Saturday, May 20, 2023

Hiking from South West Sweden to Halden, Norway


Halden is border town close to the south west region of Sweden. Halden is also a municipality (AKA a county) that is interesting geographically for hikers for a variety of reasons. If you single it out on a map you will notice that the municipality juts into Sweden, making it possible to hike from Sweden into Norway from any direction on your compass. For instance, you can walk south into Norway at the southern end of Iddefjord, which makes for the rather rare sentence: "I hiked south into Norway."

But I would also say that the Halden area of interest because it is beautiful and has good hiking. Over the years I have explored the area here and there, taking short hikes across the border and then returning back to Sweden on many different section hikes. And for years I said to myself that I should plan some hikes that go through Halden. I finally got around to doing a few section hikes across this charming little slice of Norway, and I am happy to report that these were good hikes and that this area is worth exploring.

What follows shortly is a trail guide to hike from Sweden through Halden municipality to the city of Halden and then back into Sweden again. The starting points I recommend (and the points I used in my hikes) are the town of Ed to the east of Halden, and the small city of Strömstad to the west. Another feature that makes this hike of interest to both section hikers and thru-hikers alike is the proximity to several other longer hiking trails. Meaning that hiking through Halden can be done, for example, as a side trail or hiked in addition to hiking Bohusleden, Pilgrimsleden, The Troll Trail, etc. I will point out how this hike could fit into other hikes soon in the guide below, as well as other useful information on how to hike this route. After the trail guide will be my trip report, which will be in the form of a photo essay.

Trail Guide

As far as basics go, like much of Scandinavia, water in this area is both plentiful and of excellent quality. There are many springs, streams, lakes, ponds, etc. to fill up on water--and if you're feeling especially lazy, there are even several campgrounds with tap water. You can resupply in Ed, Halden, and Strömstad; and those place will also be where you can find trains, busses, hotels, cafes, restaurants, etc. Note that this area is full of hills, cliffs, and generally very rocky, uneven terrain. So I recommend shelters with small footprints, and that you plan to spend more time to scout out a place to make camp. There are a few trail shelters in the area, as you will see pictures of later on.

Hiking in Sweden you should already have some kind of maps and/or map app if you've made it as far as Ed or Strömstad. But for Norway, simply look up the UT app or check out the website which has decent maps and lots of info, but unfortunately as of the writing of this guide, the map/info are only in Norwegian. I speak Swedish, so I am able to figure things out without too much trouble, however. Click on "kart" for the interactive map.

I completed a hike from Ed to Halden to Strömstad in two section hikes this spring that ended up being around 130km (60km from Ed to Halden, 70km from Halden to Strömstad). This total can be made shorter or longer depending on how much you want to explore, hike side trails, etc.--but my route is a more or less "direct" path between these three towns. If you are a thru-hiker with more time and are more ambitious, this Halden hike would make a nice addition to your trip, for example Bohusleden and/or Troll Trail hikers.

So if you find yourself in Ed and want to hike this Halden route, you can do so and have a variety of options to modify your trip that best suits you. For example, you could hike from Ed to Halden to Strömstad as an alternate end to your Bohusleden trip. Or you could hike from Ed to Halden, and then rather than hiking to Strömstad from there, hike back to where you left Bohusleden (close to Norane), and continue hiking without any backtracking or missing any part of Bohusleden.

If you want to hike to Halden and then back to either Bohusleden and/or Ed, simply follow the instructions as follows, but then at the village of Bakke (with a campground on the banks of the fjord) hike east towards Prestebakke. This trail will take you to the border at N. Kornsjö, where you can bushwhack south less than 1km to Bohusleden. Then you will eventually end up in Strömstad anyhow, but with experiencing the Halden area as well. You could also just take a train from Halden back to Ed, but you'll be missing out on more good hiking that Halden has to offer.

But to begin in Ed, simply hike west (doing some bushwhacking) then north to the Tresticklans National Park. You can also walk north then northwest following a road if you want an easier path (though less fun if you ask me, and you miss out on the cabin at Bastedalen). Then at Tresticklans decide if you want to hike through the national park or not. I've hiked through this park various times, so I opted to continue hiking west towards Norway. But I highly recommend you hike north through the park to the border crossing at Budalsvika if you haven't before--it's worth it and it's also a fairly short (10km) detour. There is also an excellent campground and trail shelter at Budalsvika right on the border.

Either way (skipping Tresticklans or hiking through it), once you are in Norway, follow the marked trails that head west. Both paths from Tresticklans intersect close to the northern tip of the big lake Ørsjøen. Continue hiking west/north-west/north and you will be in Halden. There was one trail shelter and a lookout tower (both next to each other) along the way that you can see below in the pictures from my trip report.

I highly suggest that once in Halden that you walk around the Halden fortress, which not only has historical significance, but has amazing views of the city and the fjord. Conveniently for me, as I needed to break this trip up into two section hikes, you can pick up the trail again heading south towards Strömstad close to the central train station. Just head southbound on a few cobblestone old roads, enjoy the scenic docks, and soon enough you'll be climbing up the cliffs overlooking the fjord for more stunning views.

From there, just continue south following the fjord, which you will be hiking around until you cross Berbyelva river that feeds the fjord's southern tip. But if you intended on returning to either Ed or not skip any part of Bohusleden, when you get to the river you've gone too far! Remember to find the trail that heads west before circling the fjord (close to the Bakke campground, mentioned earlier). 

Circling around the southern end of the fjord, you'll hike north again to the border, and from here you can hike more on autopilot again. Just follow Bohusleden towards Strömstad where the trail ends. You'll get to see both sides of the fjord on the way.

That wraps up my trail guide on hiking through the Halden area. It's definitely an area I plan on returning to in the future. Enjoy my photo essay trip report below, and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback.

Trip Report