Norway is a country of outstanding natural beauty, but did you know that the country has been called the world capital of outdoor stairways? Here’s our twist on climbing Norwegian mountains – step by step.
It’s easier and safer to reach the top if you can hike on man-made mountain stairways – this is something the Norwegian authorities have taken note of and engineered wood and stone steps that lead to the country’s most breathtaking viewpoints.
The Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) near Stavanger in south-west Norway is visited by more than 300,000 nature-loving hikers every year. Towering 604 meters above the Lysefjord, the trek is one of Norway’s most famous mountain hikes. The hike up is an expertly engineered and well-maintained stone staircase that is as much of a marvel as the final viewpoint itself.
However, there was a time when Norway’s mountain paths would only see a handful of local visitors. Over the past decade, social media has changed all that. A company called Stibyggjaren (The trail builder) hires Sherpas from Nepal to construct mountain steps and has so far been responsible for more than 300 projects in Norway in recent years. Here we’re exploring some of the longest and most spectacular steps Norway has to offer.
The Flørli stairs in Lysefjord
The stairways leading to the Pulpit Rock is not the only one above Lysefjord near Stavanger. The Flørli stairs is one of the longest wooden stairways in the world with 4,444 steps all the way from the tiny village of Flørli up to Lake Ternevatnet 740 meters above sea level. Flørli is a roadless hamlet serviced by four ferries per day.
In areas with many visitors, staircases, made by wood or stone, can lower the threshold for many to experience nature.
Helgeland-steps in Northern Norway
The town of Mosjøen is home to Helgelandstrappa, Norway’s longest stone staircase with 3,000 steps sculpted into the highlands. It takes you up to the 818-meter-high Øyfjellet mountain. If you don’t feel like walking back, you can fly down Nordland’s longest zip line across the salmon river Vefsna.
The Helgeland-steps are ranked on the top-5-list of the best mountain steps in the entire country. Each step is two meters wide which gives the possibility of three people walking side-by-side. Resting areas are placed along the way, all of them blending perfectly into the nature around.
On July 6th 2019 the Queen of Norway was there to mark the opening of the steps.
Midsundtrappene in the Northwest
On the Otrøya island, you find the longest continuous stairway in stone in Norway, made by Sherpas from Nepal. 2,200 stone steps take you up to Rørsethornet, 659 meters above sea level. The climb has a panoramic view of the sea and the archipelago all the way, but if you are afraid of heights, beware that some sections are pretty steep.
However, getting to the top, you will have an amazing 360-degree view to the ocean as well as the fjord and other mountains. The sunset from Rørsethornet is also worth the experience, and so is the sunrise. From Rørsethornet you can walk a marked route to Ræstadhornet
If you want a slightly easier hike, you can walk up the neighboring mountain Digergubben (527 metres above sea level), where you “only” have to climb 1,400 steps to reach the summit.
The Monks’ Steps in Hardanger
The oldest stone stairs in Norway were created by English Cistercian monks at the beginning of the 13th century. The monks built the 616 steps in order to improve the road between the fjord and the Hardangervidda mountain plateau. They also laid the foundations for the fruit production that characterizes the idyllic village of Lofthus to this day.
Its starting point is at Røte in Kinsarvik and ends at Lofthus, making it a total of 16 kilometers long. The 6-8 hour long hike is heavy and steep, so it is recommended for more experienced hikers.
There are however, multiple view points along the way, so an option for less experienced hikers would be to hike only a part of the trail. Whether you hike the whole trail or not, you can expect stunning, paranomic views of the Hardangerfjord.
Oppstemten to Mount Ulriken in Bergen
If you take the stairs instead of the gondola to the top of the city mountain Ulriken in Bergen, you’ll climb 290 meters in 1,300 steps. The consolation is that you can take the gondola – or a zipline – back down.
The stone path up Stoltzekleiven to Mount Sandviksfjellet is a slightly easier alternative, with only 800 steps.
The Prestholtstien trail in Geilo
The Hallingskarvet mountains near Geilo rise like a giant petrified wave on the enormous Hardangervidda, which is one of Norway’s largest mountain plateaus. From the idyllic Prestholtsetra mountain farm, you have to climb around 2,500 stone steps in one sweaty kilometer to enjoy the scenic view from the top. However, the stone steps make the summit trip a pure joy. Follow the same trail back down, or continue on the 6.5 kilometers long Prestholtet hike. The most fit can start the trip from the center of Geilo. Follow the Pilvegen Road up to Geilohovda and further on westward past Gullsteinhovda and Urundberget.
In Eggedal, less than two hours away, you can climb the stairs along the beautiful Madonnastien trail, which has been named Norway’s most popular hiking route.
