Historical Route Jotunheimen
Follow the path of the pioneers in Norway’s mountaineering history on the historical route from Gjendesheim to Eidsbugarden, through Jotunheimen National Park.
About the hike
It was in these mountain areas that the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) was formed 150 years ago, with the two lakes Gjende and Bygdin as important gateways into the remote parts of Jotunheimen. After DNT’s first cabin was built at Tyin in 1870, it didn’t take long before new cabins opened along the shores of these lakes, reachable by several boat routes and different trekking paths. Since then, millions of hikers have enjoyed the trails and peaks in this area for receration and adventures – varying from the infamous Besseggen, to remote fairylands as the Svartdalen valley.
On the occasion of DNT’s 150 year anniversary, this hiking route reopens as one of Norway’s great historical hikes – seasoned with the stories about the true pioneers of Norwegian mountaineering, and the dramatic landscapes that inspired famous writers and composers like Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Grieg.
(Gjendesheim to Memurubu)
1st stage of the Historical Hiking Route in Jotunheimen
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 13.6 kilometers (point‑to‑point)
- Elevation Gain: 1,140 meters
- Duration: 7–9 hours
The first stage of the Historical Hiking Route in Jotunheimen takes you from Gjendesheim to Memurubu over Besseggen Ridge. This route is not only one of the world’s most famous hikes, but it is located in the heart of Jotunheimen National Park and rooted in the history of Norwegian mountain life and outdoor culture.
From the historical cabin at Gjendesheim, the hike takes you up along the impressive Besseggen Ridge. Besseggen Ridge presents iconic views over Gjende, and Bessvatnet lakes before descending to Memrubu tourist cabin. The cabin is located on the north side of the Gjende lake.
The incredible vistas, impressive peaks, and surrounding landscape have inspired some of Norway’s most influential artists, musicians, and writers.
Besseggen Ridge has even been written into literary history by the famous Norwegian author, Henrik Ibsen, who detailed the spectacular ridge in his known piece, Peer Gynt. Some believe his writing actually refers to the majestic nearby mountain, Knutshøe. No matter what, this trek from Gjendesheim to Memurubu takes you through some of Norway’s most profound historical culture and nature.
Despite the challenging route, more than 60,000 hikers complete the trip during the short summer season. That makes Besseggen one of the most accomplished hiking routes in Norway.
From Gjendesheim, one of DNT’s original cabins, the Historical Hiking Route starts with a climb upwards towards Veslefjellet. The route will take you up the impressive stone stairs, built by sherpas from Nepal, to lessen the erosion along the trail.
After the longest climb up 800 meters, a different heart-rate awaits you as you start to hike west along the iconic and breathtaking Besseggen Ridge. The majority of hikers walk along the ridge in the opposite direction and miss the stunning panoramic views, which surround you during the descent towards Memurubu. The final downhill section can be demanding on your knees after a long day of hiking, so take your time.
Note: The trail becomes extremely difficult in rainy weather. Make sure to look at the forecast and talk with locals or fellow hikers before embarking on the trek. Due to the short season, the trail is often very crowded in good weather.
- The tourist cabin at the beginning of the hike, Gjendesheim, is one of The Norwegian Trekking Associations’ first cabins which was opened in 1878.
- The hike along Besseggen Ridge has been chosen as one of the world’s top-20 hikes by National Geographic.
- To avoid the masses, aim to hike on a weekday in September.
Memurubu to Gjendebu over Bukkelægret
The 2nd Stage of the Historical Hiking Route in Jotunheimen
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 10 kilometers (point‑to‑point)
- Elevation Gain: 760 meters
- Duration: 4.5–6.5 hours
The second stage of the Historical Hiking Route in Jotunheimen takes you from Memurubu Lodge up and over the Memurutunga plateau before descending to Gjendebu. You will experience a steady climb up to the plateau and will hike among a variety of beautiful trout-filled lakes – a great place to catch your lunch. The hike down to Gjendebu from Bukkelægret is a steep descent.
Memurubu Lodge has also been written into outdoor literary history thanks to a well-known book. “Three in Norway by two of them”, written by a group of English outdoor enthusiasts documenting their excursion during a summer spent in Jotunheimen in 1882. This travelogue was not your average adventure description and its purpose was to entertain the reader rather than detail the steps of climbing Norwegian mountains. Many people during this era were not able to travel and explore different parts of the world, but with this influential literary piece, readers were able to experience the excitement, trials, and tribulations of life in the Norwegian wilderness without actually being there.
