiking trail Padjelantaleden between Kvikkjokk and Ritsem, which traverses the park. Dogs are not permitted in Padjelanta, except for the period 1 January—30 April when they are allowed entrance provided that they are leashed.
Just southeast of the lake Rissájávrre close to the border of Sarek lies the Swedish center of inaccessibility, which is the point where one is farthest away from any car road in all directions – the closest one is about 47 km away. It should, however, be noted that the actual inaccessibility of this spot is not very high, as Padjelantaleden and the Tuottar cottage site are not even 5 km off. If one really is after isolation, one should consider going beyond the trails on the western side of the great lakes, close to the border to Norway. This area is very botanically interesting, and here one is almost guaranteed to be alone.
In Sweden there is no region that beats Sarek National Park when it comes to sheer esteem, and one cannot deny that it is deserved. The park was among the first in Europe to see the light of day, officially decided upon in 1909 and established the year thereafter. It is the second largest in Sweden after Padjelanta, which lies immediately west of Sarek, and in 1996 it was also made part of the World Heritage Site Laponia. Sarek is a very alpine region with high, steep fjelds and around 100 glaciers, and a good many deep valleys stretch across the park in all directions; in some places the difference in altitude between the valley floor and the surrounding heights is as large as 1300 meters. The second highest peak of Sweden (discounting the North Peak of Giebmegáisi), Sarektjåhkkå, is situated here, as are five others of the country's summits above 2000 meters, and one also finds around 200 that reach above 1800 meters.
Most of Sarek is made up of treeless highland, but in the great valley of Rapadalen there is dense birch forest of the stunted fjeld variety, and nearly impassable osier thickets abound in many parts. Rapadalen is the artery of Sarek, extending from the southeast corner into the very heart of the park, and its central stream Ráhpaädno is the river of which the ratio between water content and area of precipitation is the highest in the country. As a large number of glaciers contribute silt to it it is thoroughly green-gray, and in a region called Rapaselet beneath the imposing Bielloriehppe massif much of this silt is deposited, creating a unique landscape frequently hailed as the most spectacular anywhere.
A little bit upstream from this place, where Sarvesvágge meets Rapadalen, lies an area that has been given the name Rovdjurstorget (Predator Square), since tracks of all the four large predators that exist in the wild in Sweden have been seen there: bear, wolverine, wolf and lynx. The elks in the park grow very large and have no instinctive fear of humans, and are often encountered in lower Rapadalen. Most of the other main valleys are covered in grass, which makes for a pleasing contrast to the dark mountainsides and the snow upon them.
Sarek was first explored methodically by the famous professor Axel Hamberg, starting in the end of the 19th century. There still are, however, no marked trails or overnight cabins, and save for the bit where Kungsleden makes a brief visit inside the borders of the park there are only three bridges (over Gådokjåhkå, Guhkesvákkjåhkå, and Smájllájåhkå at Skárjá) – every other stream must be forded, which at times is a difficult affair given that Sarek is the area that receives the most rain in Sweden. At Skárjá in the center of the park there is a small building with an assistance phone in it, but otherwise one is left to one's own devices. Due to the osier the terrain is rough at places, and even when water levels are generally low the many glacier streams can cause trouble.
Finally, Sarek is large and any serious attempt to traverse the park will require at least a week, and from its central parts it is a journey of several days before one reaches the nearest trail or other point of contact with the outside world. All in all, Sarek puts up a higher threshold for visitors than other areas, and novices are usually recommended against going unless in the company of more experienced hikers. Winter tours are of course even more demanding, and several of the valleys are steep and narrow enough that even at their bottom the risk for being swept away by an avalanche is to be reckoned with.
One should not exaggerate the risks and obstacles, however, and the intense grandeur of the landscape surely outweighs any and all necessary precautions and requirements for most people. There may not be actual trails, but through most of the larger valleys there are footpaths sprung from many years of visiting hikers, and during the height of the tourist season in summer there is an almost surprising amount of people about. Suitable starting points for a Sarek tour include Kvikkjokk in the south, Stáloluokta in the west (reachable by helicopter), Ritsem in the northwest, Suorva in the north, Saltoluokta in the northeast, Rinim in the east (reached by boat over Sijddojávrre from Sitojaure) and Aktse in the southeast (there is a ”shortcut” that leads there from Tjåmotis on the Kvikkjokk road). Note that dogs are only allowed between 1 January and 30 April (on Kungsleden around the year), and must be leashed.
