The hike to Mount Gaustatoppen is an absolute must for anyone in search of a hiking experience with a sensational view. From the top, almost half of the southern part of Norway is visible on a clear day. Even if you don't want to hike, you can still enjoy the view – take the most unique cable car in all of Northern Europe to the top!
In Telemark not far from the centre of Rjukan, you’ll find Gaustatoppen. The majestic mountain top is certainly not the tallest peak in Norway, but it might just be the most beautiful. When the weather permits it, you can enjoy a spectacular view of as much as one-sixth of the Norwegian mainland from the top 1,883 metres above sea level.
15 minutes to the top
If the hike doesn’t sound tempting, fear not. A secret dating back to the cold war awaits you inside the mountain. The hidden cable car Gaustabanen will take you comfortably to the top.
Gaustabanen is a big part of the reason why approximately 100,000 people visit Gaustatoppen each season. The cable car opened in 2010 and, despite the height of the mountain, it takes no more than 15 minutes to the top.
As you enter the mountain, you’re greeted with a cold breath of air. Your journey to the top begins with a tram ride to the starting point of the cable car, located 850 metres inside the mountain. Enjoy the 40-degree climb for 1,145 metres before you reach the magnificent view on the top.
The plans for Gaustabanen started back in 1953 as a tourism project. For these plans to be realised, the Norwegian military was invited into the process.
As the project progressed, there was increasingly more focus on defence rather than tourism, according to Gaustabanen. Sharing a border with the Soviet Union gave Norway an essential part in alerting NATO if anything was to happen, which again meant that the organisation should finance the project.
In a book about Gaustabanen, Helge Songe writes that in 1954, all other intentions were put aside. It was clear that NATO was to finance the entire construction within Gaustatoppen.
After finalising the project, the Gaustatoppen station was for NATO use only for 50 years. Eventually, they added a weather forecast and a broadcasting network to the station, and it became an essential part of the military radio network in Norway.
The Gaustatoppen mountain is located around two and a half hours from Oslo by car. The road Fv 651 between Tuddal and Rjukan takes you straight to the car park by Gaustabanen, which is clearly marked. If, however, you plan on hiking to the top, Stavsro is a popular starting point. You can also start at Svineroi or Selstali, depending on how much of a challenge you want.
“What’s so great about Gaustatoppen is its accessibility due to the cable car. At the same time, there are so many different trails leading to the top. From families with children to experienced mountaineers, all hikers are bound to find a route they’ll enjoy”, says Henriette Hack from The Norwegian Trekking Association Telemark.
The easiest route to Gaustatoppen begins at the car park at Stavsro. If you’re hiking this route at regular speed, it should take you about two and a half hours to the top and two hours back down. The terrain is quite rocky towards the end, so wear proper hiking boots (as always in the mountains).
The last part to the top takes you across an open mountain ridge. As you shouldn’t cross it in bad weather, a lot of people choose to end their hike at the viewpoint just a bit further up past the Gaustatoppen cabin. The trails are all marked.
Sleeping at the top
During the summer and until the first week of October, Gaustatoppen cabin also serves simple food and offers accommodation to those who’d like to spend the night there. As mentioned, it can only house eleven people at a time, so it’s a good idea to book in advance. You can also put up a tent and sleep under the stars if you wish, but note that the ground is completely covered with rocks.
But don’t worry. There are several comfortable and easily accessible places to stay in the area surrounding Gaustatoppen, including Rjukan, Hjartdal and Gaustablikk. Many of them can even boast about their view of the majestic mountain top.
While in Rjukan, don’t forget to visit the Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum at Vemork,which is only 15 minutes by car or 45 minutes by bus from the centre of Rjukan. Here, you can learn more about the industrial adventure that kicked off in the early 1900s, and how the town earned its place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. You can also soak up some history dating back to the Second World War. You see, Vemork was the place where eleven brave Norwegians sabotaged the German’s plans to create the atomic bomb from the local heavy water.
Krossobanen cable car
The good thing about this area is that nothing is too far away. You can take the Krossobanen cable car up to Hardangervidda. Built in 1928, the cable car was the first of its kind in Northern Europe, according to Visit Rjukan. It was built for the locals so that they could easily get to the top of the mountain and enjoy the scarce sunlight during the winter months. These days, the Krossobanen is considered a tourist attraction, and it’s open every day all year round.
From the top, there are many trails to hike. Even if you travel with small children, you can go on the Solstien hike, which is only one kilometre long. Or, you can have some fun at the climbing adventure park.
Bringing your bike along on the Krossobanen is also a great option. You’ll find exciting biking tracks in pretty much any direction from the top of Hardangervidda, and they’re well suited for all. And no worries if you don’t have a bike. You can rent one in Rjukan before you board the cable car.
At the top of Hardangervidda, you can also head out with your fishing gear and a packed lunch for a full day of fresh mountain air. Or maybe you’d like to venture out on the 30-kilometre-long hike to Kalhovd, claimed to be among Norway’s most beautiful hikes. If you’d like to delay your return to another day, spend a night at one of the cabins at Kalhovd.
Still in need of an extra rush of adrenaline? Then the bungee jump from the bridge across the Vemork gorge has your name written all over it!
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