Jotunheimen National Park is one of the best areas for hiking, skiing and fishing in all of Norway. It is home to the highest peaks in all of Scandinavia, and it’s considered one of the best places to go hiking in Norway if you’re an intermediate or experience hiker.
It’s the perfect travel destination for those of you who are looking to ascent high mountain peaks, hike multi-day hikes without crowds, or just want to spend several days in amazing natural environments with little human impact.
We’re going to be looking closer at Jotunheimen National Park in this article, including some of the most popular hiking trails in the park, take a look at where to stay, how to get there, and why you should visit.
Why you should consider visiting Jotunheimen
Norway has plenty of different national parks, and all of these have something special about them. The thing about Jotunheimen National Park is that it’s a hikers paradise. There are steep peaks and high mountain tops wherever you look, and the huge 1,151 square kilometres national park has some of the most dramatic nature in all of Norway.
The sheer size of it makes it that you don’t often bump into other people (except for at the most popular hiking trails), so it’s easy to find a private spot where you can put up your tent and just enjoy life in the comfort of your own company. You will find plenty of remote lakes and sunny areas to put up your tent.
The national park is known for having great places to fish (just remember to buy a fishing permit), and you can even pick up a hunting licence if you want to hunt for wild reindeer. The wildlife is incredible, and you can see many different animal species in Jotunheimen (which we will get back to later).
The big draw of Jotunheimen National Park is the amazing Jotunheimen mountains that you can attempt to ascent, and the more than 50 different marked trails across the entire park.
Hiking in Jotunheimen (Some of the most popular hikes included)
The most common reason for going to Jotunheimen is for hiking, and there are many different hiking trails you can follow. Most are for intermediate or experience hikers since they tend to be rather long (several days each), but there are also some parts of the national park that is friendly towards inexperience hikers.
Jotunheimen is the home to two of the highest mountains in all of Scandinavia; Galdhøpiggen and Glittertind. Both of these are over 2,400 meters over the sea level, and we’ll be looking close at both of these hikes. But there’s plenty of other high peaks. The national park actually has over 250 different peaks that are over 1,900 meters from the sea level!
The main hiking season in Jotunheimen is between June 15 and August 31, but as always with Norway, the weather can change in a heartbeat, so always pack equipment that can handle rough weather. The weather conditions can change very quickly in these parts of Norway!
Galdhøpiggen: Norway’s highest peak
Galdhøpiggen is Norway’s tallest mountain (in fact, it’s the tallest mountain in Northern Europe), but hiking to the top of it is not as difficult as many imagine. The peak of the mountain is at 2,469 meters above sea level, but you can actually start the hike at Juvasshytta fjellstugu / mountain lodge, which can be reached by car or bus.
Juvasshytta sits at 1,841 meters above sea level, so you “only” have to hike 628 meters to get to the highest point of the mountain. This is still a challenging hike, but doable in one day.
The most common route from Juvasshytta to the Galdhøpiggen peak requires you to cross a glacier, which involves special equipment. For most tourists, a guide will be required for this part, since glacier hiking is straight up dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Funfact: The glacier is called Styggebreen, which can be translated to “ugly glacier”.
Many of the guided tours to Galdhøpiggen includes a 45 minute glacier crossing where you get all the safety equipment you need to pass over it. You can book a glacier crossing at Juvasshytta’s website here.
Alternative route to Galdhøpiggen
It’s also possible to hike to Galdhøpiggen without crossing the glacier, but this requires a hike that is about 4 hours each way. This hike starts from Spiterstulen mountain lodge, which is accessed by the same road as Juvasshytta mountain lodge, so it can also be accessed by car or bus.
This glacier-less trail is pretty easy in itself, but it does require a lot of stamina and patience since it’s pretty long. It’s a very popular day hike, but it’s not recommended for beginners.
Norwegians believed Glittertind to be Norway’s highest mountain for a long time, but modern measurement tools lead to the discovery that Galdhøpiggen is in fact taller. Glittertind is still very tall with its peak at 2,458 meters above sea level. It’s also sinking every single year, so it keeps getting smaller.
Despite being lower than Galdhøpiggen, the hike to the summit of Glittertind is actually a lot more challenging. You should expect to spend at least 6 hours if you’re a quick hiker, or 9 hours if you’re a regular hiker.
There are several different trails, but even the easiest one still has a 1,100 meter ascent! The peak itself can actually be a bit dangerous since it is permanently covered in snow, and is known to have weather that changes very quickly. It will have several parts made up of loose rocks, which are challenging to hike on.
