9days

trekking

100km

walked

3600m

D+

3.5

days absolutely alone

Norway is full of sublime national parks and choosing one is not necessarily easy as it all deserves to be discovered. After some time of reflection, our focus fell on the Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella national park by combining with Innerdalen, one of the most beautiful valleys in Norway. We invite you to follow us during the 9 days of this spring trek, far from the world and in magnificent landscapes.

Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella, Innerdalen and route


Le Parc National du Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella

Located south of Trondheim and east of Ålesund, the Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park covers an area of ​​1693km². The park is especially renowned for the unique presence in continental Europe of muskoxen, relics of mammals from prehistoric times. The park revolves around Snøhetta, a beautiful mountain 2286m high.

Muskoxen are large mammals of the goat family, contrary to what their name indicates. Relic of the ice age, we find them today in Canada, Greenland, a little bit in Siberia and for a few dozen heads in the park of Dovrefjell. The latter were reintroduced after extinction due to hunting.

With a weight of up to 300kg, muskoxen are large mammals that don’t hesitate to charge if they feel threatened. Running the 100m in 6s you will have little chance of escaping. Some caution is therefore necessary, especially in the presence of young. Local guides recommend keeping a distance of 300m.

The park is mainly made up of tundra: short grass, moss and lichen. Trees disappear very quickly with altitude.

Getting There :

The park is easily accessible by public transport. The Oslo-Trondheim train line bypasses the entire southern and eastern part of the Dovrefjell. You will therefore have various choices:

  • Dombås: small town to the south
  • Hjerkinn: mountain resort with a youth hostel
  • Oppdal: the local town with all the services you need. A good base to shine.

The northern part is accessible by bus via line 901 from Oppdal and in the direction of Kristiansund. Information can be found here: Bus 901 timetable

Innerdalen

A little north-west of the Dovrefjell Park is the magnificent Innerdalen Valley. The “Visit Norway” site even names it “the most beautiful valley in Norway”.

The valley is easily accessible and offers accommodation in refuges and a campsite which has been voted “Most beautiful campsite in Europe” by the Guardian! What superlatives for this place.

Getting There :

To get there we took bus 901 from Oppdal and got off at Ålvundeid rv. 70. For the long stretch of road before starting the path, we hitchhiked. There is a little passage we did not wait very long.

Route

We started by joining Oppdal from Oslo Airport by train (fast and not very expensive) then from there we took bus 901 in the direction of Kristiansund. We stopped at Ålvundeid rv. 70 towards Innerdalen. We recovered route 70 from the valley by cutting through the mountains. From there we joined by bus the stop named Lønset after a night detour to Oppdal. We then crossed the Dovrefjell in a global north-south direction to reach Hjerkinn from where we took the train to Oppdal.

You will find the whole of the walked part below (downloadable):

Refuges

The Norwegian shelter system is different from ours. While in France the shelters are often guarded and remain partly open in winter, here many are the shelters without guards and which requires a key to be open summer and winter.

This key is available by joining the Norwegian trekking association, the DNT. You can then borrow or receive a key to access the shelters. PLEASE NOTE: shelters do not generally offer winter shelters!

You will find the necessary information here: https://english.dnt.no/

Day 1 - Innerdalen


10 a.m. on June 11, 2019, we are on bus 901 in the direction of the fork which will take us to Innerdalen. I am with Arthur with whom I have already done the GR R2 in Reunion. 3 years that we have not seen each other but here we are in the middle of Norway left for 9 days of trekking. We arrived in Oppdal yesterday after a quick trip by plane to Oslo and then by train.

The bus stops at a stop lost on the road. We are going down. We put the bags, we settle everything and we left in the direction of the valley.

This first portion is a 10km asphalt road that hurts your feet … We walk but we try to stop when a car overtakes us. It works after 20-30min. A nice couple of Norwegians who are local and who go up to Innerdalen for the weekend.

