What to know before you hike Trolltunga
Ahhh, Trolltunga. The thing of Instagram legends. In August, Ronny and I hiked the famous Norwegian cliff in a total whirlwind. Here’s what you need to know before you hike Trolltunga, especially if you’re a newbie like me. I’ll detail our schedule, what you should pack for the hike, and give you all the pro-tips along the entire 11 kilometers.
How many days do you need to hike Trolltunga?
Day one: Ronny and I treated our Trolltunga hike as a SEAL mission. We flew into Oslo from Budapest (where we had already planned to spend eight days, what’s a few in Norway?) on Norwegian Airlines. The flight was direct and only $110 – worth it. We got into Oslo at 5 p.m. and then rented a cute little BMW and headed to Odda to our Airbnb. The drive is about 6.5 hours with stops for gas and pee breaks. The most important thing to know on this drive at night is the drive is REMOTE. The road is very curvy, so be prepared if you get carsick like I do. There are no lights on most of the roads from Oslo.
The best part of the drive? I SAW A FOX. WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY. IT SAYS CONGRATS, BITCHES, YOU’RE IN NORWAY. We finally got to bed a bit after midnight, and then immediately had to wake up at 5 a.m. to prep for the hike.
Our Airbnb host Linda was awesome – I highly recommend staying at her place. I do recommend you get more sleep than we did (you’ll see below my Fitbit says I got less than four hours, yikes), so if you’re flying into Oslo try to get a flight that lands earlier than ours did.
Day two: This is the day we hiked Trolltunga. We got to the route at 7 a.m. and picked up some Ukranian hitchhikers who were also hiking the route. The trail starts about 15 minutes from Odda – you’ll see the parking lot at the top of the curvy road and LOTS Of hikers. One good thing to know – Trolltunga is not a secret anymore. You’ll see hundreds of other hikers. Then get ready for the most intense 12+ hours of your life.
Day three: And then we packed up all our ish and drove back across the country.
You only need three total days to hike Trolltunga if you’re a badass on a mission. If you want to sleep at the top, obviously factor in an extra day. Pro-tip: You do NOTTTT want to drive anywhere far away after you hike Trolltunga. Your quads will be on fire. More on that below.
What should I bring to hike Trolltunga?
The weather at Trolltunga changes a lot. We saw clouds roll in like crazy, we got rained on, we saw about five rainbows (no joke), and my four layers on top were super helpful. A reminder: You can only hike Trolltunga June-August. Do not try to hike in the winter. Don’t be the downer that has to be rescued.
Here’s my recommended list for what to wear and what equipment to pack for Trolltunga for a one-day trip in August:
- Long-sleeved base layer (I wore a workout layer from Nike)
- Long-sleeved half-zip
- Leggings (I wore some Lululemon ones)
- Hiking socks
- Waterproof (NOT resistant) hiking boots – these 100% saved my life
- Running gloves or similar thin, functional water-resistant ones
- A buff – use this to cover your ears or your neck
- Comfortable backpack – this was a cheap one from a street vendor in Bangkok
- Water bottle – lots of waterfalls to refill at, but with the huge influx of hikers I wouldn’t bet my life the water is 100% sanitary
- FOOD!!!!! Bring food. We weren’t as good at this as we should have been. We grabbed snacks at the gas station and some okay sandwiches. It. Was. Not Enough. Load up on Clif Bars and multiple snacks, just don’t weigh down your bag unbearably so.
- Hiking poles! It rained on our hike and these saved our lives.
- Your camera, duh.
I’m a new hiker. Is hiking Trolltunga hard?
Okay, friends, buckle in, as I tell you the story of a girl named Thea Neal who had only been on about three hikes in her life and then decided to hike the “expert” 13-hour trek in Norway.
I don’t consider myself super athletic. I’ve ran four half-marathons, played a lot of soccer as a kid, but I’m not exactly a resilient person. And not for 13 hours. But Trolltunga was too beautiful to pass up, and Ronny was very imminent on us doing it (you’ll see why later). I did a lot of research before we went, and I hiked Pilot Mountain in North Carolina as a warm-up. Trolltunga is hard. It is pressing. There were times where I sat on my butt on the descent and told Ronny they were going to have to airlift me out because I was tired of being wet and cold and covered in mud. But I did it.
I’d agree with Norwegian travel websites – the difficulty level of Trolltunga is “expert.” I recommend doing some rocky hiking at home prior to making the hike, or at least getting a lot of cardio in. I was training for a marathon during the time we were hiking, so I was used to running at least 13 miles every Saturday. Make sure you hike in actual hiking boots. We saw someone hiking in Chucks. IN CHUCKS! No! If you don’t have the proper footwear to hike through a flowing stream, you aren’t ready for Trolltunga.
Here’s the thing – I was told you just have to get up the initial 1.7 kilometers. You ascend 900 meters in the first 1.7 kilometers, and are hiking huge stone steps and grabbing ropes all the way up. Your butt and quads are on fiyyyah. The total height of Trolltunga is about 1250 meters, and the hike is 11 kilometers long.
