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Karin Skelton, nature-lover, takes a break by a lake in Sweden.

Photo: Jenny Helldahl

Categories: Excursions

In touch with nature: How to best explore the forests of Stockholm

Publish date: 10 December 2021

An archipelago trek or a stroll in Hellasgården? Breezy shorts or practical cargo pants? Hot chocolate, coffee or tea? We chatted to nature lover Karin Skelton to get some solid tips on how to best explore the forests of Stockholm.

You don’t have to go out of your way in Stockholm to change the scenery from the glass, cement, and steel of the hectic city streets to vibrant green trees and dark blue waters of Stockholm’s surrounding nature.

There are almost 300 nature reserves around the greater Stockholm area, two national parks, one national city park, and a plethora of lakes that attract both wildlife and locals wanting to cool off on hot summer days. Every suburb has numerous green areas, both small and large, and there are several green parks in the city. In other words, you’re just a short subway or bus ride away if you feel nature calling. At most.

Thanks to “Allemansrätten”, a constituted Right of Public Access, the public has free access to the outdoors and have the right to camp, hike, swim, and paddle basically anywhere. But knowing where to explore is another thing altogether, and is dependent on what you're in the mood for. Does a leisurely family-friendly stroll sound good or do you crave an active weekend adventure?

We reached out to Karin Skelton – scriptwriter of digital learning material, instagramer, and nature lover – about her passion for the uninhabited, untamed parts of Stockholm.

Born and raised in Hälsingland in northern Sweden, the Värmdö-native Skelton spends much of her spare time spelunking in the neighboring outdoors, and beyond. Even though she loves and needs to feel the pulse of inner-city life, nature is an equally important part of her DNA makeup. Whereas work gives her inspiration and satisfaction, nature gives her time to reflect and recharge her creative reserves.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Why are you drawn to nature?
"My earliest memories are of boat trips and the smell of pine trees and ripe wild strawberries. But as the only punk in my village, I despised country life and spent much of my adult life in Stockholm and London. One day, when I was living in London, I saw a small mouse running around the tracks at Russel Square station. “Oh, you poor thing”, I thought to myself. 'You’re supposed to be out in the woods, not trapped here'. Later I realized that I wasn’t referring to the mouse, but myself".

What would you say makes nature in –and around Stockholm unique?
"Its close proximity to the city, its purity, and of course Allemansrätten. You can get from the busy streets around T-Centralen to over 2000 acres of nature preserve with serene lakes and filed where roe deer casually graze".

Any good tips on what first-timers should have in mind when venturing out into the forests or archipelago?
"The fickle Swedish weather makes it hard to pack lightly; you might need both a bikini and a wool cap. And don’t be surprised if people you meet along the trails aren’t overly chatty. Swedes can be a little reserved, but ask a question and they’ll open up and show you their friendly and helpful side".

What is the best place to experience something truly unique if you’re curious about Stockholm’s wildlife?
"Unique wildlife experiences are not my specialty – yet. I love animals and get the same excitement from seeing a family of mallards as a golden eagle. However, I think it’s amazing that you’ll run into jackrabbits, roe deer, and red squirrel just by going to Nackareservatet. I lived at Nackareservatet’s doorstep for a long time, in Hammarbyhöjden, and my birdfeeder was regularly visited by a woodpecker".

The fickle Swedish weather makes it hard to pack lightly; you might need both a bikini and a wool cap.
Karin Skelton

Let’s say you only have time to visit one place in Stockholm’s outdoors. Where would you go?
"I love contrasts and need a busy city life as much as the stillness of the forest. Värmdö is essentially a light version of the countryside and there’s nothing that beats a trip out to the cliffs of Björnö Nature reserve after a hectic week. Usually, I just make myself comfortable under a pine tree and look out over the ocean until my mind is as calm and still as the islands on the horizon. You’ll get a little bit of everything; typically red houses and cottages in serene coves, meadows with grazing sheep, bent gangly pine trees growing on steep cliffs overlooking the open ocean. There are underwater snorkel trails for anyone who wants a deep dive, watchtowers for those who prefer climbing. You can also rent a kayak or SUP. The forest trails are perfect for trail running but I often meet people taking a casual walk with their baby stroller".

What recommendation would you give to someone that is quite happy with an easier one-day adventure, reachable by subway or bus?
"Take the ferry from Barnhuskajen over to Hammarbysjöstad and walk (or jog) up Hammarbybacken. You’ll be treated to a 360-degree view of Stockholm and realize just how green the city is. Then walk down the southern slope, down to the allotment gardens, and stroll around for a while among the lush greenery, Continue on to Nacka Nature reserve, maybe Söderbysjön with its many lovely forest trails and paths. Hellasgården is, of course, something of a classic, but I prefer to find a secluded part of the forest by myself. Take a step off the path or trail where the woods are at their most beautiful (with a GPS on your smartphone, naturally) and let yourself be elated by the beauty you’ll find".

…and as a contrast, what are your recommendations for someone who wants a little longer adventure?
"An in-depth exploration of the Stockholm archipelago is definitely on my bucket list. There are lots of more gems besides Grinda and Rindö. I heard good things about Svartsö’s glamping concept and Bullerö. If you’re in Sweden for a longer period of time I would also have to recommend a trip to Vindelfjällen [in Västerbotten, approx. 560 miles north of Stockholm] and explore the nature reserve by horseback. The last time I cried was when we were camping out on the fell and the sun’s light broke through the fogbank covering the mountains".

Last, but not least (and maybe most important of all), what’s in your perfect outdoor lunch-pack?
"I chose simplicity before anything, so I bring food that is tasty and easy to pack. Water, a coffee thermos, hard-boiled eggs, a bag of nuts, maybe an apple, and dark chocolate. Nature is always beautiful, no matter the weather, and anything tastes great with a view of the ocean as your lunch date".

Karin's top 5 things to have in your backpack:

  • Spork - A combined spoon, fork, and knife makes it easy to eat dinner out in the wild.
  • Removable studs - My quality of life rose with about 500 percent when I was suddenly able to run and jump around in the forest, even during wintertime.
  • Stainless-steel water canister - I've only had to buy bottled water maybe three times since I invested in one a couple of years ago.
  • Almonds - A handful is enough to keep your hunger satisfied and your energy up for a long time.
  • Wool cap - A great way to keep your temperature up, If you're like me and easily feel frozen.
  • For longer excursions, I always bring a small tube of eco-friendly hand lotion. A multi-purpouse lotion that works for everything; as a facewash and skin lotion, to soothe frozen hands and dry lips, and to keep unkempt hair in place. You name it.