Swedish Right of Public Access

About the Right of Public Access

Sweden has alot of mountains, forests, archipelagos, rivers, lakes, and beaches for you to discover. But what makes the Swedish nature so special is the right of public access, which is regulated in law, and provides everyone in Sweden – visitors as well as inhabitants – the right to roam freely in the outdoors, public as well as privately owned land.

Deep Wild Scandinavia has compiled this guide on the Swedish right of public access. We wish to welcome you to Sweden and Scandinavia and to enjoy the great outdoors.

To give you an idea what this unique right of access means to the Swedes, we even listed the whole country on Airbnb and the Prime Minister of Sweden says he likes to chop wood in his summerhouse in the north of Sweden. He also enjoys skipping stones on a beautiful lake and walking in one of the grand forests.

Freedom to Roam

Whenever you visit Sweden you have the right to walk, cycle, paddle, ride, ski and camp on any land that is not private gardens, close to a dwelling house or land that is being used for cultivation. This is the Freedom to Roam. A unique right that also come with responsibilities to take care of nature, the wildlife and show consideration to landowners, professionals, and others enjoying the nature. The golden rule is ‘Don’t disturb – Don’t destroy’.

With an area almost twice as large as the United Kingdom, Sweden only has about 15% of the population. That leaves a lot of uninhabited land and you are never far from nature. Even the bigger cities are full of natural parks and close to nature reserves and open landscapes. In fact, there are about 4500 nature reserves in the country with a total area of 44 000 km2, with 75% of the area being spread out in the mountain range to the north west. For reference, the same amount in the UK is 411 national nature reserves.

The do’s and don’ts

With the golden rule of ‘Don’t disturb – don’t destroy’, we have gathered a list of what you can and cannot do in practice.

 

In Short:

  • You are allowed to enter any land except private residences, the immediate vicinity of a dwelling house and cultivated land.
  • You can put up a tent, and stay one or a few nights depending on location.
  • You are allowed to make a fire, unless there is a fire ban.
  • You are allowed to pick fire wood on the ground, but not break anything that is alive.
  • You are allowed to catch fish in the five biggest lakes and also along the coastline.
  • You can access any beach unless you enter private residences, you are also allowed to swim in any lake.
  • Collecting flowers, mushrooms and berries is allowed.

Just remember that each nature reserve and national park can have their own rules and regulations.

Need help?

Deep Wild Scandinavia has a lot of experience with guiding tours and arranging courses in the nordic outdoors. Of course, we can customize the experience according to your needs.
Please contact us and we will tell you more.

Hiking and skiing

You can walk or ski almost anywhere in nature, but there are some exceptions. You may not be on the immediate vicinity of a dwelling house, and you may not walk over cultivated land. The Freedom to Roam is not eligible on golf courses, airports or similar facilities. However, if the land is not a facility in a judicial term, that means that there is nothing stopping you from entering.
How close you can pass by a house depends on the risk of disturbance. There is no defined minimum distance.

Camping

You are allowed to camp at the same site one or a few nights in a row. Remember not to disturb the land owner or damaging the nature.
Try to choose land that is durable and not used for farming or pasture. The campsite may not be close to a dwelling house.

If you are planning to stay at the same place, using a few tents it is allowed, but if you plan to camp with larger groups or many tents you need the landowners permission. This is because the risk of damages to the land or sanitary nuisances.

Camping in urban parks and recreational areas may be forbidden, so unless you are far away from the closest civilisation, you would do best with contacting the police or the council.

Making fires

As long as you do it under safe conditions, you are allowed to make a camp fire for cooking, light and warmth or just coziness. A campfire spices up the outdoor life and is often referred to as ‘the wilderness TV’, drawing people close together. But it is also a worry for landowners. Every year, valuable forests are devastated by carelessness with campfires.

It is important to choose a place for the fire where there is no risk of spreading or damaging land and vegetation. Gravel or sandy soil is a suitable surface.
Moss, peatland or earthy woodland is less good. There is not only the risk that the fire can easily spread. It may also lie down in the ground to later flare up.
Do not make a fire directly on – or close by – mountain hills or larger blocks of stone! They break apart and get wounds that never heal.

