Besseggen hike is one of the most popular mountain hikes in Norway, and the most beautiful trail in Jotunheimen National Park. Besseggen Ridge has been listed as one of the top 20 best hikes in the world by National Geographic. To hike the scenic Besseggen trail and see the panoramic view over the mountainous Norway, you just have to climb up to 1743 m.a.s.l. with 1,200 meters of elevation gain.
The most spectacular stretch of the Besseggen route is in the middle, where you hike and climb a narrow ridge with steep walls on both sides. The breathtaking scenery open up to the emerald green Lake Gjende and sparkling blue Lake Besvattnet on the other side. Over 60 000 hikers visit Besseggen every year – expect to see some other outdoor enthusiasts while hiking.
Jotunheimen National Park
You can drive to Jotunheimen National Park and the Besseggen route from Oslo in about four hours. Jotunheimen literally means 'home of the giants'. The area got its name from a Norwegian poet already in the 19th century. Great artists have sought inspiration from Jotunheimen's majestic mountains and mystique throughout the ages.
Norway's Jotunheimen is one of Norway's most popular hiking and climbing areas. Jotunheimen is full of massive two-thousander mountains, different levels of hiking trails in green valleys and mountains, and incredibly beautiful landscapes in a vast area of 1,151 square kilometers. Galdhøpiggen, the highest mountain in Scandinavia, is also located in Jotunheimen National Park.
Besseggen boat, accommodation and parking
The Besseggen hike is often done from Memurubu to Gjendesheim mountain station, but the route can also be taken in the opposite direction. When starting from Memurubu, you don't have to worry about making it to the last boat of the evening. If you're hiking with a big backpack and plan to camp in the Memurubu region or staying at the Memurubu lodge, you don't need to worry about the boat schedule. However, due to the steep ridge, the Besseggen route is easier to hike in the direction of Gjendesheim than in the direction of Memurubu.
Gjende boat: The boat to Memurubu leaves from the Gjendesheim pier, there are up to seven departures to Memurubu in the summer. Besseggen and the boat is most crowded during good weather and on weekends. Tickets must be purchased in advance (e.g., adult one-way ticket 220 NOK, luggage 70 NOK). The boat trip from Gjendesheim to Memurubu takes about 20 minutes.
Gjendesheim mountain station: Gjendesheim is the most popular cabin in mountain Norway in terms of visitors, and it is open most of the year. The mountain station is located on the shore of Lake Gjende and at the foot of Besseggen in beautiful scenery. Accommodation must be booked in advance.
Besseggen parking: On the beach of Lake Gjende there is a small parking area and a kiosk that sells parking tickets as well as good coffee and snacks. Larger parking areas are located near the crossroads of road 51, from which you can take a shuttle bus to Gjendesheim. Parking has changed since my own hiking trip, check the up-to-date instructions on the Gjendebåten website.
The Besseggen hike length is 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) and it takes about 6-8 hours. Hiking is recommended only for hikers experienced in the mountains and for people over 8 years old. The hike is physically challenging and requires balance and tolerating a slight exposure. The Besseggen hike is classified as a demanding + route. The route is long with a lot of elevation, there are parts with some exposure, and strong winds can make the hike even more demanding. There are also many guided tours to Besseggen.
Having a fear of heights, I didn’t have to think twice which way I’d try to survive the ridge. I hiked solo the spectacular Besseggen trail in the end of August from Memurubu to Gjendesheim. Here’s my own experience of the hike, facing the fear of heights and camping by the beautiful Lake Gjende.
Getting to Besseggen – the adventure
I arrived on the Sognefjellet scenic route from Galdhøpiggen to road 51, from which you turn to Besseggen. On the way, there was a really nice and short hike to Ridderspranget, a scenic river roaring in a steep gorge. Late Thursday afternoon, Gjendesheim's yard was quiet. I drove to the end of the dock area to check out the place, and found a small parking lot behind the kiosk, where you could park your car for two days.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and went to look for a sheltered tent spot on the beach of Lake Gjende. After setting up my camp, I had thought of spending the rest of the day hiking the opposite shore to Knutshoe mountain, but I couldn't figure out how to cross the watercourse. By road, the distance would have been 10 kilometers, and I didn't want to move the car because the parking lot was already full.
So, I set off to go around the Gjende beach trail instead. The lush green path was a great option, and I saved my strength for the next day. The summer t-shirt weather changed in minutes as black clouds gathered in the sky. I ran the last hundred meters back to the tent to shelter from the rain. And it was pouring rain the rest of the day.
