Norwegians can't get enough of Mother Nature, and three seconds into being here, you'll understand why. With allemansretten (the freedom to roam), the country is an open door at your feet. You just have to get walking.
The Tourist-Catchers: Pulpit Rock, Trolltunga, and Kjeragsbolten
When it comes to famous summits in Norway, these are the ones you've seen photos of. Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) is the flat, 25x25 meter platform, Trolltunga looks like a tongue, and Kjeragsbolten is that boulder wedged between two cliffs, dangling a kilometer above the water below.
If you want to tackle one of the classics, be prepared for one thing: You won't be alone. Sometimes, that can be a good thing — others will show you the way should you question the direction or need assistance. For a better chance of beating the crowds, check out these tips for visiting the three "rock stars" like a local. At any rate, the views atop all three of these hikes are worth it, crowds or not.
Of the three, Pulpit Rock is easiest — it's about four miles (6 km), or four hours round-trip. Kjeragsbolten is next, weighing in at six miles (10 km) and five hours round-trip. Trolltunga is the heavyweight here at 17 miles (27.5 km) and 12 hours. In other words? Know what you're capable of. For the record, all of these should be completed in the summer months.
Hiking the National Parks
The "National Park Region" — sitting comfortably between Oslo and Trondheim — includes Dovrefjell, Rondane, Jotunheimen, Breheimen, Reinheimen and Dovre National Parks. You could wander these lands for weeks, should you wish. (And should you have a tent!)
In Jotunheimen, the classic hike is to Besseggen, a long, narrow ridge that takes about seven hours to complete. Here (and in several others, like Rondane and Hardangervidda) you'll find Norway's amazing self-service cabins, should you wish to spend the night or make an entire trip out of trekking the backcountry. That being said, every national park in Norway is suitable for hiking — you just have to find what appeals most to you.
But there are tons of other national parks, too, and some of them hold the ultimate hiking experience: walking on a glacier. You'll need to go with a guide, but trekking across the blue ice in either Folgefonna or Jostedalsbreen National Parks will be something you never forget.
Tip: South of Jostedalsbreen is the Sognefjord — one of the biggest fjords in the country and one with the some of the biggest views. Around here, you can hike in Norway's "Grand Canyon," or the Aurlandsdalen Valley. You can hike the entire valley, staying at cabins along the way, or take smaller treks as day trips.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Hiking in Northern Norway
Northern Norway has fewer crowds, and that's no different when it comes to hiking. The further north you go, the more likely you are to have everything to yourself. And during summer, you'll have more time on your hands, too: you could hike for 24 hours in daylight if you wanted to.
You can summit the coastal mountains (they rise to around 4,000 feet at their highest) at Torghatten, De syv søstre (the Seven Sisters), or Stetind Mountain, the national mountain of Norway. And though the altitude may not sound like much, Stetind is very challenging and best for the avid hiker.
The Finnmark coast has easier hiking (less elevation). Hike the gentle rolling hills to the Slettnes Lighthouse, or get more serious along the Queen's Route in Vesterålen. Cape Kinnarodden, the northernmost point on mainland Europe, is a destination in itself, though it also requires a certain level of fitness.
You can also hike from Norway all the way to Finland, like the trek highlighted in this seven-day itinerary. Start in the deep gorges and valleys of the Lyngenfjord, and make your way to Kilpisjärvi (with a guide, preferably). And if you're really looking to get away from it all, look up the Arctic Trail: it's 500 miles of mountains through Norway, Finland, and Sweden.
You don't have to go hours outside the city to get your nature fix, at least in Norway. Bergen is surrounded by seven hills, and two have cable cars that potentially cut the trip in half: Mt. Fløyen and Mt. Ulriken. Ulriken is technically higher, though Fløyen is more centrally located (an easy hop from Bryggen). You can hike up, down, both up and down, and between the two, should time allot.
Another great vista is from the Loen Skylift, one of the steepest tramways in the world. Loen is far from an actual city, though any hike that starts from a tram next to a hotel and restaurant qualifies. From here, you can hike around Mt. Hoven and get some views all to yourself.
Both Ålesund and Haugesund are great portals to nearby hikes. In Ålesund, take on the Sunnmøre Alps or trek around the Hjørundfjord. From Haugesund, climb up Langfoss Waterfall, hike the Etnefjella, or check out the glacial potholes at Rullestad.
For starters, know that Norway has an impressive and extensive series of cabins throughout its landscape, run by the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT). Some will be pretty bare-bones, while others will seem nicer than your last hotel. If you plan to trek through the wilderness, it's simple enough to use these to break up your journey — but know that you must sign up beforehand and adhere to the requirements (there is a small fee).
Another important thing to realize is that Norwegians revere their land. The nine rules of fjellvettreglene, or the "rules of mountain intelligence," are taken seriously. In addition to taking care of yourself (that includes knowing when to turn around), you have the responsibility of taking care of the ground you walk on. Take only pictures. Leave everything as you find it. Come back with memories. You have the freedom to roam as long as you respect what's under your feet.
Beyond that, it's the basics. Wear sunscreen and layers (the weather is notorious for changing quickly in certain areas). Get sturdy boots. Pack lots of water and snacks. Travel with a buddy. Carry maps. Do your research. For one night, you may put your tent just about anywhere (though keep it 500 feet away from the next cabin or house). Pick mushrooms and fruit, but know the rules around the cloudberries.
In short, take care of yourself, take care of the landscape, and this might just be the most epic hike you've ever taken.