Our Hike In North Sweden
Last week we were able to go on a beautiful five days hike in a very well organised, yet not too popular, nature reserve in northern Sweden. In this post we will describe the trails, preparations, and our experiences during the hike. All the photos in this posts were taken by us. I wrote this post with my spouse, Yoav Luft.
STF membership card
We signed up for a STF membership card. STF is the Swedish Tourist Association — this is the organisation the operates the cabins and marks trails in Sweden. Members get a discount in all cabins, both for lodging and meals, and this membership card saved us significant amount of money.
Recommended doing before going on this trip.
The trails are well marked, and some of them are so popular you’re not alone for a moment. But we did had use for a map a few times when we missed the trail or wanted to plan where we should have the next stop, or be a little flexible with sleeping. A map of Jämtlandtriangeln costs 150 kronor.
Summer trails are marked with red dots — on the ground and in the map. In many places there were wooden planks allowing the hikers to cross marshes with getting their shoes wet. There are also winter trails marked with poles with red X markings. On the map, when the summer and winter trails coincide, they are marked as a solid line, and when they are separate the winter trail is marked with dashed line. It’s not recommended to take the winter trails in the summer, as they are meant for cross-country skiing.
Stockholm > Duved > Storulvån fjällstation (mountain station) > Sylarna fjällstation — 16 km
We took the night train from Stockholm to Duved. We left on Sunday around 21:00, and arrived around 8:30 the next morning. There are several options for booking a night-train, depending on whether you book a first class or second class, and whether you book a whole cabin or just a bed in shared cabin.
Two weeks before the trip, we ordered a three bed cabin that costed about 3000 kr for the both of us. It’s probably better to order a bit before. It’s not possible to share the bed. There is toilet for the entire car, shower that we didn’t try, a kiosk car with electricity, and in the cabin we had clean sheets and pillows, a sink and a few drinking water packages. We wouldn’t say it’s the best sleep we had — there is noise from the outside, and the car shakes a lot. But we were able to sleep and it was an experience.
In Duved, two Wänseth buses were waiting to take all the hikers to the first mountain station: Storulvån.
We started walking at around 10:30 am, and arrived at around 18:00.
We stopped in the old mountain station in the middle of the way for lunch. It was one of the only places along the way with a toilet, and it was a bit challenging to find other places for bathroom breaks, since the ground is very flat, there weren’t almost any trees or bushes, and there were a lot of hikers.
The view on the way was beautiful. We were surprised time and again to see the snow on the sides of the trails. On the first day we had to stop and wear our rain gear due to a sudden strong rain.
To sleep in a mountain station one needs to book a place at least a week in advanced, but you can always pitch a tent next to the cabin and pay a small fee. In Sylarna there is a store and restaurant. We ordered dinner (600 kr for both of us) at the restaurant when we arrived (it is recommended to order in advance by sending an email to STF), and breakfast for the next morning (200 kr for both of us).
We slept outside the cabin, and paid 200 kr for person to use the cabin services: drying room, showers, sauna (bastu in Swedish), electricity and lobby. The only way to get to Sylarna is by foot, bike, or helicopter. Some people brought their dogs to the trail, and a lot of people came with children. We drank 2 litres of water this day.
Sylarna > Nedalshytta (Norway) — 17 km
Day two wasn’t the longest day distance-wise, but it was the hardest. We went around Sylarna mountains, which has glaciers on them, and were able to see a part of one of them. It was a pretty cold day and we had to wear our fleeces and rain coats. We started walking around 9 am and arrived around 18:00.
The beginning of the trail is a climb up hill, and then a steep descent. We stopped at an emergency hut at 13:00, and from there had 10 more kilometers in a more flat and sunny terrain. It was a bit swampy and we had to cross a few challenging streams. Yoav got his shoes soaked and learnt an important lesson.
In Nedalshytta we slept inside the cabin, and ate dinner and breakfast from our supply. We saw much less people around us this day since it’s not part of the popular “triangle” trails. Nedalshytta is accessible by car, so many hikers use it a base for single day hikes up the mountains.
Nedalshytta > (almost to) Storerikvollen — 22 km
The third day started with a gradual ascent, and the majority of the way after that was flat. It was also the beginning of the heat wave, and being still in the mindset of the past couple of rainy days, and having no shadow along the way, we got sun burned. We started at 9 am and arrived at 5 pm.
We crossed a couple of challenging streams on this day as well (Yoav crossed barefoot this time), and after the second one we haven’t encountered any streams that we felt comfortable drinking from (the flow wasn’t strong and the water were murky). Hence the last part of this day was a bit stressful for us, until two kilometers before Storerikvollen, when we came by this gorgeous beach on Esandsjøen lake, which was completely empty of other hikers. The water were too cold for us for more than dipping our feet, although a nordic family that passed by did get in for a swim. There were also a few traces of campfires and plenty of dry wood that we used for cooking.
(Almost) Storerikvollen > Blåhammaren — 13 km
This day was pretty easy, we started at 8 am and arrived by 2 pm. It was a mild climb for almost the entire trail.
We crossed the border to Sweden again, and immediately after the crossing there was a bridge over a really nice river where we could fill our bottles and rest.
Blåhammeran is a popular mountain station and we met a lot of people there. They also have a kitchen where we could cook and avoid using our own gas stove. We’ve seen there a lot of families, some with very young kids, dogs, and cyclers. Almost all the hikers we met were Swedish. They also get their supply by helicopters. We ate a very nice breakfast at their restaurant.
