Svartdalen (the Black Valley)

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– the most beautiful valleys in Jotunheimen

About Svartdalen

The popular hiking route from Torfinnsbu to Gjendebu takes you through Svartdalen, meaning “The Black Valley”, which is often referred to as the most beautiful valley in Jotunheimen. As you wander through this lush valley, you’ll be surrounded by majestic towering peaks, several of which are over 2000 meters high.

The Svartdalen track is located in the eastern parts of Jotunheimen, and takes you through the municipalities of Vågå in Gudbrandsdalen, and Vang in Valdres. The route is 14 kilometres long (point-to-point), with an elevation of 610 meters.

The Svartdalen Hike

The journey starts from Bygdin, where you’ll catch the historic Bitihorn boat to Torfinnsbu. At the shores of the Bygdin lake, you’ll find Torfinnsbu DNT cabin, which has the easiest access to the many 2000+ meter mountain tops. From here, you’ll climb up a steep hill leading into Svartdalen and walk through the valley on flat and easy terrain, alongside beautiful lakes and streams.

For the last leg of the hike, you’ll be accompanied by the majestic pyramidal mountain Knutsholstind; this staggering 2342 meter giant, also known as the king of the Gjende Alps – a mountain range in the eastern part of Jotunheimen – used to be considered Norway’s highest mountain in older times. In actuality, it is the 13th highest. Leaving this companion, and the gorgeous valley behind, the track takes on a very steep descent, of about 500 meters over only a few kilometres.

As you approach Gjendebu – which is DNT’s oldest cabin –, you will walk through sheltered birch covered mountain sides, and wander over beautiful flower meadows, possibly alongside grazing cows. Stop and soak up the view of the emerald green waters of Gjende as you make your way down. From here, you can hop on one of the Gjende Boats, which will take you to Gjendesheim.

The duration of the walk through Svartdalen is between 5-8 hours, depending on your walking pace. If you are catching the boat at Gjendebu the same day, you will need to make the hike in 6,5 hours. Alternatively, you can spend one night at Gjednebu DNT cabin.

History of Svartdalen

Gjendebu has made its name within the Norwegian musical history, as Gjendine Slålien, who was born here in 1871, spellbound the world-renowned Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg, with her beautiful folk song in the late 1800’s. Gjendine really inspired Grieg, and he used many of her folk songs in his music, which would reach worldwide acclaim.

DNT (Norwegian Trekking Association)

The mountain lakes Gjende and Bygdin and the surrounding mountain areas, are considered to be the birthplace of DNT and hold a significant position in Norwegian mountain history and tourism. The mountain ranges and summits have been the root of many a inspiration, debate, admiration and even arguments; back in the day people thought that the area was the home of Norway’s highest peaks, namely Knutsholstind. This peak was also thought to be the region’s most demanding peak to climb, a belief the mountaineer William Cecil Slingsby thought he needed to put an end to.By bringing a local milkmaid on his ascent to Knutsholstinden, he proved that it was “a ladies peak”, and not at all that difficult to climb.

Whom the trip fits for

This hike is considered demanding and is recommended for people in good physical health. The descent down to Gjendebu is especially steep, and becomes extra demanding when the rocks you walk on are wet and slippery.

Best time to go to Svartdalen?

The journey is dependent on two boats on either side of the valley, which limits the season. The boats start running in June when snow and ice has melted in the area, and lasts throughout September. As with other popular destinations, there will be more traffic during high season (July and August) and on weekends. The weekdays and shoulder season will have less hikers.

Svardalen hike info:

  • Difficulty: Demanding
  • Distance: 14 kilometers (point‑to‑point)
  • Elevation Gain: 610 meters
  • Duration: 5–8 hours
  • Season: Follows M/B Bitihorn boat season

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