Whether it is walking across granite slabs or roaming through the woods, West Sweden has an extensive network of walking trails. Discover Bohuslän’s fishing communities between shoreline boulders and meadows, enjoy the untamed wilderness of Dalsland or hike through Västergötland’s historical culture landscapes, with dancing cranes and cherry trees in blossom.
Stepping outside for a long walk is not just for the professional hiker. In fact, more and more people look for experiences away from the city buzz and constant updates on social media. In West Sweden there are trails that suit the beginner as well as the more experienced hiker. It’s also getting more and more common to combine hiking with hotels and B&Bs where you can enjoy good food and a comfortable bed after your day out. West Sweden offers multiple options for that.
The advantages of taking a good hike are many. Not only does a walk on uneven surfaces increase the energy burnt, spending time in a natural environment is good for one’s mental activity too, states research by Stanford University. According to Ulf Andrén, part of the Swedish Outdoor Association in West Sweden, hiking is the perfect body-mind workout.
“I walk in silence without music in my ears, I prefer to be present and to hear the birds, discover wild animals and hear the wind in the trees. It makes me calm and elevated – a cup of coffee never tastes as good as by a lake. Walking not only lowers my tempo, it fills me up with energy. It is a fantastic way to exercise,” he says.
Ulf‘s morning routine includes a five-kilometre walk.
“It’s incredibly soothing. I shake off all my daily worries in the woods.”
A forest hike for every taste
Andrén is part of the initiative “Cykla & Vandra i Sjuhärad” where several municipalities have gone together to promote walking and cycling trails in West Sweden.
“What makes walking in West Sweden so special is the varied terrain and cultivated landscape. There are several differences in altitude and lots of beautiful viewpoints,” Ulf says.
Hyssnaleden in Sjuhäradsbygden is his personal favourite. The 40-kilometre path takes two days and there are plenty of stops along the way. You can, for instance, stay at a family-run hotel in an old mill. The trail includes the 12th century church in Hyssna, beautiful beech woods in Stomsås, an ancient cave called Torkels gömma and the fascinating “giant's cauldrons” in Ansered.
“Make sure to make a break for some traditional Swedish fika with coffee and cake,” Andrén says.
Another beautiful trail is Vildmarksleden in Ulricehamn, an 8,5-kilometre loop that passes through grazing meadows and ancient forests. Don’t miss the view from Kohesterberget of Lake Jogen, where you can swim in the summer. Right next to the trail is Årås Mill and STF Hostel, where you can stay in a lovely setting with a fascinating history.
Hofsnäs nature trail in the nature reserve Torpanäset is a great option if you’re looking for an easy family walk. It offers good possibilities to get to know West Sweden’s rich flora and history. Visit Hofsnäs Manor overlooking lake Åsunden, where you can stay comfortably with access to a sauna and bathtub, and stop by the café that focuses on local produce. The medieval castle Torpa stenhus is also a must.
Walking is also the perfect way to experience cultural heritage. Pilgrimsleden in Dalsland covers 100 kilometres of countryside, from Vänersborg in the south to Edsleskog in Åmål municipality in the north. The southern part follows country roads and walkways past a number of places with historical connections, including several medieval churches. In Upperud, the path changes character into a beautiful, narrow forest path taking you through virgin woods, wilderness and steep hills. At the top, you’re rewarded by breathtaking views over lakes and forests. Along the path there are many camp sites where you can stop and enjoy a picnic – just remember to take any trash with you and treat your surroundings with respect.
If you want to stay the night, book a room at Upperud 9:9, a boutique hotel in a converted silo overlooking lake Nären.
Discover the seaside and lakes
West Sweden truly is varied. From deep forests to open ocean, from high cliffs to widespread fields. The trademark of hiking in Bohuslän is walking across beautiful granite slabs alongside the ocean. Soteleden leads you up and down many hills and offers great views over the archipelago. There is wilderness, coastline, rock carvings, sea views, forests and historical landscapes. Paths such as Bovallstrand and Tossene take you to peaceful woods where pine and spruce are mixed with deciduous woods of alder trees, beech trees and oaks. Other parts of the trail are like a network of paths, such as the section that leads you through the Ramsvikslandet nature reserve, boasting a mighty ocean and tall, pink cliffs. The trail also passes several lovely coastal gems of West Sweden such as Smögen and Kungshamn. Stay at Ramsvik’s campsite in Hunnebostrand, with small cottages with magnificent views of the ocean.
Discovering animal wildlife is another perk when walking. Along the pilgrim trail from Varnhem to Falköping, you’ll find one of Europe’s most important bird lakes, Hornborga. Stay comfortably in Nästegården bed and breakfast, one of the oldest and best-preserved farms in the area. Each year thousands of cranes rest at the lake during their annual migration.
“Birdlife, and animal life in general, is incredible in West Sweden,” says Ulf Andrén. “Unusual animals tend to stay away, but if you’re lucky you’ll spot a deer or rabbit along the way. Discovering traces from elks, badgers and beavers is almost as fascinating.”
As always in nature – remember to leave no trail. Take any trash with you and treat your surroundings with respect.
Ulf Andrén’s top hiking tips
- You don’t want to get lost, so bring a map and your mobile phone. Road marks might be destroyed.
- You don’t need much gear to walk, but I recommend proper waterproof hiking boots.
- Bring a good backpack filled with sandwiches, a coffee thermos and a water bottle.
- Make sure to bring some extra clothes, rainwear and a warm jumper. The weather might turn along the way.
- I always walk with sticks. It is not a must, but it gives great support and a great workout for the whole body.