Hiking The Besseggen Ridge in Norway

by Thomas Sorheim | Last Updated: September 28, 2020
Besseggen mountain ridge in Norway
Starting point:Bygdin or Beitostølen
Difficulty :Intermediate/expert 
Type :Day hike 
Hiking distance:14 km / 8.7 mi 
Hiking time:6-9 hours
Season:June – Sept/Oct.
Elevation gain:950 meters / 3117 feet

The Besseggen ridge is one of the most popular and spectacular hikes in Norway.

During the short 4 months season, around 60,000 people will hike up or down this narrow and unique ridge in between two lakes.

This hike offers amazing panoramic views of the Jotunheimen peaks.

I (Thomas from Leisurehiking) have hiked this hike twice and I can promise you, that if you hike this mountain ridge, you will remember it for a long long time.

This article is part of our Hiking in Norway: The Ultimate Guide.

How to get to Besseggen

Hikers waiting for the boat to take them to Memurubu for the best start of Besseggen hiking

As with so many of the hikes in Norway, they do require some effort to get to the starting point.

Besseggen is no different.

The Besseggen ridge is located in Jotunheimen and the starting point of this hike is not next to a major city, so you do need to stay in a mountain hotel or rent a cabin or similar.

Strictly speaking, you can drive from a city further away.

However, given that there are both limited places on the boat you need to take to the starting point (or finishing point), you should try to get going early.

If you do want to get going later in the day, you can, as the summer in Norway offers daylight until later in the evening.

But do not forget that it is a 6-9 hours hike!

So please bear in mind this, when planning your hike against the daylight, etc.

When you arrive in the area, you need to park the car by Reinsvangen, which is 1,5 km / 0,9 mi from Gjendesheim. 

There is a shuttle bus between the parking and Gjendesheim.

Gjendesheim is where you will start and/or finish your hike.

The Besseggen hike has two routes

The boat that will take you to the start of Hiking Besseggen

Basically, you could say that Besseggen has two routes.

One way, or the other way.

But you start and finish at the same point.

However, there are two reasons why we typically say that there are “two routes”, despite you hike the same ride.

Reason 1: You need to take a boat one way or the other. Which way, you wonder? See reason 2.

Reason 2: The hike is over a very thin ridge, and the ride itself is also very steep!

Therefore, depending on if you prefer to hike up the ridge, or down the ridge, you have a choice of starting with the boat ride (to hike up the ridge), or finish with the boat ride (to hike down the ridge).

The most common route is to start with the boat ride and climb up the ridge, vs down it.

I personally have only done the hike upwards (boat first) and I would not even consider going down the ridge (Thomas, comment).

The ridge is very thin, and there is a 400 m vertical drop on one side. You may not want to “jump down” and hike downwards with a backpack, constantly staring down the abyss 🙂

How is it to hike the Besseggen ridge

Trail sign showing you to the start of the Besseggen ridge

Let’s firstly start off by stating the obvious: This is NOT a beginner’s hike!

We recommend starting with the boat ride and climb up the ride.

The advantage of this is that you do not need to mind your finishing time and catch the last boat of the day back (and there is also a limited number of places on the boat).

Another one is that you do not need to hike the ride downwards.

It is easier and less scary to go up, than down.

The disadvantage with going this way is that should you for some reason decide you cannot or do not wish to climb the ride, there is not really any way back (you need to go back to the boat and take the boat back).

The ridge itself is pretty much in the middle of the hike.

If you walk the first part and want to take the boat back, you can always turn around and go back to start, without having to go down the ride if the nerves get the best of you.

The hike is quite challenging over its entirety.

It is both windy and steep, and it does require physical fitness.

From Memurubu (where the boat will let you out) you will instantly start the climb up the mountain.

It is steep in the beginning, and usually pretty crowded too (everyone arrives with the same boat).

You will have a lovely hike with amazing views of the Norwegian national park Jotunheimen.

Your hike will go up and down and up again.

After some hours you will reach the amazing Besseggen itself, the ridge.

This is the most difficult and technical part of the hike, in my opinion.

Personally, I take a break and eat some food, and a rest before I climb the ridge.

I can usually find some shelter from the wind a little bit before the ridge, just before the Bessvatnet lake.

The Besseggen ridge before and after

Hiking up the Besseggen ridge in Jotunheimen Norway

The ridge climb will demand the use of those leg muscles for sure.

And parts of the way you will use both your legs and your arms and really climb the mountain.

But as you will soon realize, especially if you got a late start, you may end up “in traffic”.

If you are fairly fit – and eager – you may not only catch slower hikers, you will meet hikers coming down the ridge as well.

I once met a middle-aged Asian lady once in the middle here and she was in half panic going down, wearing her cotton pants and “heeled dress shoes”.

MADNESS!

Once on the top of the ridge, you still have a fair way to go to get to the very top of the mountain.

But once you do, amazing views are awaiting (again).

It will typically be quite windy up here, so despite that, you are going to start to feel that tiredness creeping in, you may want to continue a bit more before taking that well-deserved break.

After having climbed the ridge and Besseggen itself, you still have 2 pretty steep and challenging areas ahead of you.

A hiker looking out over the torquise lake from Besseggen hike

And least not forget, that the descent is also challenging.

After 5-7 hours your muscles and legs going to be pretty tired and possible aching and possible sore.

Besseggen is a fantastic hike and well worth it if you are at a hiking vacation in Norway.

A word of warning when hiking Besseggen

As alluded to above, it is a way to common sight to see inexperienced hikers in the Norwegian mountain.

And actually, this hike, besides Preikestolen (which is easy compared to Besseggen), this hike is where I personally have seen way too many hikers, or “wannabe” hikers, taking on the mountain.

I have seen way too many people in jeans, thin jackets, and streetwear.

Also, I kid you not, I have seen several UMBRELLAS up on this mountain.

And several in HIGH HEELS!!!

It is pure madness, and stupidity to try to test the mountain wearing your city outfit.

And with that, what about a quick list of recommended equipment for hiking Besseggen?

Recommended equipment for hiking Besseggen

A red T sign showing the route when hiking in Norway

With a good backpack with the right equipment, you have a great base for a wonderful experience in the mountains.

We believe that a 30L one would do the trick.

On this hike, I would recommend some solid hiking shoes or boots with profile soles.

You should bring warm and weatherproof clothing, even if the forecasts say sunny and nice (IMPORTANT)!

The weather my change fast, and it can be windy on top of Besseggen.

Wool underwear and a wool sweater, and an extra set of clothes and socks are advised.

And a hat and sunscreen to protect your head and your skin.

There are no places to take cover from the sun, so make sure you have a hat you can put on to avoid heatstroke and proper sunscreen that protects your skin for

At the end of the season, you may want to consider some scarf and gloves/mittens.

And if you feel extra brave, why don’t you bring some swimwear for a dip in Lake Bessvatnet?

But don’t forget your food items. Bring lots of water and enough food for the whole trip/full day.

Other equipment which is wise to bring:

Due to the popularity of this hike, erosion and destroyed vegetation is a problem.

Therefore, please try to stay on the trail when hiking Besseggen.

That’s all…

What do you think?

Would you like to take on the Besseggen hike?

Let us know in our Facebook group and join the conversation!