Lily Michaels hikes above Kelly Lake on the second day of the Fjällräven Classic USA.
Lily Michaels hikes above Kelly Lake on the second day of the Fjällräven Classic USA. (Photo: Ben Fox)

The Fjällräven Classic USA

The 12-year-old Swedish trekking tradition comes to the United States with the goal of getting more novice backpackers into the wilderness

Lily Michaels hikes above Kelly Lake on the second day of the Fjallraven Classic USA.

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As soon as I saw the double-barrel shotgun, I knew Fjällräven was on the right track. The start of a hike through some of Colorado’s most beautiful backcountry wouldn’t be the same without a shotgun start.

I was at the North Canadian trailhead, near Walden, Colorado, for the inaugural Fjällräven Classic USA, a three-day, 20-mile backpacking trip. The idea was simple: find 20 stunning miles of hiking trail and invite friends to come along for the trek. The company would provide food and water along the way and offer a shuttle service from Denver and Boulder to the trailhead. All I had to do was pack a backpack and join them.

At the trailhead, Carl Hård af Segerstad, brand communications manager at Fjällräven, addressed the crowd of hikers. A tan, well-built man with a thick, full beard, Carl looked like he was born to wear the company’s clothing. A few words of welcome in Swedish, followed by the shotgun blast, and the first of three waves of hikers was off.

Photos from the Classic

Dogs were welcome at the event and many completed the trek with ease. Our favorite shots from the 20-mile trip.

See more

Fjällräven launched its first Classic in Sweden 12 years ago. Since then, more than 2,000 people from around the world have traveled to Swedish Lapland every year to hikethe 112-kilometer Kungsleden trail. The folks at Fjällräven hope this first U.S. hike will evolve into a similar tradition. The goal is to get novice backpackers on their first overnight. The $200 registration fee covers food and water on the trail, plusbeerand a barbeque at the end. And, of course, the ease and camaraderie of hiking with more than 100 new friends.

The first day of trekking was tough for flatlanders who had flown in from California and the East Coast—we were at 10,500 feet and covered more than eight miles to our first campsite. The route itself wasn’t particularly challenging, but the skies opened up just as the fire road turned into singletrack. In typical Colorado fashion, we got a little bit of everything: rain, hail, sunshine, more hail. Tired and wet, we were glad to reach the six-mile checkpoint, where crews were handing out hot soup and Swedish Fish. We ended the day on the banks of Jewel Lake, a 11,400-foot-elevation alpine lake nestled at the base of a bowl of mountains.

I met hikers from all over the world, including a marine from Maryland, and a student from ASU, who won Fjällräven’s giveaway and received a free trip to the Classic. One hiker had completed the original Swedish Classic just the week before. We swapped stories as we prepared our Mountain House freeze-dried meals and alpenglow lit the horizon.

The second day, we followed the Hidden Valley Trail along a small river, through fields of wildflowers,and over a mountain pass. From the summit, we looked out over Kelly Lake, which would have fit right in on The Sound of Music set. Fly-fishing lines flashed in the morning light as we descended to the lake, where a crew had a happy-hour spread—Colorado bourbon and moonshine—waiting for us. And, of course, more Swedish Fish. That evening, we passed flasks of Fireball around the campfire as a hiker played renditions of Sugarhill Gang tunes on guitar.

Joe Prebich, vice president of brand at Fjällräven, passed me a flask. “Fjällräven gets it,” he said, pointing to the 50 people gathered around the fire, nodding to the beat. “This right here, this…is what we love to do.”Later, as I fell asleep to the rhythmic pounding of hands on an empty bear canister, I felt the Lapland chill invade my Colorado tent and found it hard to disagree.

Sign up for the Fäjllrävennewsletter to learn about the dates and location for next year’s Fjällräven Classic USA.

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