In the morning I had a huge breakfast to get energy for the long hike. The gloomy weather had disappeared as quickly as it had come. At 9:15 AM, I walked with light steps to the pier, from where the Gjendine boat left to transport about 40 hikers to Memurubu. Even the last clouds faded during the twenty-minute boat ride. It was really exciting to finally be here to climb the famous Besseggen ridge!
The Besseggen trail starts from the Memurubu pier, from where the gravel road first leads across a grassy field and past buildings. Camping in the area requires the landowner's permission, elsewhere you can camp freely. There are several signs for us tourists, reminding us to hike without litter and to take care of the fragile nature by only walking on marked trails. The signs at the Memurubu pier also show the direction to Glitterheim and the historical route of Jotunheimen.
The first kilometers really warm up your muscles, as the path curves to the right and begins a steep and long ascent. Walking along the gravel path has been made easier in places with stone steps. Some hikers stopped for a rest break already on the first slope. Although the pier was crowded, the group gradually began to disperse to the hiking trail. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful late summer day.
The ascent seemed to continue forever. Already after an hour's hike, the incredible mountain massifs with their ridges and the turquoise shimmering Lake Gjende rewarded the sweaty grind. At the same time, at two kilometers, the first signpost appeared by the trail, showing the location in kilometers as well as the altitude profile. The recommendation was that if you had spent more than two hours on the first leg, you should admire the scenery and then return to the pier.
At two kilometers, there is the first viewpoint on the plateau, from which you can see the snow-topped mountains rising in the Jotunheimen National Park to the northwest. The stretch between two and five kilometers is a relatively flat path, where shorter ascents and descents vary from turn to turn.
After climbing a small slope, the landscape also opened up to the north towards the Lake Russvattnet curving between the mountains. Strips of snow were visible here and there. I took my first drink break an hour and a half after hiking. I took breaks quite often from now on, because I had to sit and just gaze at the incredibly beautiful scenery.
Approaching the Besseggen Ridge
Somewhere between 1400 and 1500 meters, the wind picked up quickly. It felt cold enough in the gust that I pulled on a merino sweater over the technical shirts. For a long time, it looked as if the route would lead to the black Besshøe mountain rising ahead, but eventually the trail turned to go in the direction of Lake Gjende near the mountain wall that descends into the lake.
A bright red tent stood out on the dark slopes of Besshøe. Otherwise, the crowd had mostly disappeared from sight. At three kilometers before the small lake, a sign welcomed you to continue on the route if less than three hours had passed since the start. There was such a beautiful landscape to the south of Lake Gjende that you could have spent an hour or two on the platform.
From the plateau, the route continued as a wide and rocky gravel path, gently rising. Red T's dotted the stones along the path. Clusters of bluebells grew in the barren soil.
Two and a half hours after leaving the pier, I saw the Besseggen ridge for the first time. The ridge can be seen from a height of 1500 meters while the view opens down to the small Lake Bjørnbjøltjønne. You pass the lake very close to the steep wall, but the ridge is so wide and the trail so far from the edge that you don't have to encounter any scary places.
There is a nice stop at the small Lake Bjørnbjøltjønne. On the Gjende side, there is a flat stone that is like made for lounging and admiring the scenery. At this point, you have hiked four kilometers. Just before crossing the stream flowing from Lake Bjørnbjøltjønne, the trail is slightly unpleasantly inclined, and the slope feels a tad airy. I advised myself to keep my eyes straight ahead. The stream had plenty of rocks in it for crossing.
After the lake, there was a rocky ascent and a plateau. I reached the guided group and chatted with the mountain guide as I walked. The guide told me about Besseggen, its vegetation and how some people go hiking on the mountain even in winter and rescue situations always come up.
Lake Gjende Viewpoint
After three and a half hours of hiking, I arrived at the wonderful Lake Gjende viewpoint, which can also be found on Google Maps. From a height of 1450 meters, you can see the Lake Bessvatnet and Lake Gjende and the incredibly steep and narrow Besseggen Ridge. The height differences between the lakes are best seen from this viewpoint. The ridge looked scary.
In the mountains, the proportions are sometimes difficult to understand, things seem to be closer than they really are. It was still a long way to the ridge from the Lake Gjende viewpoint.
