Looking back at our 6-day trekking adventure along the borders of South Tyrol, day two was certainly my favorite. Not because the entire hike was uphill, but because of the variation in the terrain, the glacier crossing and the absurdly beautiful location of our destination, the Müllerhütte. Another great thing about this hike, is that is also an amazing venture to do as an overnight hike without doing the whole 6-day trek. Please have in mind though, that you will need appropriate equipment to cross the glacier in order to reach the Müllerhütte, and, in the event you are not a group qualified to cross the glacier on your own, you will need a mountain guide (for which I can highly recommend Egon Resch).
The first part of the hike is zig-zagging through the forest, most of the time accompanied by a beautiful river and some waterfalls calling for your camera.
Video by Andrea Capello/@dolomistici
And what a day this should be! A short lunch at the Teplitzerhütte turned long as we tried to wait out the rainstorm. In the end we covered up and faced the challenge head on, equipped to connect to the fixed ropes provided at the most exposed sections of the hike. I enjoyed this wet part, moving confidently in the equipment and for the first time with poles, when not using the ropes to pull myself up. Suddenly the rain stopped and the fog lifted just in time for us to enjoy the most amazing view of the turquoise Lago di Malavalle. Fuelled by these amazing views we made it to the glacier and our last leg before reaching the Müller hut. Müller hut was my definite favorite, surrounded by glacier and mountains on 3145 meters, and with a welcoming Danish hostess securing a steady flow of biers and kaiserschmarren in the afternoon sun.
If you are not doing a hut-to-hut-hike, return the same way as you came up, with all the amazing views you turned your back to the day before. And don’t sleep in in the morning. The sunrise from the Müller hütte is not to be missed!
Distance: 15K Elevation gain: 2045m (highest point 3145 m.a.s.)
In August last year I was invited by the Italian mountaineering brand, Salewa, to participate in a 6-day trekking experience in the Dolomites. This was the third event of their project, Grande Circolo, an ode to the region of South Tyrol in the form of an alpine tour along the borders of the region.
I had just returned from a week in the Dolomites, determined to spend more time at the high altitude rifugios (mountain huts), and was already planing to return next summer, when I received the invitation, and could not believe my luck!
While I spend most of my time in the mountains with a super-light backpack and running shoes, this event would expose me to a much heavier backpack, glacier equipment, mountain shoes, and adapting my speed to the group. I am sure our guide would say I was not always successful at the latter, yet I enjoyed every second of it.
Day 1: Gossensass – Maiern
We started out adventure from the village of Gossensass (Colle Isarco in Italian), which is accessible by train. According to our guide, Egon, the first day was just a kind warm up for what to come on day two and three. This warm up still included 1692 meters of elevation and 19.7 kilometers on foot, and the introduction to the region’s apfelstrudel and speck, which should turn out to be our favorite go-to-fuels this week, as well as a wide variety of “schorle” (juice and sparkling water blends).
The first part of the hike took us uphill through the forest, before the landscape opened up just as we reached our first mountain refueling hut. I can still remember the taste and texture of the apfel strudel, which eventually turned out to be my lunch this day. Breaking up from the hut, we still had to overcome some uphill before reaching the first pass of the day at 2147 meter a.s.l. after 7.5 km. Looking to our left from the pass a velvet green ridge showed off and made our cameras click. After a short descent we more or less kept the height for 5-6 km turning corners with stunning views, including view of the glacier, which was to be our destination for the second day. After about 14.5 km we finally reached a refueling opportunity and loaded up on speck and bread before our knee-killing steep descent to Maiern.
The transport system in South Tyrol allows you to plan your own multi-day destination to destination hike. The starting point for our trekking experience, Gossensass (Colle Isarco), is just off the Brenner highway, about one hour by train from Innsbruck.
In the heart of the Dolomites you find Passo Falzarego, a busy crossroad between Cortina, Alta Badia and Val di Fiemme, with several historical and nature wonder attractions nearby. This is also the starting point for two of the most beautiful mountain runs you can do, the Gran Lagazuoi circuit and the Nuvolau run. If you are fit, you can easily do both in one day. If you plan on doing the double, I would suggest starting from the Falzarego pass in the morning and run the circuit provided in my Strava link below in the opposite direction, have lunch at Rifugio Lagazuoi, and take the cable car down to the pass before you head in direction of Rifugio Nuvolau. For a unique experience, bring a light backpack with a sleeping liner and some dry clothing and stay overnight at Rifugion Nuvolau (reservations must be made in advance).
