The Arctic Circle Trail is Greenland's most popular backpacking trail, passing through around 100 miles of spectacular scenery including pristine lakes and fjords, beautiful waterfalls and cascades, towering snow-covered mountain ranges, and high points with sweeping views of valleys, while also featuring enjoyable wildlife viewing.  Difficulties encountered on the hike include arranging for trailhead transportation (if you wish to skip the 10-mile pre-trail road portion between Kangerlussuaq and Kellyville), being prepared for severe weather conditions (including heavy rain, intense cold, strong winds, white-out fog, and snowstorms even in the summer), dealing with the nonstop assault of mosquitoes at times, avoiding unsafe encounters with wildlife (see below for more information), hiking through challenging bogs and wetlands, and safely carrying out river crossings (which also means not crossing when river levels are too high).  Topographical maps of the hiking route from our GPS tracker can be found by clicking on the buttons above.  GPS coordinates are not provided because this is a well-established trail that is widely known and used.
Greenland.  A single word which signifies a place of big ice so distant and isolated that nobody I have ever met in my life from the area I live has actually been there.  Even though Greenland is part of North America, there are currently (as of 2018) no flights from North America which go there.  But we decided to embrace the travel challenges and visit this amazing wilderness in order to experience Greenland firsthand and share our new appreciation with others.  My friend Josh and I backpacked the Arctic Circle Trail in July of 2018 as a follow-up to our backpacking the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland in July of 2017.  We actually planned this hike that long in advance and began discussing it while hiking in Iceland during the previous summer.  The Arctic Circle Trail proved to be a much more challenging hiking experience (and more enjoyable, in my opinion).  The Arctic Circle Trail stretches from Kangerlussuaq (near the Ice Cap) to Sisimiut (near the sea).  The combined trail and road mileage between the two towns is 104 miles.  However, the first 10 miles in between Kangerlussuaq and Kellyville (a small research settlement) is on a road.  We chose to skip this portion of the hike and begin at the actual starting point for the Arctic Circle Trail, thus our hike was 94 miles in length.  (Keep in mind that all mileage and elevation measurements shared within this report have been taken directly from my GPS hiking tracker.  So it may differ slightly from what you find online or in guidebooks.  The elevation gains showed are cumulative, so it includes bumps with small ups and downs.)  Upon reaching Sisimiut at the end of the hike, we had to catch a flight back to Kangerlussuaq.  Preparing for this hike at home required a lot of advanced research, planning, and purchases.  We had to be fully prepared for every possible type of weather, we had to be well-protected from mosquitoes, and we had to have enough food and supplies to last us for 9 days, which is the standard length many people choose to spend on the trail.  As for avoiding unsafe encounters with wildlife, which was referenced above, there are a few things to keep in mind.  First of all, it is extremely unlikely that a polar bear will be encountered on the trail.  But it is not impossible.  Because a chance encounter is so remote, we chose not to worry about it.  (Updated safety alert: Polar bears did become an issue along the trail during the summer of 2019, one year after our hike.  Please check with locals regarding appropriate safety measures.)  Second, it is important to keep a safe distance from any musk oxen and reindeer that are encountered on the trail.  These animals are large and may charge if they feel threatened, so just enjoy photographing them from a distance.  Third, be aware that some Arctic foxes may carry rabies.  If an Arctic fox approaches you and is acting strangely and attempting to bite you (or other objects), protect yourself.  While we were on the trail, we were informed of two hikers who had been bitten by an Arctic fox and were rushing to complete the trail in order to get rabies shots.  As far as terrain on the trail, there are mostly gentle grades to climb up and down.  The challenges come from navigating in between the occasional short sections of missing trail and from dealing with crossing bogs and wetlands.  On some days, we spent many hours of time trying to find a way to cross bogs without getting our hiking boots soaked.  Most of the time we were successful.  But there is a learning curve on how to navigate this type of terrain which involves trial and error.  River crossings were not a problem for us during our hike, as the water was always below the waist.  However, at times of extensive snowmelt and heavy rains, river crossings may be more challenging and even unsafe.  So educate yourself, be properly prepared, and don't cross at times when it is not safe.  As far as sleeping along the trail, we camped for two nights at informal campgrounds and we slept in huts for six nights.  The huts really helped us out on a few nights when it rained all day and we needed to dry off.  Our favorite huts were the Canoe Center, Innajuattoq (lake hut), and Kangerluarsuk Tulleq (fjord hut).  As a side note, this trail continues to gain in popularity every year.  Thus, we do not feel that the trail can handle really large groups without sustaining damage to the pristine environment.  So please keep your group sizes small and within reasonable limits.  Below, we will share some information and experiences from our 9 days on the Arctic Circle Trail.  Also, click here to watch our Arctic Circle Trail video and click here to watch our Greenland trip video.
