The trails of Senja continue and I decided that Husfjellet deserves its own post. This beautiful run/hike is my definite favorite on Senja, and the tale goes also the queen´s. One reason may be that it saved the day when I with great disappointment failed to reach the peak of Breidtinden, but there are so many other reasons to love this mountain: The amazing views, the kind terrain, and the thrill of exploring the outcrops when you reach the top – all this without the crowds you usually meet on the more famous Segla. Last summer I tried to time my run with the midnight sun, only to be surprised by heavy fog when reaching the ridge. The added excitement of not knowing if and when I could make a safe return and the spectacular view created by the fog compensated for the lost view of the midnight sun and gives me another reason to return.
You find the trailhead behind the picnic area next to the church in Skaland, where you can also park your car. After a few hundred meters a sign points you to a trail on your left, but you can also continue straight ahead for a dryer option through the forest and follow the next sign towards Sommerdalen. Soon you gain some height and can enjoy the views of Bergfjorden to your left. Don´t bother to take up your camera just yet, the views will only get better.
Follow the trail across the boardwalk and the ascent towards Husfjellet starts. Stay safe running with good distance from the edge on your right, but don´t be afraid to move close to the edge to take in the views.
After less than 3.5 km and reaching 635 meters above sea level, you are on the top of Husfjellet, hopefully with the weather on your side to take in the panoramic views and to explore the outcrops. Bring some extra clothes so you can afford to stay a bit before you return the same way or down towards the beautiful Bøvær beach. On my last run to Husfjellet I met two girls who set up their tent on the top. I can only imagine the beauty of watching the midnight sun from here.
The best time for running up Husfjellet is june – september. If you are there during the summer, do plan for a midnight sun run if the weather is on your side.
Include the Bøvær beach in your run (I will, next time), either by doing your descent from Husfjellet towards Bøvær, or go for a run or drive there after returning to your car (the beach is less than 5 km by road from the trailhead next to the church).
Stock up on groceries at the store in Skaland (grocery stores are scarce on Senja).
You can also attack Husfjellet on the bike, of course.
From one paradise to another, Senja is my magic place, the place I always dream of returning to. The island is said to be a miniature of Norway, and with its spectacular fjords and mountains it very much lives up to this tale, and is as perfect for road trips as it is for trail running. If you have not visited the region before, I recommend to fly to Tromsø (more about Tromsø in a post later) and spend a night or two there before or after visiting Senja.
There are a number of peaks and runs to explore in Senja, and I love that most of them are fairly short, which enables you to reach several summits in a day. In this post I will take you to the legendary peak Segla, which is featured over and over again on several instagram accounts promoting Norwegian nature, its neighbor peak, Hesten (“the Horse”), and Senja´s highest mountain, Breidtinden. In the next post we will explore Sukkertoppen, Husfjellet, Grytetippen and Keipen.
The climb to Segla starts from the school in the village of Fjordgård. Go in the early morning or in the evening if you can. During the summer, you will have 24 hours of daylight.
The path is well marked and easy to find. The distance to the top is only 2 km, but with a total elevation gain of almost 600 meter, it will get your heart pumping. The start is pretty easy, with about 15% incline during the first kilometer, before the tough last kilometer with an average of 40% incline. For safety keep to your right when climbing the ridge, but do look for the gramable spots close to the edge on your left, without taking any chances. The paths will show you where it is safe. Once you have reached the summit, do allow for some time to enjoy the panoramic view. Although Segla is already a social media hero, most photos are taken from the other side, from Hesten or the area between the two peaks. For this reason, Hesten is your next run.
After Segla, the easiest way to reach Hesten is to run all the way down to the parking and a few hundred meters through the village to the bottom of the ski slopes (see Strava link for guidance). The path starts next to the wooden shelter and is easy to follow all the way to the peak. The last part of the climb is a bit technical, but no equipment is needed. From Hesten you have the iconic view of Segla to the south and the multiple Kongen peaks to the north. More about these mountains here.
The Hesten run is not as steep as Segla, but a little longer. It took me around 2:30h to complete both (with additional time for photographing, of course).
I have seen people run down the ridge of Breidtinden and was caught by surprise when fear prevented me from reaching the summit. It was with great disappointment I had to give up Senja´s highest mountain. Maybe it would be easier had I not been on my own, thus I am determined to give it a second chance. In the meantime, why don´t you give it a try? The run is beautiful whether you reach the peak or not. In any case, leave a comment on the blog if you give it a go.
To reach the trail, park on the right side of the road after the tunnel “Svartholla” if driving south.
Sans Senja Skyrace takes place in the early summer every year, in 2019 on 22 June. Its 25 kilometer and 2800 meters of elevation gain will take you over some of the most spectacular mountains in Senja.
How to get to Senja
You need a car to explore Senja. Unless you bring your own, I would suggest flying in to Tromsø. In the summer, the ferry will take you from Brensholmen, about 50 minutes from Tromsø Airport, to Botnhamn. From Botnhamn I highly recommend to follow the Norwegian Scenic Route driving south. You can return the same way, or make it a round trip via Ånderdalen National Park and Finnsnes back to Tromsø, or, if you have even more time, take the ferry (only in the summer) to Andøya and explore Vesterålen islands before returning to Tromsø.
