Merrell: Trails of Europe

Merrell: Trails of Europe

Merrell: Trails of Europe

Written By: SportsShoes

The Merrell Trail Team has journeyed across the continent in search of some of the finest trails in Europe.

The athletes involved were tasked with uncovering the quirks, history, wildlife and beauty of their home trails to paint a cultural picture of each route for this unique running guide. From locations steeped in history such as the jaw-dropping castles of Bavaria to the natural wonders of the volcanic Canary Islands – the athletes conquered all types of terrain in their Merrell trail running shoes.

Take a look at this Collection and find some inspiration for your next adventure!

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  1. UK: Isles with miles of Trail
  2. FRANCE: Tour De Trail
  3. GERMANY: Castles in the Sky
  4. SPAIN: Fiery Peaks
  5. NORDICS: A Nordic Safari

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1. UK: Isles with miles of Trail

Did you know the British Isles were made up of over 6,000 islands? No, us neither.

The Merrell Trail Team has left the mainland to go in search of trails less travelled in some of the UK's most remote and beautiful places. A celebration of lands that are all at sea - the athletes shine a spotlight on three islands rich in history and beauty to uncover their culture whilst on the run. 

Check out our trail running guide that journeys to Holy Island, Raasay and Sark to uncover some of the finest routes Britain has to offer.

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LINDISFARNE, HOLY ISLAND

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Lindisfarne (also known as "Holy Island") is a tidal Island located off the majestic Northumberland coastline in the United Kingdom. This means, if you don’t take note of that day’s tide times, you will find yourself isolated there for 6hrs until the tide recedes.

This may not be such a bad thing if you have a penchant for quirky Island destinations, rich in folklore and complete with mediaeval castles, historic landscapes and near empty trails. Whilst you’re unlikely to find yourself lost on Lindisfarne (It measures 3.0 miles (4.8 km) from east to west and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from north to south) there are some trail gems to be experienced, which many of the 650,000 visitors each year fail to discover.

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Beginning from the main/sole car park on the Island, this route takes you through the village which is well worth exploring post-run for its quirks and welcoming pubs. Turning toward the coast at the Little Free Library, watch out for seals as they watch out for you along the rocky shore of the south-west corner. Climbing up Lindisfarne’s only hill you pass the Lookout Tower, a top spot for birdwatching over the Special Protection Area mud and sand flats. From here you look across the harbour to the iconic Lindisfarne Castle, which is where most tourists will turnaround upon visiting, however this is where Holy Island becomes your own.

Running North from here along the rocky shoreline, with pile upon pile of miniature megaliths alongside, you are distinctly aware that nothing separates you from the Nordic lands from whence the devastating Viking attack in 793 came, sending a shockwave through Europe. A beautiful trail leads to the obelisk at Emmanuel Head where it is worth pausing to take in the pristine landscape and solitude. The beach and dunes leading back to the Village from here are hard to tear yourself away from, but then you could always do another lap if you’ve not had enough of the place.

Just remember those tide times…

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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ISLE OF RAASAY

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In what may just be one of the most tranquil inhabited Islands in Britain, where sheep far outnumber humans and ‘noise’ is defined as the call of the local nesting Sea Eagles, you might fight running is too hurried an activity for a visit to Raasay.

Nestled between the Applecross Peninsula on Mainland Scotland and the majestic Isle of Skye, the Inner Hebridean island of Raasay measures only 14 miles from north to south, and a little over three miles from east to west at its widest point.  Whilst running the entire Island from South to North and back in one day (or before the last ferry back to Skye leaves) might be possible for the hardy runner, you’re far better off spending at least 48hrs here, ditching the GPS watch and enjoying the breathtaking views, local wildlife and solitude that Raasay excels at. 

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Several kilometres of well-marked trails lead you around Raasay’s hub, Inverarish and its forest; the Miners Trail offers fine views of Skye whilst the coastal path leads you out to North Bay with the chance of seal, otter and eagle sightings. There’s plenty of running options to keep you occupied, which might be a good thing given Raasay boasts a single shop, Whiskey distillery and lone hotel/restaurant/coffee bar as its sole tourist attractions.

The iconic, dorsal fin shaped summit of Dun Caan at 444m (a 3km run from either the main road car park or 4.5km option from The Miners Trail) dominates the centre of Raasay and makes for a fantastic spot to watch the sun rise or set from, whilst the Eastern coast is as wild and scenic as you could wish for. The Northern reaches (a 10km run from Arnish through birch woods and rocky landscapes) are equally rewarding and this is where you’ll find the only bothy on the Island, perfect for hiding from any passing storms.