The Lagazuoi run
This run takes you around the impressive Gran Lagazuoi and provides some of the most spectacular views of the Dolomites. Take the trail on the right side of the cable car when facing the mountain. There are several trails going up, but for this run choose trail 402 (the Strava link shows the Babylon trail, but 402 is an easier option). Stay on 402 until you reach trail 20B at around 2500 m.a.s.l. and continue the climb on 20B until you reach its highest point, Gran Forcela at around 2650m.a.s.l. From here, again follow 20B going down on the other side and stay on this trail along the mountain wall, which will be on your left side. This is the most technical part of the trail and I have to admit I felt quite vulnerable and small running here alone. Continue on this trail towards Rif. Lagazuoi. As you are approaching the rifugio, the trails will get significantly more crowded. Unless you are very adventurous, don’t bother doing the detour shown on the Strava link, but save the energy for another detour following the Kaiserjägersteig trail towards the peak Piccolo Lagazuoi at 2778 m.a.s.l. Now you have earned your lunch at the Rifugio Lagazuoi.
After lunch, you have the option to run down, walk down through the war tunnels, or save your legs for the next run by taking the cable car down to Passo Falzarego.
Rifugio Nuvolau is a small mountain cabin placed on the edge of the Nuvolau peak at 2574 m.a.s.l. The cabin can be reached from a multiple starting points and in different ways, one of them being by via ferrata. The alternative presented here is from Passo Falzarego, just across the street from where you descended from the Lagazuoi run. The trailhead is found at the parking next to the Rifugio Passo Falzarego, where you may also buy refreshments, if you need anything before the run.
The first kilometer is pretty easy, only ascending about 80 meters, while the next kilometer is more varied also with some steeper sections. The third kilometer is steep before you get one pretty chill kilometer, even with some downhill and new views as you run around the Averau. The last four hundred meters up to the cabin will make you sweat again as the excitement builds for reaching this amazing location. When I arrived last time, the sun was about to set while a guy was playing guitar and the hikers who were booked for the night arrived. I stayed as long as I could while still being able to do the descent in daylight, and decided to book a bed for next time.
From the Nuvolau you have great views of the famous Five Towers, popular for mountain climbers. If you have the time, you can return via the towers, by taking a right turn at Rifugio Averau (400 meters from Nuvolau) and continue on trail 439 until you meet trail 440, which will take you back to your starting point.
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo is maybe the most iconic landmark of the Dolomites and draws tons of tourists due to its easy (although fairly expensive) access by road. However, it is surprisingly easy to skip the crowds for one of the most memorable runs ever if you start early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Having done the circuit around the three peaks twice, I always think of it as fairly flat, but looking at the data from my run, it is certainly not. Still, it is one of the easiest runs you can do in the Dolomites, and with views second to none.
To get the most out of it, I suggest you stay overnight at one of the huts along the path. If you plan to run with a light backpack with easy logistics, stay at Rifugio Auronzo, which is right on the trailhead about 40 minutes drive from Cortina. You can park outside the hut, but it is advisable to arrive very early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Although it feels a bit like being on interrail or a backpacking trip, the hut is large, with clean rooms, most with amazing views. All rooms come with shared bathrooms, but you can book a private room. You can book your stay with breakfast or half board, but if you plan on going for a sunrise hike/run, depending on the season, you should bring some snacks, as breakfast opens at 7am.
Photographers flock to the Tre Cime area for shots of the famous peaks and the surrounding mountains, in particular the Cadini di Misurina, which are just in front of the Rifugion Auronzo. If you want to join the pack, plan for a sunset hike/run in the afternoon and a sunrise mission. You wont regret!
The Tre Cime trail run
I prefer to do the Tre Cime run anti-clockwise. Starting from Rifugio Auronzo at about 2350 m.a.s. the first part is fairly flat on a wide easy path. After about 1.5 km you reach the first hut, Rifugio Lavaredo, where you can take a detour off track to take in the Cadini peaks before you start the ascent towards the run’s highest point. This is also where you get the first sight of the north wall of Tre Cime. From here you can also see the two paths continuing towards the Dreizinnenhütte/Rifugio Antonio Locatelli. Choose the upper path.
After 4 km and numerous photo stops you reach the Dreizinnenhütte. This is a great spot for a coffee break in the sun, but first I suggest you make a detour to the cave and the lakes behind the hut. Since the run is not very long, you want to linger as long as possible to take in the surroundings. If you have the time, and manage to get a reservation, do consider staying at the Dreizinnenhütte for a night.
Leaving the hut takes you downhill for about 1.5 km until you reach the run’s lowest point, all the time with the peaks in front of you. After a short, but steep, climb, you will probably meet more and more people as you approach your starting point, the Rifugio Auronzo.