One of the 18 Norwegian Scenic Routes goes through Senja and makes it almost as much a pleasure to stay on the road as on the trails. However, the roads are narrow and bumpy, so pay attention, and make sure to take a break or two at one of the many attractions along the road. For sure, Ersfjordstanda, with its amazing beach and mountain backdrop as well as a toilet made in gold, should be on your radar. Other spots are the “Devil´s teeth” (Tungeneset) and the viewpoint Bergsbotn.
Where to stay
Unfortunately, there are not that many options for accommodation in Senja. My preferred option is renting an apartment at Hamn. The location is great and the apartments are fairly new and with great views. If you don´t mind sleeping in a tent, Ersfjordstranda provides an amazing spot to do that, but you will probably not be alone. For other options, check out Visit Senja.
Day 1: Morning ferry from Brensholmen to Botnhamn. Hike/run to Keipen and Grytetippen (next blog post). Drive to Ersfjordstranda. Make sure you bring a cooler and some food, or pick up some food at the store in Mefjordvær (check opening hours). Stay at Mefjordvær or Hamn.
Day 2: Early morning run to Segla and Hesten. Pick up some food in Fjordgård after the run and have a break at Tungeneset or the beach in Bøvær.
Day 3: Breidtinden in the morning and Husfjellet (next blog post) in the evening (try to catch the midnight sun).
Day 4: Morning run to Sukkertoppen (next blog post) before departure.
Seiser Alm is Europe’s largest high-altitude pasture, located in the heart of the Dolomites in the Italian Alps. For a long time it has been a training destination for endurance athletes, such as Scandinavian cross country skiers, aiming for improved performance, but, stunningly beautiful as it is, it is also attracting outdoor-loving tourists in general.
What Makes It So Special?
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks and its trademark mountain, the Schiliar (or Schlern in German). Any direction you turn would qualify for a postcard and there are multiple trails ranging from easy to moderate in terms of technical difficulty, including a running park with signposted routes of different length and effort. The area is very peaceful thanks to driving restrictions.
Let´s skip straight to the important stuff, the best trails! Here are my suggestions for three long trail runs.
The Classic – Denti Rossi & Schiliar
This run will take you over the pointy red teeth to the Rifugio Alpe di Tires. Grab an espresso “al banco” and maybe a piece of apple strudel, fill up your bottles and enjoy the easy flow trails behind the Denti Rossi before some more uphill running take you to the plateau of Schiliar. Take a short detour to Forcella di Terrarossa, if you are collecting peaks, before cruising over to Rifugio Bolzano for some kaiserschmarrn for lunch, before or after collecting your second peak for the day, Monte Pez. Returning downhill to your starting point you will enjoy a fabulous view of Seiser Alm and the Sasso Lungo/Langkofel and Sasso Piatto/Plattkofel.
To reach this almost 3000 meter above sea level high peak you can cheat by taking the chair lift from Saltria (a ten minutes bus ride from Compatsch), or you can choose the longer and more scenic route crossing the pastures and multiple bottle holes on your way to Rifugio Sasso Piatto, where the steep, but fairly easy, climb to the top starts. Watch your steps once on the top, enjoy the view and make sure to do your instagramming before returning to the rifugio for lunch. To add some variety to the run, choose the “backside” of the ridge on the return to your starting point.
The Long Run – around Sasso Piatto and Sasso Lungo
I tried this run for the first time last year and it immediately became my favorite in Seiser Alm as it is more “runable” than the other routes and provides stunning views of the Dolomites from a variety of angels. You can add the climb to Sasso Piatto (see previous run) if you wish. I like to start this run with the chair lift from Saltria, then I run clockwise around the peaks and take the “backside” from the Rifugio Sasso Piatto back to Compatsch. You may choose the slightly shorter Dialer trail or run via Rifugio Alpe di Tires.
Rosengarten Skymarathon is a long distance skyrace consisting of 44 kilometer and 2980 meter elevation gain (main race), with starting point in Tiers – Saint Cyprian. The track passes by Rifugio Alpe di Tires and Rifugio Bolzano. In 2019 the race will take place 13 July. I will be on the starting line. Will you?
Seiser Alm Half Marathon runs on non-technical paths across the pastures of Seiser Alm. Its 21 kilometer consist of 601 meters of elevation gain. Start and finish are in Compatsch. In 2019 the race will take place on 7 July.
The road from Seis and Kastelruth to Seiser Alm provides a great climb for roller ski. Take the bus from Compatsch to Kastelruth or the cable car from Compatsch to Seis and roll up.
Most hotels offer half-board accommodation, thus, except for your meal on the run, usually had at the nearest rifugio, restaurant advice is not much needed. However, should you find the time, make sure you have kaiserschmarrn, or a full meal, at Gostner Schwaige.
There are several nice hotels on Seiser Alm ranging from basic to luxury. What most of them have in common is that they need to be booked early, especially during high season. I have personally tried all hotels listed below, except for Alpenhotel Panorama, and have enjoyed each one of them. If you are looking for cheap, basic accommodation, try the conveniently located Piccolo Hotel Schiliar or some of the nearby rifugios.
Although Seiser Alm is the most beautiful place, after a few days you have covered the area. If you fancy more mountains and maybe some great roller ski or bicycling opportunities, combine Seiser Alm with Livigno (will be covered in a later post). Fancy the beach? Go to Lago Garda or Lago Como.