The Klara River Path (Klarälvsbanan) is a 90km stretch of cycle road that follows the embankment of a disused railway line. It traverses some of the Värmland region’s gorgeous countryside landscapes and small towns. While avid cyclists can aim to go the whole hog, this is a guide for the casual bike rider. Here’s how you can enjoy the trail over an afternoon without the need for special equipment or overnighting along the way.
Why cycle the Klara River Path?
The Klara River Path is one of the best ways to experience the Värmland countryside. The trail is relatively flat, so it’s easy for beginner cyclists. As it’s only for pedestrians and cyclists, you won’t have to worry about motorists (though do keep an eye out for the occasional speedy professional cyclist that will put what you thought was a decent pace to shame). If you’re keen to experience the landscapes, discover historical towns and pluck a blueberry or two in some peace and quiet then you’re in for a treat.
Where should I go?
The Klara River Path begins at Mörudden on the island of Hammarö south of Karlstad and finishes at Uddeholm in Hagfors. Here, it continues as part of a separate trail, the Klarälvsleden (The Klara River Trail). It’s possible to start anywhere along the path but the entrance at Kroppkärr in Karlstad is a pretty good place to begin (take a look at a detailed map of the path to find the entry point).
From here, there are two options. The first is to ride south towards Hammarö, which is 10km one-way over flat terrain. Another option is to ride north towards Forshaga, which is 20km one-way. This route is also relatively flat with some very slight uphill stretches but nothing too strenuous.
If your fitness level is relatively good and you’re keen to spend a whole day on the bike then you might be able to make it to Deje and back. Any further and you’ll most likely need to overnight somewhere. I’d recommend that you simply take your time and enjoy the scenery at your own pace, instead of trying to get from A to B.
What should I bring?
Wear comfortable shoes and clothing – preferably layers that you can take off should you get too warm. Check the weather forecast before heading out and if there’s a chance of rain make sure you’ve packed some waterproof clothing such as a rain jacket. Make sure you’ve got plenty of fluid to keep you hydrated and snacks for energy. You may not have an opportunity to get food along the way.
What is there to see and do?
The Värmland countryside is the main attraction! This is not a sightseeing expedition but a chance to get out of the city and into nature, enjoy pastoral landscapes and breathe some fresh air. But there’s still plenty of things to see and do if you want to get off your bike for a while.
The city of Karlstad offers plenty of things to do, from parks, fika, shopping and much more. The cycling infrastructure is fantastic here and there are a wealth of bicycle paths throughout the city that you can explore either before or after your Klara River Path adventure. You can plan your route by taking a look at the cycling map provided by Karlstad here. In summer, Solcykeln in the main square of Karlstad offers free bicycles to rent for day trips.
The Klara River Path’s southern starting point at Mörudden on the island of Hammarö is right by the shore of Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern. This means that during the warmer months of the year you’ve got swimming and fishing opportunities. And when it’s too cold to enjoy the water (which, let’s face it, is about 11 out of 12 months of the year), you’ve still got some beautiful lakeside views. Mörudden has a restaurant, Udden, but if you plan to eat there it’s probably best to book a table, especially on Sundays, when they have seatings for brunch (189 SEK). Unfortunately, when we visited there was no opportunity to just sit and have a fika, so if you’re heading this way definitely bring your own snacks.
The rest of Hammarö
Mörudden may be the starting point of the Klara River Path but if you have time it’s worth exploring a little more of what Hammarö has to offer. Hammarö is the third largest island in Lake Vänern. Even if you didn’t know it was an island, the ö on the end of its name gives it away; translated into English it means ‘Hammer Island.’ For more on Swedish place names, check out this piece. Hammarö attracts friluftsmänniskor (lovers of the outdoors) because its coastline and quiet nature is ideal for active activities such as camping, cycling and hiking. A place worth checking out is Sydspetsen, the southernmost tip of the island, where you can see the Skage lighthouse that was built in the 19th century, and enjoy a picnic on the rocks by the waters of Lake Vänern.
Hammarö isn’t completely rural, but it definitely offers a quieter atmosphere than neighbouring Karlstad. Its small suburban areas with their parks and narrow streets are certainly not bustling with cars so it’s relatively safe to move off the cycle path onto the roads. Cycle through the neighbourhoods envying the backyards of one of Sweden’s wealthiest municipalities.
If you head north from Karlstad instead, you’ll eventually pass close by Lake Alster, which is a popular fishing spot. In comparison to Lake Vänern this one is tiny but it’s no less picturesque and there are some lovely picnic spots here by the lakeside summer houses and their jetties. You might spot a horse or two in the surrounding farmland.
Forshaga is the first town you’ll reach on a journey north from Karlstad. Here you’ll find a stone church dating to the early twentieth century, an exhibition on life by the Klara River if you’re interested in finding out more about the surroundings you’ve passed through, and some great hiking trails. One, the 2km Ätterösleden, takes you to some Bronze Age burial mounds.
Enjoy the Värmland nature
Along the route, you’ll pass by some picturesque scenery: cute, red-painted cottages, crop fields, farm animals and plenty of colourful flowers and leaves in Summer and Autumn. Leave your bike for a moment to pick some berries from the side of the road, take a walk through the forest, or try a spot of fishing in one of the lakes that you pass by (make sure you’ve got a fishing permit first though).
My favourite memories of the Klara River Path have not been sights that I read about in guide books or tourist websites. They were unexpected things, such as coming across an apple tree and filling our backpacks with apples, getting caught in the pouring rain on the road back from Forshaga (luckily I’d packed my rain jacket!), and stopping to say hello to some friendly felines in a Hammarö neighbourhood. So use the ideas above as a guide to some of the things you could see and do, but don’t forget to explore for yourself. Get on your bike and see what you find!
Do you have any favourite places along the Klara River Path? Let me know in the comments.