The Kungsleden or King’s Trail, is an iconic walk in Sweden’s north. Opened over 150 years ago, the trail is the ultimate shrine to equitable outdoor access, designed to widen public access to nature.


About the Kungsleden

The Kungsleden AKA ‘King’s Trail’ is an (up to) 450km hike in northern Sweden through the ‘last true wilderness of Europe’.


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

The Kungsleden is wild and beautiful

How to Get to the Kungsleden?

The Kungsleden starts in Abisko. From Stockholm Arlanda Airport fly to Kiruna and then take a bus or train to Abisko. You may need to stay overnight in Kiruna to make your connections. Otherwise, take a direct overnight train from Stockholm – the private cabin is worth the upgrade!


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

The start of the Kungsleden

Places to Stay Along the Kungsleden

The northern section of the Kungsleden is the most popular by a long shot. The best places to stay in this section are:

  • Abiskojaure
  • Alesjaure
  • Tjäktja
  • Sälka
  • Singi
  • Kebnekaise Fjällstation
  • Nikkaluokta

The best place to stay for most families or beginner hikers is the cabins. They’re located every 10-20km apart, some with (small!) supply stores. There are also some full-service mountain stations at entry/exit points with restaurants, Wifi, electricity, and, stores.

The best place to stay for solo hikers, couples, or friends, is camping in the wide expanses of nature herself! Apart from within Abisko National Park, you can camp anywhere along the Kungsleden (including near the cabins to use their facilities for a reduced cost!).


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

Camp anywhere along the Kungsleden!


If you don’t exit at Nikkaluokta, the STF Saltoluokta Fjällstation is one of the best places to stay on the Kungsleden – with a great buffet dining experience you don’t want to miss! Think all-you-can-eat chef made local fare with table service.

Highlights of the Kungsleden

  • Rivers winding through stunning valleys
  • Alpine vegetation
  • Sami reindeer herding
  • Wilderness (hard to get in Europe!)
  • Wild and free camping
  • Slow-paced vibe (very few fastpackers)
  • Daily sauna facilities
  • Dog-friendly
  • Minimal elevation gain
  • Duckboarding
  • Boat crossings

Kungsleden History

The Kungsleden has a long history, going back almost 150 years. It was developed to improve public access to the Swedish wilderness. Over time, sections have been linked up and the trail has been extended to bring it to its current form.


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

The Kungsleden gives you access to some of Europe’s most remote wilderness


It’s become the premier hiking attraction in Sweden and enables hikers to experience one of Europe’s largest remaining wildernesses. Due to historic laws, you can wild camp almost anywhere in Sweden, including on the Kungsleden – this is legally enshrined as ‘Allemansrätten’ – freedom to roam.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

Skill Level

This is a multi-day hike, so previous hiking experience is highly recommended. You should be comfortable walking consecutive days covering between 10 and 20km per day.

Aside from this, the Kungsleden is suitable for solo hikers, children, and families, and is about as approachable as a multi-day hike can get!

Although the ~450km distance seems daunting, the vast majority of hikers only tackle the first section from Abisko to Nikkaluokta, which takes about a week (105km). So don’t be too intimidated!


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

Take your time and enjoy the trail


Cabins are frequent on the Kungsleden, so you don’t need to have extensive experience carrying lots of food, using cooking equipment, or setting up a tent and sleep system. You can simply stay in the cabins.

There’s minimal elevation gain each day and the trail is very well-marked. Therefore, a high level of fitness and extensive navigation skills aren’t required to complete the hike.

Although this hike is very remote (both geographically and with respect to cellular reception), during summer it sees enough foot traffic that you don’t need to be too worried about being out there alone. The vibe of the Kungsleden is very slow-paced and easygoing!

Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration

The full Kungsleden hike is about 450km, and takes about a month to complete.

However, the most commonly hiked section is the first, from Abisko to Nikkaluokta. This section is about 105km and takes about a week to complete. The daily elevation change on this section ranges from 100m to 400m, but is usually around 200m per day.

Essential Gear for the Kungsleden

Please note: Water filtration systems aren’t needed on the Kungsleden. Simply collect water from fast-running, clear streams, always above the washing sites labelled ‘Tvatt’.

