Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Leksand to Mora on Siljansleden


As the trend has been for the past few trip reports, please bare with me for this lengthy introduction for this part of the E1 trail if you intend on actually hiking here.  Otherwise, feel free to skip down to the pretty pictures below.  Due to a few factors this section of trail presents some complications and alternatives that would-be hikers will have to deal with, and a summary I found apt in my last trip report I think is relevant here as well: think of this area as a "choose your own adventure" type experience.  There are several side-trails, short cuts, and alternate routes between the small cities of Leksand and Mora.  But what generally connects these two cites and makes up this portion of the E1 trail is Siljansleden.

Siljansleden is a looping trail that goes around the huge lake Siljan, which is Sweden's 6th biggest lake.  In total this trail is reported to be 340km long, and here is its official website, which is entirely in Swedish.

You can check out a very general map of the entire trail here, but by no means would I recommend using this to navigate a trip here--this is just for context and general understanding of what the trail looks like.  You can order a map from the official website linked above, or buy a copy of Lantmäteriet Terrängkartan number 647 for the Sollerön area (which is what I did).  The 647 map covers most of the trail/route from Leksand to Mora, only leaving out roughly 10km from each end of this journey.

Depending on how and where you choose to hike in this section, the distance between Leksand and Mora can be quite different.  The official E1 guide for Sweden lists the distance as around 70km, which is accurate if you are only sticking to the E1 and don't start from Leksand.  Here are what I see as the three main hiking options one has in hiking Siljansleden from Leksand to Mora:

  • 1.  Stick to the main trail only, taking the side trail to Mora that connects to the next trail of the E1, Vasaloppsleden.  ~85km.
  • 2.  Stick to the main trail until the cottage hamlet of Åmberg, then get off the trail and hike north-east to Mora rather than north-west on the main trail.  This is what I chose to do.  ~75km.
  • 3.  Stick to the main trail until the side trail that goes to the village of Gesunda, then continue north east on to the large lake island of Sollerön, and then finally turning north west where the island is connected back to the mainland close to Mora.  ~65km.

Traveling southbound from Leksand, the E1 continues on to the small town of Mockfjärd, and you can read my report on that stage here.  Traveling northbound, the trail continues on Vasaloppsleden, and you can read my full report on that trail here. 

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 reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress. 

Now on to the guide!


Overall hiking this part of Siljansleden was quite a pleasant and rewarding experience, and I would definitely not recommend skipping all or most of it--though there were some challenges and issues that this trail presents.  For one, between the two small cities in question, and aside for a few small exceptions, there is really not much civilization in this area.  So make sure you have enough food and whatever other consumable supplies you might need to cover you.  

Also, while in general the trail is well marked--and I especially liked that there were many signs with distances to the next landmarks--a few spots are not as well marked and/or tricky to navigate.  There is also some tough terrain to hike through, like a few swampy areas and up and down some small mountains.  While there is some road walking, luckily most of it is on nice, grassy, old lumber roads rather than asphalt (though there is a bit of that).

It took me about 3.5 days to get to Mora from Leksand, and I also took advantage of both local transportation and some hitchhiking at the beginning and end of my trip.  And as I mentioned in the introduction, I chose to jump off the trail at Åmberg and take a more direct route to Mora.  This was due mainly to time constrains as usual, such is life as a section hiker.  But I happened to briefly run into another backpacker (much to my surprise--been a while since I meet up with another one on the E1!), a friendly guy from Belgium named Anton.  

We were traveling different directions--he was going southbound and of course I am going northbound--so we gave each other a quick report on things to come each way for each other.  Anton mentioned that the side trail that goes from Vasaloppsleden (just outside of Mora, which he had just finished hiking) to Siljansleden was not good, and that in particular it was a lot of swamp crossings that lacked any boards or bridges.  This made me feel better about the decision I made about how to finish up my trip, as it would seem that I wouldn't be missing out on too much, and I wouldn't have to deal with sloshing through as many swamps.

Anyhow, regardless of how you intend on hiking this section going northbound (thru-hikers and section hikers alike), odds are you will probably end up in Leksand.  There are a few supermarkets close to the train/bus station, along with plenty of cafés and restaurants, plus other shops as well.

You can simply follow the trail out of town, but if you don't want to backtrack and re-hike the part of trail that goes into town, you can take a bus someplace to the west to reconnect with the trail.  I had already hiked the trail that goes into town on my last section hike, so I took bus 272 outside of town, where I switched onto another bus (which I don't recall the number, but you can just talk to the bus drivers or locals) to get off at the Kvarnängsvägen bus stop.  This bus stop is in the village of Alvik.  You can pay in cash on the bus for a ticket, but they don't take bank cards.

Once I got off the bus, there was immediately a gravel road that goes south towards the Granberget ski resort.  There is a shelter and fire pit at the bottom of the slope, but in the off-season the other resort buildings are naturally closed.  Simply follow the ski lifts up to the top of the mountain to find the marked side trail that will take you to Siljansleden.  Make sure to enjoy the view as well!  I really enjoyed this spot on top of the mountain, overlooking the massive lake in the distance and a sea of green all around.  

The side trail is to the right side of the hut (facing south) that is further on, as you can see in the picture below.  Note also the hail that dumped on me in a quick thunder storm that passed by!  Soon enough I reconnected to the main trail, quite close to where I left off at the shelter near the Granberg cottage hamlet.

There are a few more nice views as you hike west towards a small nature reserve, and at the nature reserve is a wonderful cabin that is open for travelers for an overnight say.  The lake below the cabin is also quite lovely, and I considered a swim, but this late spring and early summer have been colder than normal, so I bundled up inside the cabin and got a great night's sleep.  

