Sarek National Park 20-Day Wilderness Hike

This travelogue is about three friends embarking on a 20-day wilderness hike in one of the most beautiful alpine areas in northern Sweden: Sarek National Park.

The Sarek National Park is a national park in Jokkmokk Municipality, Lapland in northern Sweden. Established in 1909–1910, the park is one of the oldest national parks in Europe. It is adjacent to two other national parks, namely Stora Sjöfallet and Padjelanta. The shape of Sarek National Park is roughly circular with an average diameter of about 50 kilometers. 

The most noted features of the national park are six of Sweden’s thirteen peaks over 2,000 meters located within the park’s boundaries. Among these is the second highest mountain in Sweden, Sarektjåkkå, whilst the massif Áhkká is located just outside the park. The park has about 200 peaks over 1,800 meters, 82 of which have names. Due to the long trek, the mountains in the district are seldom climbed. There are approximately 100 glaciers in Sarek.

Sarek National Park mountains
Sarek National Park mountains

Sarek National Park hiking

Sarek is a popular area for hikers and mountaineers. Beginners in these disciplines are advised to accompany a guide since there are no marked trails or accommodations and only two bridges aside from those in the vicinity of its borders. The area is among those that receives the heaviest rainfall in Sweden, making hiking dependent on weather conditions. It is also intersected by turbulent streams that are hazardous to cross without proper training.

Mine, Hendrik and Björn are teaming up for this awesome adventure. Both Mine and Hendrik have never explored the wilderness before. They have never been out of their comfort zone for longer periods of time. I myself have been exploring for many years now and have optimized my system and balanced comfort and weight to my needs. Optimizing your setup is a thing that happens over many years of using it. Everyone is different so there is no one step solution to doing it.

See also: Hiking Gear Guide

Sarek National Park hiking trails
Sarek National Park hiking trails

Preparing to go hiking in Sarek National Park

Both Mine and Hendrik have relied heavily on my system and what I think is needed for such an endeavor. This might be a great starting point as it will save loads of money and time which would otherwise be spent on looking for the right equipment to do the job. But it doesn’t replace using the system and knowing it’s as well as your own limits. 

Everyone is different in many aspects: Are you fit? How cold a sleeper are you? What’s your diet? How does your digestion tract react to high caloric trail foods? Do you like to bathe in frosty waters? Are you comfortable to share a tent with others? Sharing a tent could mean that you’ll be stuck in a confined space with people for a long time, in case of severe weather.

Questions of comfort would also be things like: Are you comfortable of wearing the same t-shirt for 2 weeks? Most people who have never done anything like this can’t answer these questions. Coming from the city we are cradled in luxury and are used to having things like shelter, food, hot water and clean clothes on demand. Out there everything is different.

You need to make many choices: Simple things like when is the best time to wash my clothes. There are days when I leave the shelter in the morning, thinking to myself: This is washing day! Of course, you’ll want to wash your clothes when the sun is out to dry them quickly.

Views in Sarek National Park
Views in Sarek National Park

Overcoming doubts and fears

People who have never gone on a long, untethered wilderness trip will have lots of things going through their minds while planning the trip. This can lead to become overly cautious and might lead you to bring lots of gear with you that you don’t actually need. Outdoor resellers will try to make money with your fears. They will try to sell you the heaviest duty and most expensive gear. Nature will surely devour you, if you don’t have super heavy duty, rugged gear for your trip. Most of the heavy gear is overbuilt and simply not needed, even for off trail adventures.

Where do we start?

Snowy mountain landscapes in Sweden
Snowy mountains in Sarek National Park

Creating the route for a 21-day hike in Sarek National Park

Usually the first thing to decide is where to explore. Since we’ll be using a GPS device for any adventure like this, it will usually start with creating a route. There are many different systems to use. I have been using Garmin devices for a long time, which is why we will be sticking with it as I will be the main navigator on this trip. 

I have explored Sarek many times. In good weather, I won’t need any navigation device because I know where I’m going but in adverse conditions with hiking in the clouds or thick fog there might be no visibility. It’s a good thing to have, even if you know the area well. For this trip, we chose to use Garmin inReach because of its live tracking function. It can also serve as an emergency signaling device in case someone needs to be rescued.

‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst’

When creating routes for hiking in a specific area, I have made it a habit to create many side routes, shortcuts and detours to choose from. You never know what will happen and having planned different routes will give you a better understanding of the area and it’s also good practice. It’s a good thing to have more than one exit strategy. In Sarek, there is only one emergency shelter with a radio phone in the center of the park. 

There are two major trails right outside Sarek’s borders: Kungsleden and Padjelantaleden are both well maintained and have some infrastructure in terms of STF cabins and emergency shelters. STF stands for Svenska Turistförenigen and is the Swedish Tourist Association.

If you plan to hike in Sweden a lot you might want to consider getting a membership. With it, you’ll be able to use all the facilities at the mountain cabins and you can stay there free of charge between 9:00 and 17:00. You’ll also get a discount on rooms, if you plan to stay the night to dry out gear. Most cabins have a well geared kitchen with gas burners and even cookware, which you can use. Lots of cabins also have a small shop and if located near Sami settlements you can also buy smoked fish or dried reindeer meat. Some of the cabins also have an emergency phone and a helicopter landing pad in case you want to fly in or out.

Hiking in Sweden
Hiking in Sarek National Park

What to do in an emergency

Helicopter transports are arranged by ‘Fiskflyg’. Transports cost 1450SEK (Swedish Crowns) which equals about 140€, including 20kg of baggage. You can check the timetables on fiskflyg.se. They will also do custom drop-offs but are not allowed to fly into Sarek. Only in emergency situations are helicopters allowed to fly here.

It’s a good idea to create waypoints to all the emergency shelters and phones around the area you are hiking in. When planning a route, I don’t only plan for myself but also take into account that I might come across a person in need of help. With modern GPS devices there are ways of sharing data wirelessly between two devices. If I meet another person, I might be able to help by sharing my data. It’s fun to plan routes using satellite images and topological maps and then see how the route plays out when you’re actually in the terrain. The more you do this, the more you will learn how to interpret satellite images and you’ll get better at it with every trip you plan. I have also made it a habit of marking good campsites.

This will enable me to know how far away the next campsite is in case I need to get out of the rain on my next trip. River crossings are also a good thing to tag once you’ve found a good spot to cross. There are many tutorials online about how to create routes and navigate them using the GPS system of your choice.

Garmin route of Sarek National Park hike
Garmin route of Sarek National Park hike

As soon as you’ve decided where you want to hike and have planned a route using topological maps as well as satellite images you will have a rough idea of what you are getting yourself into. You can analyze weather patterns of the previous years in the area to get an idea about how cold it gets at night and what temperatures and weather conditions you’ll encounter in general. 

This will help a lot in deciding what kind of clothing, shelter and sleep system to take with you. What kind of backpack to use will be decided at the very end, when you actually know exactly what you are going to be taking with you.


Corcovado National Park Hike: A Jungle Hike for the Whole Family

Kids and adults love a good adventure!

If your planning a family getaway that will excite the kids and amaze the parents, Corcovado National Park on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is sure to delight everyone.

It’s exciting for families to explore the heart of a tropical jungle together, and to see exotic wildlife in it’s natural habitat.

One of the things to do in the park is to do a Corcovado National Park hike.

This blog post shares our experience of hiking in Corcovado National Park with kids.

Corcovado National Park hike, Costa Rica
Corcovado National Park hike

About Corcovado National Park

The Corcovado National Park is located on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. While the park is one of the more remote in the national park system, Corcovado provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. 

Flora and fauna in the Corcovado N.P. 

National Geographic called Corcovado National Park the “most biologically intense place on Earth” and this is no exaggeration. All four of the monkeys species found within Costa Rica (Mantled Howler, Squirrel Monkey, Spider Monkey and White-faced Capuchin) exist in large numbers throughout the park.