My Experience Hiking the Kungsleden

Several years ago when I was flicking through A History of the World in 500 Walks (Sarah Baxter), I came across the Kungsleden hike. It was described as a ‘pristine realm of U-shaped valleys’ through ‘Europe’s largest remaining wilderness’ and ‘accessible, but still wonderfully wild’. Enough said. I put it on my bucket list and this August finally had the chance to tick it off.

Although it’s about 450km in total length, most people just hike the first week, which makes it easier to squeeze in between commitments, which is how I did it.

As you read about my experience, keep in mind that we did not follow the recommended itinerary over our week! For the recommended itinerary, see the FAQs section.


Day 1 – Abisko to a bit past Abiskojaure

Distance: 16km
Duration: 5 hours (no breaks)

We fly into Kiruna in the morning but our bus to Abisko doesn’t leave until mid-afternoon. We’re forced to kill a bunch of time eating cake at the Safari Cafe in Kiruna. Life is tough.

We only get to Abisko at 5pm – thank god for 24 hours of daylight! The first leg of the Kungsleden passes through beautiful Abisko National Park. Immediately we’re treated to powerful glacial rivers with striking rock formations. We see heaps of horsetail ferns and colourful mushrooms, as well as stunning views of the 1500m tall Giron mountain (complete with a rainbow!).


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

A rainbow on Giron mountain


Abisko National Park is the only part of the Kungsleden where wild camping isn’t permitted (except at two designated sites), so we have to walk 16km tonight to pass the Park boundary and pitch our tent. I’m pretty exhausted, running on two hours of sleep after pulling an all-nighter to submit my uni thesis before the trip!


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

Day 1 camping on the Kungsleden


It’s a slog and we get to camp very late and struggle to find a ‘free spot’ – as it turns out, even wild campers prefer to congregate around the drop toilets.


Day 2 – Abiskojaure to a bit past Alesjaure

Distance: 14.5km + boat
Duration: 8 hours (including lunch etc.)

I feel human again after a full night’s sleep. It’s raining, so we get a coffee brewing while we wait it out. Then we set off for a fairly misty day of walking.

Despite our minimal elevation gain, the forests of yesterday quickly give way to endless arctic U-shaped valleys. We’re at a high latitude, so trees stop growing after just 1000m altitude – a full 3000m lower than at the equator!


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

Views of the misty valleys


The last bit of today’s hike follows along the edge of Lake Alesjaure and is notoriously muddy. We opt to cough up and take a boat along the lake instead of struggling through making it a chill end to the day.

Before bed, I read a bit of my book on the philosophy of hiking. It says that hiking is about striking a balance between pushing yourself and not overstepping your hard boundaries. This, it would turn out, was an ominous warning for tomorrow!


Day 3 – Alesjaure to Sälka via Tjäktja pass

Distance: 22.5km
Duration: 8 hours (including lunch etc.)

It’s a windy day today. Windy enough to rip out the pegs that are holding down the tarp. We snap our tent pole and tear a hole in our fly during packdown.

The first part of today is through Alisvaggi Valley up to Tjäktja Pass. The ascent is about 300m but it’s very gentle. I’m using my rain jacket as a wind-break – it has crap ventilation so I’m alternately cold from the wind and hot from my jacket. I’m finding that tea breaks are essential for keeping your spirits up in the often drizzly/windy/rainy weather. We’ve started filling our Thermos with boiling water in the morning so we can make tea at a moment’s notice (I recommend blueberry tea for proper Swedish vibes).

Even though I know we’re hiking in the Arctic Circle, I’m taken aback by how un-summery the weather is. To think I almost packed shorts! On top of that, our fairly heavy packs and the unexpectedly muddy and rocky track conditions are slowing down our pace and resulting in longer days than I’d anticipated.


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

It’s colder than expected on the Kungsleden


We continue on over the Tjäktja Pass (technically you can stay here and call it a day, but we’re doubling up today) and walk on to Sälka. The track notes describe this section as being very muddy and rocky. Can confirm. The trail just doesn’t seem to end. Every minute is a small eternity, and no matter how fast I seem to walk, I’m barely covering any ground.

