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Valadalen is a small settlement in the heart of southern mountains of Åre, in Sweden. The village consists of only several dwellings, a Naturum and Vålådalens Fjällstation – a hotel with many facilities, for visitors to enjoy. So what attracts visitors to this part of the country?
The answer is a beautiful Vålådalen Nature Reserve just at the fjallstation door step. It’s a very popular hiking and skiing destination; there are numerous ski trails in the area, as well as countless hiking paths to choose from. So whether you’re a fan of forest walks, easy hikes, strenuous multi day adventures, mountain biking or winter sports enthusiast – Vålådalen is a place to visit!
We must confess, we’ve never heard of Vålådalens Naturreservat, only learnt about its existence when talking to our host in Ostersund, and visited Valadalen because of his recommendation. It turned out that the area is well known by Swedes, but somehow managed to stay off foreign visitors’ sight. Intrigued, we set off to find out what it’s all about.
In this post, we ‘re going to try to convince you that Vålådalen Sweden is well worth your attention, and give a bit of insight into the area.
How to get to Vålådalen
Valadalen is located at the very end of a small road, Valadalsvagen, which can be found between Åre and Järpen (directions). It’s a pleasant 28 km (30 mins) drive from main road number E14. Along the way we passed a large lake and a couple of rapids, but there were limited parking opportunities.
Upon our arrival to the settlement we easily found a large visitors car park, and further parking spaces near Naturum and at Valadalens Fjallstation, both free of charge. The toilets can be found at both buildings, additional dry toilets are located at the main visitors car park.
Getting to Valadalen by car is the easiest option, however one can also take public transport from the largest town in the area, Östersund.
Getting to Valadalen by public transport: the nearest train station is Undersaker (service 71, 10071, Norrtag and SJ Intercity) then the remaining 28 km by bus or by taxi.
Bus from Undersaker to Valadalens Fjallstation, service 562, runs only a couple of times a day, hence it’s necessary to plan the journey in advance!
Our visit to Valadalen…
… was spontaneous and full of surprises! But let’s start from the beginning…
The day we arrived to Vålådalen was hot. It was a perfect summer day and we were totally melted! Although we were looking for suitable spots for wild lake swimming along the way, we quickly realised that was hardly possible, due to the muddy, grassy shores. But when we arrived to the Valadalen visitors car park and consulted the map, we spotted another lake nearby! We drove the final 3 km to the very end of the road hopeful to be able to cool down in crystal waters, surrounded by forest. Little we knew what was awaiting us…
Once we got to the lake, our hopes vanished in thin air. We were taken aback by the view of dozens of school kids setting the camp over the lake! Some were pitching their tents, some were cooking, some were setting a bonfire, some were attempting to bathe… but mostly they were making noise and chaos! Later we learnt that they were 3 separate parties of school youths, on an organised ‘class bonding’ event (which seems to be a regular occurrence in late August).
Desperate to cool down we found a spot further along the shore, and smiling, dipped our toes in the lake. It was a really cold lake! It didn’t stop Bea from having a swim, thou; she’s a tough cookie and would never pass on the chance for a wild swim! I, however, usually chicken out when the water is too cold, and only watched Bea enjoy the water, with jealousy.
As the afternoon passed, we ventured to explore the nearby forest. As soon as we left the direct vicinity of the kids’ camp, we enjoyed several kilometres of unspoilt forest walk; picking up berries and spotting mushrooms – we even found a couple of cloudberries! Wow, we never imagined to find them that far south!
Next day we got up early, and after a hearty breakfast we drove back to Valadalens Fjallstation, a starting point of all hiking trails in the area.
Hiking trails from Vålådalen
We were spoilt for choice by the amount of hiking trails starting from Valadalen! I think that even the pickiest person in the world would find a trail perfect for them!
From the dozens of options, we picked 2 trails; a hike to Ottfjallet – the highest mountain in the area, and a forest walk to a beautiful green lake, Blanktjärn. We think that the two, very different day-hikes gave us a good insight into Vålådalen area, and would love to share them with you! So, let’s take a look below!
HIKE TO OTTFJALLET FROM VALADALENS FJALLSTATION
Ottfjallet, also known as Ottfjallstoppen (1266 masl) is the highest top in Valadalen area. Despite conquering such impressive height, it’s a straight forward hike over well marked and clear paths.
