Ride through desolate mountain plateaus, along flowing rivers and through vast pine and spruce forests. Conquer long, steep hills, follow trails to mountain tops or make scenic detours on small roads closed to public traffic. Eastern Norway may be the best area for mountain biking in the country, with high mountains and lots of exciting rides in the counties of Buskerud and Oppland.
Be equipped and prepared
Please be aware that amenities like accommodation, grocery shops and cafés can be quite sparse in the more desolate areas of Norway. Bike shops with basic spare parts are usually found only in towns, and specialist bike repair shops only in bigger towns. In some districts you can ride for hours without seeing anyone. Before you enter the wilderness, make sure you have enough food for the day, waterproof and protective clothing, maps, basic repair tools and an extra inner tube. A mobile phone can enhance your safety, but remember that not all areas have mobile phone coverage.
Mountain lodges and mountain cafes
Every bike ride should have a goal. Mountain biking fuels your appetite, so why not make a mountain lodge or mountain café your destination for the day? The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) offers accommodation and food in more than 60 mountain lodges. The lodging system was made for hikers, but has become more popular with touring cyclists on day trips in the mountains. Many of the lodges are situated at the end of a 10 to 15 kilometres ride, on high altitude roads in national parks closed to public traffic. You get great scenery, fresh air, the road to yourself – and a meal to look forward to. And by all means, take the opportunity to do a short hike whilst in the area.
Recommended starting points and destinations
Lillehammer and the nearby mountain village at Sjusjøen, situated two and a half hours north of Oslo, are excellent starting points for both on- and off-road mountain biking. Sjusjøen, at an altitude of 800 meters, offers round trips in undulating terrain with lakes, creeks, marshes, mountain birch trees and rounded mountain formations. The area is scattered with cottages and traditional summer dairy farms, and has several shops and plenty of accommodation to choose from.
Short family rides or all-day adventures await as the roads continue north across the Øyer mountains and the Åsta Valley. North of Sjusjøen, the roads are almost completely free from traffic. Single track riders will appreciate miles of accessible but demanding trails. Many routes are signposted.
Examples of easy options are a tour around Sjusjøen (eight kilometres, includes short legs of narrow trail) and a round trip via Nordseter, Nevelvatn and Mellsjøen (22 kilometers).
A tour of medium difficulty (due to gradients) is the round trip from Sjusjøen via Natrudstilen, Gjestebodåsen, Kroksjøen and Storåsen (26 kilometers).
If you would like a real off-road challenge, follow the trails over the peaks of Snørvillen, Mostfjellet and Sollifjel (a total of 15 kilometers).
The steep mountain sides of Hemsedal may not seem suitable for a bike ride, but Hemsedal is in fact one of Norway’s leading bike spots. With a successful downhill venue and 21 signposted bike rides from beginner to advanced level, you could easily spend a whole week biking here.
An interesting starting point is the Grøndalen Valley, a few kilometres north of central Hemsedal. Here you can cycle into the Bulidalen Valley (easy), up to the Kljåen tourist cabin in Mørekvanndalen (medium) or uphill to Lake Vavatn in the beautiful Hydalen Valley (medium/demanding).
On the eastern side of Hemsedal there are several lakes. Cycling round Lake Vannen is fairly easy, though partially on the uneven surface of a cart track. Lake Storvatnet is harder to get around, due to several kilometres of technical single tracks. The route around the bigger Lake Tisleifjorden (37 kilometers) is mostly easy, but has a short leg of single trail on the west side.
Those seeking higher altitudes should climb the steep road that passes Hemsedal ski centre and continues up to Lake Fluvanna and Skarvanstøltjørne, at almost 1,200 metres. This trip can be extended into the wilderness, along the south side of Flævatn to the dead end at Lyserbotn.
Skeikampen Resort, a 40 minute drive north of Lillehammer, has 150 kilometers of marked trails and is one of the leading places for mountain biking in Norway. The the Peer Gynt Road offers great family rides through an idyllic mountain landscape, reaching an altitude of 1,050 meters. You can follow the road for almost 60 kilometres with several lakes, rest areas, traditional cafés and mountain lodges on the way. There are also many technical single tracks in the area around the mountains Skeikampen, Avlundkampen and Preskampen. Some trails get close to an altitude of 1,200 meters.
In Hafjell, just 20 kilometers from Lillehammer, you will find both gentle mountainsides and top-speed downhill runs. A gondola service takes you from the valley up to Mosetertoppen, from which multiple rides of all difficulty levels are available.
