Sunday, February 16, 2020

Cesar's Guide to Hiking Värmland: Älgå to Charlottenberg


This section is a continuation of my alternate Swedish E1 trail called The Troll Trail/Trolleden.  Click here for more information on this trail system.  The southern end of this section at the village of Älgå connects Glaskogen Nature reserve to Pilgrimsleden Värmland.  Pilgrimsleden can then connect to another trail called Kyrkleden past the village of Koppom, which in turn then connects to the border town of Charlottenberg.  

Here is the official site of Pilgrimsleden, which is maintained by the Swedish Church.  It has some PDF maps and info, but only in Swedish.

Kyrkleden doesn't really have an official site, just some bare bones info on the local county website.  Best if you just have a good map of the area.

There are a few different ways one can choose to hike this route, but in total it's about 75-80km long from Älgå church to the train station in Charlottenberg.  After exiting Glaskogen, you can also choose to take a bus from Älgå to Arvika to resupply and check out the city--it's a cozy place with cafes and shops and such.  Then from Arvika you can take a bus back to Pilgrimsleden in the village of Sulvik, and the only thing you'd miss would be a 5km asphalt walk from Älgå to Sulvik.

There are buses to the small city of Arvika (to resupply or catch a train) that hikers can take from the villages of Älgå, Koppom, and Sulvik that Pilgrimsleden passes through.  However do note they do not run frequently, and you can do some resupplying in Sulvik and Koppom at small supermarkets.  There is a Pizzeria in Koppom as well.

This section mainly follows two hiking trails: Pilgrimsleden and Kyrkleden.  There is an optional off-trail/bushwhacking shortcut just outside of Koppom that is about 1km long (more on this later), and I am happy to report that from Sulvik all the way to Charlottenberg there is only about 1km of asphalt walking.  From Älgå to Sulvik unfortunately there is the asphalt walk mentioned earlier, but as noted this can be avoided if you take a bus (or hitchhike).  

From Sulvik Pilgrimsleden is mostly on grassy old dirt paths and backwoods gravel roads that makes for pleasant and easy hiking.  There is a nice little backwoods dirt road that connects Pilgrimsleden to Kyrkleden in only 5km (more on this later).  Kyrkleden is a marked woodland trail that offers some more challenging hiking up and down big forest hills, but at times is not marked very well, so if you are a less experienced backpacker be careful not to lose the trail.

Charlottenberg is a border town that oddly enough has a bunch of big stores, shops, and restaurants out in the middle of nowhere.  This is due to a large amount of Norwegians that come across the border to do their shopping, as it's slightly cheaper in Sweden than in Norway.  From Charlottenberg you can catch a train that can connect you all over Sweden, but keep in mind that trains don't run very frequently way out there.  You can also continue to hike north on the alternate E1/Troll Trail by connecting to the Finnskogsleden trail, that's roughly 12km away from Charlottenberg, which starts right on the Norwegian boarder.

This section had many water sources along the way, including several crystal clear springs of water that flowed directly out of the side of a hill.  Use common sense of course when drinking any raw, untreated water.  But cold, clear, flowing water right out of the side of a hill with no houses or farms in sight is usually a safe bet to drink straight from the source.  Due to the terrain full of hills, there were also various small waterfalls and babbling streams, which made this section all the more charming.

Trip Report

Last year my wife and I finished our hike across Glaskogen nature reserve in Älgå, but this trip I would be on my own for a winter section hike.  After taking the train to Arvika I was able to hitchhike to Sulvik, where I immediately jumped back on Pilgrimsleden.  After passing through some farmland, the trail goes up into the hills and heads towards the valley were Koppom sits and the river Kölaälven runs through.  There is also a war monument that the trail passes on the way, in honor of 100 soldiers that died in one of the wars against Denmark.  

I got to Koppom in the evening and treated myself to a pizza before strapping on my headlamp to do some night hiking into the hills west of the village.  I made camp on top of the hills, near the antenna tower.  The next day I would take an off-trail shortcut back to Pilgrimsleden, but you can also chose to keep on following the marked trail south though the village, where it then turns west and then north again as it goes around these hills.

Now if you want a bit more of a challenge and/or to experience the wilderness more intimately, you can cut across the hills west of Koppom as I did.  On several different maps there were trails marked from the dirt road to a backwoods path that eventually takes you right back to Pilgrimsleden as it follows the eastern shores of the big lake Vadjungen.  I found only very faint patches of trails that have long since been overgrown, and no markings with the exception of a few very old ones near a stream crossing (the stream that flows from the small lake Aborrtjärnet).  But eventually I made my way through the small maze of woods back to Pilgrimsleden.  

The hike following the water headed north was another nice hike, however this area may be tricky to make camp if a backpacker were to find themselves there close to or after dark.  You may need to follow a side road east into the woods to find a campsite, as most of the nice spots near the water are taken by houses or farms.  It's about 8km from the off-trail shortcut point where you get back onto Pilgrimsleden to where you exit this trail to connect to Kyrkleden.  However when you exit Pilgrimsleden onto an isolated backwoods dirt road there are better options to make camp back in the forest again.  

This connection to Kyrkleden is easy to find: it's the first dirt road going north once you start hiking next to the next big lake Björkelången.  This road goes towards the area called Mörtebäcken, where it then turns east and soon ends at an asphalt road.  You only have to hike a few hundred meters then head north again on the next dirt road, which takes you to Kyrkleden in about 800m.  Close to where you find Kyrkleden is a nice, big hut, which is where I stopped for lunch for the day.

Now as I mentioned before, Kyrkleden is more of a challenge, both in terms of hiking and navigation.  It's markings are feast or famine at times: sometimes it is well marked, yet a few kilometers later there are hardly any markers.  I picked up three different post markers that had been knocked down and set them back up as best as I could.  So it will take most hikers longer to get through this trail than the last one.  

But there are at least two nice trail shelters along the way.  The first one you pass shortly after finding the trail near the lake Asketjärnet (and is marked on maps), and the next one is in the hamlet of Lässerud, just off the gravel road (and not marked on any maps I've seen).  It was getting dark when I passed the Lässerud shelter, so I decided to spend the night there, and it was nice.  There was no outhouse, but it had a nice fire ring.

The next day I was in a bit of a hurry to catch a train in Charlottenberg, so I woke up at 05:00 and had to hike in the dark with an added fun bonus of it snowing and then raining once the sun came up.  Needless to say, I didn't take very many pictures in the morning, but I did take some towards the last half of the trail.  My luck improved when I got to the ski lodge at the trailhead, where talking to some locals I was offered a ride into town.  I made my train, and even had time to buy some lunch to eat on my way home.

Had I not been offered a ride, it's only about a 8km hike north on a combination of dirt roads and trails that take you right into town.  Or you if you are in a hurry you can follow the asphalt and maybe try and hitch a ride.

And that wraps up another great section hike on the The Troll Trail.  Only one last trail to connect and document, which is Finnskogsleden.  I should hopefully be able to hike this last trail in the next year or so and connect with the fjäll trail of Southern Kungsleden near Sälen.  Until then, check back for updates, and feel free to ask questions or give feedback by sending me an email.  Peace!