The E1 European Long Distance Path is one of the many long-distance paths created by the European Rambler's Association. It starts in northernmost Norway and extends all the way down to Italy. It has a total length of 7,980 km (4,960 mi). One could hike the E1 in about a year.
The E1 Long Distance Path goes through many countries, including Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. The E1, unlike trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the E1 does not have a dedicated path. Instead, it is made up of separate local trails that are available in the area. The Norwegian part was inaugurated in 2013.
Preparing for the hiking of the E1 trail is not that different from the hiking of other trails in their respective countries. For sections in the north (Nordkapp to southern Sweden), the article Hiking in the Nordic countries could be used. It covers everything from staying safe to gear issues. You will need at least a sleeping bag on those sections, and also tent and hiking mattress on some of them.
In addition to the advice gained from the articles listed above, one must also be prepared with some accommodation and resupply plans.
For cabins or huts in the Nordic countries, see Hiking in the Nordic countries#Sleep. Some are unmanned, either locked (in which case you want to have the key) or unlocked. Some need an advance reservation. Some are free for independent hikers, some are paid by a honour system. In the wilderness huts latecomers have an absolute right to the facilities: make room or leave – you did have time to get warm. There are also manned cabins. Even most of the manned cabins work mostly by self service: you are supposed to make firewood, carry water from the well and clean up, in unmanned cabins you need to know how to handle the stove and do some basic maintenance. Some of the open wilderness huts are Spartan indeed, with little more than a wood fired stove and some kind of bed (without even mattress), while some of the manned ones resemble hostels or B&Bs.
In Norway, the Børgefjell section and the next section to Sætertjønnhytta in Steinkjer are unmarked, as required by the national park's regulations and asked by the Sámi. The route is marked on appropriate maps.
The trailhead for the E1 European Long Distance Path is a Nordkapp, or "North Cape" in English. The trailhead marks the northernmost point on continental Europe (more or less). The trail is divided into sections. One can hike the entire E1 trail, or sections of it. The sections are usually grouped by country: Norway, Finland, and Sweden; Denmark; Germany; Switzerland; Italy, although the borders are not always the best places to begin walking a leg. You could choose the hike the entire thing, sections, or even group sections together to hike. You could also hike from north to south or south to north.
You may choose the start the trail at its proper trailhead at Nordkapp. There are lots of ways to get to Nordkapp; we will list some of them below.
One way to arrive at Nordkapp is via the local airport, Honningsvåg Airport, which is 32 km away. Alternatives are at Alta and Lakselv, which are farther but offer more options airline-wise. The Alta and Lakselv airport options are not recommended, unless you want to rent a car. More transportation options can be found in the Nordkapp article.
- 1 Honningsvåg Airport (HVG), Valan 9751 Honningsvåg, ☏ . The airport is at Valan, on the south side of Skipsfjorden, 4 km (2.5 mi) north of the town, and 31 km (19 mi) from the North Cape. The airport has a 880-by-30-meter (2,887 by 98 ft) asphalt runway which is operated by the state-owned Avinor. Flights are operated by Widerøe to Tromsø with connecting fights to Oslo. The airline also fly to other communities within Finnmark, who serve the airport with Dash 8-100 and Q200 aircraft.
- 2 Alta Airport (ALF), Alta Farm Forest 32, 9515, ☏ . The airport is located at Elvebakken, 4 km (2.5 mi) northeast of Bossekop in Alta. Alta Airport is owned and operated by the state-owned Avinor. The airport is served by Norwegian Air Shuttle and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) with Boeing 737 aircraft on flights to Tromsø and Oslo. Widerøe operates services to Tromsø and several regional airports in Finnmark, feeding to the larger airlines' routes.
- 3 Lakselv Airport (North Cape Airport, LKL), Lakselv lufthavn, Banak, 9700 Lakselv, Norway, ☏ . Co-located with the military Station Group Banak, the airport is owned and operated by the state-owned Avinor. The airport is served by Widerøe with flights to Tromsø and seasonally by Norwegian Air Shuttle to Oslo, in addition to international charter services. In addition to serving Porsanger, the airport's catchment area includes Karasjok and Lebesby.
Nordkapp offers bus services from Honningsvåg Airport once a day daily. See timetable below.
|Depart Airport||Arrive Nordkapp||Depart Nordkapp||Arrive Airport|
The only downside to this is that the bus does leave the airport quite late in the morning. However, you should be able to hike to a campsite before the sun sets.
