A Hike to a Mountain Top in Sonfjället National Park

Seen from a distance the Sonfjället mountain has the silhouette of a volcano. Beautifully shaped and surrounded by lush greenery. Climb the mountain or hike around it and look for bears, since this area, The Sonfjället National Park of Sweden, has quite a few brown bears. Do not miss the summer grazing farm, shieling, by the foot of the mountain with mountain cows and goats.

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The couple running the Shieling by one of the entrances to Sonfjället National Park. Photo: Lena Hedman & Erika Willners

Travel back in time

After a winding drive through the woods you reach the shieling with sunkissed farmhouses. Those who are going to wander up to mount Sonfjället may like to start their hike here at the shieling Nyvallen to get in the right mood.

Look up the steep mountain to see the goats climb the mountain slopes. Hear the gentle cow bells as the cows are coming back to the shieling to be milked in the evening. The cow called Nejlika (carnation) is leading the other cows, she is 22 years old and the self written boss of the herd. The rest of the animals come on a line behind her, one of them makes a loud moo and the calves are skipping around.

You are welcomed to Nyvallen Shieling by Margareta and Alf-Erik Kristoffersson with family who continue an unbroken operation of managing this shieling since the 19th century.

It’s great to come here in the summertime when the grass is green, and we’ll stay until September, says Margareta.

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The cocky goats at the Nyvallen shieling run up and down the mountains like it is nothing. Photo: Lena Hedman & Erika Willners

Summer grazing farms, shielings, in Jämtland Härjedalen

Shielings are small scale farms used in the summer to save the harvest by the regular farm for winter. Nature and the surrounding landscape forms the conditions of shielings and where it is possible to maintain them. Sometimes one farm has a shieling of their own and in some cases a whole village has a group of summer farms forming a larger shieling. There are lots of houses in a shieling: living quarters, stables, milk production facilities, storages for products, firewood and grains.

The milk is taken care of and turned into products in the shieling: butter, cheese and whey butter. Today there are other kinds of transportation and storage  and therefore shielings are not so abundant as they once were.

The growing interest in locally produced foods leads to an awakening interest in shielings. In the region Jämtland Härjedalen there are about 20 working shielings today with animals roaming freely in the summer. Some of these welcome visitors and sell their products along with coffee and waffles and thin leavened bread (tunnbröd).

In Vemdalen there is another shieling belonging to Nybo gård. It is called Vikarvålvallen and serve food in the summer. Nybo gård was appointed Economusée in 2018.

The Sturdy Mountain Cows

The mountain cows are a perfect breed who can go up to a mile a day to find grass, leaves and they like to eat mushrooms in the fall. Mountain cows have a high fat content in the milk, up to five percent. Nowadays dairy calves are kept at the shieling, and they milk only about every other day for cheese making.

Cuddle Up by the Fire

When darkness arrives late in the summer evening, it’s nice to light a fire in the cottage Kvarnstugan or in any of the other houses that you can rent by the Shieling to stay in. The fire creaks and the yellowish shine lights up in the evening. It is nice to cuddle up and and see the blue light out there and mount Sonfjället rising high.

Preserve the Mountain

When you get up to the peak Lilltoppen some 1 000 m. a. s. l. you can see far. In the north there is the u-shaped pass Lunndörrspasset leading from the province Härjedalen and into Jämtland. On top there are lots of heaps of stones, but we do not encourage you to make one of your own. This is a National Park and we like to pass it on as unchanged as possible for future generations.

Follow the Goats

If you choose to go even higher you may encounter the goats who usually keep to this part of the mountain – the grass is good for them here. Rest with the goats for a while, catch your breath and enjoy the view.

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The views are spectacular when hiking in the Sonfjället National Park. Photo: Lena Hedman & Erika Willners

A Rocky Hike to the Top

Now you are near the top closest to the steep part with the very best view. It is kind of rocky at the end of the climb, but you will have no problems getting to the top. At the grand top cairn 1 247 m. a. s. l. you can see 360 degrees and all the way into Norway. Celebrate by taking an extra long pause and eat all the goodies you brought with you. There is an even higher mountain top further into the Sonfjället massif.

Look for Brown Bears Going Down

On the way down you can stay just on the verge of the forest line looking for bears. There are plenty of brown bears in the Sonfjället National Park. Bring binoculars and maybe you are lucky enough to spot a bear (if not and you really like to see one you can check in at the Lofsdalen bear´s den – a hideout for spotting bears and other wild animals).

Room for All

Margareta at the Nyvallen shieling feels there is plenty of room for all animals around mount Sonfjället. Sometimes the goats and cows come to the farm earlier than they usually do in the evening if they sense the bears up close.   

Special Rules Apply in a National Park

Read about the Right of Public Access in Protected Areas here

For Example:

  • Do not bring rocks from the area.
  • Do not break twigs. Use only dry twigs on the ground to make a fire.
  • Do not pick flowers or pick up plants. You may pick berries and mushrooms.
  • Do not bring foreign plants or animals into the area.
  • Do not bring insects, or disturb animals in any way.
  • No hunting within the area. Fishing is permitted at lake Styggtjärn with fishing permit and within the limitations set up by the local fishing area Hedvikens fiskevårdsområde.
  • Do not drive off road or park outside designated parking areas.
  • No camping within the area. Camp at Sonfjällscampen or Hede Camping..
  • Do not fly lower than 300 meters from the ground.
  • Do not ride within the area.
  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Do not put up signs in the area.
  • You need a permit from the County board to make scientific research within the area.
  • You need a permit from the County board for commercial activities within the area.