Last summer was a nightmare for seasonal allergies in Norway. During indian summer, I dreamt of fresh air and mountains, and apparently there is no better place to breathe than in St. Moritz. I came across some cheap tickets to Zürich and started planning my trip immediately. I had my eyes on Pontresina, a village in the Engadin valley, close to St. Moritz. The overly luxurious vibe of St. Moritz didn’t appeal to me, and I assumed Pontresina would be a better option as it has frequently been used by national XC-skiing teams for training. The main purpose of my trip was to run in the Engadin mountains, but I also wanted to use roller skis as alternative training.
When doing my research, I came over the the Swiss trailrunning website alpsinsight, which really is trailrunners’ heaven and a one stop shop for trail running resources when in Switzerland. I also bought their book, Run the Alps Switzerland, which guided me to two of my runs in Pontresina, and has now caused me to book another trip to Switzerland this year. Alpsinsight was also the main trigger for me to start trailspotting.no, hoping to inspire others as alpsinsight has inspired me.
So, let’s run Switzerland!
Piz Languard, 20 km
I choose to run the Piz Languard trail on my first day in Pontresina as I was really eager to tick off a 3000+ peak. The trail started practically outside my hotel, from the Santa Maria church in the centre of Pontresina and switchbacking up through the forest I quickly gained elevation and a fantastic view of the Morteratsch glacier on the other side of the valley. I even met an ibex.
I made a quick stop for hydration at the cozy Paradis hut to linger over the glacier view from the sunny terrace, before I continued into the Languard valley. Reaching the lake, I lost track of the trail, as I thought it followed the shore of the lake, which it didn’t, and I had to return to the junction that I missed. After a short steep climb, amazing flowing trails take you towards the last climb towards Georgy’s hut, and then to the peak at 3262 m.a.s.l. The view from the summit is simply amazing, especially in the autumn sun, so make sure you have time to take it all in, before descending to Georgy’s hut to refuel.
After the first steep descent, the flowing trails take over and you feel like you could run forever. But there is still another hut to visit, the Segatini hut. Make sure you bring cash, so you don’t have to limit yourself, as I did, and can spend some time enjoying the view of the Engadin valley from the terrace before taking on the last descent. If you want to spare your knees, you can skip the last part of the downhill by taking the chairlift back down to Pontresina. Off-season, the fare is commonly included in your hotel travel pass.
Further description of the Piz Languard run on alpsinsight here.
I had huge expectations before embarking on this long run, and I can safely say they were met. Starting off from the train station in Pontresina, you get an easy warm up running almost flat for several kilometers along a beautiful river. As during the Piz Languard run, you have several opportunities to refuel, so take advantage of this and skip carrying too much water. The first hut is at about 7 kilometer. Passing the hut, the trail becomes a little more technical until you reach the stunning glacier lake Lej da Vadret. Take time to linger, because this place is truly magical.
Leaving the lake it gets steeper. After the climb you may take a short detour to the hut, Chamanna Coaz, to refuel on their cake and get the glacier view up close. You can also book at sleepover at the hut. The next seven kilometer are easy flow, with some technical sections, and after about 22 kilometer you are at the highest point of the run, where you can also stop to refuel at a hut before starting on the descent. This is where the second coolest thing about this run happens, you turn a corner, and then WOW – the view of the Engadin lakes!
The trail eventually takes you into the forest again, and even a short climb, before a steep downhill to the Pontresina train station. Shortly before you arrive in Pontresina, a short detour of about a kilometer to a nearby peak is possible (and included in the strava link below).
Further description of the Rosegtal run on alpsinsight here.
After the long Rosegtal run, I looked for opportunities to explore more of the area without the strain of going downhill and decided to do a hike from the bottom of the Diavolezza gondola to the summits Sass Queder, 3060 m.a.s. and Munt Pers, 3207 m.a.s. Again, this is a treat for the eye with beautiful views towards Lago Bianco and the Bernina pass during the climb, and the Diavolezza glacier from the top. I recommend using poles if you embark on this climb, and if you only have the time to do one summit, do Munt Pers. And obviously, you can take the gondola to the Diavolezza station, leaving you with only 200 meters of elevation to run.
Hey, its Engadin, and the famous lake in St. Moritz, where you can spot world class runners on their easy runs, is a short run or a train ride away from Pontresina. In St. Moritz you can also find a track for speed work, if that’s on your agenda. For more trail runs, check out the Piz Lunghin run featured on alpsinsight.
I tried to find some cycle paths suitable for roller skis towards Samedan, where I had been told one could do rounds around the airport. However, I stumbled upon gravel paths and decided to go towards the Bernina pass instead. I was told that it was not allowed to use roller skis on this main road, but from having cycled there a few years ago, I considered it relatively safe and gave it a go. And it truly was a great option for roller skis. Due to a bike race going up on the other side of the pass, part of the road was closed for traffic, but the police let me pass to go up on roller skis anyway. At the top I turned and returned down for the not so steep downhill the first about 5 kilometer, then I took the train back to Pontresina. The train journey is part of the famous Bernina Express which is on many tourists’ itinerary when visiting Switzerland.
