What started as a quest for a great hike rewarded by an epic Instagram photo ended with one of the most memorable adventures of my life: Hiking Trolltunga. This hike was easily the toughest I’ve ever done in my life (and not just because I was 23 weeks pregnant at the time), but it was well worth both the journey and the destination. The day was filled with incredible views of snowfields, lakes, fjords, and waterfalls, and culminated with a walk onto the famous Trolltunga rock. Trolltunga means “troll’s tongue” and the rock is situated 700 meters high on the on the north side of Ringedalsvatnet Lake. It was a day full of physical challenges and all-around gorgeous scenery that I will never forget!
Many bloggers before me have posted guides to hiking Trolltunga that were helpful in planning our hike. I particularly liked this one and this one. Many of the guides encourage what I would consider to be over-preparation, so my guide will tell you what I deem to be the essentials of what you need to know to successfully hike Trolltunga in one day. Keep in mind that we did this hike in late May and there was a significant amount of snow still on the ground. I would estimate that nearly 12 of the 14 miles were covered in snow or snowmelt. Hiking in May is considered pre-season and it was recommended to hike with a guide before June 15. If you do the hike in August or September, I would imagine that your experience might be quite different.
The trailhead is located in Skjeggedal, up the road from the municipality of Odda in Hordaland county. Many people complete the hike as part of a guided tour with a hiking company, especially during the pre-season. The advantage of hiking with a guide is that if there is still a lot of snow on the ground, some provide snowshoes; however, the guided hikes are priced quite high at about 1300 NOK per person (over $150). Another disadvantage is that some guided hikes don’t run early in the season. With that said, most of the people hiking on the day we did the hike were without a guide.
What to Expect
- A very difficult hike that will take all day
- Quickly changing weather
- Incredible views
- An hour or two break at the rock to take pictures, rest your feet, and eat lunch
- Wet feet and legs from the snow
- Heavy sunshine as you’re hiking on the ridgeline
As we were starting the hike, we saw a large group that was seriously bundled up in heavy winter coats. This made us second guess ourselves and grab an extra layer. Big mistake. Neither of us ever wore that extra layer and just carried it around all day. While I do recommend layering, don’t overdo it. The hike is tough enough that your body will work up plenty of heat to keep you warm!
Most of the blog posts you’ll read will tell you that the toughest part of the climb is the first 1.5 km. That is wrong. The hike is mostly uphill for the first 4 km, with a short flat plateau about halfway through that. Even after the first 4km, the rest of the hike has rolling ups and downs. When we did the hike in May, heavy snow was on the ground beginning around 3km and did not let up the rest of the way, which also made even the more gradual inclines much more difficult.
Because of the deep snow, it was tough to find the trail at some points of the hike. Although there are red Ts along the trail, many are painted on rocks, so sometimes you can’t see them through the packed snow. There were also times where there seemed to be multiple trails from previous hikers which made it difficult to know if we were on the right path at times. If that happens to you, you’re most likely going the right way, but you may or may not be on the easiest path.
Everything you read and hear will tell you that the hike will take 10-12 hours. Expect it to take that long, especially with snow on the ground. We finished the hike in 11 hours, after thinking we would probably be done in 8 based on our “training hikes” – HA! Trust the Norwegians – they are big trekkers and know what they are talking about! Also, it actually took us longer to complete the second half of the hike. We were a bit slower on the downhill because the snow was melting and it was pretty slippery in places. And by the last few kilometers, our legs were exhausted so we stopped for more breaks.
How to Train Before You Go
Hiking 14 miles with constant climbs and descents is no joke and there is really no way to truly prepare unless you live in a similar climate with similar geography (think: Colorado, Utah, Washington, etc.). Even if you don’t live in one of those places, I recommend doing what you can to get ready for the hike. I had finished training and running a half marathon a few months before the trip and we spent several weeks going for long walks of up to 12 miles, just to get our legs used to walking that distance. I also recommend climbing stairs to prepare yourself for the steep ascent and descent on the first and last few kilometers of the hike.
What to Bring
- 300 NOK for parking (for 12 hours). 600 NOK if you are planning to spend longer on the trail.
