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Expert advice on walking in Jotunheimen National Park

Jotunheimen National Park

The Norwegian capital has traditionally hosted the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony every year since 1901, with exceptional people being recognised for their contributions to world peace. Norway is also exceptional and merits a different kind of peace award for its panoply of tranquil mountains, valleys and lakelands, made accessible to all by its longstanding right-to-roam laws. Jotunheimen National Park is one of those places, and yet it still remains unknown to so many people around the world who seek out places of peace. Jotunheimen translates as Home of Giants, but this is one home that is not to be feared, only to be revered. 

Where is Jotunheimen National Park?

Jotunheimen National Park is a protected mountain landscape in southern Norway, about four hours north of Oslo. It protects approximately 1,151km2 of the Jotunheimen Mountains with more than 250 peaks over 1,900m. Galdhøpiggen is the highest at 2,469m, and it is also the highest mountain in Norway. To put its size into perspective, Jotunheimen National Park is similar in area to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado or Northumberland National Park in the UK. 

Besseggen ridge overlooking Lake Gjende.

Jotunheimen National Park trekking highlights

Every day of hiking in Jotunheimen National Park brings new inspiration, such as trekking over the iconic, jagged Besseggen Ridge, which you access by boat across Lake Gjende. On this same holiday, you also get to tackle a via ferrata up to Synshorn (1,457m) with views out across lakes Bygdin and Vinstre. Or trek through Svartdalen, meaning Black Valley, one of the mountain ranges’s most sweepingly sublime, enveloped by one pretty peak after another. The finale of this trip is a demanding but dramatic hike to Uranostind (2,157m), fully guided, as you cross a glacier, traverse crevasses and scramble along a ridge. The summit is a moment of pure Jotunheimen joy. 

The King’s Road, Norway

This is an ancient 100km highway over the Filefjell Mountains, which border the western part of the Jotunheimen mountain range. Dating back to 1793, it was the first route that people could use, specifically for horses and carts, to connect the east with the west of the country and also the two cities of Oslo and Bergen. It is divided into sections, taking you through beech forests, mountain passes and formidable fjord landscapes. As part of the trail borders the Jotunheimen Mountains, you can combine walking sections of the King’s Road with a hiking holiday in Jotunheimen National Park, taking in the via ferrata up to Synshorn (1,457m) as well as a hike to Gjendetunga (1,516m), with views across glaciers, Gjende Lake and the Jotunheimen summits. 

A typical mountain lodging in Jotunheimen National Park, at the foot of Synshorn Mountain.

Mountain huts in Jotunheimen National Park

The Norwegian Mountaineering Association own a collection of iconic lodges – also known as DNT lodges, an acronym for the association’s name, Den Norske Turistforening, founded in 1871. Ranging from traditional red to more earthy log cabins, there are 550 of them across the country. While hiking in the Jotunheimen Mountains, you sleep at one of the oldest huts on the shores of Lake Gjende, perfect for a wake-up swim. Or when hiking on the King’s Road, you stay at Fondsbu Lodge, on the shores of Lake Bygdin, a lodge that is particularly famous for its great local cuisine. 

You have private double or twin rooms throughout these trips, with some shared bathroom facilities. However, they are all very clean and well-equipped for tired and hungry hikers. They do book up quickly, though and so, in the case of private rooms not being available, we offer accommodation in a dorm instead (mixed gender), at a discounted price. Read more in our blog, Staying in mountain huts on walking holidays. 

Mjølkevegen Cycle Trail in Jotunheimen National Park

Mjølkevegen is a superb 250km cycling trail through some of Norway’s finest natural heritage, including Jotunheimen National Park. Translated as the Milky Way after the dairy farms scattered across this Valdres region, it’s enveloped by the Jotunheimen Mountains. Starting in the north at Lemonsjøen, you head south as far as Kamben on an exhilarating trail with a mix of climbs, downhills and wide-open stretches, surrounded by impressive peaks and lakelands. You can do it over eight days or take on a shorter northern or southern section, each six days long. 

Some seriously smooth cycling along the Mjølkevegen, in Jotunheimen National Park.

Responsible hiking in Jotunheimen National Park 

Jotunheimen National Park may be set up with superb trails, but it’s vital to be a responsible walker while out in these wonderful, wild spots. The right to roam (allemannsretten in Norwegian) has been enshrined in law 1957, so please respect this while you roam too. This includes the obvious rules of leaving no litter, removing nothing, staying on allocated tracks and watching wildlife quietly and from a safe distance, respecting the fact that these spaces are their home. 

Be a safe hiker too, making sure you have all the required equipment as advised in your trip notes, first aid kit, water and so on, as well as a note of the emergency services at The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC). This is +47 51 51 70 00 for JRCC Southern Norway, which is where our Jotunheimen National Park tours take place. In order to be a safe hiker, you also need to get trip fit, as our Jotunheimen National Park hiking holidays are categorised as self-guided moderate to strenuous. So you need to be on the ball, and on form. 

Getting to Jotunheimen National Park 

They have a very efficient bus service in Norway, and the best way to start your hiking holiday in Jotunheimen National Park is to take the Valdresekspressen bus from Oslo City Bus Terminal. This takes you directly to the shores of Lake Bygdin in just over four hours, and there is only one bus a day from Oslo at 08.30h, which means you need to spend the night in the capital, and hit the hills early the next morning.  Lake Bygdin is the starting point for many of the national park hikes, and there is very little here except a couple of traditional mountain trekking huts, hotels and a lot of happy hikers. The cost of this bus journey is included in the price of our Jotunheimen Mountain hiking tours. 

The right to roam (allemannsretten in Norwegian) has been enshrined in law 1957. You won’t want to stop roaming.

Best time to go to Jotunheimen National Park

It’s a short season for hiking in Jotunheimen National Park, with our self-guided holidays available between late June and late August. This is the best time for clear skies, less rain and easier wind conditions. But it’s wild out on those hills, and the ‘giants’ can roar from time to time in their homelands, so come equipped for all seasons and always monitor the weather carefully. Even though you get fantastically long days at this time of year in Norway, be prepared to wrap up. Temperatures in the mountains don’t often hit double figures. It’s worth noting that there are also midges in Jotunheimen National Park, called the Gjende blackfly, fairly prolific during August and September and most common out on Lake Gjende. They are harmless, like Scottish midges, but it’s worth knowing how to protect yourself against them. 

We wouldn’t have the same access to Jotunheimen National Park without the incredible services of those working at the DNT huts. It’s worth noting, therefore, that the foundations of these buildings are held up not only by seasonal staff but also by teams of volunteers. These are people who really believe in the ethos of the DNT where, since its foundation, the mandate has been to “acquire means to ease and develop outdoor life here in this country”. If you want to gain more Norwegian knowledge, and ease of access, check out all our Norway holidays here and don’t hesitate to contact us for more details.