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Hiking in Rago national park, Northern Norway
Hiking in Rago national park, Northern Norway
Rago national park in Northern Norway.
Photo: Jim T. Kristensen
Rago national park in Northern Norway.
Photo: Jim T. Kristensen
How to use the national parks

Go hiking in the wild

Follow in the footsteps of Gjermund Nordskar, who hiked in 37 of Norway’s 47 national parks and wrote a book about it! Get tips for how to avoid the beaten track and find trails in some lesser-known areas.

You often hear that Norway is known for its clean, untouched nature. The core is the 47 national parks that are spread around the country.

Gjermund Nordskar has written the book Til topps i Norges nasjonalparker (“To the top of Norway’s national parks”) about his hiking trips where he spent 80 days in 37 of the national parks found in mainland Norway. He believes that the huge park areas are easily accessible for most people.“If you travel outside of the most visited areas, you can romp around in untouched nature that stretches longer than the eye can reach”, Nordskar says.

Gjermund Nordskar in Dovrefjell national park, Eastern Norway
Gjermund Nordskar.
Photo: Gjermund Nordskar

What to expect of a national park?

The national parks are partly vulnerable ecosystems and nature that Norway’s environmental authorities have decided to protect. 20,000 kilometres of hiking trails and cross-country skiing tracks are clearly marked with painted Ts, the sign of the Norwegian Trekking Association. In these areas, visitors will also often find accommodation offers.

Just on the outside of many of the parks, there are modern visitor centres with useful information and gear, usually where you normally park to enter. Remember to show respect for nature and animals, people, and local traditions. In short, leave the landscape as you would like to find it. The Norwegian Environment Agency has more information about protected areas.

Olav Nord-Varhaug runs the section for The national parks of Norway at the Norwegian Environment Agency.

The nature in the national parks is robust. It can endure much more use than we see today”, he says.

Unseen photo motifs

Hikers are good at posting their national park experiences on social media. Gjermund Nordskar says that these posts are positive for raising awareness of the opportunities the national parks have to offer. At the same time, though, you’ll usually see images from only a few of the 47 parks on Instagram and Facebook.

Five parks off the beaten track

So, which of his favourite lesser-known parks would he send us to?

Nordskar quickly mentions Lomsdal-Visten in Helgeland, Seiland near Hammerfest in the far north, Breheimen north of the innermost part of the Sognefjord, and Rago and Sjunkhatten in Salten, just north of the city of Bodø in Northern Norway. All of them have a distinctive character with experiences for the whole family, he says.

“Lomsdal-Visten is known as ‘the unknown country’ and offers one of Norway’s last wildernesses.”

Seiland offers a stunning island landscape in Finnmark’s archipelago.”

Breheimen is a lesser-visited mountain range with numerous small glaciers and beautiful mountains. The park lies in the shadow of its big brother Jotunheimen.”

Rago is a park for your inner adventurer, with amazing waterfalls and colours.”

Sjunkhatten has wild nature and great contrasts. Here, white-tailed eagles hover above your head, and the steep mountain walls rise right up from the fjord. Sjunkhatten is also known as the ‘Children’s national park’ with kid-friendly activities.”

“Each of these national parks have a distinctive character with experiences for the whole family.”

Things to do in Norway’s national parks

Skiing
Alpine or freestyle skiing gives you both the experience of unspoilt nature and the feeling of speed and adrenaline. Gjermund Nordskar recommends Jotunheimen, Saltfjellet-Svartisen, Ånderdalen (Senja), and Møysalen national parks.

Cross-country skiing is a good way of travelling in gentle mountain ranges. If you want to try it for yourself, Nordskar points to Rondane, Hardangervidda, Femundsmarka, Børgefjell, Lahko, Øvre Pasvik, and Varangerhalvøya national parks.

Kayaking and canoeing
In the summertime, you can go kayaking, canoeing, and hiking. The national parks Hvaler, Færder, Seiland, and Sjunkhatten are great for kayaking as a means of transport.

Hiking
All of Norway’s 47 national parks are great for hiking.

Fishing
In most of the national parks, you'll find plenty of secluded clear lakes, rivers, and streams teeming with fish. Get a fishing licence and try your luck.

