In the middle of Norway lies one of the most famous parks in Norway and all of Northern Europe. It’s filled with steep, snow capped mountains, and cascading waterfalls that rush into the emerald green lakes. If you want to see true Norway, then you must make a stop through here to enjoy nature at its best.
This is Jotunheimen National Park and it’s famed for its wild, vast landscape and mythology based on this large mountain scenery.
And for a while, this has been a dream place to visit for our Danish friends, Morton & Alzbeta. They wanted to hike the majestic valleys and feel like true vikings while hiking in this deep part of Norway. So with some planning for a year in advance, we made it happen.
This was at the end of June, and we headed out from Oslo and drove a few hours north towards Jotunheimen along with a few stops along the way.
While most hikers go and do the main Besseggen ridge hike in a day – the most famous hike in this national park, we planned on going around the backside of the mountains and seeing some of the lesser touched parts. This three day & night backpacking would take us along the far side of the Russvatnet lake and then have us cross over the ridge to drop us into Memurubu for a ferry ride back to Gjendesheim. With this route, you’ll walk through many valleys with no other people around. We only saw people the first hour of our hiking and on the last day once we got back to the main ferry cabin area.
We did a short stop at the east end of the Russvanet lake and took what might have been the coldest, but most refreshing plunge of my life. I felt like I had a huge wave of mind clarity as soon as I took the first breath from coming up with my head above the water.
Everyone took a short lunch break & nap along the sun-warmed rocks on the shore.
Here were the only other living creatures (perhaps there’s some fish in the lake).
Midway along the lake you have to take a slight detour up the hillside to get around a flowing river. It’s possible to cross elsewhere close to the lake, but it’s safer to use the suspension bridge to make sure that you don’t get all your gear wet.
One important item when hiking this far is bringing a waterproof map and a compass. We mostly used the lakes as our guide, but if some bad weather comes through, then at least you can navigate without visual cues. Luckily. we had a full day of sun during the middle of June (summer). Perhaps in the future I’ll make a camping/backpacking list for this trip. For now, we took the regular essentials, but probably could have used a wind shield on our Primus stovetop to heat things better and use less gas (there’s no open fires during this part of the year, so it’s important to bring a portable stove).
The path in this middle part was a little difficult to find and in that case you’ll need to traverse the hillside until you catch back with the path again. Since there’s so few people hiking, the path tends to be covered up with the local flora, but the terrain is easy enough to go off track.
One plus on this trip was that by traveling in this direction, we started out with more mild scenery and then built/got closer to the taller, steeper mountains and sights.
Here was the view from straight out of our tent early in the morning. It was quite the place to camp…
Along the way, you will see many waterfalls and streams. Many places in Norway has perfect drinking water that you can drink right out of the river. That makes it less weight to carry along the way especially if you know that you’ll pass a stream in a kilometer or two. It’s probably the freshest, cleanest water you’ll taste in your life.
While a lot of this hiking is flat, there’s lots of areas full of water and rocks. It’s best to bring a waterproof pair of boots that covers part of your ankle at least.
A few of the stream crossing are large, so take your time.
We thought this was a good place to get at least one group photo using the timer.
Morton and Alzbeta fulfilling their viking dreams.
The lake continues for a lot longer than it looks, so after each last turn, you might want to stop trying to say that this is close to the end.
We were lucky enough to travel after the ice patch at the top of the crest had melted. This made climbing a lot easier, as the usual hiking route went straight through where the ice was. If you go earlier in June, you may want some ice spikes.
Here was the last view looking back at the lake we walked around. On the other side was the famed Besseggen hike and the views of Gjende lake.
Crossing over this ridge and seeing this view was stunning.
And that was it. We took the path down to Memurubu, which is at the end of the river in the image above. Here, we caught the ferry back to the main area where we left our car. Overall, this was a great backpacking trip which you could plan to do in at least three days or longer, depending on how far you want to go. Feeling like a viking – complete.
Jotunheimen is about a 4-5 hour drive from Oslo and a similar distance from Bergen, making it accessible for both residents and tourists coming from these major cities. The area is well-connected by roads, and there are several entry points for those wishing to explore the region, such as Lom, Vågå, and Fagernes. I would definitely recommend a stop through Lom to try the Lom Bakery and all of its goods. It’s a good stop with additional activities to do as well.