If there is reason for high fire risk, there may be a fire ban. For example, in dry weather. It is the county administrative board or the municipality’s rescue service that issues a fire ban. Then all open fire is forbidden, even burning in ready-made fireplaces.
Often campsites and tourist agencies can report the fire risk.

Organized outdoor activities

Organized outdoor activities, such as nature tourism, are possible thanks to the Right of Public Access. The Right of Public Access is linked to the individual, not to groups. Therefore, organizers of organized activities in nature have a special responsibility.

It is about having good knowledge of the Freedom to Roam and you also need to inform participants about what is applicable.

If you organize activities on other’s land you are also required to carry out protective and precautionary measures to avoid damage and other inconveniences. Select the appropriate location for the activity to prevent the risk of injury and other inconveniences. Building a large tent camp is one activity that may need consultation with the land owner, for example.

If you are planning an organized outdoor activity, Deep Wild can help with the in-country logistics, permits and boots on the ground support.

Planning a trip?

Deep Wild Scandinavia has a lot of experience and a wide network for running organised tours throughout Scandinavia. We work in the forests, on the mountains and by the rivers year round and would love to guide you to your next adventure.

Climbing

Climbing an obvious part of Swedish outdoor life and according to law, you can climb the whole year. But there are some parts of climbing, which requires that you pay particular attention to animals and nature.

During the spring birds will be hatched on cliffs and in crevices. In some cases, only a small disturbance can mean that the chicks do not survive. It is therefore both important and your duty to respect any restrictions.
If there are no restrictions, you will still need to cancel the climb and remove yourself when you notice warning cries or other signs that nesting birds are disturbed.

Climbing as activity is a bit special because fine rock and climbing environments are also environments for unusual animal and plant species. It is therefore important for climbers to have knowledge that helps prevent damage to nature.

Hunting and fishing

Neither hunting nor fishing is part of the Right of Public Access. However, it still has great importance for both the hunting and the recreational fishing. They belong to our most common leisure activities. About a million Swedish fish and more than 320,000 persons hunt during their free time.

In general, the principle applies to show consideration and not to disturb or destroy. To prevent, disturb and interfere with hunting or fishing is prohibited. Likewise, it is forbidden to intentionally disturb wildlife.

You may use a private jetty on an occasional basis provided it does not adjoin the grounds of a house, but of course you must move on if the owner needs to use it.
Other than this, the basic rules of the Right of Public Access apply: show consideration, don’t disturb, don’t destroy.

Swimming, boating and driving on ice

The Right of Public Access applies to land and on water. You can swim by beaches, ride a boat almost everywhere, moor and spend some days in the boat. The requirements for environmental considerations are the same as on land. Not disturb not destroy!

You may go ashore, swim, anchor and temporarily moor on a beach that is not close to a dwelling house or protected by birdlife or otherwise. The risk of interference determines how close a house you can stay.
There are no rules about the minimum distance. Nor are there any rule as to how long you can anchor in the same place. Usually apply the same principle as for tenting – a few nights.
To temporarily stay or swim at a jetty that is outside of a plot is not prohibited. One condition is, of course, that the owner of the bridge is not prevented from using his bridge.

You are traveling on ice largely to the same extent as on open water. Ice is not classified as terrain, which means there is no ban on driving on ice with power-driven vehicles. However, the county administrative board may issue a ban on such driving if decided necessary with regard to nature conservation or outdoor life.

Rules for driving on ice are common in local traffic regulations. The municipality or the police can provide more information about a local traffic regulation.

Cycling

Biking in nature is beautiful and according to law you can ride bicycles both in nature and on individual roads. But keep in mind that you do not cycle over land, planting or land that can easily be damaged!

You are not allowed to bike over plantations, gardens, park plants, forest plantations and other sensitive areas, such as fields with growing crops. Cycling on individual roads is allowed. Landowners may not set up signs that prohibit cycling.

By adjusting your route and riding technique, you do not damage the field unnecessarily.

 

Keep in mind:

  • Avoid soft trails, especially in spring and fall when wet in the fields
  • Avoid cycling over sensitive soil types. Examples are mountain hills with mosses and lichens, soft meadows, mosses and marshes.
  • Coarse tires easily damage paths and fragile land.