If you like off-road cycling, you will have great fun going up and down the trails to the Hafjell, Hitfjell and Nevelfjell mountain tops.
Vaset village, west of Fagernes in Valdres, is the perfect starting point for mountain bike tours. If you want an easy trip, try going around the lakes Vasetvann or Reinsennvann. Take a break at Hotel Nøsen for lunch, at the bathing spot at Reinsennvann or at the viewpoint at the top of the Panorama Road.
For a longer route, go to Lake Flyvann and the summer dairy farm of Grønnsenstølen, and then on to Vaset via Vasetvann. A more demanding trip can be done by exploring the roads around the Syndin or Hellin lakes. Vaset is accessible by bike from Fagernes, Gol or Hemsedal.
Gålå, on the western side of the Gudbrandsdalen Valley, is a traditional winter sport destination that now also caters for summer tourism and activities like cycling. Gålå offers family friendly daytrips along miles of easy mountain roads in spectacular surroundings. The roads are a mix of paved roads, gravel paths and cart tracks. There are also many lakes worth exploring by bike.
For a fabulous view over the national parks of Rondane and Jotunheimen, ride up the short hill to Utsiktshøgda (“the lookout hill” at 1,022 meters above sea level) and enter the lookout tower at the top.
Just south of Gålå, try going on a roundtrip that passes Triltåsen and follows the idyllic track between the two Jetningen lakes.
A roundtrip of medium difficulty level goes south along Toftesetra, Fagerhøi, Vendalsvannet, Grevsjødalen, Toftesetra and back to Gålå. The route covers a total of 40 kilometers, with a climb of 400 metres. Listul Hill is a great place to have a rest, take in the magnificent view and even go for a swim in the lake.
If you want something with a more off-road profile, try the roundtrip by the lakes of Valsvannet, Fagerlivannet, Svarthaugtjønna, Lomsetra and the northern side of Feforvannet. The highlight of the trip is the moss- and grass-covered cart tracks en route to Lomsetra – best suited for cyclists with some technical skills.
The small, remote city of Røros in the county of Sør-Trøndelag definitely deserves the attention of mountain bikers. From the centre of Røros, you can reach the wilderness with rolling hills and high mountains in just 10 minutes by bike.
Røros has a three hundred year long history of mining, and the old mining roads and mines are interesting places for a ride. The old mines at Mugg, Arvedal, Rødalen, Storwartz and Kongens are all available in a day’s cycling. The mines of Rødalen and Mugg can be reached through the idyllic, narrow cart track north of the Orvsjøen Lake. From Mugg, you can return via Arvdalslinna, a partially overgrown trail that used to be an old mining railway.
The museum Olav’s Mine (Olavsgruva), situated 12 kilometers northeast of Røros, is open for visitors and offers guided tours.
Another suggestion in Røros is to cycle along the north side of the Hå River. The road goes southeast out of town and gradually changes into a trail. It is a fine introduction to Røros’ tranquil surroundings with grand views of the river. At the settlements of Skjevdalen or Kvipsdalen you can cross the river and head back to Røros on paved road. Alternatively you can head further east, to the dead end at the large Femund Lake (around 32 kilometres from Røros).
The winter destination of Oppdal has a great deal to offer nature-loving mountain bikers. A nice surprise is the excellent, one kilometre long beach situated between the steep mountains of the Trollheimen National Park. You will find it at the end of the road by the northern shore of the Gjevillvantet Lake, 25 kilometres northwest of Oppdal.
An even easier trip is to go from the settlement of Lønset, west of Oppdal, and cycle north into the valley of Storli. The 17-kilometer long trip to the tourist cabin at Bårdsgården is almost without hills. The Dalsvatnet and Ångårdsvatnet lakes make perfect resting places.
A recommended daytrip for fit riders is to go southwest from Oppdal to the valley of Dindal and from there to the Storvatnet Lake (31 kilometres, each way). After a tough climb, you are rewarded with the lush Dindal Valley, which is closed to cars. The quality of the road surface gradually gets more challenging; wide tyres and shock absorbers are recommended for this trip. During the summer season, you can buy locally made dairy products at the Uvssetra dairy farm.
At the Vinstra Valley, south of Oppdal, there is a seemingly endless hill to Ryphusan and Veslevonlægret. It is however worth the effort – the landscape gets increasingly dramatic and turns into a narrow canyon with tall cliffs rising above the road.
Where the road part at the end of the valley at Ryin, you can extend the trip by continuing south to the end of Bøasetra via Elgsjøtangen.