Hiking Galdhøpiggen, the tallest mountain in Norway

by Thomas Sorheim | Last Updated: September 29, 2020
Jotunheimen national park and Galdhøpiggen mountains in Norway
Starting point:Spiterstulen (or Juvasshytta*)
Difficulty :Intermediate/experienced 
Type :Day hike 
Hiking distance:13 km / 8.1 mi 
Hiking time:7-9 hours in total 
Season:May – Aug/Sept
Elevation gain:1366 meters / 4482 feet

*The hike from Juvasshytta takes you over the glacier but requires a mountain guide and special hiking and safety equipment.

This article is a part of the Ultimate Guide to hiking in Norway.

Galdhøpiggen is the highest mountain in Norway, in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. It sits 2469 meters or 8100 feet above sea level.

Hiking Galdhøpiggen is not particularly long in distance, but the elevation gain is considerable!

Over a rather short distance, you will climb 3 peaks above 2000 meters / 6562 feet, until you reach the highest of them all.

Albeit the hike is not the most technical hike, and you will meet kids from around 6 years old doing this hike, it does require good physical condition.

The hike up will take you about 4h+ and the descent will be done is 2-3 hours.

Galdhøpiggen is part of the Jotunheimen national park and a treasure-trove of amazing mountains to climb and nature to hike.

How to get to Galdhøpiggen

Spiterstulen lodge, the starting point for hiking to Galdhøpiggen in Jotunheimen national park

In essence, you can start hiking Galdhøpiggen from 2 starting points; Spiterstulen, or Juvasshytta.

Spiterstulen is the usual start of the hike, as the Juvasshytta starting point requires a hike over the glacier, which again requires a licensed guide and special equipment.

But if you want to join one of the guides and pay the extra money, the hike from Juvasshytta is both shorter and easier.

It is, however, still quite exhilarating.

In this article, we will address both hikes, and at the end talk briefly about the actual top of the mountain and what you can find there.

Hiking Galdhøpiggen from Spiterstulen

The regular starting point to hike Galdhøpiggen is from Spiterstulen mountain lodge, at 1103 meters / 3619 feet above sea level.

A popular place to stay and a great starting point for many hikes in Jotunheimen.

Actually, you can hike 17 of the tallest mountains in Norway and Northern Europe from here and Spiterstølen actually arrange guided hikes as well – including up and around the glacier.

Here is a great video about Spiterstulen:

Staying at Spiterstulen lodge

As a quick side note about Spiterstulen, in case you want to stay here or learn more about it.

The Spiterstølen lodge has been family-owned and ran for 6 generations. Today, you can actually meet 4 generations working in the lodge.

A great place to stay if you planning to hike Galdhøpiggen or nearby peaks. (People also stay in tents close by the Spiterstølen lodge).

Back to the hike.

This hike is considerably harder and requires an even better fitness level than the one over the glacier (see below).

In Norway, it is considered a “fairly easy hike”, and you will see a lot of families with small children from around 5-6 years hiking up to the peak (yes, really!).

From Spiterstølen to the peak, it is not really a long-distance, if you measure in air distance.

However, in the same amount of kilometers/miles, you will be climbing a pretty steep route of cover 1366 meter / 4482 feet of elevation.

Also, the hike is above 2438 meters / 8000 feet, which means that some may actually start to feel the difference in the air pressure.

The air density ratio at 2438 meters / 8000 feet is 0.86, meaning that the air at that altitude is 86% as dense as air at standard temperature and pressure.

That means effective oxygen % on the top of the peak is around 15%, vs about 21% at sea level (so thinner air, less oxygen).

For most people, this will not be a problem, but few people may notice some slight discomfort or light headaches.

You will be hiking over 2 peaks until you actually are going up the final one to the actual top.

My first hike to Galdhøpiggen

The view from Galdhøpiggen in Norway

I remember my first hike to Galdhøpiggen so well.

I had not done much research in advance on the hike itself, so I did not know much besides that it is up and up… However, I was super fit and used to heavy physical challenges.

During the hike, it felt like I had been hiking forever and the mountain seemed never-ending.

And then – a peak.

After hours, I could finally see the top.

How disappointed was I, when getting close to the top, I realize that there is another peak behind this one.

Svellnose at 2272 meters / 7454 feet is the first peak you will reach.

But you are not done yet!

You need to keep on, forwards and upwards.

The next peak is Keilhaus.

And finally, after Keilhaus you can actually see the end! The final peak – the tallest mountain in Scandinavia and Norway.

It is a great hike for sure, just don’t do the same mistake as I did, and believe that it is only one peak.

Good gear to have hiking Galdhøpiggen

Also, on my first hike to Galdhøpiggen, I was quite a novice and was missing some gear.

Many parts closer to the top, including the top, is snow-covered.

It was July when I did my first hike, and the snow got quite slushy and wet.

We were far from the first up, and the weather was amazing with blue skies and sun.

I wish I have had gaiters that I could have used and avoided getting the lower parts of my pants and my socks wet from the snow.

Guess what I bought as soon as I got down from the mountain?

Never going hiking where there is now without gaiters in my backpack, that’s for sure!

I would, by the way, strongly advise using hiking boots – high ones!

No running shoes or any other sports shoes!