I awoke to rain in the morning, and the rain would continue for the next few days pretty steadily.  I was thankful for the two shelters that were ahead on Brasjön and L. Kollsjön, where I had an early lunch and dinner in, out of the rain.  Even if it's not raining, you will likely get your feet soaked in this area, where there is boggy trail and streams running right down or on or through the trail.

The two shelters above were marked on my map, but past them are a few unmarked shelters before the cottage hamlet of Åsen.  One is in a clear cut logging area, the other on the shore of lake Svarttjärnen, and I thought both of them to be of better quality than the two I had passed.  They are newer and the one on the lake is quite big, as it's some kind of chapel or extension of a church, but would work great as a place to spend the night.  Yet I chose to spend the night at the shelter at Åsen due to a more favorable location.  It was supposed to be pretty cold that night when I checked the weather before I set out on this trip, with a predicted low of 4C, so camping right next to a lake would be even colder.  

Åsen is up on a hill that overlooks Siljan, but it was foggy and cloudy both in the evening and the next morning, so I didn't get that great a view.  I set up my poncho tarp as a front door as I often to when sleeping in trail shelters, mostly to block the wind.  But that night I was really glad to have this set up to block rain as well, laying in my sleeping bag and listening to the rain splatter and spray heavily on my tarp front door.  This shelter is also a bit on the small side, but it worked out alright and the roof didn't leak.

The next morning as I continued I passed yet another unmarked trail shelter on a gravel road, and this is also where I ran into Anton and spoke a bit about the trail.  Further on I took a snack break and also refilled my water from the dam in the small village of Mångberg, where there is a stage with a roof where I got out of the rain again.  There was a sign I noticed on my way out of this park area near the dam that said that camping is not allowed there, however.  Which is a shame, considering the pretty substandard trail shelter that is just outside of the village to the west.  

Just before this shelter is the side trail to the village of Gesunda, which is on the shores of Siljan and also has a bridge over to the big lake island Sollerön.

Between the small, kinda crappy trail shelter outside of Mångberg and the lake Långsjön the trail runs west/east across varied terrain.  There's small woodland trail, gravel road, grassy road/trail, and just before the trail heads more north/south there is an interesting landmark that is not marked on my map.  Right before passing Långsjön, in the woods near the gravel road you cross to pass the lake, there is both an unmarked trail shelter and outdoor chapel.  

Complete with eerie, lichen covered crucifix, and spooky wooden icon carved in a wooden signpost, I imagined this being the perfect location for a horror movie about an isolated sect of religious fundamentalists.  Maybe it was just all the rain, gray clouds, and stillness of the woods that set such a creepy, ominous atmosphere.  Regardless, it made my lunch break there in the shelter all the more enjoyable.  I did notice that the roof of this shelter was leaking on one side while I ate, but in a pinch or in fair weather it would serve fine.

Heading north up a few more hills, the trail before the shelter at N. Hållen is at times not marked very clear.  I got a bit lost for a few minutes as I searched for trail markers, and noticed a few that were either knocked over or hard to see in the tall brush and trees there.  The shelter at N. Hållen is another less comfortable one, though it does have a stream near it, an outhouse, and good coverage from the woods around it, plus a bit of elevation to avoid the dreaded cold sink.  The old building close to the shelter is nothing special really, just another old, abandoned farmhouse.  

Past this building I really enjoyed the trail headed towards the village of Siljansfors.  Dry trail through vast green blankets of blueberry bushes and pines, and finally the rain eased up and the sun came out.  I also really liked the hike on the other side of the highway leading up to the village, which a café and museum seem to take up the most place.  There is also a hostel there, but it is only open during high season (July-August), however the café was open and I enjoyed a nice warm meal there, and was also able to refill my water.  

It was a nice morale booster, which helped me to deal with the conditions to come later on that evening.  Don't be confused with the inaccurate sign that says that Siljansleden is to the west as you approach the café/museum area, the trail follows the highway north.

Note the little bird on the sign.
Yes, it's a real bearskin.

After eating I had hoped to spend the night at the shelter marked on my map on top of a hill just a few kilometers or so away from the village.  However as you will soon see, this shelter is in ruins and wouldn't have been a nice place to spend the night even if it wasn't all messed up.  But no matter, I had a tent with me, so I decided to continue on and camp in the woods near the Åmberg cottage hamlet, where the next day I would be heading north-east off of the trail towards Mora.  

As I was passing through the hamlet and looking for a nice spot to camp in the woods, once again heavy rain set in, but I was able to find an alright spot under a few big pine trees.  I set up my tent and huddled inside from the cold rain, and slept to the sounds of steady rain all through the night.  In the morning there was still some faint drizzle as I broke camp.

From there, there is not too much to report about getting to Mora, it's pretty straight forward.  There is a gravel road that goes to the village of Vika, where one can get a bus to Mora.  However I opted to hike further on to the E45 highway and try and hitch a ride, and had some luck.  Note that there are no active bus stops on this highway, which I was informed of by some locals walking their dogs.  If you want a bus you'll have to figure that out in Vika, but it's not that far a hike to Mora anyhow (around 10km from Vika).  

I got a ride to the train station, where I celebrated another completed section hike with a pizza there at a pizzeria next to the train station.  And soon enough I was on a train, were I enjoyed the nice view of Siljan as it chugged along, the sun shining once again, looking forward to returning to Mora to hike Vasaloppsleden.