Things to do
Top hiking routes in Sweden
Looking for top hiking routes in Sweden? Well-marked paths, easy to difficult hikes and superb natural surroundings – here are the classics you just have to hike.
- The King’s Trail (Kungsleden)
- Sörmlandsleden Trail
- The Pilgrim Path St Olavsleden
- The Emigrant Trail (Utvandrarleden)
- Skåneleden Trail
The King’s Trail (Kungsleden) – northern Sweden
Established at the end of the 19th century, the King’s Trail is considered not just one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Sweden but in the world. Stretching more than 400 kilometres through dark forests, up Sweden’s tallest mountains and along rushing rivers, the King’s Trail offers alpine landscapes – and in the summer nearly 24 hours of sunlight. While it takes about one month to hike the entire trail, you can also explore it in more manageable sections – which is also helpful if you’re keen to really challenge yourself or perhaps want to hike at a more moderate skill level.
The section between Abisko and Nikkaluokta offers you the chance to scale the summit of Sweden’s highest peak, Kebnekaise, which stands at 2,117 metres. That may sound challenging but much of this section of the trail is more moderate, so know what you’re capable of and stick with it. From Saltoluokta to Kvikkjokk the hiking terrain alternates between barren plateaus and meadows surrounded by mountains and forests. The 81 km stretch takes roughly 4-5 days. Wooden steps and bridges ensure everyone's safety.
Close by you’ll find the plateau of the Sarek National park, which is often called Western Europe’s last wilderness. You can also hike to the peak of Skierffe – but be careful! At the summit, the south face plummets down into a river delta. The sweeping views will make the effort worthwhile – they’re among the best in all of Scandinavia. If you're looking for a trail that is less populated, head to the 166 km stretch that runs south from Kvikkjokk.
Make sure to pack comfortable, waterproof clothes and a map when hiking the King's trail in Swedish Lapland. Photo: Gösta Fries / www.swedishtouristassociation.com
Where to stay
The King’s Trail offers overnight huts every 10-20 kilometres. During the summer season, beginning in June, almost all huts are manned by wardens. Hiking in Sweden is more popular in the summer, but you can also hike in the colder months. Guided hiking tours are available during both summer and winter – and are highly recommended during the winter if you have not hiked this region previously or are not very experienced.
The Swedish Tourist Federation offers a lot of different accommodations for hikers. During this particular hike you can stay at STF Abisko Turiststation, STF Kebnekaise Fjällstation or the huts in Abiskojaure, Alesjaure, Sälka, Tjäktja and Singi. The last two offers housing only (no food).
Kebnekaise – in the north
At 2,106 metres, Kebnekaise is Sweden’s highest mountain and while the 18 km round trip to the summit and back sounds daunting it is actually suited to most skill levels. The best time to hike is July and August, when the marked trail is generally snow-free. This is one of the most varied hiking trails in Sweden, allowing you to experience everything from glaciers and Sami settlements to flat gorges and wide-open valleys.
Kebnekaise is the highest mountain in Sweden. It has two peaks out of wich the South peak is the highest. 2102 amsl. Photo: Fredrik Broman/imagebank.sweden.se
The best place to begin your hike is the STF Kebnekaise Mountain Station. STF, the Swedish Tourist Federation, also maintains mountain cabins along the route, all of which are free, although you’re not able to book or reserve them.
There are two tourist trails leading up to the summit – Östra leden and Västra leden (east and west routes). The western trail is public and presents no out of the ordinary hiking difficulties other than length, while the eastern trail is shorter but does require some climbing skills. The east route is also guided, weather permitting.
When hiking Kebnekaise it’s important to have a good pair of hiking boots, as well as appropriate clothing. The weather changes fast and because this is above the Arctic Circle it’s not necessarily going to be warm, even in the summer. Additionally, the mosquitos are hungry, so bring the spray. It’s also a good idea to check with the guides at STF Kebnekaise Fjällstation (Mountain Station) before heading out to ensure your own safety.
Hiking in Kebnekaise, which is the highest mountain in Sweden, and a appreciated hiking destination. Photo: Mats Hagwall/Unsplash
Sörmlandsleden Trail, Södermanland – south-central Sweden
For a less strenuous hike in Sweden that still offers some challenges and plenty of gorgeous surroundings, the Sörmlandsleden Trail is right up your alley. Located in south-central Sweden, this hiking trail offers more than 1,000 km of varied landscape, as well as a number of places that are of cultural and historical importance.
The route is divided into nearly 100 sections that range from two to 21 kilometres, offering levels of difficulty that range from quite challenging to an easy ramble along level ground. And like most other long hiking trails in Sweden, there are a number of exit and entry points. On Sörmlandsleden most of these are easily reached by car, bus, or train. Some sections take just a few hours to hike, while others will take the entire day.
The trail has a highly diversified natural environment: one moment you are hiking across a wide-open landscape, and the next you’ll find yourself in a dark forest or maybe enjoying the sunshine along the coastline. The trail takes you past no less than 80 lakes, where you are free to take a refreshing dip.
