Travel Tip: Kongevegen over Filefjell hike Between Lærdal & Valdres

Kongevegen (King’s Road) over Filefjell is an old mountain pass that used to be the main road between the Eastern and Western part of Norway. This historic mountain pass is a 3 to 6 day long hike that passes over the mountain called Filefjell, and it goes between the towns of Lærdal and Valdres.

This trail used to be part of the main road that connected Oslo (called Christiania back then) with Bergen, and crossing Filefjell to get between these two cities were done by foot or on horseback during summer. Ancient viking kings used the crossing, but the modern King’s Road was constructed in 1791.

The Kongevegen over Filefjell is one of Norway’s 4 different King’s Roads, all which were created by order of the King back in the 18th century. In this article we are looking closer at the 100 km stretch between Valdres and Lærdal, called Kongevegen over Filefjell, and giving you a few good reasons why you will want to hike this trail on your next visit to Norway!

Kongeveien over Filefjell at Borgund close to Lærdal
Kongeveien over Filefjell at Borgund close to Lærdal. Photo by Cavernia / CC BY-SA 3.0.

What the Kongevegen over Filefjell hike is like

The Kongevegen over Filefjell hike is actually not really a hiking trail, but the old road that was constructed to be done by horse carriages. It’s made with long, straight lines, and is easy to follow, even on the part that crosses the mountain.

You get to experience a lot of incredible nature along the way, including the incredible Filefjell mountain, fjords, valleys, forests, and plenty of different rivers and streams. From the mountain tops, you can even get a glimpse of Jotunheimen national park in the distance. This national park is actually just north of Filefjell, but you won’t go into Jotunheimen as part of the King’s Road hike.

The entire road is 100 km in total, so most people spend between 3 and 6 days to complete the entire hike. Most people bring a tent to set up a wild camp along the road, but there are also some mountain cabins and small hotels along the way that are open to hikers. You will probably want to book a room at these in advance yo make sure that you have a bed waiting for you.

The 100 km long hike is considered to be of medium difficulty. The hike itself is not very difficult, and the road is for the most part easy to navigate and hike, but crossing over Filefjell itself is pretty demanding. Most of the hike is on the 4 meter broad road that was used for horse and carriages, but certain parts are more like a regular hike part.

A 6 day long hike is also very demanding for people who are not used to hiking that much, so I would not advice this hike trail unless you are in pretty good shape and are OK with hiking 8+ hours every day for several days. It’s not the best hike to bring small children on unless you know for sure that they are capable of hiking for so long.

The season is between May 1 and October 15. You can pass it in winter by snowshoes and ski if you are up for it, but this is a very different experience.

Video that showcase the Kongevegen

Below is a short video that showcases some of the amazing nature and incredible sights you get to experience on your Kongevegen over Filefjell hike. It’s well worth a watch if you are considered visiting Kongevegen over Filefjell at some point in your life.

Why hiking Kongevegen over Filefjell is worth it

Some of the reasons why I really want people to experience this hike is because it’s an incredible hike that will let you experience a big diversity of Norwegian nature, as well as passing by some incredible sights like a real stave church along the way. It’s the perfect destination for anyone who want to do a multiple day hike between two places, but at the same time does not want to hike without a good trail to follow.

The trail is pretty easy compared to other multiple day hikes, so it’s a good choice for people who want to try longer hikes without leaving all of civilization behind. Remember that there are fjellstover (mountain cabins) along the way where you can book a room to stay at for the night (perfect for when it’s suddenly raining) or just order a hot meal after a long day hiking.

At the same time, the trail goes far away from the towns and cities to make you feel really connected with nature and the old Norwegian farms that you pass by.

It’s also worth mentioning that both the starting and stopping point (Lærdal in particular) is incredible towns that are well worth visiting on their own. So I would recommend to stay at least one day at Lærdal and Valdres before and after the hike.

The history of Kongevegen over Filefjell

No one really knows for sure when people started to use Filefjell to cross between the west and east of Norway, but some of the earliest records are back from the viking sagas when vikings kings were recorded to use the road to cross between the mountains that separates the east and west of Norway.

The Kongevegen over Filefjell crossing grew very popular in the Middle and Viking Ages, and it is believed to be the preferred options for anyone who were crossing the country, either on foot or on horseback (in the summer).

A historic photo of Maristova cc
A historic photo of Maristova, a common place to stay the night when traveling on Kongevegen over Filefjell. Photo by Marthinius Skøien (1849–1916).

The original trail was considered very dangerous, and the road was gradually made better as the decades and centuries went by. The Norwegian and Danish royalty forced the farmers in the area to take care of a certain part of the road, or get a big fine. The farmers didn’t really have any other choice than to maintain their part of the road by clearing away bushes and small trees, and spent a lot of time and energy to keep the road open.

The road itself was mostly used by people on assignments for the King, or other “important” people, but tradesmen also used to to carry goods between Bergen and Christiania.

King Frederick VI of Denmark and Norway decided that the road needed a lot of improvement in the last 1780s. Simply riding a horse or going by foot would not suffice anymore, and he wanted to upgrade the road to be fit for horse carriages.

Construction started in 1790, and finished in 1794, and this is the King’s Road as we know and love today. Most of the road was now 4 meters broad, fit for more modern methods of transportation. Certain parts of the road was upgraded further in the 1850s to make the trip even safer and easier.

As cars became more common, the Norwegian government built a new road that goes north of Filefjell instead of crossing it. This was eventually what we know as E16 today. There are some parts where E16 is really close to the Kongevegen.

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