Hiking in Kiruna, Swedish Lapland
Exploring Lapland on foot
People travel to Kiruna from all over the world to hike in the Arctic Circle. The forests surrounding Icehotel and the slightly hilly terrain are perfect for the inexperienced hikers that want to enjoy fresh air, great views and stroll amongst Europe’s northernmost pine moors, majestic national rivers and nature reserves rich in biodiversity. More challenging trails can be found within a mere hour from the vicinity of Kiruna. Sweden’s highest peak Kebnekaise 2,104 m (6,903 ft) is snow-clad year-round and the Tarfala glacier can be found in the same area. They are part of the Scandinavian Mountains and form the border between Sweden and Norway in the north, where you can find more hiking trails with different difficulty levels and breath-taking landscapes like taken out of a fantasy novel.
4 nearby hiking trails that locals love
Aptasvaara Nature Reserve - a wild sanctuary
Aptasvaara, with its location on the edge of the Scandinavian mountain ridge, is a unique natural area in Europe. The trail takes you through an old forest ecosystem of mountain birch, pine, and fir. Long stretches of the trail are enveloped by wild blueberries, lingonberries, cloudberries, and crowberries. At the end of the trail, you are rewarded by panoramic views of the Torne river, Kiruna and the mountains surrounding Jukkasjärvi in the far distance. Located close to Kiruna and Jukkasjärvi, it is a popular trail for hiking, mountain biking, running, and skiing.
How to find it
Drive to IRF along the E-10 between Kiruna and Jukkasjärvi. Drive past the Space Campus entrance. There is a car park right at the starting point of the hike. The trail is unmarked, but in the summer there is a clear trail to follow to the top of Mt. Aptasvaara.
Mid-difficulty. The hiking trail passes three peaks, the highest point 615 m.
Forgotten trails of the past - Leppäkoski ruins
A short drive from ICEHOTEL you find the Leppäkoski trail, taking you to the historic remnants of the 1600’s foundry that formed part of Kengis Bruk - one of the largest and most important copper mine companies in northern Europe at the time, owned by Dutch brothers Momma. Unlike other copper foundries, Leppäkoski’s ruins has been left untouched since the mine closed in 1682. Leppäkoski is located by the Vittangi river. Before the railway was built around 1900, the copper would be transported on sleds or boats along with the enormous river systems of Lapland to the coast. The trail also offers a beautiful and diverse hike, from the boreal forest ridge with tall pines covered in moss and wild blue- and lingonberry shrubs blanketing the ground, to the rich birch foliage and open mires closer to the river.
How to find it
About 30 minutes’ drive from Jukkasjärvi, follow the road towards Esrange. About 30 minutes’ drive... The trail is unmarked but in the summer there is a clear trail to follow. Along the hike, there are a couple of wind shelters where you can stop for a break.
1,5 – 2 hours
Mid-difficulty. The trail starts and ends on a ridge with steep elevation and stairs.
Forest bathing in Jukkasjärvi
Forest bathing is a trendy name for what Swedes have been doing for generations – simply spending time in nature. And if you ask us, forest bathing is (next to ice sculpting) one of the most cleansing and restorative activities you can invest in. Just five minutes from Icehotel there is a trail that takes you through a the varied borreal forest. The trail grows narrower as it elevates, making its way round crevices and over crooked pine roots, eventually reaching a flat clearing on the face of Mt Puimonen. The wind whispers in the trees behind you - and ahead, the stunning canopy of firs and pines sprawls towards the river and village.
How to find it
Park your car at Icehotel and cross the road. Follow Nybyggarvägen until you see a football field and behind it the running/ski trail which is the start of the hike. The hike is unmarked but has a clear trail heading straight towards the mountain in the summer.
1,5 – 2 hours
Mid-difficulty. The second half of the trail is more challenging as the trail elevates to approx 300 meters.
The Troll Lake - a real life fantasy
The hike to the ethereal Troll Lake is like something out of a fantasy novel. The hour’s drive from Icehotel to the starting point of the Troll Lake hike is an adventure on its own. As we leave the rich, tall woods typical of the river valley, we drive into the mountain terrain with its permafrost peaks and alpine tundra. The route is the entry-point to Norway and is known as one of Sweden’s most scenic routes.
