I had always dreamed of returning to Norway after a fleeting visit back in 2005. So, I decided to return to celebrate my birthday there, this year. Armed with eleven days off work, my plan was to take a road trip and see as much of the country as possible, focusing on their world-famous fjords and hiking trails. We were fortunate enough to tick off five of the best hikes in Norway during the epic trip.
Planning Your Norway Hiking Trip
To maximise the amount of time we had on the ground, we decided to fly directly into Stavanger, and leave Oslo, the capital, to the end. In eleven days, we managed to get as far north as Ålesund, cover five of the best hikes in Norway including Pulpit Rock, Kjeragbolten, Flørli Stairs,Trolltunga, and Rampestreken, before joining a Norway in a Nutshell tour from Bergen to Oslo.
The Best Hikes in Norway
Distance: 6km return | Elevation: 604m | Difficulty: Medium | Duration: 4 hrs | Season: May to October | Parking: About 200 Norwegian Crowns or $AUD25
The hike up Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock is one of the most famous in Norway and it was the perfect introduction to our adventure in Norway. It’s about 6 kilometres long and takes a good four hours to do the return route. It’s considered a fairly easy hike, at least by Norwegian standards, and comprises wooden walkways, dirt paths and stone steps. There were a lot of people doing the walk the day we went up and because the path is so well-marked, there was no fear of getting lost.
Having started the morning in Stavanger, it was about midday before we finally arrived. During the hike up we dodged pups and people who were slower than us, and lagging behind fit locals as they powered up the mountain. The scenery was a mix of mildly dense vegetation, rocky outcrops and dozens of icy rock pools. We had a cool, grey day which made the mildly challenging climb pleasant and then, as if our arrival at the top had been announced to the gods, the sky opened up. It became bright and sunny just in time.
We were so excited for our first glimpse of the rock. It was even better than we had expected. Towering some 600 metres above Lysefjord, the huge plateau is the perfect place for fantastic views. It also provides for all sorts of silly photos.
We spend some time at the Pulpit before we continue on, further up the mountain, in search of better views. The extra effort paid off, because a bit of a way up we found a fantastic vantage point of the crowded rock below. We probably spent a couple of hours up there exploring before beginning our relatively quick trip back down and preparing for our onward journey to Lysbotyn.
Distance: 10km | Elevation: 1084m | Difficulty: Challenging | Duration: Five hrs | Season: June to September | Parking: About $AUD25
The hike up to Kjerag has got to be one of Norway’s most famous. Without a doubt it was hardest hike we did for The Fit Traveller, but it was one of the most rewarding.
Firstly, take a look at the road up the mountain; a 29 kilometre steep road punctuated with 32 hairpin turns. That’s before you even get to the start of the hike. The starting point is Øygardstøl. There’s a cafe and carpark at the top of the mountain to psych yourself up before beginning the 12 kilometre hike.
We’d been warned only to do the hike in the summer months. Unsurprisingly, the road is closed during the winter and the climb is pretty much impossible. We we set off we soon worked out why. To say the first section of the hike is steep and slippery would be an understatement. You basically have to haul yourself up using some low-slung chains. This hike isn’t for the faint-hearted. Add to this the strong winds and horizontal rain, and you’ll get a bit of a picture of what we were up against. Thankfully, we knew the first section was the most challenging and we’d heard if we could do that, we’d be able easily be able to complete the hike.
Eventually the incline plateaued out and the hike opened out into an expansive green valley. It was fairly easy-going from then on, with only a few more steep sections. The walk is fairly well-marked and because there were plenty of people doing it, it wasn’t too hard to find out where we were supposed to be going.
We made it to the top in exactly two hours, a feat we may have been able to do more quickly, had it not been for the adverse weather. The clouds were low and there was still a fair bit of snow on the mountain and so it really wasn’t until we were right in front Kjeragbolten that we knew we had arrived.
