Hiking Besseggen Ridge | one of the most spectacular hikes in Norway
When you want to visit Norway for its incredible nature, the Besseggen hike should be on your list. This long day-hike has some unforgettable views, like the distant views of the mountains, or the 2 lakes with colors so different that they perfectly blend in with the almost unrealistic landscape.
For us, this was the best hike of our trip to Norway. The reason for this is a combination of having the most impressive views of all our hikes and seeing the least tourists here. Jotunheimen National Park is still kind of an untouched gem, and Besseggen is its showpiece.
In this post, you will find as much information as I could think of that could be useful for you. If you have any questions about hiking Besseggen after reading this, feel free to leave a comment at the end or send me a message. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
Overview of the hike
The Besseggen Ridge hike is a one-way hike, from Memurubu to Gjendesheim or vice versa. You will walk along the ridge for the biggest part of the hike, with stunning views of Gjende lake and the surrounding mountains.
Getting to Gjendesheim
To get to Gjendesheim, you have several options. The most obvious one is by car, but the possibility to take the bus exists too.
Gjendesheim is located at the East corner of Jotunheimen National Park, and there is only one road here so it would be a challenge to get lost. If you are coming from the South, you will first pass Beitostolen. This is the last village that you will pass before reaching Gjendesheim, except for some houses flocked together along the way. From here you still have a 30-minute drive in front of you.
When you reach Gjendesheim, head to the car park “Reinsvangen langtidsparkering”. The car park costs 250 NOK for 24 hours and the shuttle bus to the ferry is included in the price. Keep in mind that if you make it a 2-day hike as we did, you have to pay 500 NOK, regardless if you stand here 25 hours or 48 hours.
The car park is at a walking distance of 25 minutes from the ferry, but I strongly advise to take the shuttle bus as you would be walking on the road and there is no space provided for pedestrians.
When we came back from the hike, we saw a small parking lot ( for about 20 cars) next to the terminal of the boat, but I couldn’t find any information about the car park so I don’t know if everyone is allowed to use it. However, it seemed like the cars parked there did belong to people hiking Besseggen so if you are not in a hurry, you could first drive here and take a look. Maybe there is available space.
You can take the bus to Jotunheimen National Park all year round from Bergen, Oslo, Trondheim, and Måløy. From Oslo, the Express bus drives to Jotunheimen 4 times a day. From Bergen, Trondheim, and Måløy the Express bus rides at least once a day, depending on the season.
For more information about buses to Jotunheimen, visit the website of Jotunheimen itself.
Starting point: Memurubu or Gjendesheim
The hike can be done in 2 directions: from Memurubu to Gjendesheim or from Gjendesheim to Memurubu.
Most people walk the hike from Memurubu to Gjendesheim so they can climb the steep part up. I strongly recommend doing this, as I would never have gone down that steep part if I had walked in the other direction. I had read about the steep part and that it could be scary, and it is correct. You have to climb with your hands and feet, and it goes down steeply at both sides. The weather in Jotunheimen is pretty extreme most of the time, with lots of wind. Descending this steep ridge while looking down is something I would never want to do in my life.
Some people begin their hike at Gjendesheim to be independent of ferry hours, but I think arriving at Memurubu the evening before and sleeping here is a better option. There is a tourist hut and a campground, and wild camping somewhere is an option too. You can find more details about sleeping at Memurubu further down this article.
Another thing that some people do is hiking from Gjendesheim until they reach the top of the ridge, enjoy the view and then return back to Gjendesheim. This way, you are independent of ferry hours and you won’t have to climb down the steep part. I would not recommend this, because the part of the hike from Gjendesheim until the top is the least beautiful part, and to have the best view you would still have to climb down a section of the steep part.
Duration & difficulty
The hike takes 7 to 9 hours to complete, although people in really good shape could maybe finish it in less than 7. We had to carry a heavy backpack with our tent and sleeping bag etc. and we did it in 9.