South of Padjelanta and Sarek lie Kvikkjokksfjällen, named after the small village Kvikkjokk at the end of the car road from Jokkmokk. This area is very old in terms of fjeld tourism, and it was here that STF began its operations. Around Kvikkjokk itself there are deep primeval coniferous forests which in large parts are protected by nature reserves. They give way to leafed vegetation as one goes west, following Darrhaädno upstream into the lush valley Tarradalen.
Here the landscape is dominated by the steep Darregájsse massif – which despite its noteworthy height lacks glaciers – rearing its peaks directly above, and the instantly recognizable shape of Stájggá further west. In the latter direction the terrain gets rather stony, and northwest of the exceptionally clear lake Vájmok lies the mostly sterile Kallovaratjeh Nature Reserve, which is intended to preserve a number of tarns naturally devoid of fish. Just before the southern border of Padjelanta lie a series of sizeable lakes, and at the outflow of the largest of these – Råvejávrre – there is a natural stone bridge. Both Kungsleden, Padjelantaleden and Nordkalottleden pass through different parts of the area.
The fjelds within the municipality of Arjeplog are much less travelled than those in the bordering areas, even on Kungsleden itself. As for these fjelds as such, they are largely of a more modest character, with many wide plateaus and the like. However, in the northwest corner of the area lies the majestic Sulidälbmá massif, once believed to be the highest in Sweden, and continuing south along the Norwegian border there are more striking landscape features. The small Pieljekaise National Park is situated south of the car road passing through Arjeplog proper to Norway, and there are several woodland nature reserves.
While Arjeplogsfjällen may not be as popular for regular hiking or skiing as other parts of the fjelds, they are popular for fishing, and names like Laisälven and Miekak hold their own in such circles. In winter visitors can expect to encounter a good many snowmobiles, as there is a multitude of frequented trails intended for that method of transportation throughout the area.
The Vindelfjällen Nature Reserve, created in 1974 and expanded in 1988, is the largest nature reserve in Sweden, and one of the largest protected areas in Europe. Owing to its size, this area includes pretty much every type of nature, offering visitors a cross-section of sorts of Lapland – regardless of whether one prefers primeval forests, mires, heathland, lowland, highland or real mountains, one can find them here. Vindelälven, which is one of only four rivers in Sweden that remain untouched by hydroelectric exploitation, has its sources in the northwest corner of Vindelfjällen, and on its way to Ammarnäs it has gouged out a fairly narrow and lush valley called Vindelådalen, through which a marked trail runs between overnight cabins. Kungsleden passes between Ammarnäs and Hemavan, going by a number of cottage sites along its route, and there are several other trails and paths as well. The entire area has a long history of human habitation; 8000-year-old remnants have been found, and today many not quite so ancient cultural traces are to be seen in many places.
Just next to Ammarnäs lies the extensive Ammarfjället massif, which rises rather steeply from its surroundings but then flattens out appreciably, so the prominence of the actual peaks is not very high. The valley Skebleskalet cuts through Ammarfjället from northwest to southeast, and constitutes a popular off-the-beaten-path passageway. Southwest of this region lies the great basin of the elongated lake Tärnasjön, in the southern end of which the effects of the last ice age are prominently visible in the form of a remarkable archipelago of small islands. Continuing southwest one encounters Norra Storfjället, where the terrain suddenly turns alpine with high peaks and a few glaciers, including Norra Sytertoppen which is the highest peak in Västerbotten county at 1767 meters above sea level. The massif is cloven by the perfect U-shaped valley Syterskalet, the walls of which rise around 800 meters from its bottom.
