Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Knalleleden


***Update 21/06/2015: Thanks to a reader named Heather, I recently found out that the E1 trails that connect the town of Hindås to the town of Mullsjö seem to have been updated as far as trail maintenance and also how it is conceptually organized.  Between these two towns it is now known as Sjuhärsleden, is broken down into 10 stages, and a new website (mostly in Swedish, but some English and German) with maps for each of the 10 stages and other information is available here.***

Knalleleden is a 50km trail that goes from the small town of Hindås in the west to the city of Borås in the east.  

Here is the older official website for the trail, which is in Swedish, but has links to three serviceable maps of the trail.  Note that these maps do not include the eastern and western tips of the trail, but does cover roughly 70% of it.

Going northbound on the E1, this is the trail that comes after Vildmarksleden to the west and before Sjuhäradsleden to the east.

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed trail reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress.

Now on to the guide!


I hiked this trail with my friend Blue Alex, and after our trip we both agreed that a good summary of this trail is that it has a lot of highs and lows.  There were times we thought the hiking was quite boring, as we walked down dirt roads past farmland for instance.  Then other times there are stunning views and lovely stream/river crossings that make up for the more boring parts.  At times you feel like you're in Middle Earth, but then you recall the industrial warehouse the trail passes, and it makes for an odd if not mildly amusing contrast.  Overall a pretty enjoyable hike, and in the future I would like to hike it again.

Going west to east--which means going northbound on the E1 trails in Sweden at this point--the trail begins in the small town of Hindås, which is right on the shores of the large lake Västra Nedsjön.  Shortly after the train/bus station, you walk by the big lake on sidewalks and roads until arriving at a parking lot of a park that the familiar orange markings go through.  It's not long before the wide dirt paths of the park turn into planks and small trails through the woods, only to arrive back into civilization again, from industry to farming areas.

After the farms it's downhill towards a quarry, and careful not to get thrown off the trail by a missing trail maker at an intersection with a paved residential road.  Aside from this one missing marker, the trail was marked fairly well, and I found myself rarely having to read my maps.  At the paved road near the quarry, if you are going northbound, make a left.  You will know you're going the right way once you find the beautiful, abandoned house (mill?) on a river, and several bridges over the water.  One of my favorite picturesque moments on this trail.

The trail does not go over the river until the paved road does, briefly travels past another park and some woods, and then goes by the lake Abborrsjön, where there is a nice shelter (plus outhouse and trash can).  This is also the first trail shelter I've encountered with a tarp curtain to act as a front door.

Insert LOTR or Monty Python reference here.

Looks safe, I guess...

Shortly after the shelter is a walk around yet another lake, this time passing through a residential area.  Yet as far as residential areas go, this one was a more pleasant one to hike through--more woodsy, and many homes there are summer homes, so there were not many people around.

It was getting dark by the time we got back into the woods again, and right before heading back into the forest a local mentioned a beautiful view that was not too far away.  Rather than break out our shelters, we soldiered on during dusk; and after seeing some signposts that hinted (arrows with distances but no shelter symbol) at a trail shelter, we decided we had to see if there would be actually be a trail shelter at this nice view.  Lucky for us, that's exactly what we found, and slept soundly that night having hiked about 26km.  

I should also note that before getting to the cliffs closer to the shelter, there are several marshy/muddy areas to hike through.  Sometimes on planks, sometimes without, so you'll most likely have wet feet hiking through this part of the trail.

This next shelter overlooks the big lake Viaredssjön, and the hike before and after this shelter/nice view is quite lovely, following the forested cliffs next to the lake.  The shelter also has an outhouse and trash can, and inside the shelter itself is pretty spacious.  However the roof is damaged with a few holes in it, but a thoughtful person covered the roof with a tarp.  There is a stream to fill up on water down the cliff to the west (maybe a 2-3 minute walk), and the water tasted fine in spite of being a bit colored by tannins.  

The pictures don't do this campground justice.  It's easily one of the best campsites I've been to in recent memory.  I should also note that both of these shelters are not marked on the official map, and I also checked a 2013 updated outdoor map of the area with Blue Alex later on, and we noticed that the shelters are not marked on those maps either.

The view shortly after I woke up in the morning.

Note the amount of headspace inside the shelter.

Past this shelter with a view, there are several options for backpackers and hikers.  You can continue to follow the orange marked Knalleleden, which after about 4km takes a sharp turn north and loops around the northern part of the city of Borås.  This path is roughly 15km before you arrive at the northern outskirts of the city, and another 5km through the city.  This path follows a lot of roads and goes through more residential areas, but the official website says there are nice views and some parts of troll woods.  It also notes that the trail passes close to the city zoo, and a place in Kypegården (closer to the city) where one can get a sauna and go swimming in a small lake.

Or you can follow a local trail about 3km away from the shelter that intersects with the E1 on a rocky lumber road--which is marked green, a confusing choice of color to mark a woodland trail if you ask me.  This green trail will take you to the small town of Sandared after a few more kilometers of quite lovely, mossy, troll woods.  

On this local trail is yet another good shelter, which is also not marked on any maps, and we stopped to have lunch there.  Near this shelter is a stream to fill up on water, which you pass on planks on the way there.  In town there is a supermarket and a train station, and to get into the center of town simply walk due south--i.e. make a right on the main road after you get to the football field.

If you decide to take the green trail--which is what Blue Alex and I did--you have yet another choice to make.  We were told by locals that there is a paved walkway that goes directly to Borås, and if you take this route it is about 9km to the center of the city (i.e. the train station).  Or you can take a train or bus to Borås, both of which leave somewhat regularly, even on weekends (though not as frequently, of course).  However my friend and I opted to head back home towards Göteborg, as we both had work the next day.  The train ride had some gorgeous views of the forests and lakes for most of the trip back to the city.

For thru-hikers and longer section hikes, Borås is a good place to re-supply and perhaps spend a zero day in.  As mentioned there is a zoo, which I have been to a few times with my family and we have all enjoyed.  Also plenty of places to get food and fuel, as well as several hotels and a few hostels/BnBs.  Going northbound the next trail is Sjuhäradsleden, which begins in the eastern part of town, and then goes east/northeast to the town of Ulricehamn.

Close to the beginning of the green trail, headed towards Sandared.