While the raindrops hit the windows and the wind howls around the house, we grab our phones again. Rain, rain and more rain. It’s August 2019 and we are in Norway, where we have rented a cabin in the Åkrafjord. Apart from one day we have only had rain so far and it doesn’t seem to get much better in the next days. We look at each other and know that staying in Norway is not an option. The next day we load our luggage in Rudolph the Volvo, get in the car and take off to our beloved Sweden. David knows a nice place where we could possibly hike for several days. Two days later we are in the mountains, we have arrived in the Vålådalen Nature Reserve.
About the Vålådalen Nature Reserve
The Vålådalen Nature Reserve is located on the border with Norway, in the southern part of the mountains nearby Åre, and across the border from Trondheim in Norway. The area is on the list to be declared a national park, but it is currently still a nature reserve. The highest peak is the Ottfjallstoppen, which measures 1,266 meters above sea level.
In the summer it is a popular area among hikers, in the winter it is a ski and winter sport area. There are a few ski lifts near the village of Vålådalen. Vålådalen is relatively unknown to foreign visitors, so you will mainly come across Sweden and Norwegians.
The road ends at the village of Vålådalen, you cannot continue onwards from here other than by foot or in winter, by snowmobile. Along this road you will find a number of beautiful wild camping spots and a campsite. In the village there is a small information center and the Vålådalen Fjällstation (mountain station) where you can spend the night. It is useful to book in advance as it is a popular spot for hikers, fishermen and trail runners.
Grocery shopping is best done on the main road (the E14) before you take the exit towards Trillevallen / Vålådalen. In the Fjallstation you can buy limited food and drinks for your trek and they have a restaurant that serves delicious meals.
We made a four-day trek here. If you do not want this, then countless (half) day hikes are possible, from very short to very long, from simple to difficult. The free hiking guide “Mountain Experiences in unspoilt Åre” contains various hiking suggestions. This booklet is available for free at the information center.
A visit to the Vålådalen Nature Reserve is really a must especially if you, for example, have been to Fulufjället National Park before, where it is much busier. If you want to do a multiday trekking, this area is really top of the bill if you ask me. Although the Kungsleden is also beautiful, you will find far fewer people here in Vålådalen and the trails are less crowded. An absolute must if you love nature and hiking!
A 4 day hike Vålådalen
As mentioned, we made a four-day trek through the Vålådalen Nature Reserve. The night before we slept in the Fjällstation, we were allowed to leave the car there during our trek. Below is our day-to-day report and after that you will find a number of tips and tricks in preparation for your adventure! The kilometers specified below are the distances from hut to hut, but we often hiked a little longer and camped about an hour hiking past the huts. They are therefore indicative.
Day 1: from Vålådalen to Stendalsstugan (13 km)
From the mountain station, we put our packs on our backs and hike in the direction of the nature reserve. It’s cloudy and gray, but that should not spoil the fun because everything is better than the rain we had in Norway. We have everything we need on our back for the next five days and that’s just the most beautiful feeling in the world!
The first part of the hike takes us through the woods on a flat and easy trail. Here we come across quite a few day other hikers and especially many trail runners. And … a group of reindeer. They walk towards us unsuspectingly on the trail, but as soon as they get us in sight, they disappear into the bushes. We make a first stop at the river and grab a little something to eat.
After the break the climbing starts and after about an hour of walking up, we reach the tree line for the first time and we get a first impression of the enormous size of the area we are in. We leave the tree line behind us and now we hike through low vegetation.
Then suddenly we hear a load roar in the bush ahead of us. David is hiking in front of me and turns around. He rushes over back to me and we shout “that was a bear”! We can hardly believe it, but they living here and this was certainly not the sound of a dog or a reindeer. We are amazed and a bit scared, because according to the lady of the visitor center we should not encounter any bears as they are super shy of people. After a short consultation, we decide to hike further and above all to make a lot of noise, to alert any other bears in the area to our presence.
The first stop of the trek is normally the Stendalsstugorna, but we don’t feel like camping near a hut tonight. Although it is not very busy on the track, we prefer to look for the ultimate silence and space. We decide to continue walking for another hour and then find a nice camping spot by a stream.
Although the first few rivers had a bridge, it is soon after the hut that it becomes clear this is not the standard on this trek and that there are a number of river fords in it. Since I am not a huge fan of fording rivers on foot (partly due to an almost accident in Iceland a few years ago) I try to avoid them wherever possible, but as soon as we arrive at the fording place, there is nothing else to do than just go ahead.
Fortunately the water at this river is not deep and we wade to the other side without any problems. The next crossing is more intense and turns out to be a wild waterfall. David crosses first and reaches the other side without any problems. Not much later, but with wet feet, I am also across the stream. We have been past the hut for over an hour and a half and have seen little spots to get drinking water, so this is where we pitch our camp for the night.
Day 2: from Stendalsstugan to Vålåstugan (13 km)
The next morning we wake up tired. There was wildlife around our tent all night (or at least, that’s how it felt) and with the bear we encountered earlier in mind, we didn’t sleep very well. We pack our things and start the second day of our trek towards the Vålåstugan. We climb a little further and reach the first bogs. Although there are boardwalks in many places, they are hardly passable in at times.
Where the trail was easy to find everywhere yesterday, it is different today. We walk on the fjall at the same spot as the snowmobile trail and appear to have landed on that particular track. The terrain is challenging and we have to search a bit to find the right hiking trail again. After a little while we find the trail again.