On the western side of Umeälven – and the car road to Norway – lies Artfjället, where there are neither trails nor facilities of any kind. On the other hand its plant life is very rich, and there are several caves as well, and around Kåtaviken on the other side of Gaske Upmeje there is another extensive region of caves. Not many people choose to walk through the Artfjället area, so it is perfect for loners interested in botany. The southeast parts of Vindelfjällen where the forests spread out as the fjelds wane are not that frequented either, and here there are a few simple cabins. Beyond the marked trails north of Tärnasjön the terrain is more difficult, and in this region there are several Sámi encampments.
This region is basically a highland plateau from which two prominent massifs rise: Sylarna and Helags. The highest peak of the former – Storsylen – is situated on the Norwegian side of the national border, but the group is still the highest in the province of Jämtland. Helags is higher still: with its 1797 meters it is the highest peak in Sweden south of the Arctic Circle, and also the highest one in Jämtland county. Both massifs host smaller glaciers, and the Helags glacier is the southernmost in the country. For fjelds located as far south as these they are unusually sharp, which is a marked contrast to the vast plateau that extends between and to the east of them. Here, around the sources of Handölan, is one of few remaining habitats of the arctic fox, and projects are underway to save this endangered species from extinction.
Tourism has a long history in this area, and very early on STF turned its eyes towards Sylarna in particular; the Sylarna fjeld station in its various incarnations has long been a staple of the association, and of the fjelds of Jämtland. It is one of a number of comfortable housing facilities and trails that go right up into the lap of the massifs, also extending to the Norwegian side where the area is called Sylan. One very popular tour in both summer and winter is the Jämtland Triangle that goes between Storulvån, Sylarna and Blåhammaren, and when the tourist seasons are at their peak things can get very crowded in those places, as well as at the Helags fjeld station at the foot of the Helags massif. Close to Storulvån lies the Snasahögarna group, which like the more challenging Sylarna massif itself sees frequent visits from alpine skiers (no lifts, though).
Vålådalen is in essence a very large basin almost completely covered in forest, surrounded by fjelds of gentle shapes in most directions. The basin itself is the center of the Vålådalen Nature Reserve, which also includes parts of the aforementioned bordering fjelds, extending all the way to Handölan in the west. This places the entire Bunnerfjällen area east of Storulvån within the reserve, as well as that of Härjångsfjällen in the direction of Helags. In both of these one finds solitude as well as peaks of appreciable elevation, allowing for good alpine skiing conditions.
The Vålådalen fjeld station has made its mark on history as a place for elite exercise, but the atmosphere is relaxed just the same and is to be considered ”family friendly”, and just north of it lies Ottfjället which is easily climbed in both summer and winter. Trails run to and fro in the area, but the bulk of the woodland is for all intents and purposes wild; places of accommodation are to be found in the frontier between woods and fjelds.
An area of specific interest is that of Issjödalen in the northeast, where the ice age has left some rather peculiar marks in the terrain, including a large flat plateau and the formations known as Pyramiderna (Pyramids). The southern border of the reserve also cuts right through another interesting region called Lunndörrsfjällen, which consists of a series of long and deep parallel valleys. The only trail in these parts goes through Lunndörren itself, which is the easternmost of these valleys, and therefore the rest of the region has been ”forgotten” by most people. As a consequence one can expect to be alone most of the time if one decides to go for a camping tour here, which can turn into a prolonged affair if one intends to pass back and forth through all the valleys. Worth a mention are also the high Gåsen cottages on the southeastern slope of the fjeld with the same name in the western parts of the reserve, from where one has a magnificent wide view of Sylarna and Helags.
Situated within eyesight from the city of Östersund, Oviksfjällen constitute an easily accessible recreational area for the population of Jämtland. A car road leads to the Bydalsfjällen ski resort in the northern parts, but the main highland itself is reached on foot or on ski. Here the land mostly flows in soft curves, but Hundshögen above Arådalen in the southwest is a fjeld of appreciable height. Several trails crisscross the entire area, including the mere-riddled woodland and the adjacent fjelds northwest of Bydalen, but if one wants to find one's own way the terrain poses no particular problems. One trail leads from Höglekardalen through the lowlands via the Sámi settlement Hosjöbottnarna to Anaris and Vålådalen. The area is also host to several old fäbodvallar, remote grazing grounds that farmers moved their livestock to during the summer months in the olden days, some of which are still being cared for.