Day 1: Kellyville to tent camp past Hundeso (5.3 miles / 150 feet elevation gain / 3 hours 45 minutes).  Our trip began with a visit to the Ice Cap and Russell Glacier.  The included full set of photos will show you a little bit of what we saw during that day trip.  After the tour, our guide drove us from Kangerlussuaq to Kellyville and dropped us off at the start of the trail.  As our guide drove away and we did a final sorting of our backpacks on an abandoned sled, it was an intimidating but exciting feeling to know that there were nearly 100 miles of trail ahead of us.  Our hike began by passing by the first red-painted cairn (see logo image above), which is the regularly-seen marker for the Arctic Circle Trail.  We soon saw our first display of Arctic Cottongrass, which would be a very pretty sight throughout the route.  The first few lakes on the trail are too salty to drink, but we had plenty of water for the first day.  It didn't take us long to reach the narrow strip of land between two lakes which is crossed to reach Hundeso, the first hut and established camping area.  Hundeso was a bit rundown, but it overlooks Lake Hundeso, which makes for a nice setting.  Because we started at Kellyville, we were not yet ready to stop for the day.  So we kept going for a couple more hours until we found a nice informal camp by a large lake (see Sample Photo below) which contains the first drinkable water.  We set up our tent there.  Day 1 journal comment: "Nice hike to start the journey. Saw reindeer and Arctic hare. And musk oxen earlier. Camping by a pretty lake."
Day 2: tent camp past Hundeso to tent camp past Katiffik (10.8 miles / 800 feet elevation gain / 12 hours 30 minutes).  Our second day started with our first extended elevation climb.  The first few days of trail mostly pass by small and large lakes and green hillsides, while the taller mountains come later.  The trail birds (Lapland Longspur and Northern Wheatear) were very playful.  Often they would hop ahead of us on the trail or fly from rock to rock to keep us company.  As we reached a high plateau that we crossed, there were some nice views of distant peaks.  We had our first river crossing at a channel which connects two lakes, which was quite easy as we just jumped across on rocks.  A reindeer then kept us company for a while, running ahead of us in the same direction we were headed.  After spotting a Long-tailed duck basking in the sun, we turned a corner and headed down into the valley containing Katiffik hut.  At Katiffik, we visited with some fellow hikers and cooked dinner, then kept hiking.  There is a nice white sand beach just past Katiffik (see Sample Photo below).  The portion of trail in between Katiffik and the next hut at the Canoe Center is entirely along the shore of Lake Amitsoruaq.  We hiked until we navigated through some areas of rockfall with giant boulders, and then set up our tent near another small beach.  Day 2 journal comment: "Very warm day 75F. Saw reindeer, lots of birds, and ducks. Scenery is stunning. Green everywhere with lots of nice lakes."
Day 3: tent camp past Katiffik to Canoe Center (10.6 miles / 325 feet elevation gain / 8 hours 15 minutes).  After setting up camp the previous night, an Arctic fox walked up to our tent to check us out.  Waking up the next morning, we were greeted by a Great Northern Loon swimming near our beach.  During the trip, there were many times we would walk by lakes and enjoy the tremolo and wail calls of a Great Northern Loon (or Common Loon).  The wail call proved to be quite eerie the first time we heard it.  We spent the entire third day hiking by Lake Amitsoruaq.  This was probably the easiest hiking terrain of the trip, with the trail mostly staying close to the water but sometimes climbing higher above.  Views looking across the lake kept things interesting, with sheer cliffs appearing at times and a very large island which is passed about halfway through.  Getting closer to the end, a sharp turn is taken and the Canoe Center comes into view.  Just before reaching the Canoe Center, it started to rain and a reindeer with large horns was spotted grazing (see Sample Photo below).  The Canoe Center was the first hut that we slept in.  Day 3 journal comment: "A bit rainy today. An Arctic Fox came up to our tent. Reindeers close up. Hiked along a lake shore all day."
