Key information: Rallarveien
- Follow the Navvies Trail from the highlands on the Swedish border down through a gorge to the deep Rombaksfjord, inland from Narvik in Norways Arctic north.Magnificent mountain scenery, tough artic plants and trees; possible sightings of elk and other arctic fauna.A fairly easy walk along the track built for construction of the Ofotbanen railway, which had its Warhol moment when it became the focus of a WW2 campaign.
- Walkopedia rating82
- Natural interest15
- Human interest8
- Negative points0
- Total rating82
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: Not high
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate
There was no winter exit from the great iron-ore mines of northern Sweden, which are well inside the Arctic circle, until the Ofotbanen railway to the ice-free port of Narvik in Norway was built at the end of the 19th Century. The line crosses the mountain backbone of central Scandinavia before plunging spectacularly into the Rombaksfjord and the sea.
This remote area remained in tough obscurity until the dynamics of the Second World War threw it briefly into the spotlight: the iron ore shipments made Narvik strategic, and the German occupation of Norway in April 1940 resulted in an Allied expedition (the military side of which was commanded by one Major General PJ Mackesy) to recapture it and thence, in Churchills fantasies, to cross the trail-less Arctic wastes to aid Finland in its struggle with Soviet invaders. This had to be withdrawn in May as the disaster in northern France unfolded.
Constructing the railway was a major undertaking, and the track used to transport equipment and materials parallels the line. It is as a result a wonderfully even, gradual descent. This now forms a track from Abisko in Sweden to the head of Rombaksfjord, although most walkers focus on the section that drops from the Norway/Sweden border to Rombaksbotn at the head of Rombaksfjord.
The border is at Riksgvnsen on the high, glacier-scoured granite central Scandinavian plateau. The village is on a lovely little lake, the surrounding rocky platform sprouting patches of tundra and stunted birch. A hotel and a smattering of holiday cabins ensure that there is no wilderness feel up here, and it is a bit scruffy for the first half hour.
Low mountains loom in the background. When we were there, it was a warm, cloudless day and the vivid colours sparkled, but it could be very harsh indeed up here.
The trail winds among slabs of rock and bog pools, crossing the line at Bjrnfjell. Immaculate little vistas open up at each turn: a rough skyline reflected between birch trunks and miniature reeds, or an ox-blood hut perched on a rock above a little stream which gurgles through a bog of bright golden moss. The railway is always looping its way nearby.
The valley deepens and the views become grander, the mountains behind seeming higher as the path drops; large snowfields sheltering behind their broken skylines. The line used to cross the gorge on a high, delicate trestle bridge that the Norwegian resistance tried to blow up to deny the line to the Germans.
You enter the treeline gradually, the forest becoming higher and thicker off the plateau. Ferns appear, shrubby bushes find a foothold.
The gorge becomes a sheer-sided canyon far below as you thread through boulder-scree beneath a magnificent waterfall.
At an old maintenance depot, you drop below the line, through lovely birch woods, the low arctic sun making the white birch trunks and yellow moss glow. You can either cross the stream below and wind back up the other side, through beautiful forest, to pick up the train - or drop to the head of Rombaksfjord to pick up a boat (make sure you have this carefully arranged).
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Hikes Along the Navvy Road, on sale at the Narvik tourist office and elsewhere.
Norway – Lonely Planet
Maps can be bought locally, fairly easily.
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
The best time to walk is between May and October, but if you wish to experience the midnight sun, you will have to walk in June or July.
Expect arctic weather: while you may well get mild, sunny days in high summer, be prepared for cold and rain any time, and killer conditions in the long winter.
Winter temperatures are very mild considering how far north they are, though for those accustomed to the British climate, it is still very cold, albeit beautiful.
There are various airports in the area; Evenes (Harsted – Narvik) is the most significant.
The joy of the popular section of this walk is that you can start it from Riksgränsen, Bjørnfell or Katterat stations on the Ofotbanen railway and walk down to Katterat station and catch the train again, or to Rombaksboten where an occasional ferry runs to Narvik (check at tourist office for timings).
The trail runs from Abisko in Sweden to the head of Rombaksfjord in Norway, although most people walk the section from just inside the Norwegian border to Rombaksboten, a 5-7 hour walk.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- This walk is inside the Arctic Circle. While the summer weather is generally good, extreme weather is possible: snow, rain, severe cold are possible at any time of year. Come prepared.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do this walk independently
While this walk can be done independently, some people may prefer to form or join guided expeditions.
There are various Narvik-area accommodation websites. Search “Narvik accommodation”.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some websites that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
Other things to do in the area
The famous Kungsleden in Sweden. (Top 100)
The Queen’s Route, between Nyksund and Sto in Vestervålen, Norway
The outstanding Lofoten Islands (Top 100)
There is great walking in the mountains behind Narvik between 22 cabins (see www.narvikfjell.no)
share your experiences
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Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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