Total distance 13 km (return).
Total time 4 hours.
Elevation gain 670 metres.
Level of difficulty 2/5 easy hill walk.
The trail starts at Valadalen Fjallstation, near the ski slope and follows ski route number 285 for most of the way.
It begins with a steep ascent thru the forest, so we gained height very quickly and soon emerged into more open ground. Once we arrived to a forest track, we turned left and followed the way, passing 2 wind shelters and a viewpoint to a waterfall.
Not long after the viewpoint, we turned right, into a smaller trail, and passed a wooden bridge. From there on, we hiked over rugged slopes of Ottfjallet, which are part of Valadalen Nature Reserve. We even spotted a couple of reindeer along the way!
Nearer the top of Ottfjallet, we took a well trodden, direct path towards the summit, rather than following the ski route 285 (which went a bit further), but both ways lead to the peak.
Ottfjallstoppen turned out to be a very windy place! We literary thought it will blow our heads off! Quickly, we had to dress up and ended up wearing huts and windproof jackets!
From the summit we could see as far as Ostersund, over the lake Ottsjon just at the foot of our peak, and other rounded peaks nearby.
Due to increasing wind speed we didn’t stay on Ottfjallet’s top very long, and having taken a couple of photos we headed back. Once we descended first couple of steps, we already felt warmer air, much weaker wind!
Way down to the fjallstation was quick and very enjoyable, we loved wandering in autumn sunshine in Valadalen! When hiking back, we also picked a lot of wild mushrooms; they were growing directly alongside the trail, and were more than enough for dinner and breakfast!
OK, time to show you some photos from our hike to Ottsfjallstoppen!
BLANKTSJARNSRUNDAN – HIKING TO THE BEAUTIFUL GREEN LAKE
Blanktsjarn is a beautiful lake hidden among dense pine and spruce forest. What’s so special about it? Its colour! The lake’s crystal waters are amazingly green; on a sunny day the lake literary glows green!
Total distance 12 km (circular).
Total time 3-4 hours.
Elevation gain 100 metres.
Level of difficulty 1/5 easy forest walk, some eroded sections
Hiking trail to Blanktjarn has its own special name ‘Blanktjarnrunda’ (‘Green Lake Circular Trail’). For many years it’s been an incredibly popular walk in Valadalen; who doesn’t love a nice forest walk topped with a swim in a unique emerald watered lake?! Yes, everyone loves that!
In fact, the lake has been such a popular hiking and wild camping destination in recent years that a protected area has been established, and it includes the direct vicinity of the lake and its shores. Therefore visitors can no longer swim in the lake and camping along the shores is no longer allowed, as too much soil was polluting the water and it started becoming ‘cloudy’! But the newly established protection zone will allow the lake and grounds around it to recover, so future generations will still be able to rest with a view to the emerald lake. Hence our request directed to all of you, our dear readers, to respect the protection zone and don’t cross the lines to come nearer the lake. Let’s preserve its beauty! Take our word for it, the lake is still worth visiting, the designated viewpoints and walkways allow a good overview of this miracle of nature!
Blanktjarnrunda starts at the visitors car park below Naturum and is signposted red, anticlockwise. But one look at the map, and we noticed that the circular route follows ski trail number 283, this means that the hike can be completed clockwise just as easy!
Knowing us, you’ll probably have guessed which way we took? Yes, we followed ski trail 283 rather than anticlockwise route signposted to Blanktjarnrunda. We simply wanted to take a shorter path to the lake and take a longer walk for the return. Hence having left the car park we followed the trail, which soon crossed the bridge; only then instead of turning right as per tourist markings, we turned left and followed ski route 283 all the way to the Blanktjarn.
The trail itself was easy to follow and marked, also there were wooden footways built to help crossing wetlands. Along the way we spotted thousands of wild mushrooms (our favourite kind of boletus!) but with regret we couldn’t pick any, as our fridge was still full from a previous day’s foraging! It was an incredible pleasure thou, to spot them everywhere along the trail; the forest was all dotted with its orange hats, wherever we looked!
