Trail running has long been a hobby for outdoor-loving, sporty Swedes, with its optimal mix of exercise and access to Sweden's abundant beauty spots. One of the world’s biggest cross-country running races – the 30km (18.6-mile) Lidingöloppet, held just outside Stockholm – started way back in 1965.

The sport has become increasingly competitive over the past decade, with a boom in amateur races ranging from lakeside loops to high-altitude adventures on Lappland peaks. Trail running definitely requires more endurance and preparation than road running, but you don’t need to be an elite athlete or wilderness expert to try it out.

Sweden has an abundance of accessible routes passing through some of the most stunning parts of the country, most of which rarely get crowded. Here's a guide for first-timers.

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The gear you need to run year-round in Sweden

With Sweden’s varied climate, you can find yourself sweating buckets as temperatures touch 30°C (86°F) on the hottest days. You can also find yourself shivering your way through a sub-zero outing in fresh snow. A running backpack is handy whatever the season, with space for water, snacks, sunscreen and a cap if it’s hot.

Layering is key during the colder months, when you’ll need decent gloves and a hat or headband, alongside a breathable waterproof jacket. A headlamp is essential during winter when the sun sets before 3pm in Stockholm and it's dark round-the-clock further north.

Classic running shoes will suffice for many entry-level trails, but trail shoes are advisable for long-distance routes over uneven terrain. Ice is a major hazard during winter; detachable ice grips or studded running shoes make a huge difference. Don’t forget a phone or a watch with GPS for route finding and emergencies!

A woman running with her dog in the snow in Sweden
Bring layers to tackle Sweden's country trails in winter © Johner RF / Getty Images

Finding a trail running route in Sweden

Alongside running apps such as Strava and Map My Run, fitness travel apps AllTrails and Komoot are great places to source well-trodden scenic trails, complete with ratings, photos and transport tips. If you can read Swedish, Trail Running Sweden has some excellent guides that you can download to your phone or smartwatch. The word ‘runt' (which means 'loop' in Swedish) is a handy word to learn to help with your research. Naturkarten, which offers offline hiking maps, is another good source of inspiration.

Swedes are among the best non-native English speakers in the world, so consider seeking out a local guide. Runacademy has clubs across Sweden, and Forest Femmes organizes all-female social trail runs in Gothenburg and Stockholm. Internationally-minded running communities include Ssideline City in Stockholm and Malmö Gerillalöpare in Malmö.

A woman runner standing on a lake shore in north Sweden
Build in some time to pause and admire the landscape on any trail run in Sweden © CharlieChesvick / iStockphoto / Getty Images

Six stunning running trails in Sweden

There are running trails all over Sweden, but here are six of the very best to plan your travels around.

National City Park, Hälsans Stig 

Distance: 11km (6.8 miles)

Just outside Stockholm, this is a beautiful, varied trail around Brunnsviken lake, passing blooming allotment gardens, sandy beaches and the towering black dome of the city’s Natural History Museum. Mostly flat, it’s a popular entry-level trail and it's easily accessible from the city center. The path hugs the waterfront almost all the way, so it’s very difficult to get lost; the Stallmästaregården Hotel is the starting point.

Mölle to Arild, Kullaberg Nature Reserve

Distance: 16km (10 miles)

Clifftop views are the highlight of this physically demanding but clearly signposted trail starting at the seaside village of Mölle in southern Sweden. From here you run towards the round 19th-century turret of Kullen lighthouse through the Kullaberg Nature Reserve before continuing along the peninsular to Arild, a medieval fishing village.

This trail is section three of the longer SL5 Öresund trail and part of a 1300km (807-mile) network of marked trails in the region known as Skåneleden. You can cut the route short by looping back to Mölle via Hjorthagen or make it longer by continuing along the next section of the SL5 route.

Skuleberget, The High Coast

Distance: 5km (3 miles)

If you like your trail runs short but very steep, try tackling Skuleberget mountain near the village of Docksta in central Sweden. This is the high point of the world’s highest coastline, perched at 286m (938ft) above sea level. There are three marked paths to get to the top – the Södra Bergstigen (southern path), and Östra Bergstigen (eastern path) are both 5km (3 miles) out and back, while the Grottstigen (cave path) is a very steep 2km (1.2-mile) alternative.

However you get to the top, the panoramic sea views are well worth the slog. Experienced long-distance runners will enjoy combining Skuleberget with a stretch of the 130km (80-mile) High Coast Trail, which runs north and south of the mountain.

A runner crossing an empty Swedish landscape in Lappland
Running trails in Sweden circle city lakes and cross wild empty landscapes © Johner Images / Getty Images

The Bear Triangle, Åre

Distance: 16.2km (10 miles)

Best known amongst tourists for its ski slopes, the Åre region in northern Sweden offers ample trail running opportunities, especially once the snow has melted. The Björnen Triangeln (Bear Triangle) is a favorite with local running influencers. It passes through sublime mountain scenery and birch forests, and has enough steep sections to make for a tough but manageable challenge for seasoned runners. Follow the path numbered 221.

Fornborgslingan loop, Tyresta National Park

Distance: 6.4km (4 miles)

Just a short bus or car journey from Stockholm, Tyresta national park serves up miles of running and hiking trails, set amidst stunning forest scenery, small sparkling lakes and smooth rocky outcrops. Marked with green and white markers, the 6.4km (4-mile) Fornborgsslingan loop is a great place to start. It’s got some steep gradients, but it winds through enchanting ancient pine forests and offers gorgeous views over Stensjön lake.

Stora Delsjön lake loop, Delsjöområdets nature reserve

Distance: 7.5km (4.6 miles)

A classic waterfront loop around Stora Delsjön lake in Delsjöområdets Nature Reserve, just outside Gothenburg. Surrounded by woodland, the trail is largely gravel and not too hilly, and there are ample spots to take a dip during the summer months if you need to cool off. You can celebrate completing the route with a waffle at Kaffestugan, a cozy red wooden coffee shop near where the track starts and finishes. Add an extra 4km (2.5 miles) to the run by tacking on the lake’s smaller neighbor, Lilla Delsjön.

Woman raising her hands as she crosses the finish line in the Lidingöloppet race, Sweden
The Lidingöloppet is one of Sweden's most popular trail running races © ovjo12 / Getty Images

Sweden's most scenic and unique trail races

Sweden’s biggest cross-country race, the 30km (18.6-mile) Lidingöloppet in September, is popular for a reason. Despite taking place just a short tram ride from central Stockholm, it loops through lush, shady forests that feel much more remote. Expect busy trails and plenty of enthusiastic supporters for this famous competition, which is a right-of-passage for many sporty Swedes. There’s also a shorter 15km (9.3-mile) race for the less ambitious.

Further afield, a more unusual challenge is the Åhus winter trail run held in December in southern Sweden. With distances from 6km (3.7 miles) to 17km (10.5 miles), the race combines frozen forest paths with a stretch on the beach. Also noteworthy is the Höga Kusten Trail in September, with 25km (15.5-mile) and 43km (27-mile) distances, offering high-altitude views across Sweden’s rocky High Coast region. Gotland island also boasts a stunning coastline competition in October, although it’s a very tough 50km (31-mile) course.

For those brave enough to tackle Sweden’s most mountainous terrain, the Arctic Circle Run takes place in August in an area of Lappland that is so remote you need to hike or take a helicopter to the starting point. Held near Åre in July, Fjällmaraton advertises itself as Sweden’s most relaxed long-distance mountain event. There are numerous pit stops along the 25km (15.5-mile) and 43km (27-mile) race routes, serving up locally produced food from chanterelle mushrooms soup to reindeer sausages.

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