This is one of those hikes where you really want to have great footwear!

Hiking conditions at Galdhøpiggen in Jotunheimen in Norway

Once I got to the top of Galdhøpiggen, the view is amazing.

You are literally on the top of Norway and can see so far and so many peaks and amazing nature all around.

The weather can be unstable on the top.

For 15 minutes or so and the weather was sunny with great views, only to be replaced with cold humid clouds.

I would say fog if I did not know any better.

But you are in fact “up the clouds” when you are at the peak of Galdhøpiggen.

At the end of the article, you can read more about what actually is on top of the peak – a cabin and a café where you can actually buy coffee and waffles and more!

It is true, and it is crazy amazing!

Hiking Galdhøpiggen from Juvasshytta

A word of warning: This hike requires you to joining a tour/have a glacier guide and equipment for this.

You have to pre-book!

The hike to Galdhøpiggen from Juvasshytta is easier, a bit shorter, and with less elevation gain.

It will typically take you around 5-6 hours of hiking, return. Versus upwards of 8-9 hours return for the regular hike from Spiterstulen.

From Juvasshytta you will start hiking at 1840 m / 6037 feet above sea level, so the elevation gain is only 629 meters / 2064 feet, versus 1366 meters / 4482 feet from Spiterstulen.

Daily tours start around 10:00 and 11:30 during the season and cost NOK 300 per person (NOK 250 for children. NB! Min 7 years).

You can also hire a private guide, which will cost you NOK 6000. Prices are for 2020 and may vary/change for 2021.

You can book your tour or get more information from VisitNorway.

However, the view is amazing and the landscape mesmerising.

The hike over the glacier

Reindeer herd in Jotunheimen can be seen while hiking to Galdhøpiggen

Once you have gotten organized with your hiking group and guide, you put on your harnesses, get your instructions, and start hiking up the mountain.

Children (from 7 years old) will get full-body harnesses.

If needed, everyone will also be given crampons.

The first leg of the hike goes along the glacier and basically hike at your own pace, but as a group.

It is a gradual climb of almost 3 km / 2.8 mi.

The hike itself is all in all about 5 km / 3.1 mi.

You are expected to manage this hike in about 1-hour time.

If you are not in the best of shape and spend 1,5 hours or more to get this point, you may be asked by the guide to return back, for your own safety, and out of consideration of the group.

You should not take any (big) breaks before the first common break and the edge of the glacier.

Adjust your clothing as you walk and stay hydrated!

Drink regularly!

Once everyone has regrouped and had a small break, further instructions are given about crossing the glacier.

Once instructions are given about glacier crossings and safety instructions, everyone will be roped together in a long line.

Please line up together with your friends/family.

Please be considerate about families with children, so they get to hike together, and children feel safer.

It is very important to consider your clothing before embarking on the hike over the glacier, as there will not be any opportunities to stop and adjust clothing once on the glacier.

Everyone walks in a line, all roped together for safety.

The rope must be tight.

The crossing of the glacier takes about 50 minutes and once on the other side, there will be a short break and the rope teams are disassembled.

You will now have another 30-60 minutes of hiking up the steepest and last part of the hike up to Galdhøpiggen.

And before you know it, you are on the top of Norway!

Instructions and information about the hike back down will be given by the guides. Follow these guidelines.

This hike is the “easy” hike to get to Galdhøpiggen and albeit it is not really technically difficult, it does require you to have a fairly good fitness level.

As you read above, if you do not manage to keep up the phase, you may be asked to discontinue the hike for your own safety.

At the top of Norway – Galdhøpiggen

The cafe at the top of Galdhøpiggen mountain 2469 meters above sea level

Congratulations, you have made it!

Take a well-deserved rest and enjoy the view.

Get the picture proof of yourself on the actual top of the mountain, the highest “bump” on top of the peak (just look for the line, everyone wants a picture from the peak of the peak).

One of the amazing surprised on top of Galdhøpiggen, is the café!

Can you imagine?

A café at 2469 meters above sea level?

You can, without a shadow of a doubt – and fact in hand – say that this is the café with the best view in Scandinavia!

Here is your chance to take a part in the Norwegian cultural highlight!

Get yourself an overpriced waffle with brown cheese, a cup of pissing thin coffee, a bar of Kvikklunsj chocolate at triple prices, and take in the atmosphere!

Enjoy the chaos and be mesmerised about the view on top of Norway!

It does not get better than this!

Oh, and if the weather is nice, you can see Glittertind in the distance. The Glittertind peak is the second tallest mountain in Norway and Scandinavia, with it’s 2465 m above sea level (8087 feet).

If you feeling very ambitious, you can do this hike the following day…

Here is a picture how this peak looks like (don’t go to the edge!!!)

Glittertind peak in Norway. The second tallest mountain.

Necessary hiking equipment

The weather in the mountain can be very unpredictable.

The forecasts may say sunny and nice, but at any time, the weather may change.

It is therefore imperative that you pack, and dress properly for hiking in higher altitudes and be prepared for a sudden change in weather.

You can experience rough weather on the hike to the top!

If the guide feels that you are not dressed accordingly, or badly equipped for the conditions, you may be denied participation!

So what should you bring with you to hike Galdhøpiggen, no matter the weather forecast?