Private roads

Individual roads are important for outdoor life and public access. By individual roads you can easily reach bathing lakes and fishing waters, berries and lush greenery.

Motor traffic can cause heavy wear on a single road. Therefore, the owner of the road can decide whether traffic with motor vehicles should be banned on the road. However, the owner can not prohibit anyone from walking, cycling or riding on the road unless the road is damaged.

Dogs in the nature

Feel free to bring the dog to nature. But in order to protect wild mammals and birds, there are greater requirements for the dog owners. During March 1 to August 20, you must keep your dog under extreme care when you are in the wild. In the law, it says that dogs should be prevented from running loose in fields where there is wildlife.

Orientation and geocaching

You can walk or run almost everywhere in nature. With the landowner’s permission you can also place controls and geocaches (a kind of “treasure”) in forest and land. However, there are some exceptions to not disturb and not destroy.

Orientation, most of us know about – with the help of map and compass, we look for certain controls. Geocaching is sometimes called “treasure hunt with GPS” or a modern form of hiding key in nature. Using a satellite navigator (GPS) and positions, you are looking for a deployed cache. This has become a very popular activity and is practiced today throughout the country.

If the controls or caches remain for a shorter period, for example during an exercise or competition, this should be possible without consulting the landowner. If they want to sit out for a long time, consult the landowner.

Picking flowers, berries and mushrooms

You can freely pick flowers, berries and mushrooms in nature. But be aware that some plants are protected and therefore cannot be picked. Special rules apply in national parks and nature reserves.

In the law, the plants which are forbidden to pick without the landowner’s condition is counted. The legal text is age-old and it must sometimes be interpreted with common sense. Mosses and lichens are not included in the text, but may probably be picked. But not in large quantities and not for sale. Clearly, you cannot cut down or otherwise damage growing trees. Shrubs are not mentioned in the law, but it is barely allowed to take a single bush, for example. It is not allowed to knock stone out of mountains. Rocks are not allowed to bring without the landlord’s consent. However, picking up some smaller stones from nature can hardly be counted as criminal.

Picking berries is permitted under public law, even on a large scale and for sale. But it must not cause unreasonable problems for the landowner.

Riding horses

You are allowed to ride in nature. But the horse’s weight increases the risk of damage to forest, land or road. As a rider, therefore, you need to pay extra attention when riding on another’s ground. The person responsible for recurrent riding tours should have a continuous dialogue with the relevant landowners.

 

In addition, you should keep in mind that:

  • Do not ride in forest plantations.
  • Avoid riding on soft trails and on trails usually used for hiking and exercise. Also do not ride in marked or uphill ski tracks.
  • Avoid riding over fragile land such as meadows and hills, lowlands and marshes.
  • Pay special attention during spring and autumn when it is soft in the fields.
  • The horses’ hooves can damage the roots of the firs. Then there can be root rot in the tree so that the wood is destroyed.

Fences and signs

You are entitled to be in nature independently who owns the land. That is the foundation for the Right of Public Access. Therefore, a landowner may not set fences to close out people from land where public access is applicable.

You are allowed to cross the fencing to reach the land where the right of access applies. Landowners may have to tear a fence if it is set up only to prevent the public. It is a municipality or county administrative board that takes this type of decision. You may not take the law in your own hands and cut holes in the fence.

Some landowners set up signs to shut out the public. These may be “Private Land”, “No trespassing”, and the like. The municipality must grant permission if a sign of this kind is to be set up.

Protected areas

In protected areas, for example in national parks or nature reserves, there are special regulations for the protection of nature and culture. The regulations may mean that the Right of Public Access is limited. But sometimes it can also be expanded.

At last

The right to public access (allemansrätten) also comes with a responsibility that we all share to protect. Only by following the right to public access, by not disturbing or distroying, can we make sure the society allows us to keep this ancient right.

Would you like help with outdoor activities?

Deep Wild Scandinavia has a lot of experience and a wide network for running organised tours throughout Scandinavia. We work in the forests, on the mountains and by the rivers year round and would love to guide you to your next adventure.

If you have any further questions regarding the right of public acces, we are happy to tell you more during a guided tour. Of course, we can also come to your organisation or company and hold a presentation about the Swedish right of public access.

 

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