There are several things to take into consideration when deciding to hike Norway’s Trolltunga. Can you walk up a flight of stairs without breathing hard? Do you mind stepping in mud puddles as large as Rhode Island? Can you handle extreme beauty without sobbing? (There’s a lot of it!)
There’s no question that this is one of the most physically demanding adventures we’d ever been on in our lives. It was 22 kilometers (~13.6 miles) round trip, and took us a total of 11 hours (6 hours up, 1 hour at Trolltunga, and 4 hours back down).
We were pretty unprepared for our own trek, so we thought we’d try to help out future hikers with this guide to conquering Trolltunga. We’ve divided it into a few helpful sections which you can click through below.
- What Is Trolltunga?
- Trail Overview – What Should I Expect?
- How Long Will It Take?
- How Do I Get There?
- What Kinds Of Accommodations Are There?
- What Should I Bring?
What Is Trolltunga?
Trolltunga, translated to “Troll’s Tongue,” is a cliff rock jutting out about 700 meters above lake Ringedalsvatnet in Norway. It was formed about 10,000 years ago from glacier erosion. In fact you can still see glaciers on the mountaintops and take guided tours to them. Along the way, you’ll find gorgeous blue lakes, towering fjords and impressive scenery that no picture can accurately describe. Originally it was intended to be a multiple day hike, however when the funicular was introduced people started making the trek in a single day. The funicular was closed down in 2010, however for some reason crazy people like us continue making the trip in just one day.
From the trailhead parking lot, you climb the entire first kilometer up stone steps. Occasionally there are points where there is a slick rock face, and a large, dirty rope is in place to help you climb up. The first kilometer is pretty brutal overall, and you’re surprised when you get to the 1km sign because it feels like you’ve done a lot more than that. Nope, you’ve got a long ways to go buddy. There are a few times you can look back and see some pretty cool views of the lake and morning fog during that section.
Between the 1km and 2km mark, it levels out somewhat and you find yourself in an enormous mountaintop valley. It was very marshy during our September hike, and oftentimes you’ll find yourself jumping from stone to stone. There are a few ice cold creeks here, so it’s a good time to refill your water bottle. Also interesting to note are the several secluded cabins you’ll see along the way. After about a 45 minute walk through this valley, it’s time for another major climb.
Instead of rock stairs, the trail winds uphill quite a bit before finally bringing you upon an enormous slick rock face. It is imperative to be careful here as it’s really easy to slip. Looking back upon the valley is a fantastic treat though! This slick rock can be pretty treacherous depending on the time of year and snow melt.
You’ll reach a small lake that the trail twists around before going downhill. The downhill portion will feel like actual heaven, but it doesn’t last long unfortunately. From here it’s a little bumpy, but before long it’ll be another big climb. It’s around this area where you’ll see an emergency cabin intended for use in extreme scenarios where you’re about to freeze to death and came unprepared. Inside you’ll find emergency blankets, sleeping bags and stoves for food and heat. If nothing else, it’s kind of cool to just poke your head inside.
Climbing up this portion is where you get your first view of the gorgeous lake Ringedalsvatnet. We stopped and had lunch there for ten minutes, just staring at it. It’s really quite impressive and the sheer mountains surrounding it are monumental. From here, it can be very muddy and you may find yourself tip-toeing around, trying to find the best route through large fields of mud. You’ve done the majority of the climbing for the day though, so take solace in that fact! From here it’ll be many small ups and downs as you traverse through terrain that doesn’t look like it even belongs on this planet.
Right when you feel like giving up, the trail comes upon some large rock and water pools that you’ll hop around, and all of a sudden you come around the bend and… there it is! Trolltunga, you made it! Halle-freakin-lujah! Enjoy your time there, have some food, drink lots of water, and get that picture for Instagram that you’ve worked so hard for.
How Long Will It Take?
It took us 11 hours round trip. That’s from the Skjeggedal parking lot, six hours of hiking to the top including stops for lunch and photos, an hour at Trolltunga, and then four excruciating hours back down to the parking lot. We have friends who did the whole trip in 8 hours, so it’s really up to how in-shape you are, what the weather’s like and how quickly you hike.
How To Get There
Odda is the main town and point of reference you want to reach. It is located at the southern tip of the Sørfjorden fjord, and you can get there from Bergen or Oslo by bus or train. We took a 1.5 hour long train ride from Bergen to Voss, followed by a bus which took us the remainder of the way (2 hours to Odda). If taking public transpo, it can be a tricky place to get to so be aware that you may be taking several modes of transportation. Once you reach Odda, you’ll take a bus through Tyssedal and then up to the mountain settlement of Skjeggedal. This bus is only 48 NOK and is probably the best and easiest way to get there without a car. The trailhead for Trolltunga begins in Skjeggedal.
