Packrafting in the Sarek National Park

Sarek National Park - Sweden

In 2013 I went on a 6-day packrafting and hiking tour in Sarek with a colleague, and here are a few impressions from this trip.

Due to environmental regulations it is not allowed to use boats such as packrafts anymore in Sarek National Park.

We travelled from Vaasa on the Wasaline ferry to Umea and then on the “hikers train” (it seemed that the only people who travelled north were hikers) to Gällivare. Unfortunately, the train from Umea to Sarek only runs a few times a day, and therefore you may have to stay in Umea for one night if you miss the last train.

Sarek National Park
Packrafting in the Sarek National Park

From Gällivare we took a bus to Suorva. The price of the bus ticket was just over SEK 300 per person. If you are planning the same trip, you should ensure that you have enough cash for the ticket, as, unfortunately, you cannot pay by card. We also needed money to later pay for a boat trip or a flight with a helicopter.

At noon we started our journey from Suorva by crossing the dam and walking a short distance along the Jiertajavrre on a path that led us through a dense birch forest full of large stones, boulders, and swamps.

We prepared our meals with a gas cooker. Although I’m not a fan of dehydrated camping food from the camping shop, I was able to survive in Sarek National Park for a week.

After lunch, we wanted to reach the Vuosskeljavrre lake, which was behind the Hallji fell. To get to the lake, we had to climb over 500 meters. When the trail ended, we had no choice but to try to navigate the wild terrain.

Sarek National Park - Sweden
Sarek National Park

Walking through the woods was almost as exhausting as walking uphill or jumping from one rock to another. However, it became easier to navigate after we left the forest as we had a clear view.
When we reached some altitude, we had a fantastic view over the fells and we took a short break to soak up the tranquil beauty of this area.

We found cloudberries and mushrooms – basically the whole place seemed to be covered with berries if you visit the National Park at the right time. For the first time in my life, I also found reindeer antlers. And, of course, the reindeer themselves weren’t far away and we were able to approach them somewhat to take pictures of them.

Sarek National Park
Camping in the Sarek National Park

The terrain was very uneven, and we saw the first bouldering fields that we had to cross. We had to walk very carefully, as a wrong kick would undoubtedly result in an injury, and since there was no network coverage for cell phones, it would have been difficult to call for help.

My windbreaker and walking sticks were practical, especially in areas covered with boulders where you had to jump from one rock to another. In a windbreaker, you don’t sweat as much as in a rain jacket, and the hiking sticks help you jump and run up and downhill.
When we reached Lake Vuosskeljavrre at 9 p.m., we decided to pitch a tent and have dinner. It took some time to find a flat and dry place for our tent as there were many swamps and the ground was very uneven. We didn’t want to pitch our tent on a sandy beach either, as there was no protection from the strong wind there.

Sarek National Park
Sarek National Park

To prepare our dinner, we pumped fresh water from a river and heated it up. After dinner, we watched the beautiful red sunset that we thought would bring us pleasant weather the next day. We also wanted to go swimming in the lake, but eventually we decided against it and instead crawled into our sleeping bags.

Sarek National Park
Packraft in the Sarek National Park

The next day we we crossed a couple of lakes with our packrafts and paddled down a river. At this point, however, we were still beginners when it came to packrafting. We didn’t wear dry suits and knew how to behave appropriately in the swift water. Fortunately, nothing happened to us, but we definitely wouldn’t do it again.

Sarek National Park
Emergency shelter in the Sarek National Park

There were only a few artificial constructions in the national park, such as a suspension bridge under which we paddled and an emergency shelter. However, if you see such a suspension bridge, you have to be particularly careful if you want to paddle under it, as the water can become quickly very swift. Therefore, it is best to scout the river from the land before paddling through it.

Sarek National Park
Suspension bridge in the Sarek National Park

At the end of the trip, we had planned to cross Lake Akkajaure by ferry. There was a sign with a phone number that we called the day before to make a reservation for the boat. Instead of a ferry, however, we got a helicopter the next day. It was the first helicopter experience in my life, and the cost for the flight was the same as for the ferry which we ordered.