Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Kungsklyftan and Vetteberget

View of Fjallbacka from Vetteberget
2 km round trip, 70 meters elevation gain
Difficulty: Easy-moderate
Access: Paved, narrow road to trailhead; parking limited in Fjallbacka

The best view of Fjallbacka- one of the most charming and picturesque towns along Sweden's rocky Bohuslan Coast- is from the top of the great dome of Vetteberget, which overlooks the tidy red-roofed town and its nearby archipelago and fjords. While there are multiple routes to reach the top of Vetteberget, none is more dramatic than the Kungsklyftan- a deep gorge bisecting the rock of Vetteberget that leads to the staircase climb to this rocky hill's grand summit. While not particularly difficult, this hike does involve climbing quite a few stairs and some uneven footing and the conditions atop Vetteberget can be extremely windy. This is a must-do for all visitors to Fjallbacka and was one of the loveliest spots on the west coast of Sweden.

Fjallbacka is a small and indescribably lovely town along the Bohuslan Coast, just under two hours of driving north of Gothenburg. While it was quiet during my May visit- which is still during the off season- in summer it can apparently become quite busy as one of Sweden's most beloved coastal towns. Ingrid Bergman, the elegant Hollywood leading lady of the 1940s who starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, spent the later years of her life in this idyllic seaside town. 

Anna and I hiked through the Kungsklyftan and up Vetteberget during a May visit to Sweden. We stayed at the Bryggan Fjallbacka, which is in the heart of town and just steps away from the trailhead of the Kungsklyftan hike. For visitors just in town for the day, there are pay parking lots along Falkevagen up the hill from the center of town.

From the Bryggan Fjallbacka, we walked south along the waterfront, passing a monument to Ingrid Bergman. Right after passing the monument and a children's playground, we made a left and headed for an arched gateway at the base of the Vetteberget's cliffs: this was the start of the path through the Kungsklyftan. The path immediately began a steep, rocky staircase climb through the forested entrance to the Kungsklyftan gorge; there were nice views back down towards the Fjallbacka harbor.

At the top of the rocky staircase, the trail leveled out in the heart of the Kungsklyftan gorge. This narrow cleft in Vetteberget was extraordinarily dramatic: massive, house-sized boulders were lodged between the great vertical cliffs. The trail passed underneath the boulders, following wooden planks that made footing while traversing the rocky bottom of the gorge a little easier. 

After 200 meters of hiking up the staircase and through the Kungsklyftan gorge, we arrived at the base of a wooden staircase. This staircase- built into the side of the cliff- ascended from the gorge up to the rocky summit plateau of Vetteberget. From the base of the staircase, the exit out the far side of the Kungsklyftan gorge was visible- we were just a few meters away from the houses on the south side of the mountain. Instead of exiting, however, we headed up the staircase.  

Stairway up Vetteberget
The wooden stairs were quite steep, so we had to pause for a break a little over halfway up; we were rewarded with ever-improving views. Below us lay the colorful houses of Fjallbacka, which spilled down the hill to the harbor, rose a myriad of rocky islands that make up the Fjallbacka archipelago. Beyond the farthest of the islands lay the vast and cold North Sea.

View from Vetteberget

Colorful Fjallbacka
The staircase ended at Vetteberget's summit plateau, where the trail faded out onto the granite. In May, the winds at the summit were intense, with a steady gale whipping across Vetteberget from the North Sea. However strong the winds were, the spectacular views made the views atop the staircase worth it: below us lay the idyllic seaside town, sandwiched between the cliffs and a fjord, with infinite rocky islands stretching towards the horizon.

The top of the staircase was not the high point of Vetteberget; the true high point of this rocky hill was unclear, but as the views off the sides of the cliffs were most interesting, missing the high point did not seem like anything to be concerned about. Instead, we chose to explore the northern side of Vetteberget to see if we could find views over the central part of Fjallbacka and its stately stone church. We could see a high point on the northern side of the rock but there was no direct path to reach it from the top of staircase- multiple areas of bushy vegetation made a direct traverse of the rocky plateau impractical. Instead, we followed the western cliffs of the mountain and then circled around to the viewpoint on the north side of the rock.

Fjallbacka Archipelago

Looking out into the Fjallbacka Archipelago
Arriving on the north side of Vetteberget, we had the most picturesque view of Fjallbacka. Seventy meters below us lay the red roofs and white walls of this coastal town, which was bounded by rocky cliffs on three sides and the sea by the fourth, with the town's great church rising behind it. The scenery from this viewpoint had some satisfying balance: on one side, a rocky landscape and on the other, the sea.

Fjallbacka from Vetteberget
I did this hike twice during my stay in Fjallbacka. The most straightforward return route from the summit is to retrace your steps down the Kungsklyftan, but an alternate route is to turn left and exit the south side of the Kungsklyftan. The trail ends on the residential street of Brandgatan; we followed Brandgatan downhill through the red-roofed houses until we came to Sodra Hamngatan by the water. We turned right onto waterfront road and followed it north along the base of Vetteberget until we returned to our lodging at Bryggan Fjallbacka.

In high tourist season, perhaps this hike is busier and somewhat less pleasant. During our cold and windy May visit, we had these views more or less to ourselves even though the town was just a stone's throw away. We both found Fjallbacka and the Bohuslan Coast to be charming and the views from Vetteberget were surely among the best views that we found along the coast. Recommended if you visit this corner of Sweden.