Trekking Greenland – Arctic Circle Trail – Summary

If you love long-distance hiking and want to experience real solitude and untouched wilderness, the Arctic Circle Trail in West Greenland is definitely for you.

Schematic of the Arctic Circle Trail Route from Destination Arctic Circle
Outline of the Arctic Circle Trail route by Destination Arctic Circle

Stretching for 160km along the Arctic Circle from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut, it is quickly rising in popularity after being featured in several “Top 10” lists in recent years. And while nowhere in Greenland is ever going to feel crowded, if you want to avoid other hikers, I would suggest doing it sooner rather than later.

Perfect reflections of mountains in the lake - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland

[move cursor over the image to see the full panorama]

I have to admit, it is not the most beautiful long-distance hike I’ve ever done (especially the first couple of days out of Kangerlussuaq), but then again I’ve done some incredible hikes and am drawn to tall peaky mountains with snow and ice. This is not the landscape along the Arctic Circle Trail. That being said, there are some spectacularly epic vistas along the way, and it is magical to have the opportunity to hike alone (if you choose) in the middle of nowhere for over a week.

Tyson looking out over Ole’s Lakseelv (Itinneq) Valley on Day 4 – one of several epic vistas along the Arctic Circle Trail

How difficult is the Arctic Circle Trail?

The great news is that it is actually a very easy hike, if you are accustomed to hiking long distances carrying a full pack. There are no technical challenges (the most difficult thing is avoiding the boggy areas), and any difficulties will likely arise due to weather.

When should I hike the Arctic Circle Trail?

The peak hiking season for this part of Greenland is from late-June to mid-September. During this period the average temperature along the Arctic Circle Trail ranges from around 0o Celsius at night to 17o Celsius during the day. However, keep in mind this is the Arctic and the weather can change quickly. You should therefore not be surprised by hotter temperatures, and absolutely must be prepared for colder weather. As always, layers are the secret to comfort on the trail!

Views of different weather conditions on the Arctic Circle trail in late August 2018 - West Greenland
We had terrible (top) and fantastic (bottom) weather hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in late August

Another consideration is that the infamous Greenland mosquitoes tend to be at their worst in July and early August, though it depends on when the weather becomes warm enough for their eggs to hatch. If you don’t want to have to wear a head net the whole way (though I would recommend bringing one with you regardless), try to aim for earlier or later in the season.

I hiked the trail from August 15 – 22, 2018. You can see how the weather changed on a daily basis by reading my other blog posts (linked from the bottom of this post), but the weather wasn’t too bad and we only had one night with a light frost. The mosquitoes didn’t drive us crazy and there were only a handful of occasions where I put my head net on for a while.

How long does it take to hike the Arctic Circle Trail?

This will depend on a number of factors including your fitness, your motivation, your purpose in hiking the trail, etc. However, the average time taken by most people is 8-9 days from Kelly Ville/Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut. This is basically the schedule defined by the huts.

Views of some of the huts along the Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Some of the huts along the Arctic Circle Trail

If you want to walk from the Icefield to Sisimiut, add another 2-3 days. You really want to be able to enjoy a decent amount of time at the very impressive Russell Glacier!

Me standing on rocks looking across the river at the 60m high face of the Russell Glacier
Looking up at the 60m high face of the Russell Glacier

Is it possible to do this trek guided/supported?

At this stage, no. This is an independent hiking trail and you need to be self-sufficient and confident in hiking long distances by yourself. That being said, the trail is extremely well marked. You would have to try very hard to get lost!

Stone cairn with reindeer antlers in front of a lake - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Typical route marker for the Arctic Circle Trail – a stone cairn with red semi-circles. They are easy to spot which makes navigation simple!

Where can I go for more detailed information?

Visit Greenland will publish an “Ultimate Guide to the Arctic Circle Trail” in March 2019. This will be the most comprehensive web page on hiking the Arctic Circle Trail, with loads of practical information on preparing for the hike, how to get the most out of the hike, and what to do after the hike.

I know this because I wrote a lot of it ūüėČ I will link it here as soon as it is live!

View of Nasaasaaq from the pass - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Another of my favourite “epic vistas”. This one is actually just outside of Sisimiut

Destination Arctic Circle has a web page that contains brief trail notes, and the other detailed reference is the Cicerone guide: “Walking the Arctic Circle Trail”. Many hikers had this book tucked away in their rucksack and it does give a very detailed description of the route for each day. Paddy Dillon (the author) was actually hiking the trail again while I was there and the updated edition is now out.

Should I budget time at either end to explore?

YES! Absolutely! 100%!

Unfortunately I only ended up with one day in Kangerlussuaq thanks to flight schedule changes, but I spent 9 days in Sisimiut and never ran out of things to do!

Images of some of the many things I did after the Arctic Circle Trail while in Sisimiut, West Greenland
Teasers of some of the many, many things Tyson and I got up to while we were in Sisimiut

I had an absolutely brilliant time in Greenland’s second largest town (population 5,500), and even had the classic Sisimiut experience of being stranded for an extra day due to bad weather grounding the flights ūüėÄ That meant I ended up missing out on seeing my absolute favourite band, Nanook, play at the Taseralik Cultural Center by only 12 hours! 😞😭

Me wearing my "Stranded in Sisimiut - Lucky Me!" t-shirt at the Hotel Sisimiut - West Greenland
Wearing my “Stranded in Sisimiut – Lucky me” t-shirt. Lucky me indeed! I had the BEST time in Sisimiut, thanks in great part to the amazing staff at the Hotel Sisimiut.

Search for “Sisimiut” in my blog posts to see what I got up to, and/or follow the links in Visit Greenland’s “Ultimate Guide to the Arctic Circle Trail”.

Two last things…

Million thanks to my trekking buddy, Tyson, for a hugely fun trip. I’m glad that you enjoyed your first Greenland experience after hearing me rave on about the place for more than 12 months! See you back there in 2019!

And for those who have read all my other posts about this trek…

Yes.  I did manage to make it all the way from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut with dry feet 😂

Read more about hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

If this post has piqued your curiosity about hiking and trekking in Greenland, read about my adventure over 8 days on the Arctic Circle Trail:

If it has sparked an interest in Greenland more generally, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours of all kinds (not just hiking and trekking) at Guide to Greenland.

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