Also Oviksfjällen show clear evidence of glacial impact. The most conspicuous one is Dromskåran, which is a giant cleft in the fjeld Drommen south of Bydalen, carved by a violent release of the water masses of an ice lake thousands of years ago. Drommen and its surroundings also comprise the Bastudalen Nature Reserve, but otherwise the area is without special protection. Another place for ice age tourism is Dörrsjöarna in the central parts of Oviksfjällen, where one can observe a system of noteworthy moraine formations.
This trail is known far beyond the borders of Sweden, and its status makes it deserving of its name – The Royal Trail, or King's Trail. It is marked in both summer and winter and is around 425 kilometers long, running between Abisko in the north and Hemavan in the south. Sometimes the trails that go between Storlien in Jämtland and Sälen in Dalarna are collectively called Södra (Southern) Kungsleden, but this portion is not part of Kungsleden proper. The portions that are, however, cover a broad spectrum of terrain types, with everything from deep coniferous forests to the stony alpine grandeur of looming massifs. It is not too uncommon for hikers to walk the length of the trail, but it is often done over a period of several years, taking one section at a time, although some cover the entire distance in one tour. There are bridges over all the larger streams, and many of the smaller ones, and most marshy regions are crossed on duckboards.
The first stage south from Abisko goes through Abisko National Park, which is mostly made up of birch forest. Through Gárddenvággi the trail then ascends above the tree line, where it remains for a very long time. In Alisvággi the terrain grows stonier and more sterile, and a few kilometers south of the Tjäktja cottage Kungsleden reaches its highest point in the Tjäktja Pass, roughly 1100 meters above sea level. From there it descends into the vast Čeakčavággi, which despite being totally devoid of trees of any size is a very green valley. Here one passes close to Giebmegáisi, and at the Singi cottages many choose to turn east towards Kebnekaise fjeld station. Continuing south the valley extends for quite some distance yet, reaching a bit of sparse forest at Bajip Gáidumjávri from where Kungsleden climbs over the Muorki plateau to Dievssajávri which is crossed by boat, motorized or otherwise. Now inside Stora Sjöfallet National Park another climb to another, larger plateau follows, and then one descends into Sjöfallsdalen and the Vakkotavare cottage which lies right by the car road between Ritsem and Gällivare.
This road itself constitutes the next step, for it is necessary to travel along it by any suitable means (usually the regular bus) to Kebnats, wherefrom another boat tour across Láŋas brings hikers to Saltoluokta fjeld station. One is now outside Stora Sjöfallet National Park again, and the continued trip southwards (which involves two more boat transfers) goes close to the eastern border of Sarek – the trail itself mostly goes through lowland, but the westward vista is dramatic and enchanting. Between Aktse and Pårte Kungsleden actually goes in Sarek, but it only skirts the edge. Then follows a portion of dense primeval forest before one reaches Kvikkjokk and another car road. This whole section of Kungsleden, from Abisko to Kvikkjokk, constitutes the original route of the trail when it was first given its name back in 1928, and all along it accommodation is offered at comfortable intervals.
The following section, however, is decidedly more desolate and mainly consists of rolling woodland and plateaus. There are only a few cabins, shelters or huts so a tent is required, and the number of hikers diminishes radically. One starts off with another boat tour across Sakkat to Mallenjarka, from where the trail climbs towards the Lastak Sámi encampment, close to which the small Tsielekjåkk cabin lies. Next it passes by two more Sámi encampments as well as the settlement Västerfjäll before it starts a steep climb to Tjäurakåtan. It then continues to climb onto a long ridge, on the other side of which some crisscrossing between a number of smaller lakes leads to Vuonatjviken, from where one goes by boat over the lake Riebnes. A short but high grassy plateau follows and then one finds oneself in Saudal by the shore of Hornavan.
