Hiking is second nature to Norwegians. And with the vast and varied landscapes on their doorstep, it’s easy to see why…
From the white-sand beaches of the north to the dramatic mountains of the south, and the spectacular fjords in between, there’s something to suit hikers of all abilities and tastes.
The hiking season kicks off in spring, as the snow melts after a long winter, and lasts until around October. Peak season (from mid-June to the end of July) draws a crowd, so it’s best to hit the trails during weekdays instead of weekends for a better chance of having them to yourself. By autumn, you’ll find the paths pleasantly empty, as the leaves start to turn red and gold.
From mountains and coasts to forests and fjords, there are countless walks to choose from in Norway, ranging from hardcore hikes to softer trekking options. Here are five of our favourites that will have you lacing up your walking boots in no time.
Trolltunga, Hordaland, Western Fjord area
Jutting out 700 metres above lake Ringedal, this dramatic cliff is located deep in the fjord heartland, 170km east of Bergen. In English, the name translates as “troll tongue”; legend has it that a cheeky troll didn’t believe he would turn to stone when he stuck his tongue out to make fun of the rising sun – before he was suddenly turned to stone. The popularity of the hike to this ancient cliff has skyrocketed in recent years, and the waymarked, 27km round-trip from Skjeggedal is now one of the country’s most popular hiking trails. But be warned: this is not a mere walk in the park. On average, the route takes between 10 and 12 hours, with 1,000 metres of ascent. You’ll get good views of Trolltunga along the way. It’s best to visit from mid-June until mid-September, when the snow has melted in the surrounding mountains. And if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, hiking to Trolltunga in the middle of winter is a great option.
The Queen’s Route, Vesterålen, Northern Norway
In summer, Northern Norway benefits from the midnight sun – meaning you have no darkness and longer days in which enjoy this spectacular scenery by foot. Named after Queen Sonja, who first hiked this route in 1994, the 15km-long Queen’s Route is physically taxing, but is worth every effort, offering magnificent sea and mountain views. The path – which runs between the historic fishing villages of Nyksund and Stø – picks its way along the coastline, passing the white sands of Skipssanden and climbing up the rocky ridge to Finngamheia, the highest point on the trail at 448 metres, with panoramic vistas of the Atlantic Ocean. It takes most people between five and eight hours to complete the hike and offers a great variety of terrain, from marshland to shoreline.
Gaustatoppen, Telemark, Southern Norway
How about climbing the highest mountain in Southern Norway? At 1,883 metres above sea level, the summit of Gaustatoppen is not easy to reach. But the trek is only around 8km (4km each way) and can be done by both adults and children, as long as they are in decent shape. The route – which takes an average of four to five hours to complete – starts at Stavsro, 16km south-east of the town of Rjukan. Following the red Ts that mark the trail, children will love looking out for ancient stones etched with wave patterns, from when the mountain was at the bottom of an ocean. At the peak – usually reached in a couple of hours – there’s a cafe located in a 100-year-old stone cabin, and you can get your own stone stamped as proof that you’ve conquered the mountain.
Pulpit Rock, Ryfylke, Western Fjord area
Vistas don’t get much more dramatic than this. Towering a dizzying 604 metres over the Lysefjord, Preikestolen – or Pulpit Rock in English – is an ancient mountain plateau that was formed by the expansion of ice thousands of years ago. The first tourists ventured here at the beginning of the 20th century and since then it has become one of Norway’s most famous landmarks thanks to its sheer beauty and scale. Hiking to the vertigo-inducing, 25 by 25-metre ledge requires enough stamina to walk around 4km each way (7.6km total) from Preikestolen Mountain Lodge. It takes most people around three or four hours to complete the trail, which undulates and ascends 350 metres, and has some wild swimming spots along the way if you need to cool off. Once you reach the top, you’ll see for yourself why this spot frequently features on lists of the world’s most spectacular viewing points.
Kleivstua loop, Krokskogen forest, Oslo area
For a woodland walk that’s easily accessible from Oslo, head to the Krokskogen forest, a 300 square kilometre area stretching through Bærum, Sollihøgda and Jevnaker. Here you’ll find plenty of easy hikes, such as a 19km loop that can be split into three, manageable days, staying at different cabins along the way. Starting at Kleivstua, the circular walk takes you to the cabins Myrseter, Presthytta, and back to Kleivstua. The short legs are ideal for families or those not looking for a more leisurely paced hike and give you heaps of time to relax and explore the area, which is laced with hiking trails and bridleways. Look out for the highest points in the forest – Oppkuven, which stands at 704 metres, and Ringkollen, which is 702 metres tall. You can hike parts of the old road through Krokskogen, which opened in 1805, and was part of the King’s Road connecting Oslo to Bergen.