You know that feeling you get during a big hike – when your legs are aching, you’re out of breath, you’re dripping in sweat but then you reach the top and get the views you sought and all that discomfort just disappears and you’re like wow, that was really worth it – it’s beautiful up here.
Times that good endorphin, how beautiful is nature feeling by 10 and that’s how you’ll feel when you reach Norway’s Trolltunga Rock.
It’s no easy hike. You’ll be challenging yourself through 22 kilometres of mud, snow and waterfalls to reach Trolltunga Rock.
But you’ll feel on top on the world as you stand on the edge of the rock hundreds of metres above still dark blue water and snow capped mountains.
Trolltunga, or Troll’s Tongue is located near the town of Odda, is about a three hour drive from the west coast town of Bergen. It’s a challenging hike but it can be done in a day. Here’s my guide to hiking Trolltunga.
About the hike
Distance: 22km return Grade: Challenging Walking Time: 8-10 hours
The hike can only be attempted between June and September but this is indicative only as it is highly dependent on snowfall in the area.
The trail is steep and includes a variety of terrain and conditions including creek crossings, snow, mud, rocks, boardwalks, and a dirt track.
The hike is recommended for experienced hikers and people with a good level of fitness. It’s hard and you’ll probably be a bit sore the next day.
Getting to Trolltunga
Getting to Odda is straightforward from Bergen (a worthwhile stop in your Norway itinerary). There’s buses running about every three hours during the summer to Odda from the main train station. Bus 31 will take you there in about three hours.
I stayed at the Trolltunga Hotel, which offers private rooms and dorms. It’s about a 30 minute uphill walk from the bus station but the hotel is comfortable and is in a good location next to a large rushing river that provides the town’s electricity.
Most people staying here were doing the Trolltunga hike so you’re sure to meet some people you can do the hike with. I met three hikers from the US and did the hike with them.
You’ll want to stay two nights in Odda for the hike. One the night before, and also the night of the hike – expect to finish the hike in the late afternoon and all you’ll want to do is have a hot shower and rest your weary legs.
If you want to start the hike early, you’ll need to order a taxi the night before. Do what I did and join with others doing the hike. It should cost about 350 NOK to get up to Skeggedal – the starting point for the hike.
Otherwise, for a later start, buses run from around 8.30am from the bus station.
We were on the trail by 7.30am and we’re glad we got there early. The trail was very busy on the way down, so start early to avoid the crowds.
Hiking to Trolltunga
The first couple of kilometres of the Trolltunga hike used to be a very steep hike up the stairs of an old funicular. The stairs have since fallen into disrepair and a new starting point has been built a hundred metres or so to the left – but simply follow the signs.
The new trail is pretty steep too with about one kilometre of stairs, followed by at least 500 metres of mud! SO MUCH MUD! I was lucky to get an overcast day with no rain – but it had rained the day before so the trail was a little muddy and slippery. Bring a few pairs of socks with you – you’ll definitely need them.
After about two kilometres, you’ll cross a small creek and then it’s a well-made trail for the next couple of kilometres over a series of wooden planks and boardwalks. It was good to get some relatively flat ground after the steady uphill.
Then you start heading up again, and then you’ll reach a stretch of snow (yes, even in summer). I did the hike during the summer, and there was still a bit of snow around but mostly crunchy snow with a muddy trail through where most people had gone before.
After the snow, it’s a lot more uphill but not as hard as the first section – just be careful of the slippery rocks. You might want to bring some gloves with you so you can use your hands to help you up some of the muddy and slippery sections.
If you start early, you can take your time – set a steady pace, but stop for snacks and photos.
There’s lots of photo opportunities, but halfway up you get a stunning view of a brilliant blue lake. My photos don’t do it justice.
Shortly after the lake view, one of the more challenging parts of the hike was crossing a fast running creek/waterfall crossing. You will probably get your feet wet.
Then there’s an uphill snow slog and you’re nearly there.
As soon as you reach Trolltunga, you’ll forget all about the hike you just did.
It’s all very organised with a steel ladder down to Trolltunga and everyone lining up in single file so they can get a photo alone on the rock. There were people doing backflips, yoga poses or like me, just casually sitting on the edge of the rock.
As long as you’re not scared of heights, the end of the rock is not as scary to sit on as it looks, as it’s slightly elevated at the end meaning you’re leaning back from the edge when you sit down.
Be careful around the edges of Trolltunga itself and the various viewpoints. It’s a sheer drop down and people have fallen in the past.
Expect to stay about an hour at the top for photos and take a break. The way back is just as challenging as the way up because your body is fatigued. I struggled back through the snow and my energy and lack of it came in waves.
There was a lot of traffic on the way down of people coming up and there’s a couple of one way sections so take it slow.
If you’ve got bad knees, you will really struggle on the way down especially the last kilometre on the stairs. My knees are in pretty good shape, but myself and the other people in my hiking party were extremely sore by that last kilometre and that last stretch probably talk us the longest of the whole hike.
We started at 7.30am and were down in time to catch the 6pm bus, so it took us about 10 hours to do the return trip but with generous photo and snack stops.
The recommended time to complete the trail is between 8-10 hours.
The bus we took got us halfway down the mountain to Odda and then we took a public bus the rest of the way. There’s regular buses until about 9pm.
Getting out of Odda and back to Bergen is a little trickier than getting in, unless you’re prepared to get up at 5.30am or wait for the 8.30pm bus for a direct trip back. There are less direct routes back a couple of times throughout the day where you will have to change buses. This route will take around 3.5 hours. Plan ahead and ask at the Bergen Tourist Office or Skyss Transport Office for detailed information and bus times. The website www.skyss.com is also helpful as a route planner.
Things you should know
- Hiking boots are recommended, however I did mine in waterproof trail shoes and they were adequate. You’ll struggle in running shoes due to grip and also your feet will likely get soaked. In my trail shoes, I didn’t struggle with grip and my socks only got a little damp from the waterfall and the water entering around my ankle.
- Bring a couple of spare pairs of socks, if you don’t get your feet wet, it’s pretty much guaranteed they’ll get muddy.
- Start as early as possible to give yourself enough time to comfortably complete the hike. You don’t want to rush this hike, especially on the way down. Odda Taxis can take you up early.
- Bring plenty of water, snacks and warm clothing. There’s no food facilities at the trail head so you’ll need to get everything from Odda the night before. But note, if you arrive on a Sunday, all the supermarkets are closed so you’ll want to bring your snacks from Bergen.
- Trolltunga is in the mountains and the weather can change quickly. Bring some warm and waterproof gear with you and consider bringing a backpack with a raincover. I also sealed my electronic gear such as camera and phone in plastic ziplock bags.
- Only people with a good level of fitness should attempt this hike. It’s a challenging hike due to terrain and length.
- Consider walking poles for this hike. Or if you’re a poor backpacker like me, a stick works just as well and you’ll find some in the forest at the start of the trail. I found it really helps to leverage off of to get up and down the trail. Choose whichever option you’ll find most comfortable over 10 or so hours.