Sälen is a village located in the mountains near the Norwegian border and it is very easy to spend an active summer here. Braided rivers wind through the landscape with the tall mountains in the background and exceptional hiking and biking trails that are easily accessible for everyone are more than plentiful.
We got to spend a weekend here exploring many of the outdoor activities available and I am already excited to go back, maybe in the fall? Dalarna over all has a very special place in my heart. I have been here many times before and fallen in love with nature here every time.
Sälen has a small town centre with some shops, restaurants and cafés but we stayed at a hotel higher up in the mountains, within walking distance from Sälfjällstorget which is one of the four squares located in Lindvallen. In the winter the square houses a small skating rink and this summer it had a small pump track for kids to practice biking.
Living up there gives you access to both nature, restaurants and cafes as well as outdoor shops and lifts up to the top without really needing a car!
Accommodations – Where to stay in sälen
Olarsgården is a beautiful, rustic and cozy little place located in the heart of Lindvallen in Sälen. It’s open all year round and they have nicely decorated rooms and are close to everything Sälen has to offer. In their restaurang they cook with the best food the forest and mountains have to offer and they adapt the menu to the seasons.
We arrived in the evening after a day of driving and after checking in decided to eat at their restaurant. They’ve created a lovely athmosphere there and we enjoyed a great dinner consisting of northern, Swedish flavours such as local moose, fish and mushrooms. We paired it with beer from a local brewery and it was all very delicious and well prepared!
The staff we’re all very accommodating and friendly as well and we have some good interactions and conversations with them. If you want a nice, cozy place with good food as your home base while spending some time in the nature here I can highly recommend this place.
Hiking in Sälen
On our first day here we wake up early and have a sturdy breakfast before driving up to Sälfjället for a shorter day hike in the mountain world. As we get up there we see young people as well as old and they are hiking, biking or orientering. We see families doing activities together and I think we spotted the smallest / youngest mountain biker ever.
“Nothing stops you from enjoying nature except your own decision”
Depending on your fitness level or what you want out of a hike you could start down at the base of the mountain and walk up to the top. If you have a car you can drive up but if not then you can take a lift from Lindvallen. As we realised how accessible nature is here Dan said it best himself: “Nothing stops you from enjoying nature except your own decision”.
Sälfjällsturen – 14km
There are many different hikes available in the mountains of Sälen and we decided to do one on the mountain near where we were staying. Our first stop on the hike was Stensjön which is located only 1.5km fromt the start. It’s a fairly easy walk with only the slightest uphill. It does go over bogland but they’ve done a great job with putting down wide boardwalks here, and the signs are very good and clear as well so finding your way is no trouble!
Stensjön is a small lake up on the mountain where people have built small stone formations. I have not figured out when that started, or why people have done it but it’s interesting to stand there and wonder about all the people that have been there over the years. What were their stories?
If you’re after a very short activity walking here to have fika or lunch is quite nice, and then you can turn around and head back. It’s about a 3km hike round trip. But we planned to continue our hike so after spending some time here taking it all in it was time to get moving again. We we’re following the signs towards Hemfjällstugan where we planned to eat our lunch.
It was nice to rest and enjoy some trail mix, pre-made wraps and coffee – and we we’re not the only ones there. At Hemfjällsstugan a lot of hikers and mountain bikers were taking a well deserved rest and restoring some energy before continuing to explore the trails.
From here there are many trails to choose from, either going back or making a loop and depending on how long you want it to be there are some options. We decided to loop back a shorter route and walked over (see the map below).
From here it was more rocky and uneven, and a bit wet in places. There is no longer a boardwalk so even though it was not hard you had to spend some energy being more aware of your footing. After having had a very easy hike so far where one can zone out and just put one foot in front of the other it felt good to be a bit more mentally engaged for a bit, and use the body some more.
After our lunch at Hemfjällstugan we hiked back following the grey line on the map (not sure about the name of that trail) that is located between the red trail named Mellanfjället and the green trail to the far right (which is the one we walked to get to the cabin).
CANOE CAMPING from Fulunäs – Sälen, 24km
Down in the Sälen city centre, just by the water Sälens Canoe Central – an approved canoe rental by the Swedish Canoe Association – is located. Here you can rent canoes, get hep with different routes to paddle or go on guided paddle tours. After our hike we grabbed a fika at a local café before heading here to go on our next adventure.
We packed our camping gear and food into dry bags provided by the rental place and then they drove us and the canoe to Fulunäs and Hälla Nature Reserve where we would start our journey. We would paddle along Västerdalälven, a river that winds through around 40 islands creating a unique pattern. It is quite the rare and strange landscape to be found in Sweden, referred to by geologists as a braided river.
We loaded our gear, food and firewood into the canoes and then we quietly slid out onto the calm water. It was shallow but extremely clear and easy to spot rocks we needed to avoid. Dan used to work with guided canoe trips in Canada and he has taught me different paddle strokes that I really got to practice now.
My arms got tired pretty quickly as I was not used to paddling and did not get into using proper technique right away. But it was a short stretch before we reached Hälla Gård. It is located one of the islands that you come upon 1-2 hours after starting in Fulunäs and it’s a popular spot to set up camp.
Here you have access to firewood, a dry toilet and two bigger fire pits. There were a few other campers and fly fishers here when we arrived but further down on the island we found a secluded spot to set up our tent.
After dinner we made a fire and sat and sat there for a while enjoying our beer while watching the fishermen. Some popped over to chat for a bit and then when the embers were fading we went to bed. The next day we had to continue paddling back to Sälen.
day 2, from hälla gård to sälen
We woke up to a fairly warm and sunny day, and as we ate breakfast a family out canoeing passed us by and big birds of prey circled above us. After breakfast we took down camp, packed our gear into the canoe and set off.
I really got into the rhythm of paddling this day and I enjoyed it so much. The waters were calm and the surroundings absolutely beautiful. Everything was quiet as we just slid through the water. I really enjoy this way of experiencing nature. We’re transporting ourselves using our bodies without having to carry all the gear, it’s easy to stop and go to shore when you feel like it and it’s slow enough that I can really look at things and take photos as well.
Paddling along a braided river was like being part of a “choose your own adventure” game. With every little island there was the option to go left or right around it and it was a lot of fun to try and read the landscape and decide which way to go!
We arrived back at the canoe central around lunchtime and I was so happy and relaxed. Just gliding along the water for hours had been absolutely lovely, and I love the concept of being dropped of further away and paddling back – I would really want to come back and do this again, and I need to see if I can find similar services where we live.
We dropped of the canoe and dry bags and then decided to go for a little drive to find a nice lunch place. After consulting google we ended up at Fompes Träkolsgrill located in the heart of Hundfjället. It’s a newly built timber cabin where they cook over open fire and serve lokal beverages to go with the food. We loved the look and feel of the place and enjoyed some very tasty burgers that felt well deserved after paddling all morning.
After this sturdy lunch we headed back to Olarsgården to unpack our camping gear, shower and just relax for a bit. The atmosphere in the rooms as well as public spaces are really nice there and after spending some time in our room we went to sit in the lounge by the bar for a bit reading a book about a close by National Park. We had an early dinner and then we drove up to Sälfjället one last time.
It was our last evening here and we decided to catch the sunset up on the mountain top and it was the best goodbye to a place we could have wished for. The last rays of sun coloured everything with a dark, golden orange as the mountains stood blue and quiet against the magic of the evening sky.
Thank you Sälen, you are beautiful and full of wonderful outdoor activities with adventure around every corner. I hope to come back one day!