I stayed at Hotel Rosatsch, which at the time of booking seemed to provide most for the money as well as ticking of the boxes of location and comfort. I had a big room with breakfast and four course dinner included for about 530 Swiss francs for five nights, which, as mentioned above, also included a travel pass providing free access to local trains, busses and most lifts and gondolas. On my radar war also Hotel Müller, which you could also check out.
Obviously, for luxury brands shopping, you head off to St. Moritz, but if you are more into sports clothing and equipment, there are plenty of sports shops in Pontresina. In Pontresina I also spent a lot of time hanging out at café Gianotti, on the main street in Pontresina, not far away from Hotel Rosatsch.
If you have a travel pass, I recommend to do an afternoon excursion to Piz Nair, at 3057 m.a.s., it is a short walk from the Piz Nair gondola station, where you can also grab refreshments or something to eat while enjoying the view.
How to get there
Not only can you easily reach Pontresina by train, but it is also a train ride you will enjoy from the beginning to the end. While traveling by train in Switzerland is quite expensive there are often deals/discounts to be had if you book early.
This summer I finally made it to Stortinden, the highest point on my favorite mountain ridge in Tysfjord, which was also my summer breakfast view during childhood. From my breakfast table it seemed impossible to get to Stortinden (and so said my grandmother), but as with Kjerna, the amazing views from the summit at 847 m.a.s. come surprisingly cheap. The trail head, which is across the road from the parking at E6, about eight kilometer north of Skarberget, is at about 250 m.a.s,, leaving you with only 600 meters of ascent.
The trail is well marked with orange paint and splits into two after about one kilometer, where you can ascend to the left to go to Kjerna, and continue straight forward towards a small pond to continue to Stortinden. Having passed the pond, the trail gets much steeper and some climbing is necessary in some parts, however never exposed. When you think you have reached the summit, you can see a spectacular ridge running northeast, while you continue west on the marked trail to get to the summit.
From the summit you have 360 degrees panorama of the Lofoten islands in the west, Efjorden in the north, Stetinden southeast, and Tysfjord in the south.
Skrovkjosen, Skarberget and Tysfjord
Lofoten wall in the far distance
An alternative route towards Stortinden runs from Kjerna, where you continue on the trail continuing north after having passed Kjerna. I have not tried this route myself, and for now I recommend descending to the trail junction at around 500 m.a.s. if you want to tick of Kjerna, which has a lot of cool photo spots, after Stortinden.
In light of the raising fame of the archipelago of Lofoten, and its toll on the nature, I have been in doubt as to whether I wanted to add to that by inspiring you to go to this incredibly beautiful part of Norway. However, I can’t not share some of the beauty Lofoten has to offer to those of you who prefer active vacations. What I can do, is to encourage responsible travel, to leave Lofoten the way you found it, because, believe me, you will want to go back! If in doubt as to what this means in practice, read Lofoten Code of Conduct.
For general information on Lofoten, go to lofoten.info. Another site that I found very useful is 68north.com. For Norwegian readers I recommend getting Kristin Folsland Olsen’s book, “Lofoten, 68 flotte turer i verdens vakreste øyrike”.
Enjoying the midnight sun from Røren
The hippie vibe at Haukland beach
Evening chill outdoors at the “rorbu”
Sunbathing at the Helvetestinden summit
Chilling at Kvalvika beach after running up to Ryten
My travel buddy, Kaja, and I both prepared well in advance and made individual lists of summits we wanted to include in our itinerary. Luckily, we had made the same picks. In addition to the runs we were able to tick off, we had Værøy and Reinebringen on our list. Værøy we had to leave out due to logistics and the limited time we had available. Reinebringen was closed for trail construction (to reopen during July 2019).
None of the summits below will let you down, however, no hike/run in Lofoten probably will.
Himmeltinden and Haukland beach
Arriving at Haukland beach, your first thought may be to skip the summit and stay at the beach. I promise you, chilling at the beach after your run, will feel even better.
Himmeltinden was the highest summit of our Lofoten trip with its 964 m.a.s. The trailhead is across the Haukland beach parking, just before driving into the Uttakleiv tunnel. The four kilometer trail to the summit has runable sections as well as steeper parts and amazing views already from the beginning. Enjoy the exceptional views at around 700 m.a.s. before taking on the last part of the climb. Bring a dry shirt and some warm clothes to make yourself comfortable at the summit. And, if you can, go for the sunset/midnight sun experience!