HOWEVER, since it rained while we were up there, the hike got a lot more complicated.
On the descent, those last 1.7 kilometers are the muddiest and most brutal of your entire life.
Since there are so many tourists, the mud is sloshed through and truly ankle-deep. Since you’re stepping down huge stone steps, you’ll feel like you’re going to fall 90% of the time. I did fall several times on slippery rocks, but never got hurt. If you have knee problems, this is not your hike.
There are also a lot of folks who will blaze by you trying to get to the bottom as quickly as possible. This will be annoying. This will be unsafe. Remember that even though you’re a new hiker, be courteous if you have quicker hikers behind you, and hopefully they’ll be courteous too. (You have no idea how many random dudes forget how to say “on your left” or even try to mumble a Norwegian warning as they’re roaring by you.)
There are definitely great flat parts that remind you you’re in the most beautiful place on work. Savor those, and the ascent and descent are way less terrible.
What’s the terrain like?
The terrain on the hike goes through about every single texture you can manage. We hiked through streams. We hiked through serious mud. We hiked on tiny stones. We hiked on grass. Basically be prepared for everything – this is why I loved my Merrell Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots ($120 that you will 100% not regret spending).
Trolltunga has some handy dandy signs on the way up that tell you how far you’ve come. They can make you feel awesome and motivated, or make you feel exhausted and over it. (The second emotion is shown below.)
Is Trolltunga scary?
I believe the cliff itself is generally not that scary, but the situation to get there is. Once you get to the top you’ll see hundreds of tourists standing in line to get their photos. Your legs will also be tired AF.
You get into a queue and wait for everyone in front of you to do their silly poses (some take a lot longer than others). Then, you come to a ledge where you climb down on a metal ladder pegged into the rocks, then wait a bit more. This is the spot where the Australian student died recently, and we did see someone slip on the rocks – everyone gasped. The hard part here is there are people from all over the world. We’re all trying to communicate and tell folks not to cut (they do anyway), and also trying to not slip off of a slippery cliff into our untimely deaths. The trick here is to really start hiking as early as you can in the morning. We started at 7 a.m. and would have liked to start closer to 5:30 a.m. to avoid the huge amount of tourists.
Once you get onto the rock, it’s actually very wide. I had promised myself I’d sit on the ledge, but because of the rain, the rocks were REALLY slippery (I had already fallen on my butt three times at this point), and I wasn’t trying to die on vacation. It’s a little complicated because you need someone to stand on the tall side of the cliff to take your photo if you want the crazy photos you see on Instagram. This is hard to do when the line is super long, so again, get there early and have a friend you can switch spots with, or spend more dedicated time on top of the cliff.
I told Ronny we were going to walk out, get our picture together, and then leave. I was exhausted from the tourists, I was hungry, and I wanted to get down before the sunset.
And then this happened!
I had a slight idea Ronny was going to propose when he told me not to look in his backpack in the morning before we left (why the heck would I go through a boy’s smelly backpack, ew), but I was so distracted by the hike that I wasn’t even thinking about him asking me to marry him. The funny part is, he didn’t really ask. We got out on the rock, took a couple pictures, and unbeknownst to me he had asked a stranger to take photos of us (Thanks Todd from Halifax!). When he got down on one knee, all of the tourists I had been complaining about started cheering, and he just opened the ring box without asking. I obviously I started crying and said “Yes, awesome!” But then I quickly interjected “Okay, now can we get off this slippery cliff?!” We were probably on the actual rock about 30 seconds.
When you’re hiking back down, make sure not to take TOO many breaks if you started as late as we did. Hiking in the dark would be no bueno.
We picked up some more hitchhikers to get to the bottom of the mountain. It’s really cool how everyone feels like they’re family after such an insane hike – it’s such a trying experience that you can’t help but feel connected to other people who have done it.
So how far did we actually hike? Let’s consult the Fitbit.
Would you hike Trolltunga again?
Yes, I would. The experience will leave you dreading stairs for several days, but it’s worth it. It’s probably the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done and really, the entire thing was a journey. You go through so many emotions when you’re pushing yourself to do a strenuous hike for 12+ hours.
The drive to Odda and back is magical in its own way too. We visited a stave church and a creepy cemetery, and picked up some moose and reindeer sausage. Western Norway is incredibly beautiful and you’ll even drive by this insane waterfall just casually on the side of the street. We also traveled to Iceland this year, and I’d say Norway is even more magical. There are less Americans and it feels a lot more remote. The only distinct bummer is Norway is currently the second most expensive country in the world – food and lodging are crazy pricey. We actually didn’t drink a single beer in Norway because they were about $16 USD each. But for only three days, Western Norway is the perfect adventure.
I would be remiss not to tell you all about my favorite find in Norway – Dent Trio candy. Ignore the other candies in this photo – Dent Trio is the strangest, yet most delicious textured and tasty candy of all time. Sadly, a pack of 30 is almost $60 on Amazon. So load up on Dent Trio while you’re in Norway. You won’t regret it.
Big props to Ronny for taking lots of photos seen above!