  • Two crocodilians (the occasionally large and saline tolerant American Crocodile and the small Spectacled Caiman) persist within all of the park’s major waterways, as do Bull sharks.
  • The Jaguar population within the park is the healthiest in all of Central America, however it is still extremely unlikely for a visitor to spot one (most locals have never seen them either.)
  • Many other elusive cats call the park home as well, including the Puma (which is slightly smaller and more arboreal in Central American than in the United States, probably due to competition with the Jaguar,) Ocelot, Jaguarundi and Margay.
  • The park is one of the last strongholds of the Baird’s Tapir and there are hundreds within decent proximity from Sirena Station, usually found lounging in the shade or in shallow pools of stagnant water.
  • There are dozens of snake species present, many of them venomous, including the Fer-de-lance (also known as terciopelo or “Costa Rican landmine”,) the Bushmaster, the Eyelash Pit Viper, and the Coral Snake.
  • The largest snake within the park is the non-venomous Boa Constrictor.
  • Numerous other small mammals and reptiles are common within the park including, but by no means limited to, the White-nosed Coati, Sloth, Tamandua, Giant Anteater, Basilisk, and Ctenosaur.
  • Birds include the highly endangered Scarlet Macaw, the Tiger Heron, Black Vulture and the Toco Toucan, among hundreds of others including the critically endangered Harpy Eagle.

Getting there by bus

Regular bus service is available to Puerto Jimenez. Passenger truck service from Puerto Jimenez to the southern entrance at Carate occurs on a biweekly or greater basis.

The journey generally takes between 3-5 hours by road depending on weather, traffic conditions. 

Getting there by 4WD

All roads on the Osa Peninsula exhibit the disrepair characteristic of Costa Rica outside of the main tourist destinations. The road from Puerto Jimenez to Carate require a 4WD vehicle as it is a gravel road with several required river fordings.

It is recommended that this drive should only be attempted during the dry season. Note that Carate is next to the beach. Take care not to pass Carate as it is poorly marked. Parking is available by paying the store/bus stop which is Carate.

4WD Taxis are available for the passage from Puerto Jiminez to Carate. They are easy to find on the main strip of Puerto Jiminez. 

Fees and permits

Permits must be reserved in advance. You must have a permit to stay overnight at Sirena. In practice, the Park often allows campers with their own food to enter without advance reservations and prepayment, but during busy times of the year even the camping areas are filled, especially Sirena Ranger Station.

Sirena is the only ranger station that offers dormitory lodging and hot meals in addition to camping. La Leona, San Pedrillo, and Los Patos offer only camping with no food service.

It is possible to secure park permits directly from the Ranger Station in Puerto Jiménez. They also do accept credit cards now (visa/master).

Corcovado National Park Hike

Hiking in the tropical rainforest together as a family can help to build a foundation of love for the outdoors and create family experiences that will be remembered over a lifetime.

Hiking in the tropical rainforest jungle with kids and young adults is different experience than with a group of only adults. Kids hike slower, their perspective is from a place closer to the ground. Kids are curious and have many questions about the new environment. There is a real joy in discovering the jungle from a young persons point of view.

The most important consideration in undertaking a long hike with children is to keep them engaged and interested through out the hike. One great way to keep them engaged is to keep a list of all wildlife encountered, and then to review the list together over dinner.

Related Read: Bird Watching Tips for Costa Rica

Both kids and adults will be amazed at the number of different species that they found in the forest. There are many games that can be played on the trail together to keeps kid’s engaged, another good one is to pick a letter and search for things in the jungle that start with that letter. For example, the letter is M, and they spot Macaw, Monkey, Motmot, Morpho, etc. 

It’s important to remember that kids and young adults have different abilities and stamina and parents need to honestly assess if it’s both physically and psychologically possible for their child to make a major multi-day hike to Corcovado’s Sirena Biological Station or if a shorter day trip is more appropriate. Evaluate your child’s ability to walk on their own for 6-8 hours, and be sure your kids enjoy hiking and exploring.

Corcovado National Park hike details

The best seasons for doing the Corcovado National Park hike are the dry season from mid December through April and the beginning of the Green Season in May, June and July. From mid August through mid November is the thick of the rainy season. The park is closed in October due to inclement weather. 

Park reservations are necessary to enter the park, even for day trips, so be sure to arrange your reservation through the park office or your guide before hand. 

