Norway – where even the roads are breathtaking.
Trollstigen was formerly a historic transport passage, but has since become the well known scenic road between Geiranger Fjord and the Trollstigen Plateau. Though it was rebuilt as a tourist route, do not let that knowledge deter you with images of fast food eyesores and tumbleweeds of trash. In fact, far from this, Trollstigen was built to complement the surrounding landscape without imposing, with many structures built near seamlessly into rock faces and overlooking valleys, glaciers and waterfalls.
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There are plenty of jaw-dropping sights to see from your adventuremobile. The road winds over mountains, through forests, along glacial rivers and lakes, past thundering waterfalls and within view of several glaciers, and there are stop off points along the way to pull over and take it all in. But there are also loads of hikes along, over and around the Trollstigen area, ranging in all lengths and difficulties. You can even follow the old Trollstigen passage by foot, which has recently been renovated.
Throughout Norway, you’ll find plenty of well documented and ‘popular’ hiking routes, the most popular of which are still breathtaking and worthwhile even when crowded by Norwegian standards. Trollstigen and surrounding Romsdal county are no exception. However, there also reams of lesser known, locally mapped, come-upon-them hiking trails dotted throughout the country, and again Trollstigen is no exception. Some of our favourite hikes during our time in Norway were ones we found beginning at many of the stopover places we stayed overnight in the van.
Skarfjellenden was one such hike, beginning from one of our overnight spots just a short distance from Road 63 (Trollstigen), located a few miles before the main Trollstigen Plateau service stop and viewing area. This starting area appears to be called Alnes Reset as far as we can tell, but there wasn’t any clear signage. We had a long, windy night in the van, which had kicked off with a cosy dinner of stovetop pizza and gluten free beers overlooking a gorgeous panorama of a golden sunset over the mountains. We waited for the long summer twilight to turn to dark, then set up our camera in the chilled, starry night in hopes of catching a glimmer of the Northern Lights. During the right time of year and with a bit of luck, you can sometimes catch the Northern Lights at this latitude. The season was only just starting and alas, fortune was not with us. So we gave up, snugged up in the warm van and battled to sleep amid the howling wind.
Come morning, we rose early to set out on one of the many great hikes in the area. Our intention was to do the relatively easy Bispevatnet hike, which takes around an hour and climbs partway up a mountain to a glacial lake. However, a trail heading off towards the mountain on the eastern side of the road beckoned. There were no signs apart from the name and we couldn’t easily find details online about the route, but eventually came across a few entries on Strava. Skarfjellenden – a hike up the mountain of its namesake. The morning was crisp and early and the trail was clear, so we headed off on this 3-4 hour roundtrip hike of ‘moderate to hard’ difficulty. The summit is at 1,392m, and the trail starts at 865m. It is marked with the typical red painted rock markers along most Norwegian hiking trails.
Early on, we had the naive audacity to scoff at the moderate rating, thinking ourselves rather fit from all our previous Norwegian hiking. Then we hit the trail and immediately understood. Incredibly steep inclines, loose rock and shale, and crossing through and around a waterfall and then its glacial source had us gasping, wide-eyed and glancing sideways. Ahhhh, arrogant youth. Check out our shenanigans on YouTube to see footage of the hike:
The view at the top was easily worth the mild terror, however. On the other side of Skarfjellenden mountain spread a lush valley dotted with glistening lakes and streams, which is the area Isglupane. You can actually continue a hiking route down through this valley and up some other beautiful mountains in the area, such as Skarfjellet, a 1700m mountain across the Isglupane valley.
Have you hiked Skarfjellenden or any other hikes you’d recommend along Trollstigen? Please share in the comments!
If you are a roadtripper, certainly do not miss this iconic road of Norway, more visited than even the epic Atlantic Road, and the many breathtaking hikes along the way.