At one point I think I finally spot the cabin at Sälka in the distance only to look back a couple of minutes later and realise it’s just a boulder… In my rush to be done with the day, I push myself too hard and end up at Sälka a very (un)happy camper.

0/10 do not recommend, perhaps there’s a reason the guidebooks had these as separate days…


Day 4 – Sälka to Kebnekaise Saddle Camp

Distance: 12km
Duration: 6 hours (including lunch etc.)

Our camping spot at Sälka is ridiculously picturesque and idyllic. We’re pitched next to a babbling brook straight out of a fairytale. Rolling green mountains surround us on all sides. We have a slow morning to take in the scenery, complete with fresh coffee and some watercolour painting.


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

The perfect place to spend a lazy morning!


Once we get walking, we’re treated to 360 degree views of the beautiful valleys and meandering rivers. We detour off the main Kungsleden up Durling trail, because we’re hoping to summit Kebnekaise (Sweden’s tallest peak) tomorrow.

The views along the Durling trail down towards the valley are a total highlight – the valley is dreamy in purple and green.

As we get further up the walking gets considerably harder. Suddenly, we’re traversing super steep slopes across massive loose boulders (the lichens on them are very pretty though!).

It takes an hour to do 1km. Then it’s a very steep ascent to our camping spot. The ground is otherworldly – spongy, mushroomy, and lichenous.


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

Fairy Lichen


I half expect to see fairies. There’s a little gurgling glacial stream up here, and we pitch our tent in a nook on the plateau. We have the whole side valley to ourselves.


Day 5 – Kebnekaise saddle camp to Kaitumjaure via Singi

Distance: 18km
Duration: 9 hours (including lunch etc.)

I don’t sleep well the whole night, worried about how vulnerable we are with a broken tent and rain predicted. Although we’re really not very far from the main trail, I still feel like we’re  a bit exposed.

At 3.30am, I peek out the tent window and see serene pastel pink mountain skies…

Shortly before 5am the skies turned grey. It starts to rain and the wind picks up.

We lie there for a couple of minutes, listening to the rain, and watching the tent creak back and forth in the wind. We know our tent is going to collapse in anything more than a slight breeze, so we quickly decide we need to pack down. The weather is too unpredictable for a summit attempt on Sweden’s tallest peak, so we bail on those plans, too.


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

The weather means we have to bail on our summit plans


We’ve rented a Garmin InReach, which can text, email, tweet, navigate and receive detailed weather forecasts. We send for a forecast and see we have a small window coming up where the rain will ease off.

We pack up rapidly, waterproof ourselves and our bags, and throw back some muesli bars and lukewarm instant coffee in a very sorry excuse for breakfast. Within minutes of setting off, the heavens open and hammer down on us. The pretty lichens on the boulders are now slick from the rain and this time it takes us two hours to get across the boulders!


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

These also frequently appear on the horizon!


After the world’s most stressful morning, we link back up with the Kungsleden and head down to Singi. Singi is where most hikers turn off to head to Nikkaluokta and exit the Kungsleden. We however, still have 12km ahead of us because we’re aiming for Kaitumjaure tonight.

The first 4km goes okay, with unusually good weather and stunning scenery (the river is particularly beautiful). We hit the 8km mark after four hours.


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

The weather picks up as the day goes on


I decide I don’t care about the purity of hiking anymore and chuck in some headphones and listen to Pearl Jam’s Ten to keep motivated. I’m exhausted and sick of these distances taking forever.

With just 2km to go, I sit down on a boulder, defeated, wanting nothing more than to be done with the day. The last 2km turns out to be pretty shite – super muddy and with precarious rotten duckboarding. It takes ages and when we get there we’re bombarded with literal swarms of mosquitoes.

I whip up our special dehydrated pork and rice dinner as a treat. We make it stretch between two with some bulgur. I pretty much pass out after eating and sleep for 12 straight hours.


Day 6 – Kaitumjaure to Across the River From Teusajaure

Distance: 9km + boat
Duration: 6 hours (including waiting for boat)

I wake to the sound of some chirpy freaking hikers (well-rested after their night in the cabin) and a rapidly warming tent. I fell asleep without rehydrating last night and am feeling super groggy and puffy. I down a bunch of water, have a Berocca and skip the morning coffee. I rapidly feel better.