Next up is a descent into the next valley. We pass lakes, see groups of reindeer grazing and arrive at Vålåstugan after a final steep climb. There are relatively many people here and again we decide to hike on. There are a few lakes on the hiking map and we want to see if we can camp there. Water is scarce it seems in some places and although the water from the lakes should be potable, it does not look equally clean everywhere.
An hour after we have left the cabin behind, we arrive at the lakes. They don’t look very clean, but eventually we find a suitable camping spot on one of shores. The water is not potable, but we still have enough to get through the night. About a half-hour walk away is the main river from which we can get clean and safe drinking water tomorrow morning.
We are tired of the poor sleep last night and decide to go to bed early, but not before we have seen a beautiful sunset.
Day 3: from Vålåstugan to Lunndörrstugan (16 km)
After a relatively tough second day, I am looking forward to hitting the trail on day three again. We get up enthusiastically, it’s almost a clear blue sky and today’s journey does not seem too difficult. We start with a descent to the river, which we cross over a brand new suspension bridge. After the bridge we have breakfast and we start a beautiful trip over fjalls and through valleys, always through different landscapes. We also feel we hike for miles along boardwalks that prevent us from stepping into the swamp. The boardwalks are comfortable but extremely slippery in some places, so caution is advised!
Along the way we pick berries and fill up our bellies with them. We have beautiful views and enjoy our day to the max. After another river crossing due to a broken bridge, we have a break near yet another beautiful suspension bridge. In the distance we see reindeer again and although the sun has disappeared behind a thick cloud cover, the landscape is still wonderfully beautiful.
Although today’s hike did not seem long on the map, we take longer than planned. The last part to the hut seems endless, but eventually it gets into sight. We have a short chat with the hut wardens and they advise us to camp on a small ridge about ten minutes hiking from the hut. From there we have a beautiful view of the surrounding area and it should be relatively quiet.
And to be honest, the indicated place is truly beautiful. We see some other people in the distance, but we suspect that the view is nowhere better than here. And we even have our own fire place. We pitch the tent, take a dip in the ice-cold lake and once again enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Day 4: climbing Saanta mountain
Today we have included a “day off” to climb a summit or to hike in another valley. We are in no hurry and every day extra in the wilderness is a day well spent. We decide to go up the mountain Saanta (1,150m), which we see from our camping spot. There seems to be some sort of path going up, but not from the side where we camp. We are therefore dependent on our own creativity to reach the summit.
The day starts cloudy and rainy, but in the afternoon it clears up a bit. There are huge swamps behind the ridge where we camp, so we first follow the path into the valley, but at some point we have to find our own way to prevent us from descending too much. Once we are a little higher, the landscape changes into a boulder field covered with moss. In other words, you have to be extremely careful where you place your feet because otherwise you can simply sink between the immense boulders that lie here.
We rise slowly but steady while a dark cloud cover is gathering above us. Along the way we place some markings to find our way back later and reach the summit after more than an hour and a half. Or at least, what we think is the summit. Later it turns out that we were just a little below the actual summit, but that didn’t spoil the fun. Despite the clouds, the view is again beautiful. But it is also cold and extremely windy. And so soon after our arrival at the top, it’s time to descend quickly and try to reach the tent before the rain starts.
That doesn’t work out completely and we hike the last part of the way down in our rain gear. Along the way I still enjoy the many berries that grow here and just before the downpour really begins we reach our tent again. Miraculously, it is dry again just before sunset, so that we are once again treated to a very beautiful sunset.
Day 5: back to the car (14 km)
On the last day we heard that it is mostly a lot of straight walking back to Vålådalen. We say goodbye at the hut (where, to be honest, we bought a nice beer for the sunset in the evenings during our stay) and then hike back into the valley. It is busy today on the trail, because a school class who stayed overnight in the hut has left just ahead of us. We try to catch up with them, but that proves difficult. Every time we take a break they catch us up and vice versa.
Today is all about crossing many forests and swamps. Here too, many planks are rotten and we have to balance regularly so as not to plunge into the swamp. Planks are already placed for repair in many places, so if you want to do this trip, it will probably be better next year.
The last part of the hike takes us through the woods and only three hours after we have left, we cross the suspension bridge and we are back in the village of Vålådalen after a truly amazing experience.
Useful tips for your trekking in Vålådalen
The mountains hut cannot be booked in advance, it is first come, first serve. If you want to sleep in the huts you still have to bring your own sleeping bag etc. and also your own food. You can also buy food in the huts, but you still have to prepare that yourself. It’s mostly dehydrated food and food from bags. In most huts you can pay by debit card or with a credit card, but it is smart to also take cash with you. Members of the STF (Swedish tourist association) receive a discount on the overnight price.
Drinking water can be found everywhere along the trail, but can sometimes be scarce if it is a dry period. We drank the water from streams without treating it, from lakes we boiled it first to make sure it was safe. There’s fishing in many lakes and dogs are allowed on this trail. In addition, you never know whether there is a dead reindeer or something like that in the area, so with non-running water, we have been more careful.
Mobile coverage is available on almost the entire trek, should you need it. Make sure to check in advance if all trails are open, at the time of our visit one part was impassable due to a bridge that had collapsed. At the information center they can give you all the information you need. Be sure to take a hiking map with you, Fjällkartan Z43 Vålådalsfjällen is needed for this hike and is available at the Fjällstation.
Conclusion and disclaimer
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