From there boat transfer to Jäkkvik used to be offered, but nowadays the trail has been extended a few kilometers to the southwest to the western end of Tjårvekallegiehtje, where rowing boats allow for passage. On the other side there is a wind shelter by the shore, from where the new trail stretch continues past Jäggávrre to Jäkkvik. After crossing the car road Kungsleden then ascends steadily into Pieljekaise National Park, just inside the border of which there is an open cabin, and on the other side of the park lies Adolfsström. The remaining portion to Ammarnäs is mostly flat and easy, and about halfway there is a shelter at Sjnjultje – this used to be an actual overnight cabin, but after it burnt down it was rebuilt in a more simple form.
One has now entered the large Vindelfjällen Nature Reserve (and exited it again, as Ammarnäs itself is situated in a wedge that cuts into the reserve), the passage of which is the final section of Kungsleden – and here the STF cottages reappear. It starts off by going straight up through the forest to the Aigert cottage just above the tree line, and shortly thereafter passes the second-highest point after the Tjäktja Pass. It then descends through more forest and undulated lowland into the basin of Tärnasjön, the eastern shore of which it follows to the archipelago in the southern end. Here a famous series of bridges known as the Golden Gate of Vindelfjällen brings hikers across the network of islets, and after another short climb the alpine shapes of Norra Storfjället appear in full. Kungsleden finishes its run by passing through the appropriately grand valley of Syterskalet and then finally goes down to Hemavan, circumventing the ski slopes at the end.
This is another popular trail that goes between Kvikkjokk and Ritsem, traversing Padjelanta National Park. From the south it is at least two days before one enters the park, and from the north at least one. All along the trail there are cottage sites, but the ones inside the park are not manned in winter (except for Easter), and there are no winter trail markers. In summer there are regular helicopter tours between Kvikkjokk and Stáloluokta, and Stáloluokta and Ritsem (including Kutjaure). Also here bridges of various kinds have been constructed over all major and most minor streams.
The first portion from Kvikkjokk consists of a 3-km boat tour up Darrhaädno to Bobäcken – it is possible to go just across the initial delta and then start walking directly, but almost no one chooses to do so, and that section of the path is no longer maintained. Once on dry land again one passes through lush forest only intermittently broken up by mires and drier ground. After the Njunjes cottage the trail climbs up onto a stony outrunner at the western crest of which one has a great view of lower Tarradalen. A combination of meadowland, more stones and djungle-like forest gradually gives way to heathland as one rounds the impressive Darregájsse massif, and one is treated with nice views of the upper valley.
Then the vegetation turns dense again around Såmmarlappa, following which duckboards over mires dominate the scene. After entering Padjelanta there is more of the same, but the forest gets sparser and before reaching Tarraluoppal one has passed the tree line. Then there is a somewhat tough ascent to the hilly highland of Duottar, and as the trail progresses westwards the great lake Virihávrre enters the field of view. By its shore lies the Sámi encampment Stáloluokta, which is the natural center of Padjelanta.
The northern half of Padjelantaleden is more popular than the southern one, and people often utilize the chopper service to make Stáloluokta either the start or goal of their tour, rather than the halfway mark. In this northern part the trail goes up and down over large rises, with Virihávrre or Vásstenjávrre in sight most of the time until it reaches Vuojatädno at the outflow of Sáluhávrre, where it splits into two branches. The western one crosses the river via a series of large bridges and soon reaches the Kutjaure cottage, after which it climbs up into a valley that brings it to the Vájsáluokta Sámi encampment via a fairly steep descent, and from the STF cottage just west of here there are regular boat tours to Ritsem.
The eastern branch continues on the south side of Vuojatädno to the point where the borders of the three national parks Sarek, Stora Sjöfallet and Padjelanta come together, which is popularly known as Treparksmötet (Three-Park Meet). Then the forest takes over again as one draws close to the grand Áhkká massif, under the towering peaks of which the trail finally crosses the roaring Vuojatädno on an impressive suspension bridge. A short section of woods follows before one reaches the Akka cottages and a bit later the Änonjálmme Sámi encampment, which is another station for the Ritsem boat.
