Top Norway Hiking Trails
After a year of pandemic-induced shutdowns, most of us are ready to dust off that passport, pack a bag, and find some distant locale to explore. Cities and resorts may be seeing a surge of activity from people looking to get back to some normalcy, but many travelers are now seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures. Hiking vacations allow people to socially distance themselves from others while enjoying the best that nature has to offer.
And one of the best travel destinations for hiking and trekking? Norway. It is arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with mesmerizing fjords, legendary Viking haunts, and strikingly beautiful landscapes contributing to its allure. This Nordic country consistently ranks in the top ten for happiest countries around the globe. And though hiking likely isn’t part of the criteria for that decision, perhaps it should be. This rugged country, shaped and transformed over millennia from ice age activity, contains some of the most scenic vistas in the world —many only visible when hiking.
For many of us, we travel to experience the “best of” during our short visits abroad. So, through no small feat, we have narrowed down the seemingly endless list of destinations in this Scandinavian wonderland and compiled six of our top Norway hiking trails.
1. St Olav Ways (St. Olavsleden)
Length: 100 – 400 miles | Difficulty: Moderate | Elevation Gain: varies
St. Olav Ways is the world’s northernmost pilgrimage route. Unlike other popular routes, like the Camino in Spain, this relatively unknown route sees far less traffic. If you attempt this pilgrimage, you’ll have seven routes from which to choose. The most popular, and the longest at 400 miles, is Gudbrandsdalen Path which runs from Oslo to Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral. This route passes through Dovrefjell National Park, an alpine ecosystem that is also home to muskox and reindeer.
No matter which of the seven St. Olavsleden routes you choose, you are sure to find solitude on this modern pilgrimage to the large Gothic cathedral. And while it’s possible to hike the entire trail, it’s also possible to hike sections of this ancient route. Even those that walk the last 100km to Nidaros Cathedral still qualify for the coveted Olav Letter.
One aspect that makes this trek so spectacular is its history. In 1030, King Olav II was killed at the Battle of Stiklestad. His body was carried from the battlefield to Trondheim where he was laid to rest. A year later, the slain Viking king was exhumed and legend has it that his tomb smelled of roses. Soon after, the pilgrimages began.
2. Mountains to Fjords Hut to Hut
Length: 37 miles | Difficulty: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 10,000 + (over 8 days)
If you’re looking for a rugged overnight hiking experience that doesn’t require you to carry copious amounts of gear, a Norwegian hut-to-hut tour is just the ticket. Wildland Trekking’s 8-day trip in the “home of the giants” (Jotunheimen National Park) is the perfect way to immerse yourself amongst the Park’s more than 250 mountains, some of which reach over 8,000 feet towards the sky. On this trip, the mileage varies from day to day but the scenery always compensates you for the effort invested.
Jotunheimen delivers towering peaks, mountain passes, alpine lakes, and even the possibility of spotting a herd of reindeer. One of the unique features found throughout Norway are the stave churches. These large wooden churches once numbered in the hundreds across the country. Today, only a few dozen of these wooden structures survive, including the 800-year-old Borgund Stave Church, which you’ll see on day six of this trip.
This itinerary also includes one of Norway’s most popular hikes, Besseggen Ridge. As you traverse the narrow ridge between two alpine lakes, you will quickly understand the meaning of the word “giants” as you walk in the shadow of the country’s tallest peaks.
3. Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock)
Length: 5 miles | Difficulty: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
And what’s a church without a pulpit? Perched almost 2,000-feet above the water, Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) is one of Norway’s premier overlooks. The largely flat surface, roughly 80 by 80 feet, will likely beckon you to deliver some profound words as you stand atop this lofty perch.
With that said, it might be hard to commune with nature and your lofty surroundings, as this is one of the most visited spots in the country. And while the destination does attract a daily crowd, it is possible to avoid the masses. Consider leaving the trailhead pre-dawn (for a 4km one-way hike) and arriving for a stunning sunrise and less of a congregation. Or perhaps, just leave later in the afternoon to enjoy a sunset. Either way, make sure to carry a headlamp and wear the proper attire for the trek.
4. Musk Ox Trail, Dovrefjell National Park
Length: 3 – 9 miles | Difficulty: Easy to Moderate | Elevation Gain: varies
Located in central Norway, Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park is an alpine ecosystem home to the muskox. These creatures, originally brought to Norway from Greenland, used to roam this region in the early 1900s. The small herd was wiped out by the late 1930s, but then reintroduced to the park after World War II. Today, Dovrefell is the most accessible location in the world to observe this ancient animal. While you’re hiking, keep an eye out for native species like reindeer, wolverine, and the Arctic fox.
The weather in this immense Park can be unpredictable and harsh, which is part of the reason that the prehistoric muskox thrives here! We humans don’t do so well in these conditions. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared for ever-changing weather conditions while you hike.
5. Himmeltidden, Lofoten Islands
Length: 5 miles | Difficulty: Difficult | Elevation Gain: 3000 feet
Ask anyone who has been to Norway and the Lofoten Islands will likely be on their recommended list of must-see places. Nestled above the Arctic Circle, this chain of alluring islands is one of the most scenic locations in the entire country. Charming coastal villages meet rugged mountains that flow to the sea. Summers afford visitors the opportunity to experience the “Land of the Midnight Sun” for round-the-clock adventures.
One of the best ways to experience the beauty of this serene destination is through Wildland Trekking’s Inn-Based Tour. This 8-day itinerary features a variety of trails, including the hike to the summit of Himmeltinden. The view from the top of one of the area’s highest peaks affords unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and the Norwegian Sea. This all-inclusive trip allows hikers the opportunity to experience the best island treks while returning to the comfort of unique accommodations like oceanfront lodges and renovated fishermen’s cabins.
6. Patchellhytta Hut, Norangsdalen
Photo Courtesy of Øyvind Heen – fjords.com
Length: 2.5 – 5 miles (three different routes) | Difficulty: Easy to Difficult | Elevation Gain: varies
Norangsdalen, one of the narrowest valleys in Norway, is truly spectacular. This steep-walled destination is best viewed from atop via the Patchellhytta Hut. Located in the Sunnmøre Alps, the Patchellhytta Hut bears the name of its founder (though not a Norwegian.) The hut is also an excellent basecamp for bagging peaks within the Sunnmøre Alps like Slogen, Jakta, Saksa, Kvitegga, and Smørskredtinden. You can access the hut from three different routes that range from easy to difficult.
Norangsdalen is often referred to as one of the wildest places in the Sunnmøre Alps, if not all of Norway. A massive landslide in 1908 blocked the river, creating the lake Lyngstøylsvatnet. The lake swallowed the surrounding farms and you can still see evidence of that event from the water’s edge. For the extra adventurous, you can witness the buried landscape below the surface on a diving excursion.