Gravel in some of the steeper parts may cause you to slip, so take it easy downhill. And don’t forget bringing a towel for a dip in the ocean after the run!
Another great summit/beach combination is Helvetestinden and Bunes beach. To reach the trailhead, you need to take a 20 minutes boat ride from Reine to Vindstad. Go here for the schedule.
Once you reach Vindstad, the initial two kilometers are practically flat before you have to tackle almost 600 meters of elevation gain divided on the last two kilometers. Don’t miss the gramable spot and a peek into Kjerkfjorden at around 500 m.a.s. before the last climb. Again, bring what you need to stay comfortable at the top of Helvetestinden, 602 m.a.s. and take time to enjoy the beautiful view of Bunes beach. As Himmeltinden, this hike is also great for sunset/midnight sun, provided you have the logistics settled. Also, bring enough water, as the climb does not provide any drinking sources.
If you have the time before the boat return, don’t miss the Bunes beach, which has some funny gras bumps providing some shelter if the wind is too strong.
The final summit/beach combination to tick off in Lofoten is the insta-famous Ryten and my favorite beach, Kvalvika. We starten our run from Torsfjord, but you can also start from Bergland, Medvold or Marka. Ryten, with its 543 m.a.s. is more runable than Himmeltinden and Helvetestinden. Most of the initial two hundred meters of elevation gain, you loose before the ascent really starts just before you reach Kvalvika beach. Stay on the wooden paths provided and enjoy the amazing views as you climb toward the instagram spot at 500 m.a.s. Although this spot is the purpose of the hike for many, don’t miss the peak and the enormous plateau of Ryten. This is where I want to return with a tent next year!
Again, if you have the chance, go to Ryten to enjoy sunset/midnight sun. In any event, bring a towel and take some time to chill at the peaceful Kvalvika beach after the run.
Unless you choose any of the above hikes for your midnight sun experience, Røren is a shorter alternative, as well as a beautiful soft ground hike with surrounding hills you just want to explore running. This hike is also graced with beach views, this time it is Yttersand which provides the perfect backdrop.
You need a car to explore Lofoten. If you drive your own from the south, I recommend taking the ferry from Bodø to Værøy or Moskenes, and return by taking the ferry from Svolvær to Skutvik (only in the summer). Continuing from Skutvik towards Trondheim or Oslo, you may include another favorite spot of mine, Manshausen, which makes for a perfect roundtrip, if you ask me. Another option would be to explore Tysfjord. If you have a lot of time available, I would suggest continuing from Lofoten via Vesterålen and Andøya to Senja.
If you arrive by plane, the most convenient airports are Leknes and Svolvær, however, flights here tend to be quite beautiful. Since you in any event need to rent a car, your best option is to fly into Bodø, take the ferry to Moskenes and rent a car there. Another great alternative is to fly to Evenes, from where it will take you about 2:30 to drive to Svolvær.
Where to stay
There are so may great accommodation alternatives in Lofoten. Although not being a camper, I would definitely love to go camping in Lofoten. We stayed at Sakrisøy Rorbuer, which we really enjoyed, in particular due to its quiet location near Reine, but not in Reine and for the deli/restaurant across the street. Sakrisøy was also a bit cheaper than other “rorbuer” we considered. I suggest you choose accommodation near your hiking targets in order to avoid much driving (roads are narrow and with heavy traffic during high season).
I recommend to go in June before the summer vacation starts, or in September. The fall is supposed to be the best time to go, even if there is no midnight sun. And of course, if you like mountain skiing, go in the winter as well!
In these days xc-skiers are flocking to Sognefjellet for summer skiing. I really can’t think of any better place to be this time of the year when the sun is shining. It is not just about the skiing, the surroundings are out of this world beautiful, and if you are lucky with the conditions you can even skate on the morning crust all the way up to Fanaråken (2068 m.a.s.) or to other surrounding peaks. Staying at Sognefjellet for multiple days skiing twice a day is not for everyone, and I like to combine 2-3 days at Sognefjellet with a few days in Aurland on my way up, and a couple of days at Beitostølen on my way back to Oslo. Beginning of June is the perfect timing for this road trip, as the roads over Aurlandsfjellet and Valdresflye are open and there is usually sufficient snow for skiing at Sognefjellet.
If you have a week to spend in June, this is what I would do:
Drive to Aurland
Take inspiration from Training Camp in Aurland and make sure to include a bicycle ride over Aurlandsfjellet to Lærdal and back and a run up Aurlandsdalen. Drive to Sognefjellshytta in the evening catching the sunset, via Øvre Årdal and the beautiful Tindevegen or via Sogndal and the equally beautiful Lustrafjorden.