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Opportunities to refill water bottles and stock up on running fuel are limited to non-existent outside of Inverarish so it’s advisable to be well equipped if you’re heading North on foot. Having said that, the few inhabited homes you pass will gladly let you fill up from their tap and take the time to chat with you, such is the friendly nature of Islanders.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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ISLE OF SARK

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Island life can be peculiar. When you are bound by a perimeter of plunging coastline and the outside world exists a (weather dependent) boat ride across the ocean, you are left to come up with your own way of life, however unique that may look from the outside.

Inhabited at various points in its long history by tribal communities, monks, pirates and more recently German militia during WWII, Sark is rich in folklore (watch out for the headless horseman at night), superstitions (witches flying down unguarded chimneys) and tradition (sheep racing anyone?). The third largest of the Channel Islands after Jersey and Guernsey, from where you catch the 40-minute ferry, Sark is neither part of the United Kingdom nor the European Union but welcoming to all, thanks to the generosity and friendliness of the locals. Of whom there are less than 500!

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There are no cars on Sark. If no horse is available, you’ll have to travel on a bike or on foot. Zero streetlighting (it is the first dark sky island in the world) and a distinct lack of fried chicken take-aways mean Sark is the perfect (and quite literal) escape from it all. When running on busy pavements and overcrowded trails has got you down, head to Sark where kilometres of beautiful trails await. In fact, there is only one stretch of tarmac on the entire island so trail running footwear is a perfect fit here.

Beginning from the horse rank at the top of the Harbour Hill, run North along leafy avenues and farmland, turning back on yourself after 1.5km toward La Seigneurie. Pass the sole school, Dairy and community centre before turning right at The Avenue (the Island’s hub). People say hello here so do not be alarmed if you find yourself engaged in a lengthy conversation when asking for simple directions. The road/trail South to Little Sark passes picturesque cottages with idyllic views across the Channel before arriving at La Coupee, a majestic path built during WWII bridging the two halves of the Island. A quad busting detour down the (very steep) steps here to Grande Greve Bay is worth the effort and the reward is a perfect swim on your own wild beach!

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Continuing South, you pass quaint tea shops and the kind of guest houses your Grandparents would be completely at home amongst, before reaching some fantastic coastal paths around Adonis Pool, the Silver Mine ruins and Neolithic Dolmen (currently being used as temporary accommodation by a Ewe and her two lambs when we passed through). Returning to La Coupee, break right and follow the coastal path above Dixcart Bay and through the green valley before eventually arriving back at The Avenue where a Sark cream tea (or possibly local ale) awaits.  

Sark is the most unspoilt of the Channel Islands; utterly enchanting, with dramatic cliffs, secluded beaches, and a magical, otherworldly feel. It is like a fairy kingdom somehow separated from modern times.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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2. FRANCE: Tour De Trail

The iconic mountain stages of Le Grande Boucle, the world’s largest annual sporting event, have long been known as a graveyard for even some of the sport’s finest athletes – swallowing them up spitting them out again as their legs scream for no more suffering.

But, like cyclists, trail runners are also partial to what’s known as Type 2 fun - fun that is miserable while it's happening, but fun in retrospect. In celebration of the nation’s greatest sporting spectacle, we challenged to Merrell Trail Team to retrace the wheels of the peloton across three of Le Tour’s most revered climbs, Aravis, Pic du Midi and Ventoux.

The team has created a trail running guide to experience these epic routes on two feet - head for the mountains and check out the guide below.

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ARAVIS, LE BLANCHET

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At 1487m, the Col des Aravis is a mythical mountain pass in the French Alps linking the departments of Haute-Savoie and Savoie as well as the two ski resorts of La Clusaz and La Giettaz, the latter from where this epic trail route departs.

A hive of winter sports activity, come summer the pass is synonymous with cyclists and self-inflicted suffering of the highest calibre (it has been used 41 times in the Tour de France, most recently in 2020). For those less inclined to don full lycra however, the trail running here is some of the finest in Europe, encompassing pine forests, quaint mountain huts, pristine meadows where the sound of cow-bells clangs across the valleys and, its highest reaches, snow-line scrambling.