Gjermund Nordskar’s list of lesser-known national parks
Steep mountains, deep fjords, and Scandinavia’s northernmost glacier can all be found on the island of Seiland in western Finnmark. Read more
Seiland national park
Lomsdal-Visten national park is a particularly scenic part of Helgeland, with forests and lush valleys, mountains, caves, and fjords. Read more
Lomsdal-Visten national park
Rago National Park is one of Norway’s oldest national parks. It was established in 1971 to preserve an untouched Nordland mountain landscape bordering… Read more
Rago National Park
The landscape in Sjunkhatten National Park is wild and varied and stretches from the fjord to the mountains. You will find pointed peaks, cascading… Read more
Sjunkhatten/Dávga National Park – the children’s national park
The nature in Breheimen National Park is very versitile. It ranges from green valleys and naked mountain tops to streaming rivers and glaciers. The… Read more
Breheimen National Park
Explore other national parks
Blåfjella-Skjækerfjella/Låarte-Skæhkere National Park is one of the largest national parks in Norway.  The protected… Read more
Blåfjella-Skjækerfjella/ Låarte-Skæhkere National Park
Børgefjell National Park comprises high summits, deep valleys, wild rapids and expansive moors. In addition to hunting and fishing, the… Read more
Børgefjell/Byrkjie National Park
Between Dovrefjell and Rondane you find Dovre National Park. In this area, the experiences are great and nature is majestic. Dovre is available both… Read more
Dovre National Park
Welcome to one of Norway’s most iconic mountain areas! A place which has shaped Norwegian identity for thousands of years. Home of the wild… Read more
Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park
Femundsmarka National Park is one of the largest continuous, unspoilt wilderness regions in Southern Scandinavia. A great area for canoeing and… Read more
Femundsmarka National Park
Forollhogna is a mountain area in central Norway. At the heart of this area lies the Forollhogna National Park. Lush valleys with traditional mountain… Read more
Forollhogna National Park
Færder National Park is one of Norway's most important areas for coastal outdoor recreation, and large areas are secured as publicly owned recreation… Read more
Færder National Park
Gutulia was made a national park in 1968. The area, measuring 19 km², is located between the Gutuli Lake and the Swedish border. Due to its… Read more
Gutulia National Park
Hallingskarvet is a very distinctive landscape element, with lots of nice paths and trails and versatile hiking, summer and winter. The terrain is… Read more
Hallingskarvet National Park
Hardangervidda National Park is the largest national park in Norway. This vast mountain plateau offers excellent hiking opportunities for both… Read more
Hardangervidda National Park
Jomfruland National Park was established on 16 December 2016 and covers an area of 117 km2(45 sq mi), including the islands of Jomfruland and… Read more
Jomfruland National Park
Jostedal Glacier is the largest glacier on mainland Europe. 60 kms long and with countless arms reaching down to the valleys in Sunnfjord, Nordfjord… Read more
Jostedalsbreen National Park
Jotunheimen National Park covers an area from the west country landscape of high, sharp ridged peaks in Hurrungane, the most distinctive peaks, to the… Read more
Jotunheimen | National Park
In Junkerdal National Park, you will find expansive mountain plateaus, steep mountain peaks, long lush valleys, a rich flora, well-marked paths and… Read more
Junkerdal National Park
In Langsua National Park you can stroll in a vast but gentle landscape of low mountains, lush mountain birch woodland, and old growth coniferous… Read more
Langsua National Park
Lierne/Lijre National Park and its adjacent protected areas in Sweden makes up a large continuous wilderness area. Landscape: The landscape in the… Read more
Lierne/Lijre National Park
The municipality center of Lom is a National Park Village and a natural gateway to the National Parks Jotunheimen, Breheimen and Reinheimen. Read more
Lom National Park Village
This is the national park to visit if you are interested in geology. Láhko has Norway’s largest karst landscape, which has created a rich flora and… Read more
Láhko National Park
Møysalen National Park, located on Hinnøya, was established in 2003. The national park is dominated by the mountain Møysalen (1 263,1 m.a.s.l.). A big… Read more
Møysalen NAtional Park Center
Wilderness with traces left by former hunters. Read more
Reinheimen National Park
Rondane National Park is a mountain area between the Gudbrandsdalen and Atndalen valleys. The area stretches from Ringebu in the south to Dovre in the… Read more
Rondane National Park
Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park offers richly contrasting experiences in majestic nature, ranging from steep mountains and glaciers in the west to… Read more
Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park
Ytre Hvaler National Park consists of muddy seabeds and rocky seabottoms with its rich underwater ecosystem containing corals and kelp forest. Land… Read more
Ytre Hvaler National Park
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    Statens Kartverk, Geovekst og kommuner - Geodata AS

    Fresh scents

    Which smells from the national parks were left in Gjermund Nordskar’s nostrils after his 37 hiking expeditions?

    “Well, it feels special to smell the sea when you stand on a high mountain. In Norway, we have numerous mountains, but also a lot of terrain with pine needles. Trøndelag comprises a lot of areas of marsh, including its seven national parks Lierne, Blåfjella-Skjækerfjella, Forollhogna, Femundsmarka, Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella, Skarvan, and Roltdalen. Even the wind on the mountain peaks has its own, fresh smell, which is unlike anything else. In the mountains, you simply smell clean oxygen”, tells Nordskar.