I can finally appreciate the stunning views from our campsite – we’re at the head of the deep, blue lake Kaitumjaure. Having dropped elevation yesterday, we’re back below the treeline again, nestled in a Birch forest.


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

The blue lake


There are far fewer hikers now that we’ve passed the main Kungsleden exit point. As we set off, the terrain changes and becomes more brown and shrubby, reminiscent of Tasmania. This then gives way to a long, gradual climb up to a pass.

We take our time, have a long lunch (we have the whole pass to ourselves), spend some time cloudwatching, and listen to Simon & Garfunkle (I Am a Rock). After crossing the pass, we descend steeply into Teusajaure and wait for an hour for the boat to take us across the lake.

We go up just a little ways and set up camp in a mossy, mushroomy corner of the crooked Birch forest. I find a patch of pastel pink and mint green Fairy Vomit Lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum) next to us which is pretty cool!


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

Having a rest on a lichen-covered rock


It’s our last night camping on the Kungsleden. On the menu is fish curry (bulked out with instant mash) and choccie mousse spiked with Scotch Whiskey. Yum!


Day 7 – Teusajaure to Saltoluokta Fjällstation via Vakkotavare

Distance: 13km
Duration: 5 hours (no breaks!)

We have a 2pm bus today so we’re up early to make sure we don’t miss it. We have another ‘non-apparent pass’ today, code for a pass which you never seem to reach.


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

Our last day on the trail


It’s an endless and gradual ascent. The wind is pretty intense and gnarly over the pass. But it’s our last day – lots of snow-capped peaks and reindeer make it worthwhile.

It’s a steepish descent to the bus stop at Vakkotavare, and we make it with enough time to pig out on instant noodles and instant mash before our bus comes. After a week of roughing it, we have two nights booked at STF Saltoluokta Fjällstation which we’re very much looking forward to for some good ol’ R&R.

Reflections on the Kungsleden

Having squished in a little detour and hiked beyond the usual first week’s itinerary, we had our work cut out for us this week, and we suffered a bit for it.

Although it’s tempting to try and fit as much as possible into a week on the Kungsleden, it’s not a hike to be rushed and you’re better off sticking to the recommended itinerary even if the distances seem a bit short to a seasoned hiker. The muddy and rocky quality of the track shouldn’t be underestimated!


Kungsleden Overview: A Guide to Hiking the King’s Way (Sweden), saphira Schroers

Large sections of the track were muddy and slow to get through


In saying that, if you can add a couple of days to your itinerary and exit the Kungsleden at Vakkotavare instead of Nikkaluokta, I recommend the extra few kilometres.

It’s nice to have the landscape to yourself for a few days after the ‘masses’ have left the trail (not that the Kungsleden is ever crowded, even in peak season).

The rivers are stunning and it’s really special to end the hike at STF Saltoluokta Fjällstation (their buffet dinner is not to be missed!).

Tips for Hiking the Kungsleden

  • Focus on hiking to landmarks (valleys, passes, mountains, rivers) rather than distances – your pace will vary a lot depending on whether you’re in a muddy section, on duckboarding, or on good condition trail
  • Be mentally prepared for longer days due to a slower pace
  • Be prepared for wind, rain, mud, and cold – yes, even in the summer! Don’t expect sunny conditions
  • Seriously consider staying in cabins at least some nights
  • Follow the recommended itinerary
  • Make sure to pack hiking poles, gaiters, and mosquito nets

Kungsleden FAQs

Where is the Kungsleden located?

In the north of Sweden. It starts in the Arctic Circle in Abisko and heads south.

How do you get to Kungsleden?

You can fly to Kiruna from Stockholm Arlanda Airport then take a bus/train to Abisko. Alternatively, you can take an overnight train from Stockholm to Abisko.

What is the recommended Kungsleden Itinerary?