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At 10.5 km with an Elevation gain of 632m, this route is the perfect introduction to Alpine trail running, with equal measure lung-busting climbs to giddy switchback descents. With the peak of Étale and the Aravis range towering above you pass the Plan Rebord restaurant where, from June to the end of September this picture-perfect Alpine chalet offers the weary runner a welcome break before continuing with the loop. If you have the time for a gourmet break, in an idyllic setting complete with magnificent view of Mont Blanc then this is where to rest. Depending on which way you run, the route takes in forested valleys and a (potentially muddy) crossing of the Ruisseau de Foiroux, which can be prone to thunder downstream with meltwater in Spring/Summer.

Return to “La Giett” as the locals refer to it for some well-earned Raclette or Tartiflette as a cheesy reward.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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PIC DU MIDI DE BIGORRE

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Whilst neither the highest peak in the Pyrenees nor perhaps the most beautiful, the Pic du Midi de Bigorre summit is however the easiest to reach, via the epic cable car from La Mongie. Covering an elevation of 1000m in 15 minutes and depositing you at an altitude of 2877m, the clear air and endless ocean of Pyrenean peaks are a sight to behold.

Save yourself the 32 Euros however by tackling this stunning trail route South East of the Pic, climbing from the start (1444m) at the Garet bend car park within the Campan Valley, 870m up to the Refuge du Campana de Cloutou at 2225m.

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Passing over the icy Le Garet river, tracing its origins to the deep, blue lakes high above, this trail has an estimated hiking time of 3h30 and if the weather is hot you’ll want to throw yourself into one of them.

The Refuge itself is located on the edge of the Neouvielle Nature Reserve, a stunningly diverse part of the Pyrenees mostly made up of rich pine forest and lakes. Blessed with wildlife (ermine, chamois, alpine marmot and both bearded and Egyptian vultures soaring high above) this region is as remote as you can find and well worth overnighting at the Refuge before descending back to your car.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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MONT VENTOUX

Known in France as the killer mountain, Mont Ventoux sits on every cyclist’s bucket list. Its legendary status arises not just from the brutality of its three ascents or the drama of its summit; it is a climb that inspires both fear and a sense of wonder. Few climbs in cycling have been so mythologised and for good reason.

From the summit, you can look south towards Aix-en-Provence, the Bay of Marseilles and the Mediterranean. To the east, the wild Mercantour national park and the Italian border whilst the French Alps and the Mont Blanc massif lie to the North. But this infamous peak is not just for the cyclists - a network of well-marked trail routes criss-cross Ventoux, making it a perfect running destination come spring and summer.

Starting from Ventoux’ Northern side at the Ski Station Serein (1,437m), this trail takes in the best of these views, propelling you directly to the summit almost 500m above via a series of forested switchbacks that will definitely get your heart beating and thighs burning. Crossing the iconic summit (a must have selfie point) you proceed to descend to the South before traversing the mountain side pistes toward Le Chalet Reynard, a rustic mountainside restaurant worthy of a breather. Go easy on the truffle dishes however as soon the trail climbs back up to just over 1,600m before descending across several majestic valleys and ravines, through the Trou du Vent and back to the Ski Station.

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3. GERMANY: Castles in the Sky

Want to discover trails that are fit for a king?

The Merrell Trail Team has given a royal seal of approval to three of Germany’s most regal trail routes as they uncover the history and beauty behind some the country’s celebrated castles. The athletes ascend mountains and valleys in search of castles in the sky – architectural wonders nestled amongst nature that are steeped in history – running back in time to discover the stories behind these great medieval strongholds. With over 20,000 castles across the nation, runners are spoilt for choice with castles spanning grand palaces to battle-ready fortresses.

Check out our trail running guide that journeys to Neuschwanstein, Konighaus Am Schachen and Schloss Sigmaringen for inspiration.

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NEUSCHWANSTEIN

Against the unique backdrop of the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles, 120 kilometres of well-maintained hiking trails await nature lovers, families and mountaineers in Schwangau, found in Southwest Bavaria, Germany.

Built in the late 19th century by a shy king in order to withdraw from public life – today Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular of all the palaces and castles in Europe. Every year 1.4 million people visit "the castle of the fairy-tale king" and it makes the perfect Alpine setting for a picturesque trail run. 

Nestled on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau (from where this run begins) the trail propels you vertically up the spine of Tegelbergkopf, almost as steep as Neuschwanstein Castle’s stupendous turrets. With looming views above the castle and surrounding landscapes, the trail tops out at 5,198ft before descending on a giddy drop through the Täfelessattel hiking area onto the wide pistes that are popular with skiers come

winter. The Tegelberg Cable Car running overhead, return to the Cable Station before returning through Alpine meadows to the start where a cold Pilsner awaits.

