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 ("The 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
- Norwegian attitude to nature
- "Friluftsliv", the open air life
- Most popular hikes
- Multi-day hikes
- Hikes in and near Oslo
The open air life
First used by famous playwright Henrik Ibsen, the term "friluftsliv" translates loosely to "open air life" and is an integral part of how Norwegians embrace nature and enjoy the outdoors as a way of life. It encompasses all the outdoor activities that do not necessarily require expensive gear or training, and is all about experiencing and enjoying nature. For many Norwegians this means hiking or skiing in the mountains, first and foremost, but it may also mean biking, boating, canoeing, skating and kayaking, for their own sake or as part of such activities as fishing, hunting, picking wild berries, gathering mushrooms, photography or observing plants and birds.
As a result of this, there are many aspects of Norwegian society that exist to facilitate such activities. For instance, around the capital there are large areas collectively known as "Oslomarka" that are left undeveloped and are set aside for just such activities. Recently a wolf settled in the area to the east, just around the corner from Norway's largest city, and there are also beavers, lynx, moose and roe deer here, as well as many other wild animals.
Norway's law of right of access encourages "friluftsliv". Called "allemannsrett" it literally translates to"all man's right". Norway is one of the few countries in the world that honors the right of access to, and passage through, uncultivated land in the countryside, regardless of who owns it. It is also applied to cultivated land when it is frozen and snow-covered. This law means that camping is allowed on uncultivated land, at no cost, as long as the area is left as you found it, and any tents are moved every two days. Camping must also take place at least 150 meters from the nearest habitation.
Established in 1868, the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) maintains over 500 cabins for public use all over the country, and is now Norway's largest outdoor activities organisation. Today DNT maintains a network of about 20,000 kilometers of marked hiking trails and about 7,000 kilometers of ski tracks. DNT relies on volunteers, who each year put in more than 175,000 hours. Spending the night in one of their cabins is cheap for everybody, but even cheaper if you are a member. The exact price may vary depending on type of accommodation available, but for adults in a staffed cabin it ranges from 100 NOK for a mattress on a floor if you are a member, to NOK 350 for a non-member in a room with 1-3 beds. Fees for children are in general a little over half adult price. Many hikers take advantage of these cabins and spend their holidays hiking from cabin to cabin in the mountains.
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).
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.
Most popular mountain hiking areas
Jotunheimen, "The Home of the Giants", is Norway's number one hiking destination and one of the country's 44 national parks. Part of the long Scandinavian Mountain range, this area covering roughly 3,500 square kilometers is home to the 29 highest mountains in Norway, including the highest - Galdhøpiggen (2,469 meters).
Less challenging but just as fascinating, Hardangervidda National Park, Europe's largest mountain plateau, has many well marked tracks and is another popular destination for hikers. So does Rondane National Park, the oldest national park in Norway, which boasts 10 peaks above 2,000 meter, and nearby Dovrefjell, where you might spot the famous musk ox. Dovrefjell is part of the Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park.
Further north the rugged peaks of the Lyngen Alps near Tromsø, rising more than 1,000 meters 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 meters, 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 is 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. In Hemsedal, hiking trails are well marked and colour-coded.
Most national parks in Norway are open for hikers. Seven of Norway's 44 national parks are situated in the Svalbard Archipelago and are especially protected due to the fragility of the Arctic ecosystem. These may be accessible for visitors, but with certain restrictions, such as only with a guide.
Hikes in and near Oslo
Very few other world capitals offer hiking trails literally 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 kilometers, 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. Oslomarka can be easily reached though the city's system of public transport, most notably the city's tram lines.
Top 10 hikes
- Preikestolen ("The Pulpit Rock") by the Lysefjord, a 2-3 hour hike each way to a pulpit-shaped rock jutting out over the Lysefjord, 604 meters below.
- Besseggen in Jotunheimen, mentioned by National Geographic in 2014 as one of the world's best hikes and thrilling trails.
- Gaustadtoppen in Telemark, a fairly easy hike which under ideal conditions offers Norway's widest views, measured in visible land area. On a clear day, you can see one sixth of Norway from the top. If you don't feel like hiking to the summit, there is also an underground cable car that can take you there
- Galdhøpiggen in Jotunheimen is Norway's highest peak at 2469 meters. The view of the Jotunheimen National Park does not get better than from the summit which is approxiomately a 3-4 hours hike away from the starting point at Juvasshytta. A guide is needed to cross the glacier, but there are several other routes to the top if you prefer not to cross the glacier.
- The Aurlandsdalen Valley in Fjord Norway, a hike through varied terrain, from rocky peaks to lush fjord valleys. This route is often referred to as one of the most romantic in Norway.
- A 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 meters straight up from the Hjørundfjord, and the last part requires some easy climbing.
- Romsdalseggen Ridge in Fjord Norway, is a scenic hike with three optional routes with different levels of difficulty and spectacular 360 degrees views of the fjords and valleys below..
- Dronningruta ("The Queen's Route") in the Vesterålen Islands, a 15 kilometer round trip named after the current queen of Norway, who enjoyed hiking it in 1994.
- Skåla by the Sognefjord, a peak with a stone tower on the summit, which offers 22 beds for public use. A man-made track winds its way through the rocky terrain a whopping 1,848 meters from the shoreline of the fjord, which is the biggest difference in altitude from fjord to summit in the whole of Norway.
- Trolltunga in Fjord Norway. According to Trip Advisor this rock formation is a "must see" and probably one of the most spectacular locations in the world for a "selfie".
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 the character of Dovregubben in Peer Gynt, one of Henrik Ibsen's most famous plays. Snøhetta is Dovrefjell’s most famous mountain. In earlier times it was believed to be Norway's highest. The impressive moun ain, 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.
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 (Veronica Maggion, Ida Marie and Timbuktu all performed there in 2012).
Gaustatoppen, at 1,883 meters 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.