The park contains ten peaks above 2,000 metres with the highest being Rondslottet at an altitude of 2,178 metres above sea level. The park is an important habitat for herds of wild reindeer.
The park was extended in 2003, and now covers an area of 963 square kilometres in the counties of Oppland and Hedmark.
Rondane lies just to the east of the Gudbrandsdalen Valley. The mountain areas of Dovre and Jotunheimen are nearby.
Geography and climate
Rondane is a typical high mountain area, with large plateaus and a total of ten peaks above 2,000 metres:
- Rondeslottet - 2,178 metres above sea level
- Storronden - 2,138 metres above sea level
- Høgronden - 2,114 metres above sea level
- Midtronden western summit - 2,060 metres above sea level
- Vinjeronden - 2,044 metres above sea level
- Midtronden eastern summit - 2,042 metres above sea level
- Trolltinden - 2,018 metres above sea level
- Storsmeden - 2,016 metres above sea level
- Digerronden - 2,015 metres above sea level
- Veslesmeden - 2,015 metres above sea level
The climate is mild but relatively arid.
Apart from the White Birch trees of the lower areas, the soil and rocks are covered by heather and lichen. The largest mountains are almost entirely barren; above 1,500 metres above sea level nothing but the hardiest lichens grow on the bare stones.
The mountains are divided by marked valleys through the landscape; the deepest valley is filled by Lake Rondvatnet, a narrow lake filling the steep space between the mountain massives of Storronden, Rondeslottet and Smiubelgen.
The central massif is also cut by "botns": flat, stone valleys below the steep mountain walls of the peaks. Generally, Rondane does not receive enough precipitation to generate persistent glaciers, but glacier-like heaps of snow can be found in the flat back valleys.
The centre of the park is Lake Rondvatnet, from which all the peaks beyond 2,000 metres above sea level can be reached in less than a one-day walk. In this central region and north of it, the altitude is quite high compared with the flatter plateaus of the south.
In many parts of the park, there are spread-out holes (kettle holes) created by small remains of ice age glaciers, and peculiar small hills called "eskers" made by ground moraine released by melting glaciers.
The history of life in the area of the park begins at the end of the latest ice age. Large climate changes allowed reindeer to spread widely across Scandinavia, only to be forced back to a much smaller area — including the Rondane mountain area — only some hundreds of years later.
Archaeologists have found that the forest quickly grew at high altitudes; birch trees found at 1,030 metres were 8,500 years old.
On the mountain plateau, there is evidence that nomadic hunter-gatherers lived off reindeer. Large traps used to catch reindeer can be found at Gravhø and Bløyvangen. These were constructed from stone to make holes or large fenced-in areas into which reindeer could be tricked or led.
In conjunction with these large traps, there are also small arched stone walls which are believed to have been used as hiding places for archers waiting for prey. Various dating methods have suggested that the earliest traps may be as old as 3,500 years.
Most of the findings, including remains of houses, date back to the years between 500 and 700 CE. It is thus known with confidence that the large traps and accompanying walls were used from the sixth century until the onset of the Black Death in the fourteenth century.
After nearly a decade of planning, Rondane was established as the first Norwegian National Park on 21 December 1962. It was first established as a nature protection area, but was later named a national park.
The main reasons for protecting the park were "to safeguard the natural environment with its native plants, animal life, and cultural heritage and also to secure the environment as a recreational area for future generations".
Legal efforts to protect nature in Norway date from 1954, when the Nature protection law was passed. Soon after, in 1955, community meetings were held in the municipalities close to Rondane, and a commission was founded. Norman Heitkøtter was president of the commission, and made it possible by Royal resolution to establish Rondane National Park. At its establishment, the park covered an area of 580 square kilometres.
Although Rondane was the first national park in Norway, many others followed. The parks are maintained by the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management.
As a special measure for the protection of the wild reindeer, the park was significantly enlarged in 2003, its area increasing from 580 to 963 square kilometres.