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KONIGHAUS AM SCHACHEN

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Translated as ‘The King's House’ this relatively modest castle, situated 1800 m above sea level in southern Bavaria can only be reached via a 10 km forest road, on a three-hour hike, ascending 1000m either from Schloss Elmau or Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Which makes it the perfect location for a quiet trail run.

This 19km out and back trail from Garmish-Partenkirchen (one of only two routes to the castle) makes for a full day out taking you through the Partnach Gorge and its incredible forests, rivers and valleys. You’ll need to come fully equipped as there are no amenities along the route. 

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Built between 1869 and 1872 for Ludwig II of Bavaria, the timber framed palace was designed to be a hunting lodge for the king, though he only used it for birthday and anniversary celebrations. With stunning vistas and a more wild and modest appearance than other palaces, it makes The King’s House the ultimate adventurer’s palatial retreat.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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SCHLOSS SIGMARINGEN

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This impressive castle dominates the skyline of the town of Sigmaringen, a town in Southern Germany and rises above the Danube atop a 115-foot chalk cliff known as the Schlossberg. A 10.5km circular route loops North from the town through picturesque forest and farmland, with distant views toward the snow-covered Alps some 150km South East. Schloss Sigmaringen was the princely castle and seat of government for the Princes of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.

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The castle’s construction spans over three periods, beginning as long ago as the 11th century as was famed for being one of the most protected castles in Germany during the Middle Ages.

Visitors will be impressed by its weapon collection of over 3,000 different weapons and armour that displays the evolution of weaponry between the 14th century and 20th century.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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4. SPAIN: Fiery Peaks

Looking for hot, new trail running routes? You’ve come to the right place.

The Merrell Trail Team has gone where worlds collide, in search of fiery peaks across Spain. A tribute to epic volcanic landscapes – the athletes lace up and explore three incredible volcanoes as they traverse fault lines, navigate calderas and cross terrain that seems out of this world.

Check out our trail running guide that travels to Mount Teide, Santa Margarida and Cumbre Vieja to discover some of the finest routes the nation has to offer;

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PICO DEL TEIDE

Beginning from the Cañada Blanca visitor centre, this circular route is one for the high-altitude lovers as it takes in some 1575m in climbing along it’s 25km length!

The long ascent to Pico del Teide’s summit at 3715m travels up a lunar like, volcanic landscape. Steep in some sections, the atmospheric conditions harden the further up you go and the wild volcano vegetation can seem torrid, although the scenery en route to the peak makes the run (or hike, depending on your level of fitness) well worth the effort. Running across ancient lava rivers, you will pass fumaroles that will add a wild side to your excursion, and the smell of sulphur will remind you at times that Teide is an active volcano, even though it is dormant.

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Once your sweat has dried, bottles have been refilled and you have clawed yourself away from the incredible summit views, prepare yourselves for a wild, quad busting descent that will test your leg strength as well as shoe grip. Returning to the start along the path of the main road, which may be a more appealing option if your legs have gone.

The third highest volcano in the world measuring from the bottom of the ocean and a National Park that extends the length and breadth of its slopes is a treasure worth discovering and an ideal place for those who love visiting the unknown.

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SANTA MARGARIDA

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This 786m volcano (the highest in mainland Spain) lies within the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park in Catalonia, North East Spain, an area containing about 40 inactive volcanoes. But fear not, it last erupted about 14,000 years ago, making it a perfect trail running route in a stunning part of Iberia.

This 10-mile circular route begins from just outside the nearby City of Olot, beneath a beautiful beech forest complete with 20m-tall trees (volcanic soil) and proceeds South toward the crater of Santa Margarida. The hermitage of Santa Margarida, after which the volcano was named, is inside the crater of the volcano and well worth a visit.

Skirting around the edge of Santa Pau (a charming medieval village within the Reserve) the route dives beneath more woodland before reaching the jaw-dropping landscape of Volca del Croscat, complete with multi-layered earth and landscaped terrain. The internal structure of the volcano’s cone has been exposed here by mining operations: following a territorial landscaping project in the 90s to restore the extraction site it is now an award-winning public access venue, best explored in a pair of trail running shoes.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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CUMBRE VIEJA

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An active volcanic ridge on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain, the Cumbre Vieja is one of the Canaries iconic hiking trails, complete with climbs through dry pine forest to reach the ash slopes of the ‘volcano route’. Rising through an unforgettable landscape of cones and calderas, traversing lava lakes before entering cloud forest again, this is your chance to bag an active volcano run in your Strava.