Getting back to civilization: Blåhammeran > Storlien — 18 km
If during the past three days we were rarely came across other hikers, the fifth day was even more desolated, and we met only two other hikers the whole day. Most of the hike was down hill. We walked 13 km to Storvallen fjellgård, and then the rest of the way on the road / gravel trail. Walking along e14 highway for one kilometer was a mistake, because the road has no shoulders and cars and trucks go very fast there. There is a good alternative that we missed — a black dotted trail that starts close to Storvallen fjellgård and allows circumventing the highway, adding only 2 kilometers to the hike.
From Storlien we took a two hours train to Trondhiem — a city in Norway which used to be the capital before Oslo, and is located south to Trondheim Fjord. (actually, the train was replaced by a bus due to the warm weather)
There are somethings we couldn’t due without, such as:
- Water bottles: two Nalgine bottles (1 litre), and two supermarket bottles (1.5 litre)
- Sun screen
- Insect repellant: Can’t recommend that enough! The trails were buzzing with biting mosquitos.
- Camp shoes (sandals for me, in retrospective I’d take flip flops, soft shoes for Yoav)
- Adhesive tape for protecting from blisters
- Camp cooking gear: Gas stove, lightweight pot, pan and kettle, plates and cutlery, cups etc. The cutting plate was not used eventually.
- Camping gear: we had a two person tent, two sleeping mats, two inflatable pillows and two sleeping bags. Wouldn’t give up on any of them. We also brought a traveling clothesline, soap and the head of kitchen brush that we used for washing our utensils.
- Small useful things: Extra nylon bags for trash or dirty clothes; A utility knife, flashlight (wasn’t used, in late July the darkest it gets that high north is twilight), laundry clips, rubber bands, a small shovel do dig yourself a field toilet, emergency whistle, a compass, first aid kit, walking sticks.
- Clothes: Other than extra underwear, socks (we got really good anti-blister socks) and shirts, we used our rain gear (jackets and pants) and the warmer micro fleeces we packed. We packed all our underwear in sealable nylon bags (the kind you can buy in every supermarket) to keep them safe and dry.
- Bags: we took two bags, one of 35 litre and one of 65+10. We made sure the weight is not over forth of our body weight — I carries 12.5 kg and Yoav carried 15 kg. We put the food in one of them and the clothes in the other, and tried to make sure stuff are accessible so we don’t lose them in the bags.
- Shoes: Yoav considered taking soft shoes, and eventually took low Merrell trekking shows, which appeared to be a good decision, cause walking in nature with weight could be challenging otherwise. I wore high Mendl, we both bought them two weeks before the hike, which is not enough to get used to the shoes, but we walked with them to work and we manage to keep our feet pretty healthy during the hike.
One thing that we definitely missed is long sleeved shirts and hats. On the mountain and this up north there is no shade, and when the sky is clear there is no escape from the sun. Long sleeves and hats could have saved us some sun burns. We also needed and didn’t have aloe vera for after sun exposure and a remedy for mosquito bites. We could also use a rope that we didn’t have.
We prepared for the possibility that we’ll have to eat only from our supply and get a bit of resupply at one of the Swedish side cabins (Sylarna and Blåhammaren). We premixed warm meals in zip-lock bags: Two of them risoni mixed with lentil based risoni and one of rice and lentils. Both were pre-flavoured with herbs, dried tomatoes and fried onion. Other than that we took a slice of hard cheese, two packets of tuna, 200 grams of Halvah (Mediterranean sweet sesame delight), chocolate spread, peanut butter and tahini, two packs of Swedish flat-bread, olives and dried tomatoes, nuts mixture and dates. To that we added some fresh vegetable and fruits for the first day, salt, lemon juice and olive oil. We also took a tablet of dark chocolate but it melted so quickly that we never actually ate any of it.
Almost all of the food we repackaged in our own light weight containers: zip-lock bags and sealable plastic containers in order to reduce the weight we carried.
At the end of the hike we had half the cheese, forth the nuts mixture, half the Halvah, and half the peanut butter.
There are several nice alternatives, and the this area of Jämtland has a lot of different trails, so we can’t list them all here.
Alternative 1: Carry little, pay more
You can do the whole route with carrying as little as extra set of clothes, rain gear, water and your favourite snacks. All cabins along the way provide full board that includes lodging, dinner, breakfast and a small lunch box to take with you. Expect to pay 800–1000 kronor per person per hut, and make sure you book everything well in advance. Some cabins (like Nedalshytta) require you to sleep in your own sheets, sleeping bag or liner, but you can also rent one from them.
Alternative 2: Variations on the trails
The canonical Sylarna runt is usually done the other way around: From Storulvån to Blåhammaren, then Storerikvollen, Nedalshytta, Sylarna and back to Storulvån. There’s a bus from Storulvån back to Duved leaving at around 17:00 that should bring you in time for the train back to Stockholm.
You can cut the loop short by going from Sylarna directly to Nedalshytta or Storerikvollen. On the map it seemed like a challenging path to both cabins as it crosses the highest part of the mountain range.
Nedalshytta is accessible by car, so if you own one you can drive there, do the round (or part of it) and drive back. You can probably also walk from Nedalshytta or Storerikvollen to the nearest villages that might bus service.
Finally, the network of trails spans south, east and west from where we started. You can walk them, and in fact there are even hiking trails all the way to Trondheim! The DNT (Norwegian counterpart of the STF) has an online map with all the trails.