Also known as Nordkalottruta, Kalottireitti or The Arctic Trail, this trail comprises sections of already established trails in the border regions of northern Sweden, Norway and Finland tied together by connection routes. It is about 800 km in length, of which 350 km run through Sweden, 380 through Norway and the remaining 70 through Finland, and it crosses the national borders a total of 17 times. Its northern end point is Kautokeino in Norway, and in the south it divides itself to reach both Sulitjelma (Norway) and Kvikkjokk (Sweden). There are about 40 places along the way that offer accommodation of some kind, but some of the distances are rather long so a tent is necessary, and usually only the larger streams have bridges. This makes Nordkalottleden unsuitable for beginners, and save for the parts where it coincides with Kungsleden or Padjelantaleden one can expect to be alone for large stretches of time. Also note that in most places there are only summer markings.
The Kvikkjokk branch follows Padjelantaleden until the bridge over Darrhaädno shortly after Tarrekaise (be sure not to miss Tarraälvshyddan!) and then goes through the stony Vájmokvágge towards Pieskehaure. Here it turns northeast below the majestic Sulidälbmá massif, entering Padjelanta National Park in Gájlávágge which opens to the Staddajåkkå cottages. The Sulitjelma branch starts with a hefty climb, rounding Sulidälbmá and eventually ending up at Staddajåkkå after passing the special Sårjåsjaure cottage. From there Nordkalottleden continues as a single trail to Stáloluokta where its route joins that of Padjelantaleden, following the western branch to Vájsáluokta.
There it turns towards Hellemobotn in Norway, skirting the massifs just to the south, but a few kilometers before the border it doubles back and after crossing Valldajåhkå turns due north. It then follows the border to Svártitjåhkkå where it makes a quick visit to Røysvatn on the Norwegian side, followed by a series of bends of various lengths, going back and forth across the border, finally starting a prolonged stretch in Sweden close to Hukejaure. From there it goes eastwards and joins Kungsleden south of Sälka, and then it stays coupled to this trail all the way up to Abisko.
One is now back in civilization, with both a car road and a railroad that offer transportation for a bit, but it is also possible to walk along the old Navvy Track to Björkliden and beyond, and then Nordkalottleden leaves the road behind and passes by Pålnoviken at the western end of Torneträsk before going steeply up into Norway and Lappjordhytta in Rohkunborri National Park. Next up is a higher portion to Innset, which lies by a car road and is connected to Narvik via bus. Another higher passage brings the trail into Øvre Dividal National Park and some birch forest before it is time for another climb up into the fjelds. Once outside the park the terrain gets stony and then descends to Rostadalen, where it turns towards Sweden and the Pältsa cottage. Next is a passage of the Duoibal highlands to Treriksröset, which is the northernmost point in Sweden where the borders of this country, Norway and Finland meet, and the trail then continues to Kilpisjärvi on the Finnish side, which lies at another car road.
After a while Nordkalottleden then makes a brief visit to Norway, after which it's upwards again into stonier terrain that gives way to even ground and then birch forest down in the next valley. The trail then follows Vuopmegašjohka upstream a bit before crossing it, later passing by Pihtsusköngäs (Bihčosgorži), which is the largest waterfall in Finland. From there it is an easy portion to the Pihtsusjärvi cabin, where Nordkalottleden goes off to the east up a long slope and then follows a stream almost all the way to the Norwegian border. This is the final border crossing, landing hikers on the tundra south of Saraelv, which is reachable by car.
Now in the leafy Reisadalen the trail follows Reisaelva upstream all the way to Nedrefosshytta in Reisa National Park where it crosses the river. It continues through the woodland on the other side, eventually climbing up onto open highland and then there is more birch forest interspersed with rocky ground close to Raisjávri, which it rounds on the northern side. It then goes southeast over a rise into an area of birches, osier and mires until it reaches Čunovuohppi, from where one can go by road the last bit to Kautokeino. If not, the trail turns south through more forest, climbs a hilltop and then continues through the woods to the Buletjávri camping site, which lies just outside Kautokeino and marks the northern end of Nordkalottleden.