Nordkapp - Kautokeino
The first section of the hike encompasses the Finnmark section of the hike. There are many areas to camp within Finnmark, including camping sites as well as wilderness huts.
Nordkapp - Skarsvåg Crossing
This is the first leg of the hike. It is one of the shorter legs and is pretty easy to hike, but watch out for cars! It starts out quite flat, but goes downhill starting from the 4-5 mile mark. It is about 12.5 km (7.8 mi) long, and is easily hiked in one day. As you set out from Nordkapp, the trail/road is generally flat, grass is sparse and the landscape is barren. On your right is a small bay that leads to the ocean. The ocean will remain on your left for a large part of the hike. At about the 2.5 mile mark, a gradual incline begins and the ocean to your left disappears. It slowly levels out by the 4 mile mark, where the decline starts. When it begins to go down, the ocean will reappear at your right in the form of a small bay. After awhile, you will see a large lake called Kjeftavatnet. From here onwards until you reach the crossing, you will find an abundance of lakes, streams, and green grass.
When you arrive at Skarsvåg Crossing, there is a collection of really nice cabins called Midnattsol Camping. You can reserve a camping on a booking website. You can reserve rooms with 2, 3, or 4 twin beds.
Skarsvåg Crossing - Nordkapptunnelen
This is the second leg of the hike. Continue to follow the road until you arrive at an intersection with a sign pointing to the right saying "BirdSafari", "Gjesvaer", and camping symbols. Take a right turn here, and follow the road until you see a lake off to your left. This is the hard part. At this moment the E1 trail takes a left and goes across these hills, but trail markings here seem minimal, or to not exist at all! The map at the right shows the "supposed" route of the E1, and there have been reports of small dirt paths if you do follow the map exactly. Use your compass to do so at this point. You also may be able to find ATV tracks to guide you.
As you continue through the wilderness, you will end up at the coast on another road. Turn right onto this road and continue forward. As you continue, you will approach a sign called Sarnestunnelen. This is a tunnel, and the E1 avoids this by taking a detour to the left. Go left, continue after the road ends, and bear back onto the main road (the trail is not marked here). Continue straight. There will be a bridge, watch out for cars, but otherwise it is safe to pass. At the other side of the bridge will be a small parking lot called Kobbholneset. There are tables and flat ground for pitching tents there as well - a good place to rest for the night. This leg is about 20 km (12 mi) long.
Nordkapptunnelen - Várdánčohkka
Finally, the leg that will take us off the island! The hiking will start getting longer from now on. The leg is 26 km (16 mi) long; be prepared to hike for around 10–11 hours today! As you get ready to go, note that today you will go under the tunnel. While it is safe, it is generally advised to wear high visibility vests and bring a flashlight. The crossing will take anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours – the tunnel is 5 km (3.1 mi) long! Once you get off the island, trail markings should become more commonplace.
Once you get through to the mainland, you will hit a series of intense inclines and declines. Firstly, you have to turn right onto a small path marked by ATV tracks. It may be hard to follow, so use the map and a compass. You will start to go up on a steep uphill, which follows a river which is challenging to cross. After the very steep uphill, you will be rewarded with an amazing view of the island you just came from that is not to be missed.
Now for the river crossing. This is the most challenging of them all - the rest are comparatively easier. After you cross the river, you will follow another ATV track which seems to be following a former power line. The trail will then steeply decline down to sea level, which leads to a bay. After following the bay for a few kilometers, you will have to cross a small but deep stream.
After following the ocean for a few more kilometers, you will leave it by turning left and going on an incline yet again. It will continue to rise steadily until it is oriented with a reindeer fence. After awhile you will arrive at your lodging for the night, Várdánčohkka. It has simple cabins that has 2 pads for 2 people, but no beds. There is also no oven and only a very small square table in the cabin.
Vardanĉohkka - Stohpojohka
Stohpojohka - Hattir Øst
Hattir Øst - Duolbajárčopma
Duolbajarcopma - Bastingammen
Bastingammen - Rukkujávri
Ruhkkojavri - Bojobeaskihytta
Bojobeaskihytta - Mollesjohka Fjellstue
Mollesjohka Fjellstue - Ragesluoppal
Ragesluoppal - Masi
Masi - Biggejávri
Biggejávri - Mierojávri
Mierojávri - Kautokeino
Kautokeino - Kilpisjärvi
From the northern trailhead of Nordkalottleden outside Kautokeino the E1 route coincides with it past Kilpisjärvi to the tripoint of Finland, Norway and Sweden. See Nordkalottleden for more details on this section.