From Memurubu, the trail climbs west, straight up to the mountain plateau, Memurutunga. You will hike for about 6 kilometers along the plateau among the lakes until you start the steep descent down to Gjendebu from Bukkelægeret.
In the steepest sections of the climb down from Bukkelægret, you will find chains and wire which help make the journey safer. As you arrive at Gjendebu, you enter the truly romantic areas of the Norwegian mountains: the rustic farmlands where you will see cows roaming the luscious mountain pastures.
- “Three in Norway, by two of them” is the famous travelogue written by Englishmen during their summer spent in Jotunheimen in 1882. You can see remnants of where they camped near the Memurubu Lodge.
- Bring your fishing pole (and be sure to buy a fishing license) if you would like to catch some fresh trout along the route from Memurubu to Gjendebu.
(Gjendebu to Torfinnsbu)
The 3rd Stage of the Historical Hiking Route of Jotunheimen
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 14 kilometers (point‑to‑point)
- Elevation Gain: 610 meters
- Duration: 6–8 hours
The third stage of the Historical Hiking Route in Jotunheimen takes you from Gjendebu to Torfinnsbu along the least vertically demanding stage of this Historical Hiking Route.
While the first two stages of the Historical Hiking Route have made an impact in Norwegian literary history, Gjendebu has made its name within the musical history of Norway. Gjendine Slålien was born in 1871 at Gjendebu and christened in the waters of Gjende lake. During the summers in the late 1800’s, she spellbound the world-renowned Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg, with her beautiful folk songs. Grieg was inspired by Gjendine and used many of her folk songs in his music which would reach worldwide acclaim.
The hike from Gjendebu to Torfinnsbu takes you through Svartdalen (Black Valley) where you are surrounded by towering peaks, many of which have been the root of arguments between mountaineers back in the days. Knutsholstinden (2341 meters above sea level) was originally thought to be the most demanding peak in the region, but William Cecil Slingsby, who was the first person to climb Store Skagastølstinden (2405 meters above sea level), brought a local milkmaid on his ascent on Knutsholstinden, to prove that it was “a ladies peak”.
A few hundred meters from Gjendebu Lodge, you will begin the steep climb up into the valley, Svartdalen, for two kilometers. During the beginning of the hike, you will be shadowed by the majestic mountain, Knutsholstind (2342 meters above sea level) to the west.
After the first climb taking you up 500 meters, the hike through Svartdalen will be relatively flat for the next 8 kilometers before descending to Torfinnsbu located at Bygdin lake’s shoreline.
- Knutsholstind (2342 meters above sea level) was thought to be Norway’s highest mountain in earlier times.
- Torfinnsbu boasts the easiest entry to the most 2000 meter peaks of all DNT cabins.
- This stage of the Historical Hiking Route in Jotunheimen is the least demanding in elevation gain.
Torfinnsbu to Eidsbugarden
The 4th and final stage of the Historical Hiking Route in Jotunheimen
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 19.3 kilometers (point‑to‑point)
- Elevation Gain: 570 meters
- Duration: 8–10 hours
The final stage of the Historical Hiking Route in Jotunheimen takes you west from Torfinnsbu. The trail then goes along Bygdin lake, climbing to as high as 1600 meters above sea level, and back down to the final destination at Eidsbugarden. Eidsbugarden is the most visited mountain area north of the Alps.
The famous Norwegian poet and mountaineer, Aasmund Olavsson Vinje, made his mark here by building the cabin at Eidsbugarden in 1868. Since then, Eidsbugarden and its neighboring lodge in Fondsbu, has attracted royals, celebrities, and outdoor enthusiasts from all around the world.
In addition to building one of the most famous mountain retreats in Norway, Aasmund Olavsson Vinje also was a co-founder of The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) and gave Jotunheimen its name. He is remembered for his poetry, travel writing, and his love and praise of the mountains of Norway.
From Torfinnsbu, you will head west along the edge of Bygdin Lake for nearly two kilometers until the trail takes you up a steady 3-kilometer-long climb. At the lake Langedalstjednet at 1500 meters above sea level, you will have wonderful views of the peaks in the area.
Then the trail descends down to Bygdin Lake again. On the way down you have a beautiful view of the lake with the famous peaks Falketind and Uranostind in the background.
The next 8 kilometers will take you due west along the Bygdin lake. Sometimes the trail goes by the shoreline and sometimes further up in the terrain before you reach Eidsbugarden.
- Eisbugarden and Fondsbu Lodge have welcomed royalty, celebrities, and hikers from all over the world.
- This region is the most-visited mountain area north of the Alps