Hike the Norwegian fjords with our handy guide to Scandinavia's natural wonders

Everything you need to know before setting out on one of the world's most beautiful landscapes
Hiking guide: The Norwegian fjords

Cutting gashes from a jagged coastline deep into the interior, Norway’s fjords are extraordinarily beautiful. Rugged cliffs and dizzyingly-high waterfalls plunge down to quiet shorelines, where water the colour of opel gently laps.

Gouged by glaciers over millions of years, most of the fjords are found today around Norway’s mountainous west coast. There are more than 1,000 of them around the country, and many of them are long, deep and have numerous side arms.

Most tourists see these geological wonders by cruise ship, glimpsing them from afar on the deck of their boat. But the best way to experience the fjords is up-close – by hiking. You could climb to the top of a mountain, and be rewarded with a bird’s-eye view of the still water far down below. Or amble up easier trails to magnificent rock formations that are as photogenic as the landscape around them. Some Norwegian fjord hikes are even more accessible, right from city centres.

Whichever type of hike you go for (and we’ll give you some of our favourites below), make sure you’ve done your research first. Get to know Norway’s right to roam law and the Norwegian mountain code. And be sure you’ve packed just the right gear for your adventure by foot. For more tips on hiking the Norwegian fjords, read on…

The best time to hike the Norwegian fjords

Guide to hiking the Norwegian Fjords
Credit: Thomas Rasmus Skaug / Visitnorway.com

Norway’s hiking season kicks off in late spring (May to June), as the snow melts after a long winter. It usually lasts until September or October. Summer is the best time to hike in Norway – mountain roads and paths are open again, and you can benefit from the long hours of daylight. Longer, sunny days give you more time to hike without the risk of being out after dark.

However, peak season (from mid-June until the end of July) draws a crowd, particularly around the fjords; during that time it’s best to hit the trails during weekdays instead of weekends for a better chance of having them to yourself. By the time autumn rolls around, you’ll find the paths pleasantly empty, and the leaves will start to turn red and gold.

The Terrain

The terrain varies massively, depending on whether you decide to take on a challenging mountain hike or something a little easier. You could be exploring gentle trails near the water’s edge, or hiking on a glacier with ice axes and crampons. If you’re following a way-marked trail (and we recommend that you do), look out for the colour-coded grading system.

Easy (green) walks are usually no more than 5km along firm, even ground with only moderate ascents. They are suitable for beginners, with no tricky sections. You’ll encounter a similar picture on Moderate (blue) trails, though they are usually longer (no more than 10km) and may feature steeper slopes.

Guide to hiking the Norwegian Fjords

Challenging (red) trails require good stamina and decent hiking boots as you cover up to 20km over open terrain, rocky, scree and rugged mountains. River crossings and parts that require some climbing may also feature.

For experienced hikers, the Expert (black) trails are usually long summit trips with steep ascents on uneven paths, with precipitous sections, narrow ridges, smooth rock and scree. Good stamina and navigations skills are essential for these routes.

For more information on the different trails and terrain around the Norwegian fjords, click here.

The rules

One of the best things about hiking in Norway is how accessible it is. In fact, outdoor recreation is not only part of Norwegian identity, it’s also established by law. The right to roam means you can walk nearly anywhere you want – so long as you’re responsible. Pick up your rubbish, show respect for nature and leave the landscape as you would want to find it.

Known as “allemannsretten”, Norway’s right to roam dates back to ancient times. It applies to open country, or “unfenced land”, which covers most shores, bogs, forests and mountains and fjords. It also means that you can pitch up your tent anywhere in the countryside, forests or mountains, as long as you keep at least 150 metres away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin. For more information on this, read our wild camping guide.

For more information about Norway’s right to roam, click here.

Guide to hiking the Norwegian Fjords
Credit: Geoff Alexander/ Flickr

Safety

Exploring Norway’s majestic mountains and fjords on foot is an experience like no other. But before lacing up your walking boots, familiarise yourself with the nine simple rules of the Norwegian mountain code to help you stay safe. For rescue service, call the emergency number 112.

  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.

For more information on the Norwegian mountain code click here.

Kit to take

That depends on how long you’re planning on hiking for. Most day hikes require at least sturdy walking boots and a day pack containing plenty of water and snacks, suncream, spare layers and waterproofs and a small first aid kit with extra blister plasters. Of course, a map, compass and phone with a portable charger should also not be missed off your list.

If you’re planning on a multi-day hike, then you’ll also need a decent tent and sleeping bag that’s appropriate for the season you’re hiking in. You’ll also need extra rations, a headtorch, pocket knife and spare clothes. Mountains around the fjords are steep, so consider bringing light, foldable trekking poles.

Suggested hikes

With over 1000 fjords in the country, you’re spoilt for choice on hiking destinations. Here are a few of our favourite routes.

Best hike for beginners: Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), Ryfylke

Towering 604 metres over the Lysefjord, Preikestolen – or Pulpit Rock in English – is an ancient mountain plateau that was formed by the expansion of ice thousands of years ago. Its sheer beauty and scale have made it one of Norway’s most famous landmarks, and getting to it requires a 4km hike from Preikestolen Mountain Lodge. It takes most people around three hours to complete the trail, which undulates and ascends 350 metres.

Guide to hiking the Norwegian Fjords
Credit: Visitnorway.com

Best hike for intermediates: Trolltunga, Hordaland

Jutting out 700 metres above lake Ringedal, this dramatic cliff is best to visit from mid-June until mid-September, when the snow has melted in the surrounding mountains. In English, the name translates as “troll tongue”; legend has it that a cheeky troll didn’t believe he would turn to stone when he stuck his tongue out to make fun of the rising sun – before he was suddenly turned to stone. The waymarked, 27km round-trip from Skjeggedal takes between 10 and 12 hours, with 1,000 metres of ascent.

Guide to hiking the Norwegian Fjords

Best hike for experts: Lodalskåpa, Leon

Nicknamed “the Queen of Western Norway”, Lodalskåpa is a majestic mountain, though reaching its 2083-metre summit is not for the fainthearted. You’ll voyage from lush pastures to the snow-covered glacier (don’t forget your crampons) via rigorous inclines, hiking on snow and ice, and some steep scrambling. It takes around ten hours to complete the 21km-long journey. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view over a frozen landscape that will make the effort worthwhile.

Best city hike: Mount Fløyen, Bergen

Most people who go up Mount Fløyen reach the top on the Fløibanen, a funicular railway that has been connecting Bergen city centre with the mountain of Fløyen since 1918. The journey to the 320m summit is much more rewarding if you take the walking route through the forest. The route is steep in places, but also fairly short, taking only around 45 minutes each way. At the top, panoramic vistas unfurl, of the city, harbour and the open sea beyond.

Hike the Norwegian fjords with our handy guide to one of Scandinavia's natural wonders
Credit: Svein-Magne Tunli/ tunliweb.no


Tags:   Trekking
Tagged   Trekking