As you leave Kautokeino you will have only one tiny village, Saraelv, on the route before you reach Kilpisjärvi in Finland after 190 km, otherwise the path goes through wilderness, much of it close to the treeline, for a few days above it. There are several fords, not all of them necessarily easy.
The first part is on Finnmarksvidda, then you enter the deep and lush Reisa river valley (a national park). There are a few cabins and a few turf huts on the route to Saraelv, but distances between cabins are up to 30 km, perhaps too long for a day. Only the first cabin is manned, check key arrangements for the rest. Unless you manage to arrange for provisions in Saraelv, you have to carry nearly all your food. Saraelv is reachable by road and by river, and probably has mobile phone coverage.
The last leg, from Saraelv to Kilpisjärvi, is through the Finnish Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, staying above the treeline for several days. The first hut, by the border, is 30 km from Saraelv. In Finland there are Spartan wilderness huts 10–17 km apart, the last of which allow booking a bed in a locked part (again: check key arrangements). A tent is needed if you don't reach the hut or if it risks getting crowded.
Kilpisjärvi - Abisko Turiststation
From Kilpisjärvi to the Finland–Sweden–Norway tripoint you can either take a boat ride (in season) or hike through the Malla Strict Nature Reserve (11 km). There is a wilderness hut near the tripoint, with a locked part where you can reserve a bed. See Kilpisjärvi for this leg.
Onwards from the tripoint, E1 coincides with the Grensesømmen trail, mostly also with Nordkalottleden. There are huts 12–24 km apart, mostly unmanned, locked with the DNT key and without provisions. The trail passes Innset by Altevatnet/Alddesjávri, where it may be possible to arrange for provisions.
The first wilderness hut on the Norwegian side is Goldahytta, 3 km from the tripoint. This, like most huts in Norway, uses the DNT key. Here E1 leaves Nordkalottleden. Next are Gappohytta, 13 km farther and Rostahytta, 20 km more. Between these two the trail enters Sweden for a short while. Nordkalottleden joins again. There are roads 6 and 13 km away in the Rosta valley. See Nordkalottleden for the route onwards to Abisko.
Abisko Turiststation - Vaisaluokta
The next leg leads through the wild Narvik fells, with several days far above the treeline. You have to carry your food unless you arrange for provisions to be brought. Distances between huts are mostly 15–25 km, one leg is 54 km. The Norwegian hytte are unmanned and locked with the DNT key.
The first leg, to Abiskojaure, follows Nordkalottleden and Kungsleden, the most well-known among Swedish long-distance trails, and quite popular. E1 then leaves these two and crosses over to Norway. At Gautelis-hytta it re-joins Nordkalottleden.
Abiskojaure (15 km) should have shop and sauna. Unna Allakas (24 km) also has a shop, but has shorter season. The trail crosses over to Norway and goes via Cunojavri (Čunojávri? 5 km), Caihnávaggi (16 km), and Gautelis-hytta (15 km). There it joins Nordkalottleden and continues via Skoaddejávre hytta (17 km), Sitashytta (22 km), Paurohytta (24 km), Røysvatn hytta (25 km) and Rávddajávrre shelter (40 km) to Vaisaluokta fjällstuga (13 km). None of these have provisions, but the Vaisaluokta cabin is near a Sámi settlement with some provisions for sale.
Vaisaluokta - Sulitjelma
The next section, to Sulitjelma, coincides with Nordkalottleden, see it for details. There are provisions at the cabins in the Badjelánnda National Park, by the Sámi communities. The trail then goes up in the Sulitelma/Sulitjelma fells. Sulitelma was long believed to be the highest fell in Sweden, and the trail passes near large glaciers.
What dangers to take into account has little in common in the north and in the south.
In Norway, Finland and Sweden the trail goes mostly through wilderness, where you may not see people for days and the nearest dwelling may indeed be more than a day's hike away. Add that phone coverage may be spotty, and you may have to help yourself in any situation until you are able to fetch help yourself (usually by reaching phone coverage on higher ground). Temperatures may be cool. Wind chill and rain in treeless areas, where there is no shelter other than the wilderness huts and your tent, can put your equipment and stamina to a test. Don't go unprepared. You will also need to know how to use a map and compass, as markings are less eye-catching on some legs, and you do not want to get lost in these areas.
You could hike another one of Europe's long distance paths! The trails E5, E7, E10, and E12 all have legs within Italy, the last country the E1 Long Distance Path goes into. Both the E5 and the E12 end in Italy, so you can hike those backwards as well.