Arctic Circle Trail (ACT) in Greenland is regularly recorded as one of the best long-distance hikes on the planet. The trail extends up to 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the edge of the ice cap to the angling town of Sisimiut on the West coast.
During the summer months from June to September the trail is usually free of snow and offers a spectacular hike from the icecap to Sisimiut’s coast.
Depending on fitness levels and the weather, it can take anywhere between 7-12 days to complete. Except for a few wooden huts for bad weather and one bridge over the biggest river the trail offers no luxuries.
The normal hiking season is from June to August. Just around 400 individuals for every year walk the trail.
The landscape along the path is very diverse, changing with each kilometer one comes closer to the coast. Passing through low valleys covered by many lakes, it’s a relatively easy walk with regards to elevation.
The only towns are located at the beginning and end of the trail, meaning you must pack all your own food & survival gear for the duration of the hike. Plus a complete lack of civilization nearby in the event of an unexpected emergency.
ACT hikers must have experience surviving alone in the wild, understanding their own particular breaking points, reading weather patterns, and the capacity to explore new territory using a map and compass.
You’ll want to buy a series of 3 paper topographical maps that cover the entire length of the ACT. These maps are named Kangerlussuaq, Pingu and Sisimiut.
In addition you can have a GPS. The ACT maps can be loaded to some GPS devices.
Most people enter ACT through the old military base in Kangerlussuaq which now is the international airport of Greenland. It’s thus a perfect starting point for hiking on the ACT since you just have to get out of the plane and start walking. Many hikers take the coastline either to Ilulissat to the north, or to Nuuk to the south. And if you haven’t got enough of the ACT, then you can start walking back to Kangerlussuaq 🙂
Just across the street from the terminal, there is a larger supermarket from which basic supplies can be bought. You can buy some ingredients for trail mix, but prepare your own trail mix before you arrive. It will be cheaper and you’ll have more options.
To actually start hiking on the ACT you have to follow a road along to Killy Ville for about 14 km to reach the of beginning trail. If you don’t want to walk that far you can also take a cab from Kangerlussuaq. If you decide to walk all the way make sure to pick up water in Kangerlussuaq since there aren’t that many source of clean water directly near the road.
The entire trail is generally marked with cairns those can be spread quite far apart. An additional problem for orientation is that you can every now and then come across hunting trails which might take you into completely different directions.
Having a close look at the map and using the many lakes as orientation is thus a big help to find the trail.
From Kangerlussuaq you are also quite close to the Greenland Ice Sheet so you can plan one or two days extra for a detour.
Around 85 per cent of Greenland is still within the grip of the geological period, covered by a huge ice cap that reaches a most thickness of regarding 3km (2 miles) within the middle of the country. In some places the ice reaches the sea, where it calves’ icebergs into the water. In other places the ice terminates a lot of than 200km (125 miles) from the ocean, leaving a strip of land that is freed from snow and ice throughout the summer.
The ACT exploits one among the widest of those unfrozen regions, which enjoys some of the country’s best weather.
For those undertaking the ACT, the easiest thanks to visit the ice cap is from Kangerlussuaq, where special four-wheeled drive vehicles follow a dirt road north-east past Russells Glacier to an area called ‘Point 660’. Visitors will stroll around on the edge of the ice cap, and the journey there and back may be accomplished in a day. No other half of Greenland’s ice cap is thus simply accessible, so build the most of it whereas within the space. Beware of crumbling junk earth at the sting of the ice, and keep away from torrential, murky glacial rivers. Not only do these rivers flow quick and furiously, but the sand and mud-banks close to them area unit notoriously unstable.