Day 1: Abisko to Abiskojaure (13.5km, 3-4 hours)

Day 2: Abiskojaure to Alesjaure (21km, 6-8 hours)

Day 3: Alesjaure to Tjäktja (13km, 3-4 hours)

Day 4: Tjäktja to Sälka (12.5km, 3-4 hours)

Day 5: Sälka to Singi (11.5 km, 3-4 hours)

Day 6: Singi to Kebnekaise Fjällstation (14km, 4-5 hours)

Day 7: Kebnekaise Fjällstation to Nikkoluokta (18km, 5-6 hours)


Alternate route from Singi, exiting at Vakkotavare:

Day 6 ALT: Singi to Kaitumjaure (12km, 3-4 hours)

Day 7 ALT: Kaitumjaure to Teusajaure (9km, 3-4 hours)

Day 8 ALT: Teusajaure to Vakkotavare (13km, 5-6 hours)


What are the possible entrance/exit points on the Kungsleden?

  • Abisko (start point)
  • Nikkaluokta (most popular exit)
  • Vakkotavare
  • Saltoluokta
  • Kvikkjokk
  • Jäkkvik
  • Adolfsström
  • Ammarnäs
  • Hemavan


When is the Kungsleden open?

Early season comes with substantial snow, from the end of June to the middle of July. The best period to go is mid-July to the end of August. Peak season applies to both humans and mosquitoes. The tail end of the season is September (autumn).


Is the Kungsleden good for beginners?

The Kungsleden is a decent option for a first proper multi-day hike. However, you should have completed overnight hikes before and have experience walking ~15km a day consecutively.

The features that make Kungsleden beginner-friendly are;

  • low elevation gain
  • clearly marked trail (limited navigation experience necessary)
  • well-trafficked trail
  • slow-paced vibe

The aspects that make it difficult are;

  • variable weather conditions
  • muddy/rocky trail condition


Can you drive up to the Kungsleden?

Driving to Kungsleden isn’t recommended because it’s a very long way from Stockholm (15 hours/1,300km).


How long does it take to hike the Kungsleden?

Most people just hike the first week to Nikkaluokta, but the full hike takes about a month. If you follow the recommended itinerary, most days involve between 10-15km of hiking and

assume a pace of 2-3km per hour. The bigger days cover a little over 20km.


How long is the Kungsleden?

Up to ~450km (1 month) but most people do the first 105km (1 week) to Nikkaluokta.


How high is the Kungsleden?

There are no big elevation days on the Kungsleden unless you add the detour to Kebnekaise (2100m). The days where you go over a mountain pass will have moderate elevation gains of about 400m.


Where can you camp on the Kungsleden?

There are designated campsites through Abisko National Park (the first day’s hike). Wild camping is permitted throughout the rest of the Kungsleden. You can camp near the mountain cabins in order to use their toilets free of charge. If you want to use their showers and cooking facilities, you need to pay a fee even if you’re camping.

What food should you pack for the Kungsleden?

As this is at least a week-long hike, it’s important to balance your macronutrients and get enough protein so you feel strong. The following is a sample menu of what I wish I’d packed (after subsisting off mainly carbs for a week):

  • Breakfast – protein-fortified oats (e.g. a milk powder/protein powder mix + dry oats) topped with mixed nuts and chocolate
  • Lunch – protein-fortified wraps with vacuum-sealed kidney beans mix or fitness bread with some kind of spread
  • Snack – a protein bar or good quality trail mix
  • Dinner – bulgur with dehydrated soy chunks, flavoured for example with a soup mix


What shoes are best for the Kungsleden?

My partner wore Solomon Speedcross trail runners and I wore high-rise Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX boots. My partner had wet feet a lot while hiking but his shoes dried out fast. Conversely, I didn’t have wet feet once while hiking, as the Goretex held up really well. However some people say that once Goretex gets wet, it’s a liability as it’s slow-drying.

Read more: Hiking Boots vs Trail Runners


How expensive is the Kungsleden?

If you take the train to Abisko, pack almost all of your food from a grocery store in Stockholm or Kiruna, skip the optional boat crossing at Alesjaure, and camp, the Kungsleden is fairly affordable to hike.

However, if you fly into Kiruna, stay at cabins every night, shop at the cabin stores for food, and take the optional boat crossing, you’ll have a considerably more expensive hike.


What guidebook or map do I need for the Kungsleden?

I recommend purchasing Kungsleden North (and Kungsleden South if you’re going farther than most) by Cody Duncan and a map, although there are many other great guidebooks out there as well.