Two great hikes for families into Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park both start at the La Leona Ranger Station, accessed from the small town of Carate. A third option is to charter a plane from Puerto Jimenez to fly you into the park.

1. Day trip to Rio Madrigal for kids age 6 and older and adults who prefer shorter walks

This hike starts in the morning at the La Leona Ranger Station, and takes hikers 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) to Rio Madrigal. Along the trail, look for scarlet macaws, monkeys, morpho butterflies, mushrooms, and other flora and fauna.

While this hike can be made without a guide, guides are recommended as they can spot, share and explain the natural ecosystem and animals to the entire family. Bring a picnic lunch and your swimwear for a refreshing river swim and then hike back out to the La Leona Ranger Station in the afternoon.

2. Multi-day adventure (3 or 4 days) to Sirena Biological Station for kids ~12 years old and up and adults who enjoy serious hiking

This multi-day hike also starts in the early morning at the La Leona Ranger Station and takes hikers 17 kilometers (10 miles) from La Leona to Sirena Biological Station. Along the trail your guide will point out a wide range of flora and fauna from the forest floor all the way up into the rainforest canopy. This hike should not be made without a family friendly guide, as there are several river crossings and beach outcrops to navigate in collaboration with the tides.

Day one is spent hiking to Sirena Biological Station, the middle day(s) are spent exploring the network of trails around Sirena, and can include river swimming, waterfalls, and nature walks, and the final day is spent hiking out to La Leona Ranger Station.

3. Charter a plane into Sirena Biological Station

A third option for families not able to hike into Sirena Biological Station is to charter a plane from Puerto Jimenez (seats 6) to fly in / and or / out of the park. This option skips the day long hike, and offers amazing aerial views of the Osa Peninsula. The landing on the grass airstrip in the middle of the jungle is another experience you’ll not soon forget. 

Hikes along the La Leona Trail meander from beach to forest, so be sure to bring plenty of water (3 liters per person is recommended), a hat and good sunscreen for this expedition. 

Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica
Corcovado National Park

Tips before the hike

  • Get your kids outdoors often to look around for the small stuff – insects, fungus, birds.
  • Let kids participate in practicing their hiking skills before the big trip. 
  • Share maps, pictures of animals, insects and plants found in the tropical rainforest.
  • Express and share your own sense of excitement with your kids.

Tips during the hike

  • Bring plenty of snacks to eat and water to drink.
  • Give kids their own daypack or camelpack filled with water, emergency whistle, flashlight and snacks.
  • Emphasize fun: spotting exotic wildlife, funny plants, or river swimming is always fun.
  • Embrace the pace set by the kids, stop often to let kids rest, watch, and fuel up.
  • Take lots of pictures to remember the fun.
  • Let kids be kids and be prepared to change the plan if it’s not working.

What to bring on the hike

  • Plenty of water
  • Snacks for hike in / out
  • Hat & swimsuit
  • Comfortable lightweight clothing
  • Sunscreen & sunglasses
  • Closed toe, ankle high footwear
  • Insect repellent
  • Camera / binoculars
  • Sheets / tent for Sirena
  • Flashlight / other essentials

Related Read: Must Have Hiking and Camping Gear

More Tips for hiking safely in Corcovado National Park Costa Rica

Drinking water

The water at the ranger station is potable, but if you are concerned, bring some type of water purifier. The park recommends you carry 1.5 liters of water for the La Leona and Los Patos hike, but I’ve seen my guests drink this within the first 2 hours. Know your self and your water needs, dehydration and heat-exhaustion are common illnesses in the park.

Sunscreen

It’s recommended to use sunscreen, a hat, and long sleeved shirt on the hike from Sirena to La Leona. While much of the hike is through the jungle, there are long stretches along the beach that benefit from sun protection.

Insect Repellent

Recent outbreaks of Dengue Fever in Costa Rica are a concern. Currently there is no Malaria to be worried about. Also, bug spray helps with the sand flies and no-see-ums…

Solo Hiking? No

It’s best to hike with a guide or a hiking buddy. There are several tricky river crossings and tricky rocky ocean/beach crossings that need to be navigated at low tide…

Don’t hike off-trail

Each year people try to bushwack their way to discovered areas of Corcovado, and each year the local community has to preform rescue missions to find them when they go missing. For your safety and the safety of others, it’s best to stick to the marked trails.