Ravnfloget Via Ferrata
The locals at Vega have built a beautiful wooden staircase on the UNESCO island Vega. After almost 2,000 steps and an elevation of 450 meters, you can catch your breath at the top of Mount Ravnfloget, which has panoramic views of the sea and the islands on the Helgeland coast. The rugged mountain was once a lofty playground accessible only to sea eagles and ravens, hence the name. Today, the Ravnfloget Via Ferrata, a spectacular climbing trail, will take you to the summit of Ravnfloget. The mountain is situated on the western side of the island of Vega.
Reinebringen in Lofoten
This demanding trip up to the true gem of Reine, located at the southern end of Lofoten, is not for those who suffer from a fear of heights. After climbing hundreds of steep steps between wild mountain peaks, the view of the Vestfjord and the tiny fishing villages of Reine and Hamnøy are sure to make your heart beat faster. Only make the trip in good weather, and make sure that you stay safe at all times.
However, Reinebringen is far from one of the highest peaks on the Lofoten islands. Yet this is more than made up for by the iconic view from the summit. The view, combined with the easy access from Reine, makes Reinebringen one of the most popular hikes in Lofoten, with hundreds of people making the ascent each day during the summer season.
The construction on a stone stairway on the mountain was started in 2016 due to the increased erosion and danger of rockfall from the high amount of visitation. As of July 2019, the Nepali Sherpa team completed all but the final 50 meters at the top of the mountain. So now the route is little more than a 1560 step stone staircase.
Ruiplassen in Dalen, Telemark
From Dalen in Telemark you can climb a steep stone staircase of 810 steps up to the old cotter’s farm Rui. This is a route with historical roots, and along the way, you can learn more about the two unusual sisters who lived there their whole life. Only once did they leave Telemark – to visit the King in Oslo! The hike from the start of the staircase up to Rui is 1 km long, 810 steps, 200 metres hight difference, about 20-30 minute-hike one way. To get to Rui, you follow in the Rui girls’ footsteps from Dalen on a stone staircase made by Sherpas from Nepal.
“Beintsteberg” is the path called locally, which means the shortest path up the mountain. A lot of work is laid down in building the staircase, and the experience of first walking on the beautiful stairs that swirl up the mountain, and then ascending to the height of beautiful Rui is quite unique.
Rødøy Lion at the Helgeland coast
The hike up the majestic Mount Rødøyløva at Rødøy is one of the most beautiful trips along the Norwegian Scenic Route Helgelandskysten. More than 1,000 steps get you to the top, 440 meters above sea level, where you can enjoy scenic views of thousands of small islands, reefs, and white sandy beaches. Unforgettable in the midnight sun!
The first 200 metres of the path is quite steep with a set of stairs, but soon you are rewarded with the great view.
The Sherpa steps in Tromsø
In Tromsø, 1,300 stone steps connect Fløyvegen, 85 meters above sea level, with the Fjellheisen Cable Car’s upper station at 421 meters – so you can go up, or down, or both up and down, through birch forest and past the tree line. From the top you have panoramic view over Tromsø Island with the “Ersfjord traverse” in the background. The walk up the Sherpa steps is suitable for everyone. The steps make the terrain easy to walk in, and you find several breaks. In one year, over 100 000 people walked up or down the Sherpa stairs in Tromsø.
The Cable Car is one of Tromsø municipality’s most popular tourist destinations, and a fantastic perspective to see Tromsø from, so this is really an attraction one should visit when spending time in Tromsø.
The Vøringfossen bridge
Vøringsfossen is perhaps the best-known waterfall in Norway, with vast quantities of water plunging 182 meters (597 ft) down from the Hardangervidda plateau to the Måbødalen valley. The waterfall and the dramatic transition between fjord and mountain plateau make for a majestic impression.
The Vøringfossen bridge is designed by architect Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk, and the construction represents a long tradition of exploring the fields between architecture, technology, infrastructure and nature.
The bridge has a range of 47 meters (154 ft) and has 99 steps.
The development of the tourist icon Vøringsfossen has happened step by step over several years to make sure that visitors and the local tourism industry can enjoy the project as it is being finished.
The step bridge consists of two tripods founded on rock that carry the centre span. The structure is made up of seven parts, of which five make up the flight of steps and the final two serve as supports. The seven bridge components have been hoisted in place by a crane and assembled on site. The entire step bridge is built in steel and secured with long rock bolts drilled into the rock.
Exploring Norway – step by step. Conclusion
Around 300 stone staircases have been built in Norway over the past two decades. The steps make it easier and safer to walk, and maybe most importantly – they protect the vulnerable nature. So, stick to the stairs and don’t drift off to the side even if your legs hurt. And please stop when you want to enjoy the view or take pictures, as you really don’t want to stumble.
Climbing Norwegian Mountains – Step by Step, compiled by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top) © Fjord Norway