- ODDA, NORWAY
A spectacular, and wildly popular Norwegian hiking destination, Trolltunga, literally "troll's tongue," is a sliver of rock that juts out 700 meters above Lake Ringedalsvatnet, affording panoramic views in all directions. The lake and surrounding cliffs were carved out by glaciers some 10,000 years ago. Although not for the faint of heart, the difficulty in this hike lies in the distance and less in the incline, although there is some of that as well. You will be rewarded with stunning and varied landscapes for the entire duration of the hike, and despite its Instagram fame, I do think this is something to add to the bucket list if time allows.
When to Hike: June 15 to September 15 (without a guide). I hiked on August 31st and had overcast skies, but a clear, snow-less trail. At other times of the year, a guide is necessary as the trail is often covered in snow or ice. For more info see the Visit Norway website.
Distance: 27.5km or approx 17 miles roundtrip from the Skjeggedal Parking Lot / 22km or approx 13.6 miles roundtrip from the New Upper Parking Lot
Level of Difficulty: Difficult because of length, but moderate otherwise (in my opinion when compared with other famous hikes around the world)
Time: This depends on your fitness level and how leisurely you take it. My friend and I did it in about 7.5 hrs roundtrip with 30-45 mins spent at the top, but if you like to take your time allow 10-12 hours (yes! it's that long).
Elevation Gain: About 900m or 2,950 feet
How to Get to Odda
Trolltunga is located in southern Norway near the municipality of Odda. Because of its slightly off the beaten path location, I highly recommend renting a car to make the journey quick and convenient. Even with a car, the distances are large so I encourage you to at the very least spend the night before the hike in the Odda area, but ideally the two nights flanking the hike if time allows. My friend and I drove to Bergen immediately following our hike, and I felt that this was ultimately rather unsafe as I was quite tired behind the wheel (learn from my mistakes!).
From Bergen: Approx 3 hrs driving time
From Oslo: Approx 5-6 hrs driving time
From Stavanger: 3-4 hrs driving time
From Bergen: Take the 930 Bus from the Bergen Station. See timetables here.
From Oslo: Haukeliekspressen Bus from Oslo Station. This route includes the NW180 Bus and a coordinated arrival time with the Skyss 930 Bus to take you the final leg to Odda. Both legs/timetables can be seen here.
From Stavanger: Book the Nor-Way bus.
How to Get to the Trailhead
*As mentioned above, having a car is the easiest and least stressful way to hike Trolltunga. Being able to get directly to the parking lot at a time of your choosing is a nice luxury to have when you plan to hike 17 miles in a day. The parking fees are a bit of a rip off, but Norway is beautiful so I'll let it slide. *
Drive 17km from Odda or 7km from Tyssedal to the Skjeggedal Parking Lot (500 NOK to park for the day). This was the original trailhead, and where I began my hike. The new parking lot up the hill will save you quite a bit of hiking, but only has room for 30 cars so you will have to queue early to get a spot (600 NOK to park for the day). In the high summer months the lot opened around 6am, but I believe the time changes so keep an eye on Tripadvisor as recent visitors often mention the opening times. If you are parking in the upper lot, consider using the restrooms at Skjeggedal as, at the time of my visit, there weren't any on top.
Additionally, in the summer months between 7am and 2pm there is a shuttle bus from the Skjeggedal Parking Lot to the Upper Lot to save you some hiking time (70 NOK/person each way).
Hire a taxi from Odda to the Skjeggedal Parking Lot. Book in advance. It will likely be around 300ish NOK each way.
By Public Transport:
From Odda take the 995 Bus to Tyssedal. I cannot confirm that the bus goes beyond Tyssedal to the trailhead itself, so the last 7km might require some hitchhiking.
Many accommodations in Odda and Tyssedal offer shuttles to the trailhead, so please inquire directly with your accommodations. Shuttles often don't start running until 7am.
