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Nature’s own museums, open for use

To use something is not the same as consuming it, as prominent Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss once said. Norway’s national parks provide a perfect example of this.

«Miljøvern» is a Norwegian word that became fashionable in the 1960s. It translates as «preserving nature», and in later decades eco-philosophers like Arne Næss and NGOs such as Framtiden i våre hender (The Future in our Hands) and Norges naturvernforbund (Friends of the Earth Norway) have been increasingly influential in the political landscape.

From the get-go, one of the main issues for the environmentalists was the establishment of national parks. The green activists were victorious in 1962 when Rondane became the first national park in Norway. In addition to preserving rare vegetation and animal life, the idea was to open the parks for recreational purposes as well as maintaining the landscape for future generations.

Today there are 44 national parks in Norway, seven of them located on Svalbard. Again, this does not mean that these exemplary expanses of nature are closed to visitors – several of them, like Rondane, Jotunheimen and Hardangervidda, even offer arrangements for outdoor activities with a network of marked paths and trails and overnight accommodation in either staffed lodges or self-service cabins.

However, in some especially vulnerable areas, paths and accommodation are minimal in order to limit the impact of tourism on the wildlife. Nearly 85 percent of Norway's national parks are mountains, from gently rolling high plateaus to sharp peaks, ravines and glaciers.

Rondane
Rondane
CH / Visitnorway.com
Mosk oxen, Dovre
Dovre
Asgeir Helgestad/Artic Light AS/visitnorway.com
Guided gacier hike with Folgefonni Glacier Team
Folgefonna Glacier
Reisemål Hardanger Fjord/Désiré Weststrate
Finsehytta
Finse
Anders Gjengedal - Visitnorway.com
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See this timelapse from Rondane National park

A selection of national parks

Leaving it as you found it

Take only pictures, keep only memories

Norwegian philosophy is very much that conservation is everyone's responsibility. Enjoying nature and the outdoors is considered a national pasttime, and this is reflected in our attitude towards the preservation and use of the wilderness.

Whether it's hiking in the mountains or biking an idyllic forest road, Norwegians try to leave as small a footprint as possible. Leave it as you would like to find it is the mantra, regardless of whether you are a guest in the landscape or a small fishing village.

Quality of life is what it is all about, not only now, but for the time to come as well. It's about recognizing that everybody else are just as important as ourselves, and taking steps to implement that thought in all aspects of life. It's not easy, nor is it quickly done. But it is definitely worth it.

The right of access

Roam if you want to

To enjoy what nature has to offer while treating it with respect, and leaving it as you found it for others to enjoy, is exactly what the right of access is all about.

Even in Norway's national parks you can go just about wherever you like. In fact, as long as the land is uncultivated and you abide by a set of easy rules, you can hike, camp, ride or ski more or less where you want. You may also fish for saltwater species, without a license, as long as it is for your own use.

Take special care, though, not to cause any damage. There are special rules for protected areas, certain species of plants and animals, and with regard to where and for how long you may camp, and where and when you may light a fire, to mention the most essential.

Safety in the mountains

Return to hike another day

Stay safe by following these simple rules of thumb:

  1. Plan your trip and inform others about the route you have selected.
  2. Adapt the planned routes according to ability and conditions.
  3. Pay attention to the weather and the avalanche warnings.
  4. Be prepared for bad weather and frost, even on short trips.
  5. Bring the necessary equipment so you can help yourself and others.
  6. Choose safe routes. Recognize avalanche terrain and unsafe ice.
  7. Use a map and a compass. Always know where you are.
  8. Don’t be ashamed to turn around.
  9. Conserve your energy and seek shelter if necessary.

Read the mountain code with supplementary comments.

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