The park was enlarged mainly to the north-west, and slightly in the east and south. In addition, areas with lesser protection (landscape protection as well as nature protection areas) were established in connection with the park.
A new national park, Dovre National Park, between Rondane and Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park was also opened.
Following the expansion, it is now only approximately one kilometre from the northern border of Rondane to the southern border of Dovre National Park, and large sections of adjacent mountain areas are protected by the three parks.
The bedrock in Rondane comes from a shallow sea floor, created 500 to 600 million years ago. From this, changes in the Earth's crust created a mountain area of metamorphic rock and quartz. There are no fossils found in Rondane today and so it is thought the sea where the rock came from contained no animal life.
The present landscape was mostly formed by the last ice age, nine to ten thousand years ago. At that time large quantities of ice were formed, and it is believed that the ice melted gradually in shifting cycles of melting and ice accumulation. The ice melting must have been rapid when it happened, digging deep river valleys.
Rondane contains a few small canyons which were created by the rapid ice melting, most prominently Jutulhogget and Vesle-Ula.
Rondane is one of the few places in Scandinavia and Europe where wild reindeer (as opposed to the domestic breed) are found. The Directorate for Nature Management regards Rondane as "especially important as a life supporting area for the native reindeer".
It is estimated that approximately 2,000 to 4,000 wild reindeer live in Rondane and the nearby Dovre area. To protect the reindeer population in their core area, hiking trails have been moved. The park was also enlarged in 2003 to provide increased protection for the reindeer.
Other large game, including roe deer and elk are commonplace along the rims of the park and occasionally musk ox from Dovre can be seen. Wolverines and a small population of bears are also present, while wolves are rare.
The reindeer largely rely on the lichen and reindeer moss that grow together with heather and hardy grass on the quite arid and nutrient-poor stony plateaus. The lichen provide food for the reindeer, but also fertilize the earth, making it possible for less hardy plants to grow, and mice and lemmings to feed.
One of the flower species to survive very well is the Glacier Crowfoot, found up to 1,700 metres above sea level.
Visitors to Rondane are free to hike and camp in all areas of the park, except in the immediate vicinity of cabins. Apart from being closed for motor traffic, not many special regulations apply. Fishing and hunting are available to licensees.
The Norwegian Mountain Trekking Association (DNT) is an association that owns and manages a network of mountain cabins in the service of hikers.
In Rondane, there is a central cabin by the southern end of the Lake Rondvatnet, Rondvassbu. There are also Dørålseter and Bjørnhollia at the northern and eastern rims of the park. All three cabins are staffed, and provide food and limited accommodation (possible to pre-book).
There are also un-staffed cabins in Rondane, such as Eldåbu, where a key is needed. The DNT also has associated partners at Høvringen and Mysuseter.
DNT also marks trails in the park, with red Ts that are easy to spot. The T-trails lead the way cabin-to-cabin, as well as marking the path to some of the peaks close to Lake Rondvatnet. Recently, some of the trails have moved slightly to avoid the core areas of the wild reindeer.
The service cabins are also open during the winter season, although they are sometimes only self-serviced off season. Ski trails are marked and sometimes prepared, either by DNT or some of the hotels and skiing resorts close to the park.
Rondane in literature
The landscapes of Rondane have inspired many Norwegian writers. Probably the best-known work is Peer Gynt (1867), a play by Henrik Ibsen, which is partly set in Rondane:
Act 2, Scene lV
(Among the Ronde mountains. Sunset. Shining snowpeaks all around.
Peer Gynt enters, dizzy and bewildered.)
Tower over tower arises!
Hey, what a glittering gate!
Stand! Will you stand! It's drifting
further and further away!
With this, Ibsen wrote Rondane into one of the best dramas of the nineteenth century and made Rondane a symbol for the natural beauty of Norway.
Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, writer and gatherer of Norwegian folk tales in the mid-nineteenth century, collected many stories connected with Rondane, including Peer Gynt, the story that inspired Ibsen.
A third writer who set one of his famous works in Rondane is the poet Aasmund Olavsson Vinje with his poem Ved Rundarne.