Although one of the most volcanically active of the Canary Islands, the volcano last erupted in December 2021. Soon after the local government declared the eruption to be over, so you should be safe from lava flows. Following in part the GR131 long distance hiking trail and setting out from the Refugio del Pilar (1,441m) this incredible 13km circular route (including an out and back to take in Hoyo Negro, a giant black hole on the Western side of the summit and one of the three volcanoes which broke out simultaneously in 1949) features 784m of climbing and the opportunity to experience trail running in a landscape like no other.

The Cumbre Vieja Range is part of a natural park and thus leaving the trails is strictly forbidden. Routes however are well marked and in the event of cloudy weather enveloping, should be closely followed given how featureless much of the area is.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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5. NORDICS: A Nordic Safari

The Nordic region of Europe is oft-regarded as one of the most beautiful parts of the planet. And none more so for those looking for the most challenging and stunning hikes in the world. The Merrell Trail Team is once again exploring the world’s landscapes, this time, the arctic trails of Norway, Finland, and Sweden.

Check out our trail running guide that journeys to Reisa, Nuuksio National Park and The Malingsbo-Kloten Nature Reserve in the best that Europe has to offer;

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NORWAY

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A remote region situated at the Northern reaches of the Reisa National Park, this epic running destination offers you the opportunity to run within the Arctic Circle (in Summer that is) and experience near total daylight in mid-summer. The Reisa river has cut a valley and a canyon in the mountain plateau, where waterfalls cascade into the valleys and gorges. The Mollis waterfall is the biggest and best known of these, with a total drop of 269 metres in three stages. Mountain lakes, waterfalls, lively rapids and deep still-flowing pools give the park lush summers and chalk-white winters.

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The Arctic Trail runs along the riverbank, past traditional cabins and turf huts. Parts of this trail have been awarded ‘Historic Hiking Route’ status, thus bearing witness to the Reisadalen valley’s rich cultural history over many thousand years, from rock paintings via the extraction of pine tar from pine roots to the arrival of English lords on salmon fishing expeditions in the North of Norway.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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FINLAND

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The Nuuksio National Park is one of Finland's 40 national parks. Within easy reach of the Finnish capital Helsinki (35 minutes by car or public transport) you can escape into wild natural settings as the Finn’s do, and enjoy typically Finnish scenery, with lovely lakes, green forests and rugged crags. The Siberian flying squirrel is the emblem of the national park due to their high population density in the park, but for those without wings the best way to get to know Nuuksio is on foot, using the well-marked trails.

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This gentle 11km circular route begins and ends in the sporting hub of Solvalla beside the stunning Lake Pitkäjärvi, proceeding through pristine forest and around several lakes. Running past traditional log cabins and over cascading rivers this route features plenty of selfie-spots to fill your Strava post.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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SWEDEN

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The Malingsbo-Kloten Nature Reserve in southern Dalarna and northern Västmanland is one of the biggest nature reserves in Sweden and only a 2.5hr drive from Stockholm. High hills surround a long stretch of excellent canoeing and kayaking water with steep cliffs descending dramatically into the river along narrow stretches. An area rich in wildlife, moose, deer and beavers but also lynxes, wolves and bears, the forest here has been left in total peace since 1950 and the absence of holiday homes makes the nature reserve unique from the rest of central Sweden.

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This gentle but picturesque, 8km circular route begins and ends from the parking opposite the small Hyndtjarnen and proceeds through rich pine forest on hard packed trail. Complete with log piles, river crossings and lakes to refresh in.

VISIT KOMOOT FOR A ROUTE MAP AND MORE INFORMATION

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All images and route courtesy of Merrell.

Check out the Merrell 'Trails of Europe' komoot Collection here

Join our Sportsshoes x komoot community now to find inspiration, plan outdoor adventures and share your stories. Because it's no fun standing still.

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Find out more about trail running and hiking on our Hubs, or head to our Trail store and Outdoor store to make sure you have all the kit and advice you need to get started.

Related posts: Running the 7 Natural Wonders of the UK with Merrell | The Trail Hub | SportsShoes.com





 


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