Stay at Sognefjellshytta for easy access to the track, which starts right outside the cabin. The track is usually prepared for classic and skate twice a day, in the morning and the afternoon, and, depending on the amount of snow, is about 5-7 km long. Consider bringing your mountain/randonee skis if you want to explore more of the area, or take advantage of the morning crust for some off-track skating.
Drive to Beitostølen Friday afternoon, just in time to make a stop at Bakeriet i Lom for some carbo loading before they close for the day. If it’s your lucky day you catch a spectacular sunset when driving over Valdresflye to Beitostølen.
One of my most beautiful roller ski workouts I had at Beitostølen, starting from the village and rolling up to Valdresflye. The surroundings are hard to beat and the traffic not too bad if you start in the morning.
Finish off your training road trip with a run over Besseggen. Go for an early start from Gjendesheim in order to make the return by boat from Memurubu (if you are too slow, you just have to run back as well). This is the most legendary hike in the Norwegian mountains with a spectacular ridge section providing an amazing view of Gjendevatnet and Jotunheimen. Starting from Gjendesheim in stead of following the pack with boat to start from Memurubu, you get the ridge and most of the trail for yourself.
If a shorter run is more to your liking, go for Bitihorn, which is closer to Beitostølen and can be done in an hour. There are several trails to Bitihorn, the link below takes you to the peak from the south.
Have you ever been to Aurland? This tiny little village in the UNESCO world heritage area around Nærøyfjorden, not far away from much more overcrowded and famous Flåm, makes the perfect site for a multisport endurance training camp with a view. Aurland is also hosting one of the world’s toughest competitions, Aurlandsfjellet Extreme Triathlon, AXTRI, which takes places in August every year.
The best time to visit Aurland is between the opening of the road over Aurlandsfjellet, usually end of May/beginning of June, and the start of the summer vacation at the end of June. During this time you may get the chance to experience the “freezer” effect of the snow banks along the scenic mountain road without the crowds. Here you will find suggestions for different workouts (roller skis, bike and running), in addition you may want to explore the fjord by kayak or swimming.
Lunch break at the terrace of Marianne Bakery & Café
The fjord view
The mountain road, especially when the snow banks are high
The Aurlandsdalen run
Aurland – Lærdal on road bike
This mountain road from Aurland to Lærdal is one of the 18 Norwegian Scenic Routes and the bike leg of AXTRI. When you take on the Aurland mountain by bike you will start to understand why AXTRI is considered one of the toughest competitions in the world with more than 3000 meters of elevation gain divided on 98 kilometers, and the highest point on the course at 1320 meters above sea level. However, this ride is as beautiful as it is tough, with spectacular views of the fjord and often tall snow banks along the road on the mountain plateau and should be on any rider’s bucket list.
Remember to stop at the Stegastein view point (at about 600 m.a.s.l.) about half way up the first climb. If you are not up for the full distance, you can of course make the turn at any point of the course, and, unless you are checking it out for the race, skip the last flat 10 kilometers from Aurland to Vassbygdi.
Another favorite workout when in Aurland is of course to take on the mountain climb on roller skis. If you don’t have a second car or a support car, you can bring a bike and drive up, leave the car at the top, and ride down to start you roller ski workout. A second option is to roll up only to the Stegastein view point and ask any of the tourists or the tourist busses for a ride down. You should not by any chance roll down the narrow hairpin turns as the traffic can be quit heavy between Aurland and Stegastein.
The roller ski workout follows the same road as the bike workout, thus the views are as amazing, and is great for long intervals.
If you prefer a flat roller ski workout, make it a sightseeing to Flåm. From Flåm you can continue into Flåmsdalen and the starting point of “Rallarvegen” a gravel road popular for mountain biking taking you all the way to Haugastøl on Hardangervidda.
One of the highlights when visiting Aurland is to run up the Aurland valley. This almost 20 kilometer long trail is very popular to do as a one or two-day hike in the opposite direction (downhill) and is also the running leg of AXTRI. This is a truly amazing run taking you through a steep, narrow and wild valley with a lot of history, giant waterfalls and with about 1100 meters of elevation. Please note that due to a recent rockslide the trail should not be used until it has been secured. Please contact local tourist information before you plan to run/hike this trail.
You will find the trailhead is in Vassbygdi, about 10 km from Aurlandsvangen. You can leave your car at the trailhead and return by bus from Østerbø, the end point of the trail (plan your run according to the bus schedule). At Østerbø you can buy refreshments after your run.
The run to the peak, Prest (1478 m.a.s.), is a great 4.6 km (return) trail run for a short afternoon or evening workout. The well marked trail is soft with great views. The most spectacular view of the fjord is actually from below the peak, at about 1360 meters above the fjord. The trailhead can be found at the parking on the left side further up the road from Stegastein viewpoint.
