Sweden is a wonderful country for trekking, hiking or just generally going for long walks wherever you like. You don’t have to worry about getting onto someone’s private property since the Everyman’s Right allows you to go anywhere as long as you don’t get too close to the area round somebody’s house. You may even put up your tent and stay for a night in the open, provided you take your litter away with you and follow the fire regulations!
For the fairly experienced trekker who still doesn’t want to go off completely on his or her own, there are a lot of choices. Why not follow Kungsleden (the King’s trail) in the high north – 400 km between Abisko and Hemavan in Lapland? Or at least a part of it? The trail has small bridges and planks over difficult passages, and is clearly marked out, so you can concentrate on the beautiful scenery you pass instead of worrying about where you are. You stay in the Tourist Organization’s cabins (no booking), conveniently spaced out along the trail, and you never have to worry: all the sleeping space is shared out fairly by the cabin host. Provided you bring you sleeping bag and don’t mind chopping wood to get the fire going, you have a dry and warm spot for the night. At some of the cabins you can even stock up on necessities, but most of what you need you will have to carry already from start. The most popular part of the trail is between Abisko and Nikkaluokta, with the snowcapped peaks of Kebnekaise as an added attraction in an untouched alpine landscape with mile long rivers and glittering lakes. Or what about trekking the Triangle of Jämtland near the Norwegian border, between the Mountain Stations of Storulvån, Sylarna and Blåhammaren? This trail is fairly easy, the vast landscape is majestic and the distance between the stations is never above 20 km. Added bonus: the Blåhammaren station, highest situated of all the mountain stations, is famed for its food – especially a hot, spiced fruit soup.
If it is your first time trekking and staying on a trail over night, then perhaps you should book a trekking-tour. The Swedish Tourist Organization offers guided walking tours along Kungsleden and other trails in the mountains, with instruction in everything along the way – from how and what to pack to the treating of the blisters on your feet. Or book a week in one single mountain station, where your guide will plan a different hike every day. You’ll still get both exhausted and exhilarated – though more comfortable than if you’d stayed in a cabin or in the open. Check at the website svenskaturistforeningen.
se, click for English or German and see what is on offer. But don’t hesitate for too long, the guided mountain treks and week packages usually get booked quickly once they are announced! Of course, you can also go to a mountain station on your own to explore the surroundings. The hosts know the terrain around the station, and can give you tips on where to walk and what to see. You make your own trips over the day, or you even pitch your tent and stay out for one or two nights, just as you wish.
The further south in Sweden you get, the less difficult the trekking is and the more civilization there is around you. It may feel good to see a farm once in a while, or even pass by a petrol station to by an ice-cream… Going on your own is less of a challenge in these circumstances. The so-called “Low-land trails” take you through cultivated landscapes and well-tended forests, and you’ll find your way easily along the marked trails. Often there are simple wind and rain shelters, sometimes running water and a fire-place. Here you stay in hostels or on camp-sites (or even in a hotel) in the villages and towns you pass – or you pitch your tent in a spot to your liking. Two famous trails are the E1 and the E6, linking up with trails on the continent. The E1 starts in Grövelsjön in north Dalecarlia where you still are in a mountainous region and it ends up in Varberg on the west coast, linking lots of local trails – you can take on any short or long stretch, just as you like. Walk between ancient summer grazing pastures in the north part, or explore the west coast forests by following the layout of an abandoned railway! The E6 trail starts just north of Stockholm and takes you through the middle of Sweden, ending up at the sea in Skåne – if you don’t care to continue through Denmark southwards and eventually ending up in Greece, that is.
These were just a few suggestions, as the trails of Sweden number in the hundreds. Most cities and towns have marked trails you can follow, and most of the time these hook up with other trails. The Tourist Organization website svenskaturistforeningen.se lists scores of alternatives, provides maps where you can see hostels and mountain stations, and most important: phone numbers to Tourist Offices along the route. Make the calls needed to get information about the towns and areas you will pass, or send an e-mail. If you plan on staying somewhere for a few days, leaving the trail and perhaps explore the landscape in the vicinity, this is paramount – this may be the only way to get advance knowledge of specific local hiking trails near a smaller town or village.
What about trekking completely on your own along a trail you’ve planned with the help of a map, following a road here, a trail there and perhaps making it through some untrodden forest areas with the help of a compass as well? This is for the very experienced outdoors person only, and you should plan extremely carefully what to bring, but this you already know. Even so, remember that Sweden has quite a lot of nature and rather few inhabitants – should someone in your group need help, you may need your cell phone. The coverage is fantastic, but only if you remember to check with you operator how to get into a Swedish net! Also, don’t plan to hike further in the wilderness than your batteries last.
And now to the big question – what about wild animals? Will you see them? Well, the half-wild reindeer of the north is a given, the roe deer and the moose is quite common, and the bird watcher has his job cut out keeping his records up to date. Hares and squirrels will be there in numbers, and perhaps even a fox or a badger. There has been a lot of talk about wolves getting re-implanted in various habitats in Sweden, but you will hardly ever glimpse a wolf. Should you do so, it is most likely his tail you’ll see while he is desperately running for cover. Bears? Extremely rare beasts except in the high north, and rare even there – and shy to booth. If you glimpse one in the distance, take a photo and don’t seek him out. He will be guaranteed to reciprocate the courtesy, so you can be easy. Also, all Swedes know there are lynxes in the forests and in the north wolverines, but nobody ever sees one, so you won’t (which either is a cause for sadness or for relief, depending on your mindset).
So, happy hiking in one of the European countries best geared to outdoor activities!