So only attempt the Glittertind hike if you are familiar with difficult Norwegian hikes, and are comfortable with such a long a technically challenging hike.
The narrow Besseggen Ridge is one of the most iconic hikes in all of Norway. Some even consider it to be Norway’s most famous hike. This ridge runs from Gjende to the famous Bessvatnet lake, and I promise that this will be an unforgettable hike.
Despite not being a hike to a mountain top, it’s still very challenging. The hike itself is only 13 kilometres, but an elevation of over 1,100 meters make it taxing on the body. Expect to spend the whole day if you want to undertake this hike.
The starting point of the famous Besseggen ridge is from Gjendesheim, or by riding the ferry from Gjendesheim to Memurubu, then starting the hike there.
Store Skagastølstind (Storen)
Store Skagastølstind, often just called Storen, is Norway’s third highest mountain, and yet another popular hike. This is even more challenging than the ones above, and the final part of the hike requires climbing. This means that you pretty much need to bring a guide unless you are an experienced climber as well.
There are several different tour guides that offer guided tours to Store Skagastølstind, but this is a difficult hike that takes around 12 – 15 hours in total, so it’s not for everyone.
I really recommend being careful about attempting this hike alone without a guide!
Vettisfossen Waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in Norway with a free-fall of 275 meters. It’s quite a hike to get there, but if you’re willing to spend 5 – 6 hours hiking to see this incredible waterfall, then you can start the trail at Hjelle parking lot and head towards Vetti farm (where you can also spend the night if you wish).
The trail to the top of the waterfall has the T markings, so it’s easy to get up there if you are interested. Most people who visit Vettisfossen does it as part of a different hike, and stop by the waterfall as a small detour for a few hours.
Skiing in Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen National Park has a very short hiking season because of snowfall, which also means that it has a long skiing season for the same reason. It’s a great place to go skiing, and you can even go skiing in late spring or even in summer (at the glaciers).
There are many different guided ski tours in different parts of the national park. You can bring your own cross country skis to try some of the ski routes, or bring downhill skis to downhill trails.
The Høgruta ski trail is very famous for experienced skiers, and it’s a 80 km long trail that will challenge you. The trail takes about 6 days to complete, and passes over 7 summits that are over 2,000 meters each. This is one of the most challenging cross-country skiing trips in the region.
Where to stay when visiting Jotunheimen National Park
You have a few different options when hiking in Jotunheimen, and which one is the best for you really depends on whether or not you intend to stay in the national park hiking for several days, or if you just want single day hikes.
Let’s go over the different accommodation options!
Most Norwegians who intend to spend multiple days in Jotunheimen national park will do so by sleeping in a tent. You are legally allowed to put up a tent pretty much anywhere in the national park, just stay a bit away from the trails.
The great thing about this is that it’s completely free, and you can just find a spot that you enjoy, then spend the night right there.
Read more: How to go wild camping in Norway.
There are some rules that you must follow when wild camping in Norway, and the main one is to leave nature just as you found it. Bring your waste and trash with you, and make the place look just as good (or better) than you found it.
DNT Cabins and mountain lodges
The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) has 11 different DNT Cabins in Jotunheimen National Park, so it’s always possible to spend the night at one of these when hiking in the area.
These cabins include the two mountain lodges at Juvasshytta and Spiterstulen where a small number of rooms can be rented. These are far into the national park, so it’s perfect if you don’t want to bother with transportation in the morning. You typically have one of the mountain cabins as a starting point for the hiking trails, so why not just spend the night there as well?
A popular option is to spend the first night at a DNT mountain lodge, then spend the next few days in a tent. But that’s entierly up to you.
Staying at a hotel near Jotunheimen
It’s pretty easy to get to Jotunheim National Park if you got a rental car, so it’s often a perfectly viable option to stay at a hotel or a guest house in Lom, then drive to Jotunheimen in the early morning hours to begin your day hiking. Lom has several different hotels and small cabins for rent. The drive from Lom to the starting point of the hike trails is between 30 and 40 minutes.
It’s also possible to stay in Otta, but that gives you an additional hour of driving to get to the national park. This town also has plenty of different places where you can spend the night.
Keep in mind that these will be very expensive during the peak of hiking season. Jotunheimen has a short hiking season, so the hotels will charge premium during this season.
Wildlife in Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen national park is home to a big range of different animals, and many different animal species have learned to live in the harsh conditions of the mountain ranges.