I recommend beginning the hike early to avoid crowds, ensure parking, and to have sufficient time in the day to finish. We arrived to the Skjeggedal Lot at 4:45am and spent about 15 minutes getting boots on, paying for parking, and using the restroom (do this here, only one on the whole trail). We began the hike at 5am, but had brought headlamps for this first bit in the dark (highly recommended).
From the Skjeggedal Parking Lot, the hike begins straight up (good morning!) with two options: a slightly shorter yet steeper rock trail through the trees or a paved switchback road. Because I began the hike in the dark, we opted for the road to avoid tripping hazards and we wouldn't really be seeing the trees anyway.
After the first strenuous incline, the trail levels out to a beautiful mountain plateau where the trail meanders through low vegetation, rocks, and secluded cabins. Follow the trail markers (poles, rock piles or "cairns," or red T's painted on rocks). In off seasons, I imagine this area could be snowy or icy.
Beyond this pseudo valley area, another climb begins, first on large stone steps and then up a slick rock face. Be careful as even in dry conditions this area could be a bit slippery.
Next you'll reach a small lake that affords some really nice reflections of the surrounding rock formations. The trail twists around the lake before a short downhill. From here the trail is a bit rocky and bumpy so watch your step. You will see the first of two emergency cabins, essentially last resort options that have heat, some cooking equipment, and just general shelter. Pop your head in if interested.
Climbing up this next portion is where you get your first look over Lake Ringedalsvatnet - steep, rocky cliff faces crashing into sapphire blue waters with small waterfalls trickling down. The views from here on out are completely mesmerizing, take it all in.
The last stretch of the hike is a bit of up and down over larger rock formations. You'll see a few small lakes and then before you know it, there is Trolltunga. I arrived at about 8am and there were only about 5 people lined up in front of us. As we waited to take our photos, more people began trickling in. Don't ever expect to be "the first" of the day as there are always those that have camped the night before ahead of you. If you are hiking alone or want a shot with your friends, other hikers will always help you take your photos.
Trolltunga itself looks scary and narrow, but walking out onto the rock, you actually feel quite secure as the rock is wide and slopes upwards. Do exercise caution however, you are 700 meters above the lake below after all. I, contrary to the norm, have a love of heights, and felt light and energized walking out onto this rock. Despite seeing this vista a million times on social media, there is nothing quite like being there yourself, particularly when effort is required to get there. We enjoyed our food sitting on the surrounding rocks watching people pose for their snaps, one guy even went in the nude!
The hike back down, although the same path, is still beautiful as the light will often change dramatically from your ascent. We hiked on a mostly overcast day, but on the descent were given some bursts of sunlight as well as a few quick rain showers - Norway's weather can truly change in minutes.
What to Bring
Like any long hiking venture, it is best to come prepared when visiting Trolltunga. Do bring a backpack loaded with snacks and a lunch (breakfast?) for the top, light & breathable layers, a waterproof jacket, waterproof pants (optional, but the weather is mercurial here), hiking boots with ankle support, a camelback or reusable water bottle, sunscreen, an extra pair of socks for wet days, hiking poles (optional, I did not use but could be helpful), a waterproof backpack cover, a headlamp, and of course a camera.
- This hike is no joke. Come prepared.
- As mentioned above, start early especially in peak summer months! The queue to take your photo will be longer and longer as the day goes on.
- Although you should have a starting amount of water, there are fresh glacial water streams and mini falls all along the trail that you can use to refill your bottles. The water is clean, cold, and delicious.
- Beyond the first alpine plateau area (where the remote cabins are), camping is allowed anywhere along the trail (currently), but be sure to LEAVE NO TRACE.
- Do not start the hike later than 10am unless you are planning to camp at the top for the night or are comfortable hiking in the dark. Regardless, a head lamp is recommended for an early start or in cases of emergency.
- Use the restroom at the Skjeggedal Parking Lot, as there are no others on the trail. Bring a small roll of toilet paper as well as ziploc bags to pack your trash in/out.