    Dress code

    When you’re going on a hike, remember to bring warm clothes – a warm jacket and pull-on trousers, as well as a woollen sweater. “If there is an accident, it is crucial to stay warm”, Nordskar emphasizes.

    “Keep your hands warm. Always bring at least two pairs of gloves or mittens. One of them should be wind and waterproof. In rough weather, ordinary ski gloves are not sufficiently protective. When they get wet, they suck the heat out of your hands. Once your hands get cold, you lose the ability to use them to perform even the most basic things. Icy hands will also prevent you from picking up your smartphone to take great photos”, says Nordskar.

    New tech – or map and compass?

    Navigation and communication equipment is essential on long trips. In many mountain areas, mobile coverage is poor, so a personal tracker or similar gear can turn out to be useful. For navigation, a map and a compass is a must. Think of your GPSr only as a backup.

    “Also bring a power bank to charge your mobile phone”, Nordskar recommends.

    If you don’t feel that you have enough experience to venture into the great outdoors on your own, many local tour operators can help you experience nature in the best and safest way possible.

    “The nature in the national parks can endure much more use than we see today.”

    Couple mapreading in the mountains of Lofoten, Northern Norway
    Hiking in Lofoten.
    Photo: CH / Visitnorway.com

    Slow walking

    And if you have low ambitions for your trip?

    “Then you can just hike a few steps into nature and lay in the heather. You can eat berries and take pictures”, Nordskar says reassuringly.

    “You can also use one of the many local tour operators. Hiking guides know the wilderness.”

    Eating well

    Local food should be a part of your visit to a national park.

    “Risotto cooked on a camp stove became my team’s most popular meal. Preferably accompanied by onions, garlic, cheese, and vegetables. Although the national parks have many eateries, my team did not visit these during our 37 trips, as the goal was to stay self-sufficient”, Nordskar tells.

    Olav Nord-Varhaug says that the national park authorities think excellent food offers are an increasing part of the total hiking experience.

    “High-quality local food, drink and accommodation make it easier for hikers to spend a whole day or more in nature. Many small places inside or just outside the national parks now have restaurants and other offers that stand out.”

    You can get delicious local food made from the areas’ fresh ingredients in Lom, Langsua, Folgefonna, Hardangervidda, and many other parks.

    Respect for nature

    According to Nord-Varhaug, very little or no garbage is left behind by visitors in the national parks. “The hikers seem to be aware of the impact on the environment.”

    Did Nordskar lose something during these 37 trips, things that have been left in nature?

    “Yes, a cover bag for the tent. It was taken by the wind, and hopefully, it found a happy new owner. Otherwise, we kept surprisingly good control during our 80 days.”

    Meet the animals

    To observe rare animals, you should travel to areas where they thrive and come to eat and drink. “But make sure to read up on animal wildlife before you go hiking”, says Nordskar.

    In the wilderness, you can stumble upon moose, reindeer, and rare birds. Don’t approach them – observe from a distance, and retract calmly. You might want to join a wildlife safari with guides who know where you’re most likely to spot the animals and, most importantly, how to stay safe – especially if you want to see species you shouldn’t seek out on your own, like musk oxen.

    Musk oxen in Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella national park, Eastern Norway
    Musk oxen in Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella national park.
    Photo: Nasjonalparkriket Reiseliv
    Safety in the mountains

    Return to hike another day

    Norway is an incredible place to explore, with untamed mythical landscapes, mountains, valleys, and fjords. Before you enter the outdoors, get familiar with the nine simple rules of the Norwegian mountain code to help you stay safe.

    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.

    Things to do in Norway’s national parks

    Skiing
    Alpine or freestyle skiing gives you both the experience of unspoilt nature and the feeling of speed and adrenaline. Gjermund Nordskar recommends Jotunheimen, Saltfjellet-Svartisen, Ånderdalen (Senja), and Møysalen national parks.

    Cross-country skiing is a good way of travelling in gentle mountain ranges. If you want to try it for yourself, Nordskar points to Rondane, Hardangervidda, Femundsmarka, Børgefjell, Lahko, Øvre Pasvik, and Varangerhalvøya national parks.

    Kayaking and canoeing
    In the summertime, you can go kayaking, canoeing, and hiking. The national parks Hvaler, Færder, Seiland, and Sjunkhatten are great for kayaking as a means of transport.

    Hiking
    All of Norway’s 47 national parks are great for hiking.

    Fishing
    In most of the national parks, you'll find plenty of secluded clear lakes, rivers, and streams teeming with fish. Get a fishing licence and try your luck.

    Different hikes for different people

    One of the best things about hiking is that everyone can do it! Find a hike that suits your fitness level.

    Take advantage of top offers

    See our selection of companies that work hard to make you happy all through your trip.

    The national parks also offer …

    There is no need to wait until you’re here to find out what you’d like to do.

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