A tucked-away turqoise lake is guarded by giant rocks. Steep mountains flank both sides of the trail as it windles past rock shards and slivers the size of trailers. At the end of the 6 km hike through dense, low birch forest bordering the treeline and the dramatic Kärkevagge valley, Rissajavri or the Troll Lake is a reward well worth the effort. Supplied by the surrounding glaciers, it has crystal clear water and transparency all the 36 meters down to its floor.
How to find it
Take the E10 west towards Narvik. 20 km past Björkliden, before Vassijaure, stop and park your car by the sign “Låktajokk”. From here you start the hike. Follow the trail past the old Låktatjåkka train station and stay on the middle trail towards the mouth of the valley. From there it is approximately an hour’s hike to the Troll Lake.
Advanced. The second half of the trail is more challenging as the trail elevates to approx 300 meters.
For something more extreme
Just an hour from Icehotel you find the entry points of two iconic Swedish hiking adventures, Sweden’s highest summit Kebnekaise, and the 425 km long King’s Trail. Both attracts thousands of hikers from Sweden and all over the world in hiking season between July and September.
Hiking trails, maps & navigation
In the wilderness there is no substitute for the good old paper map and compass. Batteries run out and you’ll be surprised how soon after you hit the trail that your GPS and mobile reception is nowhere to be found.
Lantmäterietis a great resource for printable maps.
The Norrbotten Naturkarta is an app available for iOS and Android that maps the most popular trails of Swedish Lapland. Norrbottens Naturkarta is developed by Länsstyrelsen Norrbotten, the regional council.
It is also popular to use tracking apps like Trail Runner to help you trace your path and navigate your hike.
Signage in the wild
Only the most popular trails will have signs. There is a plethora of equally beautiful and less crowded trails that are unmarked entirely or the path is guided by stacks of flat rocks (sometimes painted red).
Even in summer, the Arctic is a fierce place and if you don’t prepare properly then heading out without a local guide can end in tragedy. The right background research, equipment and sound judgement is the key to making your hike a good experience.
Weather can change dramatically and fast. The rivers and lakes are no warmer than 10 degrees on average, even in the height of summer. It is home country of moose, reindeer, bear and wolverine.
Kiruna and its surroundings have snow until May and in the high mountains well into the end of June or early July. Even in areas like Jukkasjärvi, with a lower altitude, the outdoors is virtually unaccessible by foot until the forests have dried up properly from the winter.
If you are an inexperienced hiker we recommend you start with half-day/day hikes with or without a guide, make sure you read up on what to bring and remember to let someone know where you are going and when you are planning to return.
Local weather forecast Kiruna
There a local weather forecasts more accurate than the built-in apps in your mobile. Also, make it a habit to check multiple weather forecasts to get better accuracy.
Recommended links for weather updates
Outdoor etiquette and stay safe checklist
- Don’t leave litter behind. Bring plastic bags so you can carry it back with you.
- The Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten) makes the Swedish outdoors one of the most welcoming in the world. It gives anyone the freedom to roam the Swedish countryside, with some conditions. Read up on what is allowed here .
- Fishing requires a permit and there are local restrictions at times of the year. Ask where permits are sold or at your hotel.
- Check the weather and always bring spare dry clothes and an extra layer if the forecast is windy.
- Let the hotel receptionist or family/friends know where you are headed and how long you are planning to be gone. In case you get lost this increases the chances to find you quickly.
- Find out if there is a fire ban – lansstyrelsen.se
- If you are in the mountains you can drink fresh water from the creeks. If you are hiking in forests, check with the locals which waterways have safe water to drink.
Day hike pack list
Hiking in the Arctic requires more packing and preparation than other destinations, even in summer.
- Rain- and wind proof jacket and trousers
- Warm fleece jacket
- Wool hat and sun hat/cap
- Hiking boots (opt for boots rather than shoes)
- Snacks and beverages – you never know how long you may be gone for.
- Band-aid and sport tape
- Map (save digital maps offline on your mobile and always bring a paper map). Lantmateriet.se is a good source for printable maps.
- Mosquito spray
- Merino wool base layer and socks – it retains heat even when wet, which is preferable if you are hiking in the Arctic.