Located 350 kilometers inside the Arctic Circle along Norway’s rugged northern coastline, Tromsø is a small city surrounded by vast wilderness. With just over 70,000 residents, Tromsø is small by most standards but by far the largest city in northern Norway. Its citizens enjoy a surprisingly metropolitan life: Tromsø has a bustling airport, the world’s northernmost university with more than 9,000 students, numerous cultural outfits such as the world’s northernmost symphony orchestra, a thriving international film festival, and many other things you would only expect from a much larger city. Location is the driving force behind Tromsø’s amenities: for hundreds of kilometers in all directions Tromsø is the “big city.”
Tromsø is ideal for those who love the outdoors, both residents and visitors alike. The main island, Tromsøya, is surrounded by expanses of varied and predominantly mountainous Norwegian wilderness. Much of this area is accessible by car; the narrow roads connecting the small villages outside Tromsø provide the starting points for many outdoor activities, in summer by foot and in winter by ski.
One of the best outdoor playgrounds near Tromsø is the island of Kvaløya, just 15 minutes west of the city center. Home to fjords, mountains, valleys, and a number of lakes and streams, Kvaløya is aptly described as a miniature continent in itself. Many points on Kvaløya offer sweeping views due to the island's sparse forests and low tree line. Thanks to Kvaløya's proximity to the city, these trails are reachable even for those short on time.
Hikes on Kvaløya
1. Nordtinden (map)
Rising from Kvaløya’s gentle northern slopes, Nordtinden (640m) is the highest easily accessible mountain on the north side of the island. The hike begins from the village of Skulsfjord (at the horse stables), a 30-minute drive from Tromsø’s city center. After 2.5 km of forested trail north through the Skulsfjorddalen Valley, the trail turns west up the gentle eastern slope of Nordtinden for another 2.5 km to the summit. The hike isn't demanding or long (10 km return), and the vistas over the Skulsfjord Valley, Kvaløya, and the Arctic Ocean are superb. Note: The most popular track up Nordtinden starts a few hundred meters further north than the Statkart map suggests.
2. Sørtinden (map) and Trehørningen (map)
Two short but rewarding hikes in the vicinity of Skulsfjord are the summits of Sørtinden (471 m) and Trehørningen (283 m). Both hikes are approximately 30 minutes in each direction and accessible from the road to Skulsfjord. Sørtinden is one of the most popular short hikes near Tromsø so expect to see several people on the trail. For clearer views visit the smaller summit (459 m) a few hundred meters west of the main summit.
3. Guratinden (map)
Guratinden (424m), to the west of Nordtinden, is off the beaten path (literally). The starting point is the same as Nordtinden but instead of walking north through Skulsfjorddalent the trail turns west up the slope toward Guratinden. The map shows the trail to the first summit at Kroklia, roughly halfway to Guratinden, and the second half is off-trail and should be navigated with care (you will be following a game trail rather than a hiking trail). Guratinden isn't a popular walk—humans are signficantly outnumbered by free-roaming sheep and reindeer—but the solitude and ocean views can't be beat.