Outside of Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut finding drinking water is generally no problem since all the lakes are clean and unpolluted. But due to the level terrain you have to keep in mind that you are not passing many rivers big enough for taking drinking water, so if you leave a big lake, e.g. to make a longer climb over a hill or plateau, it’s generally a good idea to fill up the water supply 🙂
The small huts across the trail have very varying comfort. Some just consist of 4 bunk beds while others are more luxurious with more beds, tables and even heaters. We would really recommend to always take a tent with you on the ACT, because huts were often spaced very far apart spanning sometimes 20 km or more. There are also many very beautiful camping spots along the trail which are perfect for camping there overnight.
Approximately the middle of the trail is a wide and open valley through which the Ittineq river flows. The river itself is the deepest and strongest which has to be crossed on the ACT. In 2008 a bridge was build which can be used to safely cross the river. However, the bridge is located approximately 3 km from the old trail. The valley itself can be very wet and swampy, which makes it hard to cross unless the weather was warm enough to dry the swamps. If you can’t spot the bridge or just don’t want to bother looking for it you of course still use the old trail and go through the river 🙂
A summer trek along the ACT reveals extensive life, despite the species count being low. It could be delineated as ‘big game country, with reindeer and musk ox doubtless to be seen. Reindeer antlers and bones ar seen on a daily basis on the path. Juvenile reindeer ar inquisitive and might approach walkers, while adults ar fast to break away. Stocky, shaggy musk ox, related to sheep and goats, were hunted nearly to the purpose of extinction, but the space around Kangerlussuaq was restocked within the Nineteen Sixties with twenty seven calves, and their numbers are currently around ten thousand. Musk ox is just rarely seen on the trail. By all means admire them, but provide them wide berth. They are unpredictable, especially in family teams, and might charge anyone approaching them.
Two animals that do often seen are the arctic hare and fox. The hare is white, as are some of the foxes, but different foxes ar a dark color, referred to as ‘blue’.
Only a few of those sledge dogs live at Kangerlussuaq, though a lot of ar brought in at winter. At Sisimiut, anyone using the camping site can pass several sledge dogs as they walk to and from city. When one of them starts howling, they all start howling like wolves!
Land mammals are few in variety, but a trip to ocean from Sisimiut may reveal a spread of whales, seals and possibly even a pinnatiped (the emblem of the Sisimiut municipality). The sea contains variety of fish species, including cod, halibut, redfish and wolf fish. It is worth visiting the fish market in Sisimiut to examine the catch of the day’. Inland, clear lakes and rivers contain arctic char and salmon, which some walkers try to catch to supplement their food rations.
Notable birds include a selection of little species that dart, flutter and twitter among the Arctic scrub. Look out for the northern wheatear, common redpoll and snow bunting. The well-camouflaged ptarmigan can tolerate a shut approach. They are rather like grouse in size and habit. Black ravens are noticed on a daily basis, while birds of prey embrace the peregrine falcon and gerfalcon.
The abundant lakes support ducks, geese, waders and wildfowl. The largest lakes are home to the red-throated loon, which typically laughs at passing walkers and canoeists, or sometimes pipes a lament to their suffering! North American country geese and mallards ar usually seen, along with a spread of gulls close to the coast.
Insect life is abundant in high summer, but whereas butterflies might delight the eye, nothing causes more misery than the mosquitoes. From mid-June throughout July they will be a pestilence, but their numbers ar immensely depleted early in August, and by September they might be absent altogether. Consider victimisation dipterous insect repellent and dipterous insect nets in June and July, and hope that the first frosts decimate the mosquitoes shortly afterward.
Greenland, whether you coning from Europe or the United States, is best reached from Copenhagen in Denmark. Direct flights operate from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, the international airport for the whole of Greenland. Anyone wishing to walk the ACT in reverse will fly forward from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut on a Dash-8 (about 25min. flight).
There are additionally flights from Iceland to Greenland, but these might be awkward for anyone walking the ACT, as onward flights are required to reach Kangerlussuaq.
If travel to Greenland can not be accomplished in an exceedingly day then take the chance to remain nightlong – or even longer – in Copenhagen, and make a town break out of it.