Besseggen Ridge Hiking Trail
Check this famous ridge off your bucket list
- Destination: Jotunheimen National Park
- Season: June-September
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 14 kilometers (point‑to‑point)
- Elevation Gain: 1,080 meters
- Duration: 7-9 hours
About Besseggen Ridge
Besseggen Ridge has a special status among Norwegians and hiking the ridge is considered a rite of passage, no matter your age. The iconic view is characterized by the colourful Gjende and Bessvatnet lakes. Gjende is a stunning emerald color and very long and narrow. Bessvatnet is a deep blue and among Norway’s clearest lakes.
Hiking the Besseggen Ridge is very demanding. It takes anywhere between 6 to 9 hours to complete the hike. Despite the challenging route, during the short hiking season from the end of June to mid-September, more than 60,000 hikers complete the trip. This makes Besseggen one of the most trafficked hiking routes in Norway. For a quieter hike, go early in the season or on a weekday in September.
The trail becomes extremely difficult in rainy weather, so make sure to look at the forecast and talk with locals and fellow hikers before embarking on the trek.
The Gjende area is a popular entry point for adventures on the eastern side of Jotunheimen National Park. Gjende is a short detour along Norwegian Scenic Route Valdresflye.
A public bus stops at Gjendesheim and connects to Oslo and Bergen. From Oslo, take the NW161 Valdresekspressen. This route runs from Oslo bus terminal to the stop Gjendesheim. Or take the route NW160 Valdresekspressen to Årdalstangen and change to NW161 Valdresekspressen.
From Oslo, head north on E16, towards Bergen, for 185 kilometers. When you reach Fagernes, follow signs to road 51, towards Vågå/Beitostølen. From Beitostølen keep following road 51 towards Bygdin. Drive past Bygdin for another 22 kilometers until you reach the signs for Gjendesheim lodge on your left. Turn here.
From Bergen drive via E16 towards Vossevangen. Then drive to Beitostølen either through Vang or Fagernes. Follow road 51 for another 34 kilometers before you see the sign for Gjendesheim.
Note: Parts of Road 51 (between Garli and Maurvangen) are closed during winter and typically open from April to December.
If you’re visiting for the day or beginning a multi-day trek, park in the long-term parking lot at Reinsvangen. The parking lot is on the right-hand side shortly after turning off Road 51 and on to the road to Gjendesheim. Parking costs 150 NOK for 24 hours and longer stays are available. Pay by card at the machine. A shuttle runs the 1.7 kilometer trip between the parking lot and the dock every 15-30 minutes.
By the dock there is free parking for up to 2 hours. You still need to collect a ticket from the machine.
For overnight guests at Gjendesheim, free parking is available by the cabin.
West to east
The most popular direction to hike Besseggen is from Memurubu in the west to Gjendesheim in the east. Start by taking a morning boat across Gjende Lake from Gjendesheim to Memurubu. The boat ride lasts 20 minutes and in high season it is often fully booked. Book your ticket in advance if you know which day you are hiking.
Starting off from Memurubu the trail immediately rises steeply up the mountain. Hike slowly up the mountain and don’t use all your strength yet as there is still lots of hiking left after reaching the first plateau. As you hike past the treeline the trail veers to the east towards Besseggen. Continue on up and eventually you will get to a small plateau where you get the first views of the actual Besseggen Ridge.
The trail now levels off and it starts to descend a bit down to a pond on the left side of the trail. This is a good place to fill up your water bottle. From the pond, the trail ascends up until you can see Bjønbøltjønne Lake. Enjoy the great views of Gjende Lake before you head down to the lake. This is another good place to fill up your water bottle before heading further east.
From the lake the trail ascends again and you will eventually reach 1,560 meters above sea level before descending to Bessvatnet Lake at 1,374 meters. The last bit of the trail down to Bessvatnet Lake is a bit steep so make sure to follow the trail as you are descending down. Down by the lake you enter the ridge between the two lakes which is called “Bandet”. The ridge prevents Bessvatnet Lake from pouring into Gjende Lake 400 meters below.
This is about the halfway point of the hike and a good place to have lunch and enjoy the color differences between the two lakes. The ridge is fairly wide so most hikers will not experience any issues with the height yet.
From this ridge you start hiking and occasionally scrambling up the actual Besseggen Ridge. The ridge is fairly steep, rising 300 meters and is at times quite narrow. The first part of the ridge is fairly wide but as you move up the ridge gets narrower and steeper. If you are scared of heights this upper part is where you will potentially feel the most exposure. But note that the steepest part is not very long and once the ridge levels off you are done with the hardest part.
As you near the top of the ridge you will reach the point where most of the most famous pictures of the Besseggen Ridge are taken.
Continue up and you reach a small plateau where the trail descends a bit before heading up towards Veslfjellet. Veslfjellet is the big cairn and it reminds you that you have reached the highest point on the entire hike at 1,743 meters above sea level. The trail is now very flat and after about 1 kilometer you reach a trail junction. Follow that trail to the right down towards Gjendesheim. You will often see reindeers in this area so make sure to look for them as you cross the mountain.
Right after the trail junction, you reach an area with some very steep cliffs on your right-hand side. In fog, make sure to closely follow the marked trail in this area.
Eventually, the trail starts to descend and the last 2.5 kilometers down to Gjendesheim are the steepest, especially at the top of the trail. There are some small sections here where you might feel some exposure and one of the sections has a wire that you can hold on to while hiking down.
The entire route is well marked so follow the signs and the red markers along the trail and you should have no problem finding your way.
If you choose to hike west to east and feel that the ridge up from Bessvatnet Lake is not for you, then you can instead hike along the northern side of Bessvatnet Lake back towards Gjendesheim. Do not walk along the southern shore of the lake, on the side of Besseggen Ridge.
After hiking along the lakeshore, take a right at the first trail junction and follow the signs towards Gjendesheim. You will find the alternative route in the map marked with a dashed line.
East to west
By choosing to start from Gjendesheim, you’re completely independent of the morning boat ride but you need to make sure that you get to Memurubu before the last boat leaves for Gjendesheim. Alternatively, you can stay at Memurubu.
Going this way you will get much better views of the hike down the Besseggen Ridge. However, keep in mind that if you are scared of heights hiking in this direction will feel more exposed.
- Free toilet by Reinsvangen parking lot and by the dock
- Convenience store by the dock where you can buy drinks, food, and basic supplies
- Café and toilets at Memurubu
Where to stay
Memurubu Lodge is a full-service private cabin at the western end of the trail. Camping is also available.
Hindsæter Hotel is located 10 minutes north of Gjendesheim by car towards Vågå.
Questions or comments? Let us know.