Day 4: Canoe Center to Ikkattooq (13.6 miles / 1,625 feet elevation gain / 10 hours).  The fourth day got off to an enjoyable start as we were able to backpack by canoe for the first couple of miles.  We pushed out into Lake Amitsoruaq at the Canoe Center and then rowed to the end of the lake, where we left the canoe upside down next to the canoe frame.  We next hiked through a long valley until we could see another large lake in the distance with some beautiful red cliffs.  This lake has one of the most pristine white sand beaches on the entire route.  When we got to the beach overlook (see Sample Photo below), a steady rain began pouring down and didn't let up for the rest of the day.  Thankfully, we were well prepared for wet weather, but it made the hiking less enjoyable and greatly limited photography.  Past the beach, the trail climbs steeply through several sections and then passes by numerous small lakes until Ikkattooq hut is finally reached.  Being that this is one of the smaller huts, we were grateful to find space available for us so that we could hang up our clothes to dry and not have to set up our tent in the rain.  Day 4 journal comment: "Started with canoe ride for 2 miles. Then backpacking. True Arctic weather - freezing cold, rain all day, heavy wind."
Day 5: Ikkattooq to Eqalugaarniarfik (7.3 miles / 675 feet elevation gain / 6 hours 45 minutes).  It was nice to have a shorter day in the middle of the journey, especially when it had rained a lot during the previous day and night.  After getting everything dried out, our hike began by climbing up to the first of the three most impressive overlook points along the route.  Below us and to the right was a pretty lake surrounded by colorful mountains.  To our left, in the direction we would next be headed, was a vast green valley stretching on for a long distance until it ended at the head of Maligiaq fjord (see Sample Photo below).  We descended into the valley and began crossing it until we reached a mandatory river crossing.  This river crossing was said to be the hardest of the route.  But we were able to cross it fairly easily, with water reaching the midpoint between our knees and waist.  There is a footbridge installed farther downstream which can be used during times of high water, but it is harder to get to.  Crossing the valley was a fun experience.  At times we followed in the tracks of a hiking trolley which was (crazily enough) being pulled by a French couple hiking a couple days ahead of us on the trail.  Upon reaching the fjord, the trail turns sharply and we soon arrived at the hut.  In order to get fresh drinking water, we had to hike a short distance downhill to a nearby spring.  Day 5 journal comment: "Warm day. Hiked through a long valley and did a cold river crossing. Great views of Maligiaq fjord from camp."
Day 6: Eqalugaarniarfik to Innajuattoq (12 miles / 1,675 feet elevation gain / 9 hours).  Our sixth day of hiking started by climbing steadily uphill as we passed above several large lakes.  Beautiful snow-covered mountains were visible in the distance.  Eventually, the route descended down to the shoreline of a lake which we followed for some time.  The lakes in this area had mirrorlike reflections of the background hills and mountains.  We began to notice a great increase in height of the surrounding mountains and cliffs we were passing by (see Sample Photo below).  Distant high waterfalls teased us with views.  After we passed by another large lake and began following a stream which soon connected with another lake, we crossed through some very wet bogs.  Finding the best route through bogs was always a challenge for us, but most of the time our hiking boots did not get fully submerged in water.  The day's journey ended at the Innajuattoq lake hut, which was one of our favorites.  It is newer, very spacious, and has a nice overlook of the lake.  Shortly after our arrival, it started raining once again and would not let up for the next 24 hours.  Day 6 journal comment: "Scenery getting more grand deeper into the mountains. Towering cliffs and waterfalls. 3 days left."