When we arrived to the shores of Blanktjarn we instantly knew why this area requires protection. Lake’s shores were sandy and very eroded; a mark of extensive walking and camping in the past. Nowadays, the designated paths, steps and viewpoints are in place, to help the nature to recover.
Along the way back, we passed several other small lakes, wetlands and grassy meadows, but one landmark especially stuck in our minds. On our return, only 2 kilometres before reaching the car park we spotted a wind shelter, and decided to check it out, rest for a while. To our utter surprise, the shelter was built directly over a perfect curve of meandering river Valan! What a fantastic spot to have a break! We totally embraced this opportunity and had a bonfire (and some sausages!) while admiring nature’s perfection in front of our eyes…
Enough talking, let’s see some photos from hike to Blanktjarn!
THE ULTIMATE JAMTLAND HIKING ADVENTURE: WALK FROM VALADALEN TO SYLARNA AND THE JAMTLAND TRIANGLE
We thought it’s worth a mention, that Valadalen can be a starting point for a multi day hiking adventure. Some walkers complete a circular 3-4 day route to the south, including Stensdalsstugan, Valastugan and Lunndorsstugan, but we were intrigued by another multi day hiking route from Valadalens Fjallstation.
What about a hike connecting Valadalen with The Jamtland Triangle? Doesn’t it sound intriguing? Below we listed some distances and mountain huts (stugorna) along the way:
- Valadalen Fjallstation to Stensdalsstugan. Distance 13 km. Terrain: mostly forest walk
- Stendalsstugan to Gasenstugorna (Gasen Fjallstuga). Distance 14 km. Terrain: walk in the open valley, along the river
- Gasenstugorna (Gasen Fjallstuga) to Sylarna Fjallstation. Distance 17 km. Terrain: considerable ascents and descents
- Sylarna Fjallstation to Storulvan Fjallstation. Distance 16 km. Terrain: walk in the open valley
- OR ALTERNATIVELY Sylarna Fjallstation to Storulvan Fjallstation via Blahammarens Fjallstation. Distance 19 + 13 km. Terrain: walk in the open valley, considerable ascent to Blahammarens Fjallstation.
Below are 2 photographs taken during the 3 day hike along Jamtland Triangle. If you need encouragement or more information on The Jamtland Triangle, check out THIS blog post, it contains all you need to know to enjoy this multi day hike!
Wild camping near Valadalen and nearest campsites
Valadalen provides countless opportunities for staying off-grid. There are no restrictions on wild camping along the hiking trails, with only exception being Blanktjarn which is a protected area. It seems that Nulltjarnen is a very popular camping spot; it’s located 3 km from Valadalen settlement, overlooking a lake.
Staying off-grid in a camper van: we didn’t spot any suitable overnight stay locations along the road to Valadalen, but there is a large car park at Nulltjarnen, only 3 km past the village (at the very end of the road, no facilities provided). We also noticed that some visitors were parked overnight night at the large Naturum car park (dry toilets, no rubbish bins).
Nearest campsite is located in Ostra Valadalen, click here more information on Valagarden campsite. Also Valadalens Fjallstation offers basic campers parking spots with electricity.
Handy info: hot shower and sauna are available at Valadalens Fjallstation for non-staying guests, ask at the reception. Price for both in summer 2019 was 80 SEK per person.
What we loved about our visit to Vålådalen
Valadalen is a very attractive area for enthusiasts of many outdoor sports in Sweden. Especially important for us were its hiking trails, and there were plenty! The area offers numerous marked and signposted paths and routes; the two we picked were very different, but both just enjoyable! Hike to Ottfjallstoppen was relatively short and gave a great overview of the area, the forest walk to Blanktjarn was just as nice!
You may also want to know….
When planning your visit to Valadalen, you may want to keep in mind that the area is known to be a popular location for school trips! We learned that it’s highly likely to be a very busy place at the end of August, as the schools organise ‘class bonding trips’ at the beginning of term. During our visit to Valadalen, we encountered 3 separate schools wild camping over Nulltjarnen, which made it pretty much a no-go area for others. Schools’ presence in the area meant that the woods and hills were full of youths, sometimes misbehaving. Please keep this in mind when planning your visit to Valadalen to ensure the best experience.