One of the most characteristic animals in Jotunheimen is the wild reindeer. The reindeer herd live in the western part of the national park in a rather small area. There are about 400 different reindeer in the park most years, and you can be lucky enough to see the herd if you’re hiking on the west side of Jotunheimen.
There is a chance of seeing a wolverine in Jotunheimen, but these predators are exceedingly rare to actually see up close. However, you might get a glimpse of a small, brownish mustelid in the far distance.
You can often see a golden eagle up i the sky, but the national park lacks other big predators like bears or wolves. The lynx can occasionally show up in Jotunheimen, but it tends to stay away from the mountains.
Other than that, you can meet all the Norwegian deer species like moose, roe deer and red deer (and reindeer as mentioned above). The national park will have lots of smaller mammals, and you can usually find many lemmings when traveling in the area.
How to get to Jotunheimen National Park
It’s unfortunately difficult to get to Jotunheimen by public transportation, so your best option is to bring a rental car.
Getting to Jotunheimen by bus
If you want to arrive by public transportation, ride the train or bus to Otta, then change to a bus to Lom. From Lom, enter the bus that is leaving for Galdhøpiggen skisenter and Juvasshytta (Line 202).
The bus to Juvasshytta only operates between June 20 and August 14, and only leaves twice daily at 07:45 and 13:30. It has three return trips to Lom at 09:05, 15:40 and 17:05.
You can also ride the bus directly to Jotunheimen by getting on Valdressekspressen to Fondsbu where you can start hiking. This is on the south side of Jotunheimen national park, so it’s a bit far away from the popular hiking trails, but it’s a nice place to start if you plan on hiking for 3 – 5 days in the park.
Getting to Jotunheimen by car
Arriving by rental car is pretty easy. Just follow E6 north from all of eastern Norway until you get to Otta. Now follow the signs to Lom (Rv15) and then drive south on Fv55 to get to the national park.
Exit Fv55 when you see Bøverdalen Vandrerhjem. It will be signs to Galdhøpiggen and Juvasshytta, so it’s easy to find. See the map below for additional information.
The mythology behind Jotunheimen
The name Jotunheimen or Jotunheim is from the Norse word Jötunheimr. Jötunheimr is known to be the home of the giants in Norse mythologym, but it’s important to keep in mind that Jotunheimen (the area with the national park) was inspired by Norse mythology when naming it, so the Norse stories and poems are not really about Jotunheimen.
The national park likely got its name because it resembled descriptions from the Norse mythology.
Jötunheimr is home to the Jötnar, usually just called giants or frost giants that were the foes of the Æsir and Vanir gods. Jötunheimr is prominently featured in many poems and stories in Norse mythology, including the famous story where Thor and Loki travels to Utgard (Útgarðar) in Jotunheim / Jötunheimr and meet Útgarða-Loki who outwits Thor.
There is no place called Utgard in the physical / real Jotunheimen.
Frequently asked questions about Jotunheimen National Park
When is the best time to hike in Jotunheimen National Park?
The hiking season in Jotunheimen is pretty short, and you will want to go there between the middle of June and late August. It will be far more challenging to visit in the off-season, so I advise you to visit during the peak season.
Can you forage berries and mushrooms in Jotunheimen?
Yes, the freedom to roam right grants anyone rights to harvest berries and mushrooms as they want.
Do you need to be in good physical condition to hike in Jotunheimen?
You do need to be in good physical condition for most of the hikes in Jotunheimen. Many of them are 4 – 6 hours each way, meaning you you must be prepared to hike actively for 8 to 12 hours in a single day! There are also many longer hikes that require you to be an experienced hiker with a good physical condition.
Are there many high mountains in Jotunheimen?
Jotunheimen is not only home to Norway’s highest mountain Galdhøpiggen, but there are also hundreds of different mountain tops in the park. The park has one of the largest concentration of mountains in Europe, including several of northern Europe’s largest mountain peaks.
What are the best hikes in Jotunheimen national park?
My personal favorite hike in Jotunheimen is the Besseggen Ridge hike. There’s just something special about the Besseggen hike where you end up being rewarded with a view of all the beautiful lakes.
That said, there are many great hikes in Jotunheimen, so it’s difficult to say that one particular one is “the best”.
Is the hike to Galdhøpiggen crowded?
The glacier hike from Juvasshytta mountain lodge to Galdhøpiggen is often very crowded, and you might have to wait for queues at certain points during the most popular days to do the hike. However, most of the other parts of the national park is almost free of other humans.