So there it was; Kjeragbolten, a giant boulder wedged in a mountain crevasse, 1084 metres above Lysefjorden. The tough clamber up suddenly became worth it. It was freezing and snowy and blowing a gale but we couldn’t leave without getting the coveted picture on top of the bolder – so against better judgement, I braved the weather and trapezed out onto the rock. The rock was icy, wet and freezing cold, with the waterfall below blowing upwards. But it was worth it. Terrifying, yes. But worth it. It also made the precariously climb back down the mountain worthwhile. We had a quick stop at the cafe at Øygardstøl for a quick celebratory beer and to thaw out before embarking on our next mission – the road down to Lysbotyn.
Distance: 4.8 km | Elevation: 741 m | Difficulty: Challenging | Duration: 3 hrs | Season: Spring/summer
Flørli is famous for its 4444 step wooden staircase. It’s the longest of its kind in the world. Like everywhere else in Norway, the hike affords amazing views of the luscious Lysefjord. We hadn’t really planned on doing the Flørli stairs. But we had a day up our sleeves, and the hike was close to where we were staying in Lysbotn.
Half of the mission is actually getting to Flørli. It’s only 20-odd minutes from Lysbotn, but there are only a couple of ferries passing-by a day. Of those, only two provide viable options if you want to do the hike as a day trip.
Two companies service the route: Kolumbus and TheFjords. Kolombus runs from Lysbotyn at 0720, 1530 and 1745; with returns from Flørli at 1445 and 1730. TheFjords leaves Lysebotn at 1200 and returns at 1645. But here’s the catch, and a hard-learned lesson by us. TheFjords is a big tourist boat, with commentary and the rest. It’ll set you back about $75 per person, return. Kolombus, however, will only cost you $15.
Because we had completed the long and challenging hike to Kjeragbolten the day before we decided to have a lazy morning and head over on the midday boat. Little did we know, that our sleep-in would cost us 50 dollars. You can take cars on both boats (for an extra cost), and the trip takes a quick 15-30 minutes
So, practical information aside, before we knew it, we were there, at Flørli, staring up at the seemingly endless staircase stretching ahead of us. We wasted no time in getting started, and with a spring in our step we headed on up. As we continued, the spring in our step started to slacken as the monotony of climbing 4444 stairs started to settle in. This wasn’t going to be as easy as we had anticipated. We eventually hit the 1000 step mark, and then the 2000 step and then the halfway mark. There are plenty of opportunities for rest stops, offering amazing views while you relax your tired legs.
While for the most part, the rain held off, it was a pretty cold and dreary, grey day, but the constant climbing kept us warm and was a good incentive for us to keep going. Eventually, we hit the 4000 mark and finally, at 4444 steps, and with legs like jelly, we made it. We made it to the top in exactly 1.5 hours, and that includes rest stops! We didn’t have a whole lot of time, because we didn’t want to miss our boat back, and so after a quick photo stop, we began our next task – working out how to get back down.
All the information we’d read had advised against trying to back-track down the steep stairs. Based on our experience of climbing up, we weren’t game on risking it. So in lieu of the stairs, we found a bit of a path that looked as though it was leading back down the mountain. It’s not really as clearly marked or obvious as some of the other hikes that we’d done, but we knew the general direction we had to head, and we knew that we wanted to be going down. The trip down may have been harder than the trip up. It switched between rocky outcrops, rushing rivers and waterfalls and muddy expanses. And it was just about as steep as our climb up. But the fantastic views continued, and we had a boat to catch, so we maintained our motivation.
We hit the bottom around 1545 – completing the entire hike in a good three hours, and giving us just enough time for a rest and a snack. There’s not a great deal else to do in Flørli, and while you can spend the night there, we were glad we were on the 1645 train back to Lysbotyn.
For more information on how to get to and from Flørli, as well as food and accommodation options, check out the town’s official website.
Distance: 22km | Elevation: 900 m | Difficulty: Strenuous | Duration: 10-12 hrs | Season: June to September | Parking: About $AUD35. You’ll also need to catch the shuttle to the start of the hike
When it comes to the best hikes in Norway, Trolltunga will likely always make the list due to its Instagram-fame. Hiking to Trolltunga was also the most challenging and the most rewarding of the hikes we did in Norway. We thought we were doing well with time by getting to the car park at the foot of the mountain at 830 in the morning. But, we soon realised there were already hundreds of people ahead of us. The lower car park at Skjeggedal was already full, and there was a bit of a slow wait to be directed up to an overflow car park.
