Tip of the Tongue: Hike Trolltunga, One of Norway's Most Epic Hikes

This photogenic cliff is one for the bucket list. Snow-dusted mountains and dramatic fjords will be your background. And guess what? This remote hike is even accessible by public transportation.

Fast Facts

22 km (13.6 mi) roundtrip

Strenuous

Mostly exposed

Some access to water

Accessible by public transportation in summer months

Getting There by Public Transportation from Gardermoen Airport

Flytoget (airport express train) to Jernbanetorget (Oslo central station)

Haukeliekpressen (overnight bus) from Oslo Bussterminal to Odda

Shuttle from Odda Bussterminal to Trolltunga trailhead

When my boyfriend and I were in college, we were lucky to study abroad for a semester in Oslo, Norway. Adventurers that we were (and still are), the first thing we researched was the most epic hikes in Norway. The country is famous for its gorgeous fjords, impressive forests, and rugged mountains that are surprisingly accessible—even for us car-less students. One name stood out to us: Trolltunga.

Meaning “Troll’s Tongue,” Trolltunga is a tongue-shaped cliff that juts 700 meters above the fjords of the Skjeggedal region. Unfortunately for us, it’s also pretty remote. The easiest way to access the trailhead is to rent a car, but for other public transportation lovers, rest assured there are buses to get you there.

On an August evening, Kyle and I took the nattbuss from the Oslo bus terminal to Odda, a city close to the Trolltunga trailhead. We packed our backpacks with enough water, snacks, and clothing for an entire day’s hike. We bought our tickets on the bus and paid in cash—no problem. The bus wasn’t crowded at all, but that’s because it was an overnight ride.

I didn’t expect that the bus ride, which began around 10 o’clock at night, would allow for a scenic view of Norway along the way. After all, it was already completely dark outside. But I was mistaken: that night was one phase away from a full moon, and the fjords and lakeside towns began to materialize through the roadside pines as if out of a storybook.

I managed to get a little shuteye before we arrived in Odda at 5:30 the next morning. The sun was not up yet, and the town was still sleeping. We were alone at the bus stop and had to wait three hours for another bus to take us to the trailhead. We didn’t have warm clothes—the weather report said it would be perfectly clear and right around 60 degrees. So we sat on a damp wooden picnic table and watched the sunrise come over the mountains, and we laughed at the grumpy seagulls that fly by, their squawks raspy like our morning voices shortly after waking.

Sunrise in Odda.

Our second bus finally arrived around 8. It wound up through a mountain-nestled neighborhood toward the trailhead. Once there, a guide handed us a trail map and told us that the funicular steps, which start at the trailhead, were illegal to use. We looked up at the steps and noticed people all along them who did not heed her warning. We took the trail instead, since the stairs looked tedious and too steep—even for someone like me who has no fear of heights.

Steps from the trailhead. 

Steps from the top. Still lots of trail to go!

The hike is 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) to Trolltunga and 11 kilometers back the same way. The first few kilometers consist of scaling two fjeller; on the first, the trail is all rocks and boulders, mixed with some tree roots and mud. The trail is dangerous and tiring, but it only took us about a half hour to go up.

Next, there’s the second mountain to climb, which takes much more time. Most of it is just slabs of rock, and there are too many times when we thought we’d reached the top only to find there was still more to go. Once at the top, it is relatively flat from there to Trolltunga, but still plenty to go. Along the way are some natural springs for refilling your water bottle; though you should probably always bring a filter, we didn’t have ours and turned out fine. We followed the red Ts that are painted on the rocks to point out the trail. The trail was a bit crowded—Trolltunga is a popular hike on summer weekends. We saw people in their 60s hiking. We saw teenagers hiking, some in serious hiking gear and some wearing Vans. (I recommend to anyone planning this hike to invest in some hiking boots.)

The trail mostly flattens out as you hike above the fjord.

After about four hours of hiking, we finally made it to the Trolltunga cliff! There were already plenty of hikers eating lunch. We came to Trolltunga from above, where people were already taking pictures. There was a line of about four to five people waiting to go on the cliff itself, hoping to get a snapshot without any other human floating in the background. Norwegians are so orderly.

The cliff has a backwards slant that can be disorienting once you’re on it. I recommend you don’t carry anything with you that could easily be dropped, as it will probably roll off the sides. If you’re taking a camera, make sure you use the neck strap (although, the best photos you’ll take are of the cliff itself, from a nice safe distance away).

You'll see lots of people sitting on the edge for photos. Just be careful and don't tell Mom.

After a two-hour break, we started to head back down the mountain. We saw some backpackers set up camp for the rest of the day. Though we expected the downhill climb to be a breeze, we were seriously mistaken—it took us more time to go down than it did to go up.

By the time we reached the bottom, I felt as though my wobbly knees were about to burst into flames. So I walked around the trailhead parking lot like a 90-year-old woman. Hobbling along, we arrived at the bus stop around 7 o’clock, bringing our hike to 9.5 hours including breaks.

The shuttle took us back to the Odda bus terminal, where we waited a few more hours until midnight for our other overnight bus to take us back to Oslo. We sat in the terminal alone, watching the other hikers drive off in their cars.

It’s a strange feeling, sitting on a skinny wooden bench with lovers’ initials carved into the hard surface, alone under the faintly buzzing fluorescent lighting—it doesn’t exactly match the “Visit Norway!” tourism ad. But there’s a tradeoff when you leave the comfort of a tour group and venture out on your own. Sitting in a dodgy bus terminal in a lonely mountain industrial town was definitely not what I imagined months ago when I was preparing to leave home for Norway. Yet I felt grateful for my aching limbs that carried me on the most spectacular hike of my life. And once we made it back to our Oslo apartment, I settled down for the most amazing, glorious, life-changing nap.

Pack List

-Daypack

-Water bottle

-Water filter

-Sun protection

-Layers

-Hiking boots

-Trekking poles 

-Camera

-Snacks and lunch (don’t count on stores being open in Odda before 8 a.m.)

Looking for more Norwegian adventures? Check out this story on seeing the Northern Lights: When the Northern Lights Don't Come Out to Play

Published: May 22, 2017

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Joanne Howard

Berkeley

Leave only footprints, take only photos. I left my heart in Yosemite.