Right of public access to nature

The right (and wrong) of Public Access in Sweden
The Swedish countryside is open to everyone. You are free to enjoy its beauty, the smells, fresh air, birdsong and quiet of the forest. BUT! You must respect the natural environment, and show consideration for wildlife and people.

Do not disturb, or cause damage
That is the basic rule associated with Sweden ́s Right of Public Access. Exactly what it means is described below, along with the privileges that the right implies.

Respect the privacy of others
You are welcome nearly everywhere in the Swedish countryside, whether on foot, skis, bicycle or horseback. But you must be careful not to damage natural features or private property. One must not interfere with the activities of landowners or intrude upon the privacy of residents, for instance by passing too near a home. Nor is it permitted to cross fields, tree plantations and other areas where there is a risk that crops or soil may be damaged. It is especially important to be careful with mountain bikes, partly by choosing routes that limit damage to the land; the same applies to horseback riding. In addition, be sure to close any pasture gates you may pass through.

Motor vehicles forbidden
It is not permitted to operate cars, motorcycles and other motor vehicles on open terrain, which is defined as any off-road area of natural land. It is not allowed to operate motor vehicles even if the landowner grants permission. However, parking is temporarily allowed at the side of roadways where traffic regulations permit, provided that no damage is done to the ground and that access is not impeded. Motor vehicles are forbidden on many private roads, which are usually posted with signs saying, for example, "Ej motorfordon".

It is permitted to set up a tent for one or two days on any appropriate site which is at an unintrusive distance from private dwellings, and which does not pose a risk of disturbance to others. Obviously, campsites are not permitted at any location where the ground surface may be damaged or the landowner may be inconvenienced. Avoid camping on grazing land; one never knows what kind of animals will be let out in the morning. It is always best to ask permission from the nearest farm; this is a requirement if the campsite includes more than one tent. Even greater consideration is required when spending the night in a caravan or motor home. Such vehicles are forbidden by law from parking on open terrain.

Fire prevention
A discarded cigarette can set an entire forest alight. The lighting of fires is often forbidden during the summer months when risks are high, even in specially constructed fireplaces. Information about fire restrictions may be obtained from tourist offices and camping facilities. At other times, however, it is permitted to light small campfires if caution is observed. The site chosen must be suitable - for example, with a base of gravel or sand and proximity to a source of water. Do not light fires on bare rock; the heat can result in ugly cracks that never heal. Fires should not be lit when there is the slightest risk that sparks may be carried by the wind to nearby woods or fields. Before leaving, douse with water until the fire has been thoroughly extinguished. If a fire spreads out of control, call the emergency number 112 as quickly as possible.

Leave no trace
Never leave rubbish in fireplaces or anywhere else, and do not make any carvings on wind shelters, trees or rocks. Obviously, littering and vandalism are strictly forbidden. Rubbish left in the countryside is not only unsightly; it can also result in injury to humans and other animals. Remnants of fishing line, for example, can kill birds and small mammals. For the benefit of all who follow after, leave no traces of your visit to the Swedish countryside.

Consideration for animals
Encounters with animals add spice to the experience of nature. Even wild animals have a right to peace and privacy. You are welcome to observe, but not to disturb. For example, avoid lingering or camping too near the dwellings of birds. Be alert to the needs of animals: if a mother is scared off, her offspring may not survive. It is for this reason that dogs are not allowed to run loose from March 1 until August 20, the time of year when animals are most vulnerable. Especially sensitive areas are protected as bird sanctuaries. Most of Sweden ́s sanctuaries are located in archipelagos and near lakes and wetlands. Bird sanctuaries are off-limits to humans during certain times of the year, which are indicated on yellow or red and yellow signs posted in the respective areas.

Picking flowers and berries
You are not allowed to take twigs, branches, bark, leaves, acorns, nuts or resin from growing trees. And of course you may not uproot bushes or cut down trees. You may, however, pick wild berries, flowers and mushrooms, and pick up fallen branches and dry twigs from the ground. Certain flowers are so rare that they are in danger of extinction. Such flowers are protected and may not be picked. Orchids are protected everywhere in the country. Additional information on protected plants is available from the County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen).

Dogs may accompany their owners in the countryside, but they are not allowed to run free during the period from March 1-August 20 every year, when wildlife is at its most vulnerable. Even a good-natured dog can cause a great deal of harm by its mere presence, and dogs must be kept under careful watch and control at all times of the year in order to prevent unnecessary disturbance or harm to wildlife.

Fishing and public access to water resources
Swimming, boating and going ashore are permitted along most shorelines, except where special restrictions apply. Anchoring for the night is subject to the same rules as those for camping on land. It is permitted to stay in the same location for a day or two, as long as local residents and boat traffic are not disturbed. Sport fishing with hand gear is free and open to all along the shores of the sea and the five largest lakes, Vänern, Mälaren Storsjön and Hjälmaren. Elsewhere, a fishing permit is required. Anglers must show consideration for the local population and commercial fishermen, among other things by not fishing too near their equipment. Due to the fact that some waters are infected with a crayfish disease, canoes, boats, fishing gear and other equipment must be thoroughly disinfected before transfer between affected lakes and rivers. The preferred treatment is a solution of one part water to three parts "T-röd" alcohol. Signs that include the word "kräftpest" designate infected waters.

Protected areas
For national parks and nature reserves, special rules regarding the right of public access may apply. These often involve restrictions on fires, camping, cycling, horseback riding and the presence of dogs. Similar regulations may apply to shorelines that are heavily trafficked by tourists, such as canoe routes. There are usually signs that specify local regulations. The boundaries of protected areas are indicated by white stars attached to trees, posts and signs. Tourist offices can provide information about nature reserves and other parts of the Swedish landscape that are worth a visit.