The hike is classified as demanding and this is correct, but if you take your time and wear good shoes, it is doable for everyone in good shape. For us, both 21 years old and in normal shape for our age, this was our first real hike and we could complete it.
The path is never flat, it is always ascending or descending. The path is full of stones, so it is pretty hard on the feet. Be sure to make a stop frequently so you can rest. This should not be a problem as you constantly have breathtaking views and you will want to enjoy these.
At 3 points along the path, there is a description of where you are and how many km you still have to walk. The hike is 14 km in total, and the big lake lies exactly in the middle of the trail. Down below you can see the board at the big lake.
Being independent of ferry hours: the better option
Many people that want to be independent of ferry hours walk the hike from Gjendesheim to Memurubu. This is something I would not advise anyone, as you could read in the previous section. A better option is to arrive at Memurubu the evening before your hike and spend the night here. For this, there are 3 options in general.
At Memurubu, there is a tourist lodge with private rooms of 2 to 5 beds and dorms of 8 to 15 beds. Check their website to see if anything is available. They serve breakfast and a 3-course dinner. We went inside to ask if the weather conditions would allow us to camp up in the mountains and the lodge looked quite nice. The staff is also really friendly.
Camping of the tourist lodge
If you don’t want to wild camp but want a cheaper alternative than the tourist lodge, you can pitch your tent at their campground. For 130 NOK per person, you are allowed to pitch your tent at the shore of lake Gjende, with beautiful views of the bay.
If you want to camp for free or want to experience the views with no people around, wild camping is a good option. This is the option that we went with. We cooked our meal at the shore in Memurubu, and then started the first climb of the Besseggen hike in the evening. After 45 minutes of hiking up, we pitched our tent at a perfect spot with beautiful views of the lake.
Below you can see the location of our tent. I tried to pin the location as accurately as possible, but it is also easy to spot. When you have been walking your way up for about 40 minutes, you should see a perfectly flat spot on your left side, about 30 meters away from the path. It is clearly a popular camping spot, there have been pitched many tents before.
The path goes to the right at some point. If you have reached this, you have already gone too far.
As Idyllic as wild camping in the mountains sounds, it is not always safe to do so. If you plan on camping up in the mountains, always check the weather forecast before you start your climb. Inside the Tourist Lodge down at Memurubu they display the weather forecast for the next 24 hours. Be sure to go check that here. If you are not sure if the weather conditions are safe, just ask them. They have experience with the local weather and know best when it is safe to go.
Hike with a lighter backpack: sending your luggage back with the ferry
Many people think that when you sleep at Memurubu, you have to carry a heavy backpack on your way back, and when you don’t sleep at Memurubu you are dependent on the ferry hours. The good news is, you can now have the best of both options!
There is an option to sleep at Memurubu and send your luggage back with the ferry to Gjendesheim while you walk the beautiful Besseggen Ridge. I can’t remember the price exactly but I thought that it was not expensive. And it is a huge relief for most people to hike this long walk with a small backpack, so definitely worth considering it.
how to get to Memurubu
The best way to hike is to start at Memurubu and walk the trail to Gjendesheim. There are several options to get to Memurubu, summed up below.
Take the ferry
The most straight forward, and also the most popular way is to step on the boat at Gjendesheim that goes to Memurubu over the Gjende lake. Take a look at the ferry schedule and book your tickets online on beforehand so your spot on the ferry is already guaranteed.
You can take the ferry in the morning and start your hike right away, or you can take it the evening before your hike.
Walk the path along Gjende lake
This is the option we went with and we were not disappointed. The walk along the lake is a great way to get warmed up for the long Besseggen walk. The length of the trail is around 12 km and takes about 4-5 hours to complete.
It offers excellent views of the lake and you pass several waterfalls along the way. There are a few “beaches” that are ideal for a picnic. It is a lot easier than Besseggen, but be warned. Although you walk next to the water, the trail is far from flat. At many points along the trail, the path goes up and then goes down again. There are also a lot of stones on the path, which makes high hiking boots almost a must.
