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, majestic towering peaks will surround you, several of which are over 2000 meters high.
The Svartdalen Hike
The journey starts out from Bygdin, where you catch the historical Bitihorn boat to Torfinnsbu. Here at the shores of the Bygdin lake, you will find the DNT cabin (mountain lodge run by The Norwegian Trekking Association) which has the easiest access to the most 2000+ meter mountaintops of all. From here, you will climb up a steep hill leading into Svartdalen. From there, the terrain through the valley will be relatively flat and easy for eight kilometres, and on your journey, you will be walking alongside beautiful lakes and streams.
During the last leg of the hike, the majestic pyramidal mountain Knutsholstind, will be your companion. This staggering 2342 meter giant, also known as the king of the Gjende Alps – a mountain range in the eastern part of Jotunheimen – was considered Norway’s highest mountain in older times. In actuality, it is the 13th highest one.
As you leave 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 through sheltered birch covered mountainsides, and wander over beautiful flower meadows, possibly alongside grazing cows. As you make your way down, be sure to stop and soak up the view of the emerald green waters of Gjende.
From here, you can hop on one of the Gjende Boats, which will take you to Gjendesheim. The duration of the walk through Svartdalen will be anywhere between 5-8 hours, depending on walking pace. Being dependant on two boats however, only gives you 6,5 hours if you are to make the trip in a day. Should that prove difficult, you can also spend the night at Gjendebu DNT cabin. Situated at 995 meters above sea level, at the intersection of high mountains and forests with a rich variety of peaks and glaciers you can explore, as well as opportunities for mountain fishing, or even beach life with swimming and volleyball, that might not be a bad option at all.
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 kilometers long (point-to-point), with an elevation 610 meters.
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.
The mountain lakes Gjende og Bygdin and the surrounding mountain areas, are considered to be the birthplace of DNT. They are historically significant for the Norwegian mountain tourism.
The area was earlier considered to be the home of Norway’s highest peaks. Several of the peaks have been the root of arguments between mountaineers back in the days. “The king of the Gjende Alps” was originally thought to be the region’s most demanding peak to climb. But then a mountaineer named William Cecil Slingsby – the first person to climb Store Skagastølstinden (2405 m) – brought a local milkmaid on his ascent to Knutsholstinden. He did this to prove that it was “a ladies peak”.
Whom the trip fits for
TheThis hike is considered demanding. Svartdalen 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?
As the journey is dependent on two boats, the season begins 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.