We were fortunate enough to Couchsurf in nearby Lofthus. On the day of our hike, we got up early and took the 990 bus from Lofthus to Tyssedal. It’s only about a 30 minute bus ride, and we arrived there around 7:30am. Use this convenient travel planner to figure out bus times and routes for all Norwegian buses, boats and trams. Also feel free to contact the Odda Tourist Office for more detailed information about the hike, accommodation and maps. Once we arrived into Tyssedal, we hitchhiked up the mountain with a nice couple from San Francisco (which is another 7km or so) and parked at the top. The parking fee is 100 NOK for the day, or 200 NOK for the night.
What Kind Of Accommodations Are There?
There aren’t too many options for accommodations since Trolltunga is situated around very small communities. Here’s all of the ones we know about:
If you’re looking to experience how the locals live while receiving (usually) cheaper accommodations, this is the way to do it. There are a few new Airbnb listings popping up in the area.
Click this link if you’d like a free $40 credit for Airbnb, because we’re all good friends here and you deserve it.
There are a few hotels in the area that cost between $130-$300 a night. Most are in the town Odda, such as the Hardanger hotel or the aptly named Trolltunga hotel.
Depending on the time of year, you can do some camping in Odda. In addition to this, you can camp anywhere for free that is considered public land according to Norwegian law! Many people end up camping the night on top of Trolltunga for a beautiful view of the stars.
We stayed at a Couchsurfing home when we visited Trolltunga, and if you are involved with that community it can help out greatly with the expensive Norwegian accommodations. Make sure to not bring your muddy boots back into the house and be respectful of your hosts since they are opening their homes to you for free.
What To Bring
- Comfortable hiking pack.
- A reusable water bottle.
- Simple lunch, high-energy snacks and protein bars.
- Extra pair of socks.
- Waterproof boots. Gaiters wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
- Layers. Bring thin, breathable jackets and/or shirts so that when you stop for a few minutes to catch your breath, you won’t get cold. And when you begin hiking again, you can take the layer off because you’ll be sweating like a pig.
- A good camera is essential! We had our phones and a pretty good point-and-shoot, but we constantly wish we’d had a DSLR for truly epic pictures.
- Make sure to use the restroom near the parking lot before heading up, there are none once you climb up to the top!
- Camping is allowed anywhere along the trail, but be sure to employ Leave No Trace practices while camping. Many people do camp up at the top. If you are unfamiliar with Leave No Trace, read about it here.
- Water is abundant, clean and cold. No need to bring water sterilization as the glacier water is perfect and refreshing.
- When you get to the top of Trolltunga, do yourself a favor and change into your clean socks. By this point, your feet will be hating what you just put them through. Changing into clean, dry socks will make your hike back down much more bearable.
- Be PREPARED for adverse weather conditions. This area is easily unpredictable, and getting stuck up there without the right gear can be very serious.
- There used to be a running funicular which took you up the first kilometer to the cabin settlement. Sadly, it has been out of use since 2010, but occasionally people still climb up the leftover tracks rather than take the rock steps of the normal trail. The funicular hike is way more dangerous because if you fall through one of the slats, you risk severely injuring yourself.
- The trail follows what are called “cairns,” which are essentially tall rock piles with the Trolltunga symbol marking the correct path. Keep an eye out for these.
- Get there as early as possible. We were there on a Monday, and still the groups of other hikers had us waiting almost a half hour. Everyone is typically very nice, and will take your picture for you from the viewing area as you walk out onto the cliff.
- The best time to hike is between May and September when the snows subside. We went September 8 and the weather was perfect.
- The first kilometer up is pretty awful, but coming back down those same rock steps are pure, unadulterated agony. Your knees and feet will probably be in pain for the next couple of days minimum.
- This hike is strenuous but in our opinion it is absolutely 100% worth it. It was our favorite part of a 6 month backpacking trip and we hope we can do it again some day! If you have the time, consider preparing for it so you can enjoy the surrounding beauty and dramatic Norwegian scenery.
- Travel planner for bus schedules
- Camping in Odda.
- Odda Tourist Office
- Wikipedia knows all.
We sincerely hope this guide was helpful to you!
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Are you planning to hike Trolltunga? Let us know in the comments section below!
Shelly & Jimmie