- Hiking pack + water bladder (you can refill at one of the many waterfalls with ice cold water)
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Water resistant hiking pants
- Water resistant windbreaker
- Hat or ear warmers
- Running gloves
- At least one extra pair of dry hiking socks (change at the halfway point)
- LOTS of snacks and lunch
For reference, I wore leggings under my hiking pants, a tank top, a long-sleeved tissue tee, a long-sleeved Nike pullover, a fleece, and a water-resistant windbreaker. The fleece was tied around my waist 99% of the time, so in hindsight, I definitely would have left that layer behind. The leggings under the hiking pants were also too much at times, but I am sure I would have been cold at first without them. Good hiking socks and boots were definitely my saving grace and kept my feet warm and dry all day. I was also glad that I had my running gloves, especially in the alpine snow fields where the wind whipped pretty aggressively despite the sunshine.
How to Get the Most Epic Photos
The best way to get the perfect Instagram shot is to make friends with someone along the way. That way, you can trade cameras or phones with them so they can take pictures of you posing on the rock from a better angle farther away. Throughout the hike, we kept passing back and forth with a sweet couple of American expats that lived in London and a group of Aussies and Irish. Between our three groups, we were able to trade off cameras and take great photos of each other. And the bonus was that we made some fun new friends!
What Time to Start
I would start by 6:30 or 7 am. We started a little later, probably by 8:30 or so, thinking that we would finish the hike more quickly than most. We both exercise regularly and are in great shape and had been training for the hike (albeit in Florida). We were shocked that the hike took us 11 hours. The first half took about 4 hours, we stayed at the rock for about 1.5 hours, and the way back took closer to 5.5 hours. We stopped more frequently on the way back for breaks and snacks since I was about 23 weeks pregnant at the time and the whole journey was made much slower by the amount of snow.
For what it’s worth, we didn’t have to wait in a long line to take photos. We took our photos and then spent a leisurely hour enjoying the views while eating our snacks and resting our feet. There were only a couple of groups that arrived before us so if you’re hiking in May, I don’t think it’s necessary to start the hike early to beat the crowds. It is worth starting early to make sure you can get a meal after you finish.
Where to Stay Before/After
We stayed in Eidfjord the night before the hike and in Aurland after the hike. Eidfjord is a little over an hour from the Skjeggedal parking lot, where the hike begins. Aurland is about three hours from the parking lot, but it actually took us even longer to get there because of all of the tunnel delays. I would recommend staying at an airbnb in Odda, or in a town as close as possible (even Eidfjord wouldn’t be too far), especially after the hike. You’re going to be exhausted and driving for hours after the hike is not exactly fun for anyone. My sweet husband let me sleep, but I felt terrible that he had to stay awake to get us to our next destination!
Where to Eat After Your Hike
As I mentioned, there aren’t a lot of restaurants or grocery stores that are open late. Unless you plan on starting your hike ridiculously early, everything will be closed by the time you finish. We finished our hike about 7:30 pm and couldn’t find an open restaurant or store. Just when we were losing hope and were literally about to knock on someone’s door to beg for food, we passed the Ullensvang Gjesteheim hotel in the nearby village of Lofthus that had a Thai restaurant that closed at 8 pm (it was about 8:10 when we arrived). They were so kind as to let us sit down and serve us a late meal, which we devoured in no time at all. I would definitely recommend the restaurant because they served great food with large portions which was perfect after a long day of hiking! You could also play it safe and just have food ready for dinner after your hike if you are staying somewhere nearby.
Other Things to Note
Based on my GPS watch, we actually hiked closer to 17 miles. I mention this because I noticed another blogger’s Fitbit said she hiked 18 miles. My GPS watch is very accurate at home, so I’m not sure why it was so far off the quoted distance of 14 miles, but it leads me to believe that perhaps the hike is actually longer than advertised because it’s hard to believe that I could have walked three extra miles throughout the day.
Despite having a long and tiring day, hiking Trolltunga was one of my favorite experiences ever. There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment after finishing an expert hike. From the moment we stepped into the first patch of snow to the halfway point where we posed for photos on Trolltunga to the moment we finished the trail to cheers from a group of Norwegians, it was an unforgettable journey that was equal parts beautiful and challenging. I would do it again and I would recommend that anyone going to Western Norway do it if you are able!
If you have any other questions about the hike, please comment below. And if you’ve hiked Trolltunga before, I would love to hear your thoughts too!