Driving to Aurland from Oslo takes between 4.5 and 5 hours depending on the route you choose. I prefer to make it a roundtrip driving up via Ål and Sudndalen (where you can stretch your legs running up to the beautiful Hivju waterfall) and return via Hemsedal. From Bergen the drive takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes. A road trip including Aurland on its itinerary will soon be added to trailspotting.no.
Where to stay
There are not that many accommodation options in Aurland. We have always stayed at Vangsgården, which provides rooms and apartments on the fjord just in the middle of the village. Location is excellent and the standard ok. The fjord side apartments are small, but sleeps four and the facilities for you to make your own food. There are also a few camping sites and tourist cabins to be rented in Aurland, and another hotel, Aurland Fjordhotel (not tested).
The annual girls’ road trip goes to Geiranger and Trollstigen to collect meters of climbing by roller skiing and running in these crazy beautiful surroundings. This includes one of my favorite places in Norway, Dalsnibba, a mountain top 1500 meters above Geiranger. If you like elevation gains, you may want to tag along!
Highlights of the trip
Cinnamon buns at the Bakery in Lom
Hairpin turns of Dalsnibba
Sunset at Ørnesvingen
Breakfast at Valldal Fjordhotell
Hairpin turns of Trollstigen
The view of any mountain peak in Romsdalen
Driving from Øyer to Dalsnibba
You can of course start this road trip from anywhere, but I like to get a head start by driving up to Øyer/Lillehammer the night before. If you are traveling with only one car and want to go roller skiing up Dalsnibba, you should plan your departure according to the bus schedule, (unless you, like we usually do, plan on asking tourists for a lift down to Geiranger). If you have two cars (and can fit everyone in one), the easiest logistic is to leave one car at the top (with warm clothes) and drive one car down to Geiranger.
First stop of the trip is Bakeriet in Lom, about two hours from Øyer. This is probably the most famous bakery in Norway and worth the trip to Lom alone. Here you grab a coffee and what your heart desires of baked goods. I usually grab a cinnamon bun to stay and a sandwich, muffin and another cinnamon bun to go. You will need carbs for this road trip, so don’t be shy! If you wish to spend more time in Lom, there will soon be more information on Lom at trailspotting.no.
After another 90 minutes drive from Lom you will arrive at Dalsnibba (there is a 150 NOK toll road fee per car to drive up to Dalsnibba). Dalsnibba is also the finishing point for this first day’s challenge, which is rollerskiing from Geiranger going up the 1500 meters of ascent to Dalsnibba.
Rolling Up Dalsnibba
Of course you can take on this climb cycling or running as well. In June every year (in 2019 on the 8th of June) there is a race event from Geiranger to Dalsnibba, called “From Fjord to Mountain“, where you can choose between running or biking, or do both.
We have a thing for roller skiing mountain passes and with 1500 meters of elevation gain divided on about 21 km, the Dalsnibba climb is one of the toughest ones out there, and the equivalent of for example the Stelvio pass in Italy (which due to the higher altitude may feel tougher). You will be driving down from Dalsnibba the same route as you will roll up, giving you the chance to prepare for what to come. Arriving at your starting point, you will find Geiranger buzzing with tourists, some of which have never seen roller skis before.
The first part of the climb quickly takes you through hairpin turns to amazing views of the fjord and Geiranger. You may want to stop at Flydalsjuvet, about 4 km from Geiranger to do some gramming. The mid part of the climb has less curves and after about 7 km the landscape opens up and you will see the climb ahead of you as well as beautiful old farmhouses, waterfalls and mountains. After about 16 km you reach Djupvatnet which is at its most scenic when covered with cracks of ice. In the morning and late evening it is possible to go roller skiing on the road along Djupvatnet and towards Grotli, but it is not advisable with the daytime traffic. From Djupvatnet there is another 6 km of nice hairpin turns and fantastic views before you reach Dalsnibba, and probably enjoy the applause from the tourists.
Driving down to Geiranger from Dalsnibba allow time for a refreshing dip in one of the streams just after Djupvatnet and some photographing in the kind afternoon light. If you haven’t already, make a reservation at Brasserie Posten in Geiranger, and enjoy one of their pizzas before a short stroll in Geiranger, which is now much calmer after the departure of all the cruise ship tourists.
We always stay at Valldal Fjordhotell, which has a great breakfast buffet, good beds and a calm and nice atmosphere. There are also other options in Valldal, which is conveniently located between Geiranger and Trollstigen. The drive from Geiranger to Trollstigen is one of the 18 Norwegian Scenic Routes and you will do the first part of this route on your way to Valldal, which takes about one hour including a short ferry between Eidsdal and Linge. Make sure you allow time for a quick stop at Ørnesvingen, a cool view point above Geiranger on the toad to Valldal, providing you with a view of the fjord, Geiranger and the “Seven Sisters” waterfall.
