At its core, backpacking is supposed to be a simple, egalitarian affair. Just grab a tent and sleeping pad and head out into the woods — at your own pace. Lately, though, that model has been upended by Type-A ultra-runners looking to set fastest known times or win some badass trail race around the West. Nothing against pushing yourself to the limits, but sometimes you just want to hike — and jabber with some buddies while you do it.
That’s the idea behind the Fjällräven Classic. For the last 16 years, the Swedish gear company has been hosting a trekking celebration in their home country that includes an 110km hike through Lapland, the northernmost province. This August 19–21, they’re bringing the festival to North America, in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, with the inaugural Fjällräven Classic USA. The three-day, two-night trek traverses Colorado State Forest, 71,000 acres of jagged peaks, alpine lakes, and moose, bear, and deer in the north-central part of the state.
"In Sweden, the Fjällräven Classic draws participants from around the globe,” says Nathan Dopp, president of Fjällräven North America. “We look forward to bringing that unique community-building outdoor experience to our North American home base here in Colorado."
The scenic highlight is Jewell Lake on Day 2, a subalpine lake set in the glacier basin of the region’s tallest mountain, 12,951-foot Clark Peak. The trek finishes with a backcountry-themed party among the Lodgepole pines, with bluegrass music and open-fire grilled meats expertly prepared by Boulder-based executive chef Kyle Mendenhall, gourmet salads, and dessert.
It's $200 per person, and you'll need to bring your camping gear (tent, stove, all-weather clothing), but Fjällräven is providing company ambassadors to guide the hike; round-trip transportation from Boulder, Fort Collins, and Denver; all the food and water you'll need (meals are sponsored by Mountain House); and a backup medical team in case of emergencies. Participants will receive a 20 percent online discount code for Fjällräven and a Grayl water-purifier bottle at the start of the trek.
In a summer when the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial and offering free entry to all of its parks (and getting them loved to death as a result of it), a low-key trekking fest may be the most refreshing thing outdoors.