Hiking destinations in Norway

Norway is mostly wilderness and all is accessible for hikers. There is an abundance of hiking options throughout the country. The most attractive hiking destinations are above the tree line (about half of Norway's total area), but hiking is also a popular activity in the lowlands and within cities like Oslo. During winter the same trails and areas are used for cross country skiing in groomed tracks (typically near cities or resorts) or as ski touring.

Special rules apply to Svalbard and the archipelago is not covered in this article.

Understand

Birch forest and trail at 300 meters above sea, Nordland county
See also: Hiking in the Nordic countries, right to access

The freedom to roam allows you to go more or less anywhere. The best hiking or scenery is not necessarily in national parks or nature reserves; you can find very nice landscapes and routes also in unprotected wilderness. Those who like wilderness backpacking or want to be off roads for several days might look for the least populated areas.

The Trekking association (DNT) maintains trails between their many huts (mountain lodges) in all parts of the country. National parks are often surrounded by a zone of "protected landscape", which from the hiker's point of view often is the most interesting and usually the most accessible wilderness.

There are several types of protected area, some with severe restrictions, some mostly irrelevant for the hiker. The different types can be intermingled with each other.

Unlike in many other mountain areas, the tree line in Norway (and the rest of the Nordic countries) is made of small birch – fell birch – and other low bushes. Pine and spruce have a lower altitude limit. The wide spruce and pine forests in East Norway, and in border regions of Middle and Northern Norway are the western end of the great Eurasian taiga belt.

Climate

Norway is a wide and varied country with different climates. Complicated topography, an immense coastline, mountains, the warm Gulf stream and other factors create surprising variations across short distances.

Destinations

Key mountain areas. A: Northern Sweden, B: Northern Norway, C: Border highlands, D: Fjords range, E: Central mountains, F: Southern highlands

The list below distinguishes hiking areas by dominant terrain features. There is no sharp distinction between between these types of landscapes, but for the visitors, it is worth noting, as for instance the most alpine mountains can be challenging. In Norwegian, "mountain" ("fjell") mostly refers to elevations reaching above the tree line. Less steep, relatively level, treeless plateaus without pronounced peaks are often called "vidde". These high mountains and plateaus are a kind of alpine tundra, but note that Norwegians don't use the word "tundra" to describe such landscapes. Instead in Norwegian such landscape are referred to as barren mountains or fell ("snaufjell"), about half of mainland Norway is this type of landscape.

High alpine mountains

Romsdal alps near Trollstigen pass
Møysalen summits and national park at Hinnøya

High alpine mountains include areas with distinct peaks, ridges, lakes and glaciers resembling the Central European Alps. Some of these summits are accessible for skilled climbers only, but mostly even the wildest peaks can be conquered by experienced hikers.

Other mountains

Sylane mountains in winter
Innerdalen valley and summit
Residences at Øksfjorden beneath the glacier, Kvænangen

The other mountains often have pronounced summits, but they are more rounded, less wild and ascent is easier than in the high alpine mountains. In eastern Norway, valleys are often wider or are basically plateaus that summits rise above, while in the west and north valleys can be narrow and steep even if plateau above is largely flat.

High plateaus and moorland

Typical for Norway are steep fjords and valleys that suddenly give way to a high, more or less even plateau. These plateaus are often referred to as "vidde" meaning a wide, open treeless space, a boundless expanse. In Rogaland and Agder they are usually called "hei" meaning a treeless moorland often covered in heather. Such high plateaus are usually regarded as mountains even if there are no pronounced peaks. The high barren plateaus is a key habitat for wild reindeer, while in northern Norway the plateaus are used for domesticated reindeer.

Moorland ("hei") in Setesdal district

Forests and lowland

Signpost and trails in the Oslo forest

The forest and lowland landscapes include deep pine or spruce forests as well as birch. Terrain can be rugged and difficult to navigate. Bogs, lakes and calm rivers are common. This is the preferred habitat for moose ("elg"), Norway's biggest animal. The wide spruce and pine forests of East Norway is the westernmost corner of the Eurasian taiga belt that covers large parts of Sweden, Finland and Northern Russia.

Outer coast and islands

Coastal landscap at Florø.
Træna landmarks at Helgeland coast

Norway's coast line is very long and extremely fragmented, and in addition to fjords and bays there are several hundred thousand islands. Some of these are islands are large and with significant alpine mountain ranges, such as Lofoten and Senja (see separate section). More modest elevations yet rugged landscape are found all along the coast. The coastal stretch from Kristiansand to Lofoten enjoys a mild climate, weather is however unpredictable: wind, waves and showers can occur at any time.

Sleep

See also: Hiking in the Nordic countries#Sleep

By the marked trails there are usually cabins, many of them with food for sale and other service. There are also cabins to rent as a base for hikes in a certain area. Most cabins without personnel are locked with the key of the Trekking association (DNT). The price for sleeping in the unmanned cabins is generally 100–200 kr/night, but can be considerably more. Sleeping in dormitory at manned cabins may be in the same range.

Get in

As there is such a wide variety of hiking options, there is no general advice about transport to trailheads except that trailheads are available by car. A self drive offers the easiest access to remote corners, and public transport may be infrequent. Visitors that want to hike across an area must however rely on public transport. Bergen railway, Dovre railway and Nordland railway all run through high plateaus and some stations are also trailheads. Express buses can also be used from cities into the countryside. During the hiking season there are some buses running to trailheads such as Gjendesheim at Jotunheimen. In the fjord and coast region boat may be necessary or convenient access to trailheads. Some hiking areas, notably in Oslo and Bergen, are available by city transport (bus, metro) or trailhead is downtown. The northern part of the country, notably Finnmark, is easiest to reach by plane as surface transport is very time consuming. In general there is no porter service arranging luggage transport to next lodge.

Further reading

The suggestions given in this article are not sufficient to plan and navigate a hike. A topographical map of the area (1:50,000) is needed. Additional reading for each area will also be useful, for instance:

Free leaflets in English are available from the Trekking association (DNT). DNT has a wide selection of guides in Norwegian.

Hiking as recreation in Norway's mountains and highlands was largely developed by English leisure class. Early books on the topic were first published in English

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