Lantmäteriet Ordnance Survey maps are available at tourist offices and book stores, but note that because of unexpected events, such as road building or maintenance, the actual trail may deviate from the map. And while there are overnights huts dotted along the way, there are long stretches where you won’t find any, so if you plan to overnight bring appropriate provisions and camping gear. You are allowed to camp according to Sweden’s Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten), which means you can hike anywhere you want – as long as you leave your surroundings the way you found them and you’re not disturbing anyone. There are also plenty of hotels, inns, hostels and B&Bs along the way.
Stunning views from Sörmlandsleden hiking trail. Photo: Karin Reibring
Pilgrim Path St Olavsleden – western Sweden
The Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Route might get more press but don’t count out the St Olavsleden Pilgrim Trail, which passes through both Sweden and Norway and is the northernmost pilgrim trail in the world.
The St. Olavsleden follows in the footsteps of Norway’s King Olav Haraldsson, who walked from Sweden to Norway almost one thousand years ago. The hiking trail is nearly 600 kilometres long, extending from the Baltic Sea in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west – or, in other words, from Selånger in Sweden to Trondheim in Norway. Taking you through vast swaths of forest, over mountains, and around lakes, St. Olavsleden is a historical and cultural marvel set in some of the most stunning scenery you’ll ever pass through.
Hiking in the forests and past the lakes along the Pilgrim Path in West Sweden. Photo: Henrik Trygg/Westsweden.com
Guided tours are available and a good idea if you really want to get the most out of this historical experience. If you’d rather explore on your own, you can easily access interactive maps. There are also trail ambassadors who are happy to share their experiences with you. Accommodation is available along the way, from upscale hotels to rustic huts. Camping is also an option, and for food you can either bring your own, shop at a grocery store, or try one of the many restaurants along the trail.
The weather is extremely variable so take that into consideration when preparing for your hike – layers that are easily added or removed, as well as sturdy hiking boots are your best options. Weather forecasts can be obtained from SMHI - weather in Sweden.
For detailed tips on what to pack and equipment you might want to bring with you, read more at The Mountain Safety Council of Sweden (Fjällsäkerhetsrådet): Recommended outdoor equipment on the mountain.
The Emigrant Trail (Utvandrarleden) – southern Sweden
The 130 km long Emigrant Trail (Utvandrarleden) hiking trail in Sweden’s Småland region in the south takes you through the villages from which many Swedes left to seek their fortune in the United States between 1850 and 1910.
The hard and rocky ground made it difficult to grow crops, resulting in famine that drove, by some estimates, nearly a third of Sweden’s population to seek a better life in the “New World” in the United States. Vilhelm Moberg, a native of Småland, wrote about the emigrants’ experiences in a series of four novels, which remains a popular and poignant tale both in Sweden and abroad.
Some of the villages playing an integral part of the narrative in the books are found along the Emigrant trail, including Ljuder, Långasjö, Korpamoen, Moshult, and, most importantly, Duvemåla, where one of the key characters, Kristina, hails from.
For overnight stays, hikers can choose from a wide variety of accommodation. And you might want to tuck the Moberg novels into your pack to read as you make your way from village to village – getting a deeper understanding of the history of this region.
Store Mosse National Park boasts Sweden’s largest bog south of Lapland, with plenty of walking paths making it great for hikers. Photo: Christoffer Collin/Smålands Turism
Skåneleden Trail, Skåne – southern Sweden
Perfect for both seasoned hikers and those just getting started, the 1,162 km long Skåneleden Trail takes you through the beautiful and cultural landscape of Skåne, Sweden’s southern-most region. The trail is divided into five sub-trails for a total of 105 sections, which will take you along both the rocky coastline and through old virgin forests. The Skåneleden Trail is a great alternative for those who want to combine hiking with culture – and it’s particularly suited to foodies.
The hiking trail passes through deep forests of deciduous and coniferous trees, along quiet lakes, and through deep gorges. You’ll also cross endless fields and white beaches, and through the occasional picturesque fishing village. The coast at Kullaleden is particularly impressive, as are the forests of Österlen and the woods around Hovdala by Finjasjön lake. Stenshuvud National Park sits on 400 hectares, including 80 hectares of sea. There are three peaks for you to attack, including the northern peak, which stands at 97 metres above sea level.
Couple walking near Hovs hallar at the hiking trail Skåneleden, in south Sweden. Photo: Mickael Tannus
The nature of the Kullaberg peninsula is breathtaking and perfect for hiking. Enjoy the magnificent views over the sea and dramatic cliffs of Kullaberg Nature reserve and pictoresque villages as you hike along the Kullaleden trail, the first hiking trail in Sweden certified by European Ramblers association. Photo: Apelöga/imagebank.sweden.se
North-east Skåne is for the more serious hiker. You’ll pass through the dense Göinge Woodlands, where fierce battles over Danish rule once took place. There are also plenty of lakes for swimming, and for bird lovers in particular, this area is a revelation.
There are plenty of campsites with facilities available, as well as huts and other shelters, compost toilets, and other basic amenities – and it’s all free!