From the rugged peaks of the Lyngen Alps in the north to the vast mountain plateau of Hardangervidda in the south, where wild reindeer still roam free, Norway offers a wealth of opportunities for hikers of all abilities. Try a glacier walk, take the hike to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), Norway’s most famous hike, or spend a few days exploring the Jotunheimen or Rondane mountains. There are plenty of walks in gentler terrain too, be it in the fjords or along the coast. Hike on your own or with a guide, for a day or for a week. Whatever kind of holiday you settle on, just remember to pack sturdy shoes.
- Most popular mountain hiking areas
- Most popular hikes
- Guided hikes
- Multi-day hikes
- Hikes in and near Oslo
- Hikes in and near and Bergen
Most popular mountain hiking areas
Jotunheimen, "The Home of the Giants", is Norway’s number one hiking destination. Part of the long Scandinavian Mountain range, this area covering roughly 3,500 square kilometres is home to the 29 highest mountains in Norway, including the highest - Galdhøpiggen (2,469 metres).
Less challenging but just as fascinating, Hardangervidda, Europe’s largest mountain plateau, has many well marked tracks and is another popular destination for hikers. So are Rondane National Park, the oldest national park in Norway, which boasts 10 peaks above 2,000 metres, and nearby Dovrefjell, where you might spot the famous musk ox.
Further north the rugged peaks of the Lyngen Alps near Tromsø, rising more than 1,000 metres directly from the fjord, attract experienced mountain climbers. The spectacular snow-capped summits of the Sunnmøre Alps near Ålesund, somewhat higher at nearly 2,000 metres, also enjoy a stunning fjord backdrop.
The Lysefjord in Ryfylke, near Stavanger, known for Preikestolen (the Pulpit Rock) and Kjerag, is another popular hiking destination. So are Hemsedal, which is best known for its large alpine skiing area, but is also a great hiking destination in summer, and Trollheimen, which offers truly varied terrain.
Most popular hikes
Uncontestably Norway’s most popular hike, undertaken by over 150,000 visitors in 2012, is Preikestolen (or Pulpit Rock) a 600 square metre mountain plateau towering 604 metres over the Lysefjord in Rogaland, Fjord Norway.
Besseggen in Jotunheimen comes a close second, and is perhaps the most popular of all mountain hikes among Norwegians. Crossing the ridge, you have a blue lake on one side and a green one on the other. Galdhøpiggen, also in Jotunheimen, is Norway’s highest mountain, rising 2,469 metres above sea level. The view of the Jotunheimen National Park does not get better than from this summit. Another demanding hike is Slogen, arguably the most scenic and dramatic hike in the aptly named Sunnmøre Alps in the northern part of Fjord Norway. The hike to the top is steep, 1,500 metres straight up from the Hjørundfjord, and the last part requires some easy climbing.
For some gentler hiking head to Gaustatoppen, in Telemark, Southern Norway, which is easily accessible. On a clear day, you can see one sixth of Norway from the top. Or walk the Aurlandsdalen Valley in Fjord Norway, which offers varied terrain and passes rumbling waterfalls, lush valleys and abandoned mountain farms.
Many places in Norway have qualified guides who can give you an even better hiking experience than you would get walking on your own. When walking with a guide, you also get access to parts of the great Norwegian wilderness you would not usually be able to experience on your own. Glacier walking is one such example. There are 20 glaciers in Norway - the Jostedalsbreen Glacier is the largest one, covering an area of 487 square kilometres. There are guided walks in most glacier areas, which make the wild snow and ice landscapes accessible to even the most inexperienced hiker.
A guided hike is also an opportunity to learn about the area you are travelling in: the name of that flower, why the glacier is situated where it is, how and when a particular fjord was created. You can choose hikes with different themes. There is a guided hike in Rjukan for example called “The saboteur’s route”, where you learn about one of Norway’s most famous acts of resistance. Another guided hike follows the Pilgrim’s route to Trondheim, which is full of interesting history.
If you really want to explore the great Norwegian wilderness, a multi-day hike is a must. Pack a tent or travel light and hike from cabin to cabin. The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) has a large network of mountain huts throughout the country – some self-service, others manned, and many serving dinner and breakfast, which means setting out for a few days doesn’t mean having to carry a heavy rucksack. The cabins range from large lodges with nearly 200 beds to small sheds with only a few bunk beds. All hikers turning up for the night are guaranteed a place to stay – even if this means just a mattress on the floor at peak times in the busiest cabins, so you needn’t worry about having to sleep under the stars (although this can be an option too in good weather).
Hikes in and near Oslo
Very few other world capitals offer hiking trails right on their doorsteps, but Oslo does. The capital is surrounded by Oslomarka, wooden hills that stretch from Skaugumåsen and Kolsås in the west to Voksenåsen and Vettakollen in the north and Ekeberg and Haukåsen in the east. Covering some 1,700 square kilometres, Oslomarka is the most important outdoor area in Norway, boasting a vast network of hiking tracks that are free for all to use. For Oslo citizens “Marka” is an important part of Oslo’s character, while for visitors it reveals yet another side of this multifaceted city.
Hikes in and near Bergen
The hike from Skansen up Fjellveien makes for a picturesque walk, taking you through a particularly pretty part of Bergen, with its wooden houses and small cobblestone streets, and then up the Fløyfjellet mountain to the funicular terminus, from where you will have wide open views of the city at your feet. The road is suitable for pushchairs, making this a popular option for families with young children – despite the steep incline.
For a full-day outing within easy reach of Bergen city centre, try the hike from Mt. Fløyen to Mt. Ulriken (or indeed the other way round). Vidden, the plateau between the two, is arguably the most popular stretch for day trips in the mountains surrounding Bergen. Allow five hours. You can shorten your hike by using either the Fløibanen or the Ulriksbanen at each end of the tour.
Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT)
Did you know?
The great Norwegian polar explorers Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen both used the Hardangervidda mountain plateau to plan and prepare their many expeditions. Parts of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, were also shot in the eerie landscape of the Hardangervidda.
Dovrefjell inspired Henrik Ibsen to write Dovregubben in Peer Gynt. Snøhetta is Dovrefjell’s most famous mountain. In earlier times it was believed to be Norway's highest. The impressive mountain, which rises high up over Dovre, is the highest outside Jotunheimen. It has also lent its name to one of Norway’s most famous architects firm.
The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) is Norway's largest outdoor activities organisation, established in 1868. Today DNT maintains a network of about 20,000 kilometres of marked hiking trails and about 7,000 kilometres of ski tracks. DNT relies on volunteers, who each year put in more than 175,000 hours.
Today, DNT has more than 240,000 members in 57 local member organisations across the country, from Kristiansand in the south to the North Cape in the north. The Children's Trekking Club, founded in 1999 to draw children to outdoor activities early in life, has more than 16,000 members under the age of 12.
Combine hiking with a music festival in the mountains. Yes, in Norway you can. Vinjerock, which takes place in Jotunheimen in July every year, offers activities as varied as guided hikes, climbing, fishing trips and kayaking courses beside music acts blending local talent and established names (the Dum Dum Boys and Kaizers Orchestra both performed there in 2012).
Gaustatoppen, at 1,883 metres above sea level, is Telemark’s (and Southern Norway’s) highest peak. Those who don’t feel like hiking all the way can hop on the Gaustabanen instead – a cable car that carries passengers inside the mountain up to a viewing platform at the top.