The hike is challenging from the get-go: 20 extremely steep, hairpin bends ascend to another carpark. From there, the hike begins in earnest. There’s a kilometre of tough and uneven stone steps, leading further up the mountain. From there, the trail levels out a bit. We took a moment to catch our breath before continuing on, dodging muddy puddles, crossing streams and creeks and clambering over rocks and boulders. The higher we got the better the views became, with craggy volcanic rocks surrounding glassy crater lakes. While we were very lucky to have been blessed with blue sunny skies, there was still a bit of snow about which helped us keep cool, and made for some fab photos.
Finally, a little under four hours after we set off, we caught our first glimpse of Trolltunger – a thin sliver of rock jutting precariously out over Lake Ringedalsvatnet. Ten or so minutes later we were there. We spent a bit of time taking photos of the Troll’s Tongue, before joining the long line to climb out on to it. We waited a good half-hour but the wait was definitely worth it. The views from Trolltunga were breathtaking, but definitely not for the faint-hearted. The rock juts out impossibly from the mountainside, with nothing but air between you and lake Ringedalsvatnet, 700 metres below. We got our snaps, before racing back to safety for a bit more time relaxing and soaking up the views.
Around 1430, six hours after setting off, we decided to begin the long hike back down the mountain. It wasn’t easy – the hike down took us about 3.5 hours, but we had just enough time for a quick drink before getting the bus back to the car park. Before long, we were back in Odda (about 7km from the car park at the start of the hike) enjoying a beer and gorging on a much deserved pizza.
Distance: 2 km | Elevation: 715 m | Difficulty: Challenging | Duration: 3 hrs | Season: April-November
It’s funny, we hadn’t exactly planned to hike up Nesaksla. We knew there was a lookout with fab views, but were totally unprepared for the mission-and-a-half it was to get to the top. But like with everything, no pain, no gain. Our reward in this scenario, was the stunning 360 degree panoramic view of Åndalsnes down below.
I’d read that parking was an issue in Åndalsnes with strictly enforced time limits. So, when we finally arrived (Google sends you to the wrong address, but a handwritten sign there points you in the right direction), we were apprehensive about parking. We saw a lot of cars parked in an old, abandoned petrol station. It looked far from official, but it was a Friday morning, so we decided to throw caution to the wind.
From the get go we should have guessed this was going to be more than a walk in the park. Within a few minutes an old iron walkway gave way to a steep climb through thick, muddy vegetation. The track is well sign-posted with boards about every 100 metres telling you how high you are, how far you’ve come and how far you’ve got to go. While there are ample branches to hold on to, and roots to gain footholds in, it was still a fairly challenging hike.
Around 430 metres above sea level, we found saviour in the shape of big stone steps, apparently laid by Nepalese Sherpas. We continued another 150 steps before, eventually, at 580 metres, we made it. We’d arrived at the lookout. It’s a long metal drawbridge-style platform, protruding from the mountainside. As well as fantastic views of the town below and fjord in front of you, we were rewarded with expansive blue skies and vistas of turquoise water.
As tough as the hike was, and as unprepared as we were, we decided to continue on, with the hope of reaching Nesaksla, the peak of the mountain. At 715 metres above sea level, we reached the top.
The blue skies were holding out, but it certainly was a lot more windy on the exposed craggy mountain top.We had a good rest, relaxing and taking in the views, before signing the summit log and starting our long descent back down the mountain.
The hike took us about two hours up and about 1.5 hours back down again. While you can easily stop at the lookout, we figured that we’d come this far, and might as well continue on to the summit. It’s pretty easy hike in the way of being well signposted, but it’s definitely not an easy walk up. It’s a very steep incline, and it’s fairly tough on the knees making your way back down again. There were a few people about, but the hike was far less busy than some of the others we’d done but easily still one of the best hikes in Norway.