Hiker with a big blue backpack standing by a path and looking towards the snowcapped mountains in the distance
©Adventure by Design

The Arctic Trail - a cross-border hike in Arctic areas

Experience wild and beautiful Arctic nature, including high alpine mountains, glaciers, deep valleys and mountain plateaus, on this multi-country trail. If you are extremely lucky, you will also see brown bears, wolverines and the rare polar fox! 

The Arctic Trail (Nordkalottleden) is the name of the marked hiking trail crossing the borders between the northern parts of Norway, Sweden Finland.

This spectacular route enables you to hike through several countries and experience the beautiful Arctic nature. The terrain and areas you pass through vary from high alpine mountains and glaciers to deep valleys and bare, outstretched mountain plateau. Summer is without doubt the high season for this trail, with only the most experienced skiers contemplating this route in the winter. It takes 5-6 hours (plus any rest breaks) to complete most of the day-long legs, while some days take 7-10 hours.

This is the Arctic Trail

The Arctic Trail opened in 1993 through cooperation between the trekking associations in the three countries and the linking together of several existing shorter routes. The Arctic Trail is 800 km long and stretches from Kautokeino in Finnmark County to Sulitjelma in Nordland County. The largest amount (380 km) is in Norway, while 350 km is in Sweden and 70 km in Finland. The trail crosses international borders no less than 10 times!

Northwards on the Arctic Trail

The northernmost leg of the Arctic Trail is approx. 190 km and stretches from Kilpisjävri in Finland to Kautokeino in Norway. One option is to start the trail at the southern end of Kilpisjavri, head towards Somásjávri and cross the border to Norway when you reach Muurivaara. This stretch is roughly 42 km. You can stop or a rest or stay overnight in cabins/huts at Saarijävri, Kuonjarjoki, Meekonjävri and Pihtsusjärvi.

From Pihtsusjärvi, you continue just over 10 km eastwards to Somas, where there is also a cabin. Another option is staying in the hut at Kopmajoki. From there, it’s about 30 km in gentle terrain above the tree line to Saraelv. This is about 1km from the Nordkalottstua cabin at Ovi Raishiin (Visitor Point).

If you want to stock up on provisions, you need to get from Saraelv to Storslett (approx. 46 km), where there are several shops.There is a well-marked trail on the western side of the Reisa River from Ovi Raishiin to Nedrefoss. Many people choose to start hiking here because it’s right beside Reisa National Park.

  • Did you know you can experience the national park in a unique and special way...? You can enjoy a hot dinner and listen to stories about local history and culture around the camp fire as the Northern Lights dance in the sky overhead. Read more about wilderness experiences at Visitor Point.

After 10 km, you will reach the border of the national park in Sieimma, where it’s also possible to stay. The Arctic Trail stretches from here along the western side of the river right up to the Nedrefosshytta cabin, where you cross the river via a swing bridge.

After crossing the river, you continue along the eastern side of the river up to the picturesque Imofossen waterfall, where the trail climbs up to the mountain plateau and on to lake Reisavannet. You can stay overnight at the Reisavannhytta cabin beside the lake. The final stretch from here to Kautokeino in Finnmark County is roughly 40 km if you follow the gravel road from Bidjovagge. 

  • Did you know you can add an extra dimension to your hiking trip by booking a river boat transfer from Saraelv to the Nedrefosshytta cabin? Click here to read more about river boat trips on the Reisa River! 
Three-country cairn on the Arctic Trail

One leg of the Arctic Trail stretches from Kilpisjävri in Finland southwards to Abisko in Sweden. From Kilpisjävri, you hike through Storfjord municipality in Norway to the Goldahytta cabin. From here, it’s only a short stroll to the three-country cairn (Treriksrøysa). Another cabin, Gappohytta, is situated approx. 10 km from Goldahytta.

The cairn, which makes the point where Norway, Sweden and Finland meet, is a must-see attraction midway between the Signal Valley and Skibotn Valley.

  • Did you know that this is the only place in Norway you can walk freely between the three countries? It’s also the world’s northernmost three-country cairn. Read more about the three-country cairn (Treriksrøysa)!
Follow the Arctic Trail to Halti –Finland’s highest mountain

Another option is to hike from Kilpisjavri to the summit of Finland’s highest mountain, Halti (1328 m above sea level). If you wish to do this, follow the Arctic Trail to the cabin at Pihtsusjärvi then turn off towards Halti. The cabin Haltihytta is situated on the northern side of Haltijärvi approx. 1.5 km from the trail. From here, you can turn around and retrace your steps to Kilpisjavri.

If you would prefer a different route from here, you can hike northwards to Guolasjärvi. From here, you can follow the road down to the Kåfjord Valley and on to Skibotn and then Kilpisjavri by bus during the summer months.

Accommodation along the Arctic Trail

There are more than 50 places to stay along the Arctic Trail in Norway, Sweden and Finland. You can stay in the following cabins on the trail northwards to Kautokeino:

If you choose to hike the Arctic Trail from Kilpisjavri to Sulitjelma, you can stay in the following cabins: 

Equipment and safety

Hiking the Arctic Trail is a demanding experience, which we only recommend for experienced hikers/skiers. You need to pack all necessary food, clothes and equipment, and you should have experience of longer mountain hikes. You should be aware of the following:

  • The trail may be poorly marked in some places so it’s important to have a map and compass and be able to use this. We recommend buying the hiking maps Kåfjord og Reisa nasjonalpark and Nordreisa sør. You can find other maps in local shops on online at kartbutikken.no.
  • Some places involve river crossings. This can be challenging when the river levels are high due to intense snow melting, and may mean you must make detours off the actual route in some places.
  • Most of the Arctic Trail is in high mountain terrain, and the weather can change quickly all year round.
  • You require equipment and clothing suitable for varying conditions in the high mountains.
  • As the distance between the huts may be too long for a day’s hike, we recommend packing a tent.
  • Stocking up on provisions on the section between Kilpisjärvi and Kautokeino may be extremely challenging so we recommend packing all the food you need!
  • Cellular phone coverage along the Arctic Trail is limited and varies enormoulsly. Be aware that there is no coverage in many places.
  • In the interests of safety, you can write a message in the cabin book with details of when you visited and where you are heading next.