Day 7: Innajuattoq to Nerumaq (10.7 miles / 1,250 feet elevation gain / 7 hours 45 minutes).  When the rain did not let up on the morning of the seventh day, we decided to go ahead and hike through it.  The thought of sitting out this day and then having to hike a double day tomorrow did not sound appealing.  Thus, we left the comfort and shelter of the lake hut and set out into the storm.  This day of hiking started out with an immediate river crossing at an area where the lake drains into a fast-moving stream which flows into a small gorge (see Sample Photo below).  After completing the crossing, we hiked around the right side of the lake and began climbing up toward a pass.  We passed by a family of ducks and a young reindeer.  The view from the pass of the valley below and waterfalls plunging down the mountain cliffs was quite breathtaking.  This is the second of what I consider to be the three best overlook points.  After descending into the valley and rounding a bend, we arrived at Nerumaq hut.  Once again, we were glad to find space available (there are only 6 bunks available at this hut), so that we could dry out and have good sleep.  When the rain finally stopped, I stepped outside to take some photographs of a reddish cliff face which has abundant rockfall.  At the moment I did, another part of the cliff face collapsed, which I happened to see.  Back inside the hut, the rockfall sounded like thunder to others who hadn't seen it.  Day 7 journal comment: "Hiked a long valley between high mountains with many cascades coming down the slopes. Beautiful wildflowers."
Day 8: Nerumaq to Kangerluarsuk Tulleq (9.7 miles / 475 feet elevation gain / 8 hours 15 minutes).  Our eighth day of hiking was all about the bogs.  Beautiful weather finally returned and it would last throughout the final two days of backpacking.  Three river crossings highlight the early part of the day, but we managed to cross two of these without having to remove our hiking boots.  We also took a swim and spotted some very large fish in the river.  After the third crossing, we had to deal with an endless amount of bogs.  Upon successfully crossing the wetlands and reaching the shoreline of a lake, which is then followed for some time, the colorful sheer cliffs and distant mountain peaks really took over the scenery.  Especially impressive are the three major peaks seen to the north (see Sample Photo below).  At a trail junction, we stayed right and headed for the Kangerluarsuk Tulleq fjord hut.  It was a really nice hut overlooking the fjord.  For a couple of hours, we sat out in front of the hut and watched Humpback whales playfully swimming out in the fjord.  It was quite a special experience to have whale watching at camp.  Day 8 journal comment: "Hiked along a river with huge Arctic char fish. Stopped at the head of a fjord surrounded by mountain peaks."
Day 9: Kangerluarsuk Tulleq to Sisimiut (14 miles / 2,225 feet elevation gain / 10 hours 30 minutes).  Our ninth and final day of backpacking contained truly beautiful scenery.  The route begins by following along the south side of the fjord, high above the water.  The early morning fog soon dissipated and the views of the fjord and mountains behind it, as well as the mountains above us to the left, were quite incredible.  At one point, the fjord had an amazing glassy reflection of the mountains.  Several waterfalls are passed and the route turns left and climbs upward.  A high mountain plateau is crossed with several lakes and streams.  Then a pass is reached which I consider to be the third of the three best overlook points.  From the overlook, a vast green valley below with towering background mountains can be seen (see Sample Photo below).  We descended into the valley and hiked alongside the mountains before reaching another pass.  A short time later, we had our first view of Sisimiut.  We dropped down toward the town, heard the sounds of sledge dogs howling and barking from Dog Town in the distance, and were soon walking the streets toward our lodging.  It was hard to believe the Arctic Circle Trail was over but we were left with a lifetime of memories.  Day 9 journal comment when hike started: "Starting our final day's journey. Watched humpback whales from camp last night."  According to my GPS tracker, we had done 9,200 feet of cumulative elevation gain over the course of 94 miles.  The included full set of photos contains my favorite 130 photos from our hike (about 1/16 of the 2,090 photos I took on the trail).  Our hike took place from July 14-22, 2018.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination.  To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below.  The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing.  The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers).  This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets.  The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit.  Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination.  The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
Arctic Circle Trail photographs
Arctic Circle Trail slideshow
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