Hiking the Kungsleden Trail in Autumn
Hiking the Kungsleden trail in autumn.
I hiked solo on the northern section of the trail for 10 days from September 16-26 2009. Here are a few FAQs and bits of info that may be useful to any travelers heading to the area at this time of year.
All the huts/Fjällstations/hostels along the trail are run by the STF (Svenska Turistföreningen) Swedish Tourist Association.
The STF website can be found here.
The Website will have all current info on opening/closing dates of the mountain huts, as well as some maps and other info such as services provided at each hut (ie. show up to Alesjaure a bit early and relax in the sauna)
The Huts are closed:
The huts close towards the end of September (19/9/2010). What this means is that there will be no staff on hand, no food can be purchased, and the gas stoves will be turned off.
At least on the northern section of the trail, between Singi and Abiskojaure, all of the huts have an ‘emergency’ room (säkerhetsrum) that can be used. These rooms vary in size and the number of beds available:
• Abiskojaure – 2 beds
• Alesjaure – 4 beds
• Tjäktja – 2 beds
• Sälka – 9 beds (big, pretty much a full size hut)
• Singi – 1 bed (enough room for 2 people on floor)
Access to the wood shed, a saw and axe should be available (though I couldn’t find a saw at Alesjaure) and all the shelters have wood burning stoves which provide plenty of heat after a cold, wet day on the trail. Water buckets for fetching fresh water, cooking and cleaning supplies are also provided. One or two toilets will also be left unlocked. There might be a small amount of leftover food available, but don’t depend on it. Be sure to bring enough for the entire trip.
Besides the proper STF huts, there are also several primitive shelters at several points along the trail. These typically consisted of a single room with wooden benches along one or two walls. Some have wood burning stoves, yet by the end of the season, there was no more wood available. Still, if the weather is bad, better to be inside and out of the wind, even if a little cold.
My experience from September 2009 was of predominately cold weather and strong winds. Snow fell on several days and rain on the rest, so most of the snow that fell would be gone from the trail by the next day or two. The temperature dropped down to about -8˚ C on the coldest morning. While the average day was about 3-5˚ C. 7˚ C was the warmest day I experienced. From talking to others I seemed to get the impression that this was an unusually cold September, but one should be prepared for such conditions. It is the Arctic and any weather is possible.
Will I be alone?
Though the crowds of summer will be gone, one will not likely be totally alone on the trail. With the exception of one night at Singi, there was always one or more people at the hut each night and I would cross 1 or 2 groups on the trail each day heading in the opposite direction.
The Kiruna-Nikkaluokta-Kiruna bus to the trailhead of Kebnekaise Fjällstation stopped running when the huts closed, which would be 19th Sept for 2010. There was a private taxi available, but for quite a fee. So if one is starting late in the season, it might be better to enter the trail at Nikkaluokta and head north to Abisko as opposed to the other way around – Which is what I did and ended up walking all the way back to Abisko again.
Access into and out of Abisko is not a problem, as the train runs year round. The Abisko Turiststation hostel closes on 26th of Sept, 2010, though there are several other possibilities for cheap accommodation in Abisko village, or just simply camp a little ways out of town.
Even under 10-15cm of snow, the trail was alway easy to follow. The high point, Tjaktja pass, is rocky on the north side and without a proper ‘path.‘ It could be a bit tricky as the rocks are quite slippery and hard to see under a medium amount snow, though it is not a long distance between the pass and Tjaktja hut. The trail itself, as long as one has a map and knows how to navigate, would be hard to lose as it basically follows a series of valleys north to south. And there are a series of markers for the winter trail that are easily visible, though these do not always follow the proper summer route.
Why go in the autumn and not summer?
The color is amazing.
You like the cold.
Great post Cody – Top info and advice backed up with a great array of photographic styles, a real credit and strong point of your work.
What wonderful pictures!
I’m wondering if you had problems with the boats? Don’t they stop running around the 19th as well? Was it possible to walk around the lakes instead? I want to do the whole thing from Abisko to Hemavan and I don’t want to let a lake get in between me and my goal!
Thanks for your post, Cody.
I’m planning on hiking Abisko-Nikkaluokta in early Sept 2013, trying to aim for a five day hike.
Any recommendations in how to stage the trip? My thoughts are
1: Abisko to Abiskojaure
2: Abiskojaure to Alesjaure
3: Alesjaure to Salka
4: Salka to Kebnekaise
5: Kebnekaise to Nikkaluokta
I’m trying to make up my mind if I ‘dare’ to fully depend on huts, and not bring my sleeping bag (I’ve read the huts are very warm at night)
Usually I hike with sleeping bag and bivvy bag or tarp (in NZ) so I struggle to leave this safety precaution behind.
Would you recommend to use the shelters along the way?
Unless you want the experience of camping in nature, the only real reason not to use the huts would be due to expense; they run around 300-330 SEK/night, Kebnekaise Fjallstation is 500 SEK (for a dorm bed!). For a NZ comparison, the huts are something like you’d find on any of the great walks (Routeburn/Milford, etc): hut warden, small shops for food, firewood, etc) Comfort wise, you’ll have no problem as they are well heated with wood burning fires (and Abiskojaure, Alesjaure, Salka, and Kebnekaise also have Saunas). Beds are like you would find in a normal hostel: pillow and blanket on mattress. You can skip the sleeping bag/bivy sack, but I’d suggest bringing a light travel type sleeping sheet instead, the type that (hostel) backpackers typically use. The longest distance between any hut is 20km: Abiskojaure – Alesjaure, so you shouldn’t have a problem of not being able to make it to a hut.
Your plan sounds fine if you’re used to hiking. You’ll have 3 longish days all together at the end, but it’s probably the best way to break it up into your time schedule. Not knowing your travel details for getting to and from the trail, logistically, it can be a bit easier to end in Abisko, as you’ll have more transport options throughout the day (and waiting at the hostel is fairly comfortable). Only two buses per day connect to Nikkaluokta, so you’ll be on more of a schedule to make it there…
Have fun (and don’t forget your raincoat 😉 )…
Great post and awesome pictures! I would love to hike Kungsleden one day but haven’t find the time yet…This post reminded me that I SHOULD find the time.:) Thank you for sharing 🙂