Driving from Valldal to Trollstigen
Next day you should have an early start. The hotel usually start putting out the breakfast before the scheduled opening, and you may want to ask to come early, depending on your choice of activity this day. You will be provided with two options here. If you want to do the Romsdalseggen hike, you need to be in Åndalsnes for the bus at 9:30 (or 10:30 Saturdays peak season). The drive to Åndalsnes is about 1:30. If you are not doing the express version of this road trip and have some more time, I would suggest adding one night in Åndalsnes after Valldal, and take the Romsdalseggen hike the next day. This will allow for a stop at Gudbrandsjuvet view point and more time to truly appreciate the scenic drive from Valldal to Trollstigen. Of course Trollstigen is more famous, but the drive up to the Trollstigen pass from the south side is also worth taking in (and I of course dream rollerskiing up also from this side one day).
One of the mountain runs we have explored is the peak, “Store Trolltind”. With 1788 m.a.s.l. this is one of the highest peaks in Romsdalen and with steep climbs and a lot of stone and exposed areas, a hike which may be characterized as pretty hard. The views from the top and from Bruraskaret will be worth it though.
You will find the trailhead at Trollstigen. Already from the start the climb is steep and you will have great views of the Trollstigen plateau and its surrounding peaks behind you. After about two km there is some sort of a junction where you should keep left (you will see from the strava link provided that we went right on our way up, which turned out to be wrong). After about 4.7 km (if you made the right left choice at 2 km) it is easy to go wrong and take too much height. Everyone we met did the same mistake, which, if you do not go all the way down again, easily make you traverse through a very difficult terrain to get back to the trail. Have a look at the strava link and make sure to take the right path to your left, which is the one we returned on. Additional guidance may be found here (Norwegian). The most fun, and also the most challenging part, comes after Bruraskaret, where you have the view of the famous Trollveggen. A helping hand may be useful at some difficult passages. This turned out to be a hike/run very different from our expectations, although a very rewarding one in terms of the spectacular views at the top.
Romsdalseggen in the obvious choice of run/hike when in the Åndalsnes/Trollstigen area and has become very popular over the last years thanks to successful promotion from the local tourist agency. This is a one-way hike, where you should take advantage of the bus from Åndalsnes to the trailhead. Booking in advance is recommended.
Once at the trailhead try to get ahead of the pack to avoid being slowed down by queues on the narrow trail. It get pretty steep immediately and continues up, up, up for about 3.5 km, where you can enjoy great views of Romsdalen and the surrounding mountains. If you are lucky, there may even be some snow left on the plateau. Before continuing on the Romsdalseggen trail towards your right, you may choose to explore Blånebba to your left. Continuing on the Romsdalseggen trail you are more or less done with the ascents with the exception of a few exposed climbs along the ridge. If you skip Blånebba the 1200 meters of descent over about 6 km starts after about 5 km on the trail from your starting point. Since the trail passes the famous viewpoint Rampestreken (at 537 m.a.s.) the trail gets pretty crowded the last few kilometers down to Åndalsnes.
The second challenge of the day is the Trollstigen climb on roller skis. You may of course choose to tackle the climb by bike or try out the trails that take you to the Trollstigen plateau. Compared to the Dalsnibba climb, the Trollstigen climb is like a sweet dessert, and, if done after the traffic has slowed down in the evening, feels like the perfect way to finish off a day of great climbs. We usually start from Trollstigen Camping, about 9.5 km from the Trollstigen plateau. Again, if you have two cars, take one down to the starting point and leave one at the top. If not, ask someone for a lift or plan it by the bus schedule.
The first couple of kilometers provide a nice and easy warm-up for the climb, where the hairpin turns make out the last 4-5 kilometers and takes you through a beautiful scenery close to spectacular waterfalls on your way to the top. The view points designed and restaurant at the top designed by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter are worth a visit as well, and the waterfall in front of the restaurant provides great relief for tired legs.
Congratulations, you have completed 3500 meters of climb in less than two days! This provides for a nice dinner in Åndalsnes before loading up on snacks for your way home. A fast and convenient place is Spiret Spiseri at Tindesenteret.
The fastest way back to Øyer/Lillehammer or Oslo is via Dombås and E6, which is about 3 hours and 20 minutes from Åndalsnes to Øyer and takes you past Trollveggen, where you can visit Trollveggen visiting center (if open). If you have an extra day or two, it is worthwhile staying in Åndalsnes for additional adventures!