Trail Running Sweden – a Journey Through Unspoilt Land

If The Lord of the Rings were to be filmed in Sweden, it most probably would have been filmed at the Pyramids. A day trail running in this unspoiled landscape is as close to trail running nirvana as it gets. The landscape ignites the imagination of myths, legends and sagas, created by an enormous ice lake during the last Ice Age, 9000 years ago. The imposing mythical stone ridges shaped like pyramids rise up and act as guardians of the skyline, systematically placed between deep U shaped valleys and crystal clear lakes. It’s clear where the name “The Pyramids” stems from, and it’s just as clear that trail running in this area is something of a dream coming true.

Löpning vid sjö, Pyramiderna | Foto: Anette Andersson

Trail Running Euphoria in Sweden

The running community is an ever growing group of enthusiasts and as a result, more territory is being explored on foot than ever before. Particularly so by trail runners, who are switching from their normal running routines and heading out and exploring the boundless mountain terrain that Sweden has to offer. This particular adventure, finds itself in the Southern Åre mountain range in Sweden, approximately 30 minutes’ drive from Åre. The small village of Vallbo is the starting point of the trail, offering trail runners parking and a chance to go through last minute checks before the run starts.

The run starts off through the old pine forests of Vålådalens Nature Reserve in Sweden, created 1988. The forest is dense with the trees growing tightly over each other, their thin trunks stretching silently up and shutting out both light and sound. Different varieties of moss and lichen drably blanket the earth and slowly consume dried out stumps in inviting earthly tones, filling the nose with musty, yet fresh scents. Despite the silence, these forests are home to all sorts of animal life, from the small Siberian Jays, Capercaillie and Northern Hawk Owl to fox, reindeer and the king of the forests, the moose.

After approximately four kilometres the trail reaches the tree line and wide open spaces. The most notable peak is Stor-Anahögen, 1218 meters high and peaking over the horizon like an inviting sugar cone. The trail is built up on wooden platforms and the running is easy as the meters tick by rapidly, as long as one keeps your eye on your footfall for risk of slipping off and landing with one foot in the swamp. The trail varies between woods and rocky paths, requiring extra effort parrying your way over the uneven terrain. After six kilometres an old croft and Sami village called Grönvallen makes a great place to catch your breath, take in some water from the small stream or make small adjustments in your gear before continuing out, either clockwise to Issjödalen, or counterclockwise towards the famed Pyramids.

We decide to head out towards Issjödalen and its incredible landscape. The pathway meanders its way like a long snake through the mountain terrain, marked to one side by the quintessential red trail markers and clear mountain streams to the other, lined by gravel ridges and crooked, windswept birches. Silently we move on, the only sound being our footsteps and occasional streams gurgling their way downstream.

Dalgång vid Pyramiderna | Foto: Anette Andersson

Running Past Royal Lineages from the 1800’s

Trail running in Sweden isn’t all about the exercise – there are numerous beautiful stops to explore on the way. High up in the valley Issjödalen, the Ice Lake Valley, looms the Royal hunting clubs characteristic hexagon pavilion. Built at the end of the 1800’s and was used every year up until the 1970’s, filled with groups of hunters and manned by servants with vast amounts of gear and supplies. Nowadays the beautiful pavilion stands empty and has an air of peace about it. To the left of the pavilion lies the characteristic Issjön, the Ice Lake, an azure coloured body of water that is a remain from the ice age. For trail runners, this is a perfect place for a recovery swim and providing new energy to tired legs after the climb.

Vy över Pyramiderna, Vålådalen | Foto: Anette Andersson
The pyramid shaped ridges are a clear giveaway to the places name | Photo: Anette Andersson

Mystically Shaped Ridges Impress Trail Runners

A steep climb leads up out of the valley and out onto a windswept plain as we follow the signage towards Lunndörren. After about two kilometers of trail running the mystically cone shaped ridges that named the area, appear, the famed Pyramids. These pyramids and valleys, were formed in the ice age as the ice melted unevenly in pools and created valleys and ridges shaped as pyramids. These pyramids and valleys also carry archaeological significance, with findings of fossils from mammoths and musk ox’s, dating back 40 000 years.

Conservation is key at the pyramids and stony ridges are home to a delicate floral canopy, that once destroyed takes many years to recover and regrow. It is possible to enjoy these wonders from a close range but it is forbidden to ascend the ridges in order to prevent damage to the plants from erosion or human presence.

The trail leads down behind the pyramids for around 3 kilometers and past the old Sami cot, till the old pine forests back towards Grönvallen and the finish at Vallbo. The trail run measures 21 kilometers in total, equivalent to a half marathon and it’s a journey of discovery through ages past and present. Tired, jubilant, adrenalin filled and endorphins happy, it’s time to return home and check off yet another great trail running adventure in Sweden and the southern Åre mountain range.

XC-biking around the Pyramids | Photo: Joakim Gaupset Eide

Be Kind to Animals & Nature

  1. Don’t run directly towards reindeers, bypass around them and admire them from a distance.
  2. Don t disturb the wildlife. Give at least 100m distance to birds nests, dens or burrows.
  3. A night in a tent is a wonderful experience and in Sweden it is permitted to pitch a tent in nature reserves for one night. Respect the nature around you and respect areas that are active reindeer grazing areas.
  4. Be kind to the surroundings. Take only pictures and leave only footprints.
  5. Always keep your furry four legged companions on a leash.
Samekåta vid Pyramiderna | Foto: Fanny Hejdström
Old Sami dwelling | Photo: Fanny Bergman

Good to Know

  1. The Sami dwelling north of the pyramids is protected by the Heritage Conservation Act, meaning that they are protected from all interference and alterations. These are protected for future generations to enjoy the history.
  2. Bring a camera, the area makes for fantastic photography.
  3. The following are the best rest places: Stor-Vargtjärnen (4,5 km), Grönvallen (6 km), hunting pavilion at Isjön at Issjödalen (9,5 km) and the pyramids (12 km).
  4. Take with sufficient nutrition for a run, energy bars etc. Take with some water in case the smaller streams are dry in late summer. Always have a wind breaker or something warm, no matter the weather.

About Vålådalen Nature reserve and other protected areas in Jämtland Härjedalen, Sweden

HERE’S THE SKINNY

ACTIVITY

Trail Running, XC-biking, Hiking

SEASON

Spring, Summer, Autumn

SKILL LEVEL

Medium

DISTANCE

21 kilometre

ELEVATION GAIN

Approx 300 metres.

START

Vallbo. Free parking, approx. 100m after the church. Signage from parking.

MAP

Åre Trails – biking
Z7 Åre-Vålådalen-Bydalen

TERRAIN

Trails, occasionally uneven, platforms and stony trails.

EXTRA RUNNING

Those looking for an extra challenge can lengthen their run towards Lunndörren and stay over at the STF Cabin.

ARE WE MISSING SOMETHING?

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