The slopes next to Lake Bessvatnet are popular as a lunch spot. Before the ridge, it's a good idea to take an energy break (and gather strength of mind for the ridge). The trail ran between the slopes and descended right to the lakeshore. The brilliant blue color of the lake was amazing.
Lake Bessvatnet is in the middle of the route, at seven kilometers. There was a sign on its shore, which no longer recommended turning back, but suggested an easier alternative route. By hiking along the western shore of the lake, you can avoid climbing the ridge, but you have to hike additional 4 km (2.5 miles).
The trail started to rise from the lake, and it went right next to a steep edge. Before the ridge there was again a little airiness. The gravel slides under your shoes, so you shouldn't go right to the edge for taking selfies.
Up to the heights – the Besseggen Ridge
There it finally was. After five hours of hiking from the Memurubu pier, a ridge of almost 300 meters of elevation and a kilometer length rose in front of me. I gathered courage and watched the other hikers climb. I put my hair in a ponytail, pulled on a shell jacket and fastened all the backpack straps tightly around me.
The ridge was wider than it had looked from a distance. It was also much steeper than I had imagined. At this point of the route there is no trail, you have to climb on the rocks, a bit like easy rock climbing. Without ropes and a backpack on your back, swaying in the wind. On the left side there was a threat of rolling down to Lake Bessvatnet, on the right a drop of more than 400 meters to Lake Gjende.
I watched for a while as the hikers' backpacks got smaller and smaller in the heights. A couple of other hikers arrived and we pondered how wild the slope looked. Then I started climbing.
I don’t think I looked down even once for twenty minutes. That was the time I spent climbing the ridge to the first platform that felt safe. I had to use hands for help almost the whole way, sometimes even my knees. Even if there is no actual danger of falling on the route, you may start to feel dizzy at heights, and your grip may slip because of that.
I sat on a rock and sighed for two reasons: being afraid of heights, I had dared to climb the ridge of Besseggen, and I was currently looking at breathtaking postcard landscapes.
After the scary ridge, the rest of the route is just relaxed hiking. However, there is still about a kilometer of ascent to the top of Besseggen, which is about at nine kilometers from Memurubu. The trail was still very rocky, but easy to walk. At half past four in the afternoon, clouds started to gather in the sky, and the wind gusts were strong.
Lunch at the summit of Besseggen
At half past five I touched the summit of Besseggen, the large rock pile at an altitude of 1743 meters. There were no other hikers in sight, so I spread my camping kitchen on the big rocks at the foot of the pile. The late lunch included a small soup, a lovely seed bread and coffee with a huge bun for dessert. As soon as the soup was ready, it started to drizzle. A few drops of water in the soup and cold coffee didn't really hurt when I was hungry.
I could also swear that the gentle ascent continued even after the pile of rocks. The entire Besseggen summit was one pile of rocks, stones as far as the eye could see. At the top, the plateau continues for almost two kilometers.
After half an hour of hiking, the trail came close to a wall with a nice ledge to sit on. Road 51 was shining like a silver thread in the dark terrain. Gjendesheim was far below by the velvety turquoise lake. There was only enough sun left for the peaks of the mountains rising in the background.
The rest of the route was a rocky descent in the darkening evening. Little by little, the land started to turn green again, a lot of flowers, grasses and junipers also grew on this side of the mountain. The autumn colors were already visible in fell birches. The end of the trail had been realigned, and a fence had been built in front of the old trail.
I returned to the Gjendesheim yard around nine, after a ten-hour journey, just in time before dusk. An amazing day of hiking the Besseggen Ridge was crowned by dinner in the dark night on the shore of Lake Gjende at my camp, where I could see the flicker of campfires and hear the sound of the waves of the lake.
Besseggen Ridge hike info
- Destination: Jotunheimen National Park, Tessanden, Norway
- Distance: 14 km (elevation gain 1,200 m)
- Difficulty: demanding +, the ridge is challenging
- When to go: from June to September for a summer hike
- Duration: a daytrip, 6-8 hours (or enjoy the whole day with lunch & taking pictures!)
- Where to stay: camping free on the beach (can be crowded Fri-Sun), or at Gjendesheim Tourist Lodge, or in Memurubu
Equipment for Besseggen hike
Good shoes: trail running shoes, hiking boots, anything with a good grip
Sunglasses (apply sunscreen before you go)
Warm beanie and mittens
Windproof and waterproof outerwear (jacket and pants)
Change clothes (set of long underwear, merino wool shirt, socks etc.)
Food & water
First Aid kit