No Swimming

Crocodiles and Bullsharks rule the ocean here and love to swim at the mouth of rivers. In addition, the currents and tides are quite powerful.

River Crossings

Cross carefully and quickly, and never risk crossing the rivers at high tide or during heavy rain.

Snakes

Watch where you step and touch. There are Fer de Lance and other poisonous snakes in the region. Be especially careful around rivers and streams where they come to eat frogs, especially at night.

Ants

Seemingly harmless, their bites sting for up to one hour…

Peccaries/Wild Pigs

There are two different species of peccaries in Corcovado, the Collared and the White-lipped Peccary. They run in packs and can be very aggressive. If threatened by a group of peccaries, climb a tree until you are six feet or higher off the ground.

Is the Corcovado National Park hike worth it?

While it’s really a hike vs a stroll through the park, Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park hike is an experience of a lifetime. Corcovado is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity and has been described by National Geographic as the most “biologically intense” place on earth.

A trip into Corcovado will be a trip your family will never forget.


Inca Jungle Trail To Machu Picchu – The Less Traveled Hike

The Inca Jungle Trail is a remote and ancient footpath in the same region of the Inca trail, but less traveled with more spectacular views.

A magnificent wilderness alternative for those who wish to escape the more congested trekking routes or those who are looking for alternative if the traditional hiking Inca Trail has no spaces available.

Book the Inca Jungle Trail with Viator.

Hiking the Inca Jungle Trail To Machu Picchu
Hiking the Inca Jungle Trail To Machu Picchu

Hiking the Inca Jungle Trail To Machu Picchu

Here’s the itinerary for hiking the Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Day 01: Cusco Santa Maria

Have a coffee and leave in the morning — The journey begins leaving Cusco with a panoramic view of the city, and then way Chinchero / Ollantaytambo. There you will take the track on the right bank to rise to a height of 4350 meters above sea level, you will encounter with the Open Malaga. Point too mystical, where payment is made to land very often.

Finally, after about 2 hours approximately biking, you will reach the 1430 meters high Santa Maria. That’s your first day of rest in a lodge. You are in the middle of a humid forest and the magnificent for its fauna and flora.

Day 02: Santa Maria Santa Teresa

You will begin the day’s trekking, but first have an energy packed breakfast. This second day is really impressive! Here begins your journey of approximately seven to eight hours between up and down. But the interesting thing in this trek for the second day is not only part of Inca roads crossed perfectly designed, but also an adventure through the Inca jungle trail.

There you will be surrounded by green nature filled with fruit trees, rivers and exotic animals of the region. That will make you feel full of satisfaction. Among the fauna such as the parrots you will find countless varieties of flora like Coca, Coffee. Combine that with some wonderful hot springs where you can relax after a wonderful walk.

It’s a combination of Inca trail and forest roads. A great day! Then you will arrive to your final destination of the second day at Santa Teresa (1900 m).

Day 3: Santa Teresa – Aguas Calientes

Nature, adventure and adrenaline on the third day hike to Machu Picchu. Enjoy the convenience of trekking in the pleasant climate that ranges from 20-30 ° C. Here in this third day of walking you will be six hours of walking. But full of energetic adrenaline. Cross not only landscapes but also other Inca trails that are also called path of nobility. You will have the privilege to enjoy a view from the highest point and it is the best gift of nature to which one can admire the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in the distance. Arrive at Aguas Calientes, where you will establish in your accommodation.

Day 4: Machu Picchu

On your special day, you get up very early (4:00 am) and you will head on foot to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in order to spot the cloud forest and other natural wonders of the dawn. Practically most of the day you will want to visit the archaeological complex, that will make this last day imperishable in the memory. Enjoy as well the mountain of Huayna Picchu (only 400 persons allowed per day). Then return to the town of Aguas Calientes where you could board the train or bus to transport you back to Cusco.

You could also stay an extra night in Aguas Calientes, which would allow you to visit Machu Pichu one more time.

Book the Inca Jungle Trail with Viator.

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