 

You need also respect the laws of reindeer herding rennäringslagen.

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View from the top cairn. On a clear day you can see all the way into Norway. Photo: Lena Hedman & Erika Willners

Sonfjället National Park founded in 1909

Sonfjället National Park, inaugurated in 1909 is one of Europe’s oldest National Parks. The park has well-marked trails both in summer and winter for hiking or skiing. The National Park is a vast wilderness area around the imposing Mount Sonfjället, at 1 278 metres. It’s a majestic, yet easily accessed area, with a permanent population of bears, lynx, moose, and occasionally wolverine, wolf and the golden eagle.

Bears leave clear signs of their presence, usually in the form of droppings, footmarks, claw marks on trees and disrupted anthills. But one would be extremely lucky to spot a bear. In most cases, the bears are more fearful of humans and usually retreat if they feel people are drawing too close.

The area is worth visiting in both summer and winter. The trails around the park are clearly marked and visitors don’t need to walk or ski far before finding themselves in the heart of the park. There are tours for everyone, irrespective of experience or skill. Hiking tips are available in the Länsstyrelsen hiking guide for Sonfjället.

Sonfjällets information is located at the shieling Nyvallen, with more information about the area. Other activities in the area include:

Bear safaris: follow a guide as they point out spoor, droppings, dens, markings on trees and overturned anthills.

Guided hikes: Experienced guides can relate everything that the park has to offer, with tours 5-6 hours long. Shielings:

Witness life at a live summer pastures and meadows, meet the animals and see examples of life in days gone past. Accommodation: In cabins near the shieling adjacent to the National park.

Visitors’ information:

The main entrance to Sonfjället is at Nyvallen, the shieling and info centre. The 2,5km ‘Familjeslingan’ (Family hike) starts from Nyvallen. The other gateways to the National park are Nysätern, Dalsvallen and Valmen.

Sododalen offers a simple camping hut and shelter.

Amazing Flora Thanks to Grazing and Farming

Before you leave the shieling you will probably meet the mountain cows again by the green valley. Thanks to the grazing and farming there are many rare flowers and plants growing here. An inventory resulted in 57 recorded species by the Shieling like Bluebells, Daisies and many more.

Bear Your Experiences Within

The contrast between the flourishing green around the shieling and the harsh mountain top of stones is grand. To experience the difference in such a short walk is inspiring and energizing. The meeting with the animals and staying at the Shieling gives you a sense of connection to generations past. Bring your experiences with you, so that you can revive them again by closing your eyes: the white and black mountain cows, the mischievous sheperd pup with one blue and one brown eye and the cocky goats jumping in the steep mountain sides. And just maybe, that sight of a brown bear!

HERE´S THE SKINNY

ACTIVITY

Hiking, wild game watching, summer farm life.

SEASON

Spring, summer and autumn. It is also possible to go nordic skiing in winter around the National Park on marked trails.

DIFFICULTY

Medium hard climb to the very top. Easy hike to Lilltoppen. The path through the forest is nice and higher on the mountain it gets rocky and steep.

START

Turn from road 84 in Hedeviken, Härjedalen and drive south towards Sörviken. This is where you follow the signage to the Shieling Nyvallen and the National Park entrance. You can also start your hike from Valmen in the summer, or from the shieling Nysätern or Dalsvallen (both summer and winter).

THE NATIONAL PARK

Sonfjället National Park was founded in 1909 to help preserve one of Sweden´s southernmost mountains with lichen rich heaths. There used to be wild reindeer here, but today all reindeer in Sweden are domesticated reindeer. The National Park was enlarged in 1989. An alternative spelling is Sånfjället, but the official spelling from 2010 is Sonfjället.

INFORMATION

There is a house at Nyvallen Shieling with information and a brochure on the National Park. In the brochure you will find a map. Hede turistinformation will gladly answer any further questions. 

DISTANCES

From the Shieling Nyvallen the climb is about five kilometers to get to the 1 247 m. a. s. l. top. The elevation is about 500 meters. Another nice hike is 15 km around the mountain. There is a hut to rest in five kilometers from Nysätern in the valley Sododalen.  

GEAR

Sturdy shoes, wind- and waterproof clothing. The nearest supermarket is in Hede for provisions.

VIEWPOINTS

Lilltoppen rises 1 010 m. a. s. l. Mount Sonfjället has several peaks measuring more than 1 200 m. a. s. l. The highest is 1 278 m. a. s. l.  

TRAVEL

Train to Sveg (The Inland Railway – Inlandsbanan runs in summer) and further by bus, taxi or rental car. Or, fly to Sveg or Åre / Östersund airport and then taxi or rental car. It is also possible to either fly to Röros or Trondheim / Vaernes airports and take a rental car from there.

FOOD & LODGING

Nyvallens fäbod lets cabins at the Shieling and serve coffee and snacks from June to September. You can also stay and have coffee at the mountain farm Nysäterns Fjällgård.

Mount Sonfjället is easy to reach from all destinations of the province Härjedalen. SonfjällsbygdenDestination VemdalenFunäsfjällenLofsdalen and Sveg have hotels, cabins, apartments, hostels and camping sites. Cook your own meals or try the local restaurants.

DO NOT MISS

Book a guide to show you the traces of the local Brown Bear population. Bears are shy animals so you need not to worry about close encounters. They will avoid any close contact. 

DID WE MISS SOMETHING?

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