If you choose this option, you will have to sleep at Memurubu. You can not complete this walk and Besseggen in one day.
The hike itself
And now the important part: the incredible hike itself. The first part of the hike is a continuously ascending path. This takes about 2 hours of climbing up. It was raining at the moment we did this, and every time we thought that we were almost there, there appeared another hill. So when we finally reached the point where it stops ascending, we were relieved. Nevertheless, the views along the ascending part are beautiful and you should not forget to stop and look around once in a while.
After your 2-hour climb, you will see a very small pond. I read about one smaller and one bigger lake on the trail, so I thought this was the smaller lake. I was wrong, this small pond is not one of the two lakes. It is also not at the edge of the cliff like the other 2 lakes and you don’t have views of the lake below here. For us, this was the ideal place to have a rest because the hills at both sides stop the wind a little bit.
When you pass the pond, you have a steep climb again, but not as long as the previous one. When you finish that one, you see the first, smaller lake. This view is just gorgeous, seeing the smaller lake at one side and lake Gjende below at the other side. Another good thing about doing the hike in this direction is that you are impressed by the view of the smaller lake, and when you reach the bigger lake, you are even more impressed. If you would do it the other way around, the smaller lake would be beautiful but you would already have seen something better 2 hours ago.
When walking further, you will eventually reach the point where you will have a first view of the 2 big lakes together. You will probably already be amazed by this view, but the best is yet to come. From this point, you will have to descend a long way until you are at the big lake. There are plenty of resting spots, ideal for a lunch break as most of the spots are out of the wind.
After this lake, the steepest climb of the hike can begin. This is another good reason to take a rest at the lake before you start the climb.
I read on beforehand that this climb on the ridge can be scary, but I never thought I would be that scared. It is super steep, and you have to climb with your hand and feet. There can also be a lot of wind, which did not help. However, my boyfriend found it amazing and had a great time. Some will like it, others will not. Despite being scared of the heights during the climb, the views were ones to never forget.
This climb is followed by 4 km of stones, and nothing else. It is okay, but the most beautiful parts are definitely behind you now. This is the reason why I would never recommend to someone to just walk from Gjendesheim to the top of the ridge and back. You are actually missing out on a lot of views then!
When you arrive at Gjendesheim again, you can just take the bus to the car park. The bus driver was really friendly by the way, he gave us some tips on which hikes to do next time we are in Norway. There are toilets at both the bus stop at the ferry and the car park.
Where to stay near Besseggen
This is the nearest camping to Besseggen. It is a 1-minute drive from the car park of the hike. We stayed here the evening after our hike, where we found a beautiful spot next to the water. The sanitary facilities are clean and the staff is super friendly. The showers work with a coin system. I would certainly recommend this camping, for the excellent location as well as the facilities.
Wild camping is certainly an option in this region, but as there are some houses around the car park, you would have to camp a little bit further. We camped at Bygdin twice, there are a lot of car parks with magnificent views along the road. There is also a hotel and a cafe here, and if you take a turn at the cafe and drive a little bit further you can camp right next to the water.
weather conditions in Jotunheimen
What we didn’t know on beforehand, was that the weather conditions in Jotunheimen can be extreme, even in early September. Be prepared for this, we had sunny days in the beginning and woke up in a landscape full of snow at the end. In the evening it didn’t feel that cold but when we woke up our tent had been snowed under.
Be sure to have enough layers of clothes with you, and don’t forget a cap, gloves, and a scarf. Don’t skip sunscreen and carry sunglasses with you. Also, think about waterproof pants and jacket as it can suddenly start raining really hard. Lastly, prepare your car for the trip. When it snowed that hard, getting to the nearest village with our summer tires was not an easy task.
Besides this, just enjoy your trip and appreciate the incredible and unreal nature!