Sweden, Travelogue

Hiking to STF Helags

trail signs

Once again, with the help of Airbnb and the company of good friends I’ve been able to go on a small trip and enjoy a little slice of the beautiful nature we have here in Sweden. I cannot stress enough how much I love the easy, care free and cheap way me and my friends travel. Last time we did it was winter and we had a wonderful time! This time there were actually 19 of us in total.

Every year The International English School in Sundsvall organise a volunteer hiking trip for it’s staff members, and this year I got to join it which I am very grateful for. We all met at the school on Friday evening after everyones classes where done, we packed ourselves into cars and headed towards Ljungdalen. The drive was smooth and easy with amazing conversations along the way which made the journey very enjoyable.

We’d rented two cabins and when we arrived in the evening we basically went straight to bed since we had an early morning ahead of us. In the morning I enjoyed a strong cup of coffee in the morning sun before packing food, getting dressed and heading out the door at 07:00.

coffee, enamel cup, knife and hat
morning sunshine in a cabin
morning coffee in a cabin

We drove a short stretch to the parking lot where the trailhead starts and then off we went. At first the trail passes by private land and cabins, a beautiful lake and through a small forest before slowly the trees became smaller and more scarce, until suddenly you’re above the treelike and the landscape dramatically changes.

It’s flat and barren, more rocky and the air is cooler and feels more fresh. We passed a lot of smaller creeks along the way and the sound of trickling water in the otherwise quiet mountain world is very soothing to our senses. In the background our end goal was always visible, the mountain Helags – big and towering with Swedens southernmost glacier a white beacon to keep heading towards.

It’s a 12km hike to the STF Mountain Station and even though it’s long, the hike feels fairly easy. Because we are hiking at the cusp of fall the air is cool even though the sun is out, so the temperature for hiking is quite excellent, and the terrain isn’t too challenging – it’s pretty flat all the way. Most of the group got way ahead of us though, focused on getting there so that they had enough time to hike up to the glacier. Me and Kim on the other hand enjoyed the journey of walking more than having an end goal. While walking and talking about many different things we stop to eat blueberries, look at birds, take photos of the arctic cotton and point out all the reindeer. We enjoy the solitude and quiet of the trail, not meeting other hikers until we seem to get closer to the end of the hike.

group of hikers in Ljungdalen
cabins in Ljungdalen
female hiker in the Swedish mountains
hiker tying her boots
willow in the mountains
path and lonely tree
female hiker taking a photo of Helags
red backpack with patches
female with hat and backpack
hiker crossing water in Ljungdalen
female hikers on their way to Helags
arctic cotton
signs along the hiking trail to Helags
hiking trail to Helags
female hiker in Ljungdalen

Suddenly we pass around a curve and the station is right in front of us. We meet up with everyone and wish them good luck as they start heading up the mountain. We head inside to use the washroom, buy a patch and enjoy or lunch together with a local craft beer.

The mountain station at Helags has been there since 1897. Back then it was a two room cabin that was free to use for mountain hikers who needed a place to stay for the night. Helags is the highest peak in the southern part of Sweden and that combined with it’s glacier and the beautiful scenery makes this a very popular spot to hike and enjoy nature. A lot has happened with the station over the years and in 1983 it was renovated to be what it is today, and now it has 82 beds available for hikers as well as a sauna, kitchens, lovely restaurant and a little shop.

STF mountain station near Helags, Ljungdalen
trail signs
local craft beer at STF Helags
STF mountain station at Helags

After resting and enjoying the warmth of the STF station I buy some coffee that I bring outside in my cup. We find shelter behind a rock where I enjoy my coffee while Kim journals and draws the mountain. We rest and I sneak around trying to follow reindeer with my camera. After some time we feel our energy return and we start walking up the mountain to meet up with everyone as they’re coming down. We all gather up, talk for a bit and then we start the 12km hike back.

reindeer near Helags
coffee at the base of Helags
landscape in the mountains of Härjedalen
trail signs
river in the mountains
hiking in Härjedalen

Now, what a lot of people do, and what I would recommend, is to hike to the mountain station near Helags and spend the night there. Then you can spend the next day hiking up to the glacier, and even the peak of the mountain. I would not recommend doing it all in one day. Maybe you could pull that off if you’re spending the night afterwards but getting some rest and heading up the day after is probably better and will make it more enjoyable for you.

The way back the group is slower, our legs and feet feel heavy and we’re all getting tired. I take this opportunity to move around more talking to different people though, which is nice. Once we are near the end some stop to swim in the lake we passed in the morning, and when we reach the cabins we enjoy a super tasty, spicy veggie chili that Kim had made in advance for all of us. Then a few of us just sprawl out on the floor infront of the fireplace in our cabin, while some stay in the other one playing a few games before going to bed. We have covered at least 27km and over 40 000 steps so we’re tired but happy and our lungs filled with fresh mountain air which are all contributing to a great nights sleep.

I lay down feeling a little richer, having gathered many wonderful new experiences in nature.

hikers in Ljungdalen
reindeer in Ljungdalen
hikers in Ljungdalen
female hiker in Ljungdalen
rock markers along a hiking path
hikers going for a swim
fireplace in a cabin

Published by Rania Rönntoft

In the forests of Sundsvall, the small northern town between two mountains, Rania found herself and her passion: living a slower life rich in experiences instead of things. Here she works as a freelancing photographer, content creator and photography teacher. Through her pictures she wants to inspire others to spend more time outdoors and show that the adventure is not far away. She travels a lot in Scandinavia and works with other destinations to promote our beautiful country, she also arranges workshops on visual storytelling and local adventures.

6 thoughts on “Hiking to STF Helags”

  1. Så underbara bilder! Älskar ditt storytellingtänk i både bildspråk och skrivande (som jag nu har lärt mig lite att förstå ;-)). Jag ska också norröver snart, dock “bara” till Grövelsjön, Fulufjället och Töfsingdalen, för att vandra. Som jag längtar! Och som jag ska fota!

    1. Rania Rönntoft says:

      Åh men tusen tack Sanna! Himla glad att jag kunnat ge dig en liten inblick i att berätta med bilder, och du övar ju konstant! Låter som en fantastisk resa, är ju himla fint där med vad jag förstår, har fortfarande inte varit vid Grövelsjön, det måste jag ändra på snart! Hoppas du får en underbar vandring och tar massor med härliga bilder :D

  2. Så fin inlägg Rania! Härliga bilder och ett skönt flyt i texten, så blir läsningen intressant. Låter som om ni har haft en riktigt härlig vandring :)

    1. Rania Rönntoft says:

      Tack Birte!! Så himla fint att höra att du gillar både bilder och text, det var sannerligen ett tag sedan jag bloggade nu. Ah det var underbart att vara uppe i bergen och få lite frisk luft och naturintryck, det behövdes!

  3. Pascal Brisson says:

    Very nice photos Rania. I agree with Sanna that you have a good way of telling a story and using photos to really support it well. I like how you dare to mix close still shots with movement. Very impressive.

    1. Rania Rönntoft says:

      Thank you Pascal, that means a lot! I truly enjoy mixing my photography with words to tell stories and hopefully inspire more people to head outside and experience our amazing nature.

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