At the end of the road, we only have 3km to go. It’s hot today, so we remove a layer and we set off again. The beginning of the path is nice, it looks like what you can find in the forest in the mountains. The surrounding landscapes are beautiful but you can’t see very well with the trees. But now, another small climb and a turn and Innerdalen is revealed to us, wonderful.

I had seen some photos before leaving but I must admit that seeing the valley like that in all its beauty leaves you speechless …

Another 15min walk and here we are at Renndølsetra. It is an old summer farmhouse in the purest Norwegian style. Today it is a gîte, the site is really beautiful. We chat a little with the guard to find out where to bivouac. He tells us that on the heights of the valley, the ground is soggy because of the melting snow. So he advises us to stay around. It is here that there is the most beautiful campsite in Europe according to the Guardian. As the camp is not yet officially open, it lets us settle in for free! Really nice ! We will still have a beer to participate a minimum.

We will put the bags further under the undergrowth before going for a walk in the valley. We will pass the Innerdal Turishytte which also offers a beautiful site to spend the evening.

Once our little tour ends, we return to our bags. We set up camp not far from the water. We light a small fire and settle down to enjoy the end of the afternoon under a bright sun. What happiness. Everything is perfect: the site, the landscape, the little fire.

It will not have been a big day (in the end, about 5 km of walking), but it suits us well, we can take advantage of it. We go to bed under the sun. Indeed no night in this season, we will have to get used to it but the stream next to it rocks us enough to fall asleep quickly.

Day 2 - From Innerdalen to the Dovrefjell


The night was good and not so cold. The objective of the day is simple: reach the “entrance” to Dovrefjell park by crossing the mountains to the south.

So we set off after breakfast and the packaging of the camp. It is dizzying today or even a little drizzling.

The beginning of the hike leads to a small bridge which allows you to cross the river. We then attack a steep climb which leads to the Flatvaddalen between 700 and 900m above sea level. This passage under the greyness is a little sad but still offers beautiful views.

This fairly flat portion is very humid due to the presence of numerous lakes and marshy areas. In addition, we are early in the season, so there is a lot of snow on the heights and it melts at all costs, which adds to the ambient humidity of the small valley.

Its southern end offers a beautiful view of the Sunndalen. From there the path forks to the side of the cliff towards the east. We will have our midday break at the fork in the Tverrådalen which is all snow.

This portion is pleasant especially thanks to the view. It is a little further that it becomes less funny. In fact, we then launch into 700m of vertical drop in terrain that hurts the knees, our heavy bags of food for the next 8 days do not help.

We will reach Eiriksvollen in the middle of the afternoon. We wanted to stay there for the night but the cabin is locked … No problem, in addition we spot a tick here, so we will try to hitchhike to go to Grøa because we spotted a campsite there. We will be taken after a little waiting by the school bus which will even make a detour to drop us off. Arrived on site, we turn on the campsite to find the reception but nothing … strange. A lady goes out to ask us what we are looking for, we explain to her and answer us without much kindness that here it is a private campsite and that we cannot stay … You will have to explain to me the principle but all is it that we find the beak in the water. Well … After consultation we decide to return to Oppdal because we will find something to sleep in and then we have to review the start of the journey a bit because planning level we are not at the top.

Returning to the main road, we will cross a bus that goes in the direction of Oppdal, we will jump on the opportunity. Back in town we find a hotel and we are redoing the plans for tomorrow. We initially wanted to go through the Grødalen to enter the Dovrefjell but finally we opt for the Dindalen. We thus gain almost a day of walking overall which relaxes the planning and will allow us to take better time on the spot.

We will still have worked well today and fall asleep early because tomorrow we finally attack the main subject!

Day 3 - Dindalen


And we get back on the road! The shower did good last night but it’s the last one for a few days.

Bus 901, a few minutes and here we are “dropped” in Lønset. We attack there because it saves us a bit of walking and the climb is more gradual.

The start of the path is on a road / track. By particularly pleasant, this portion has the advantage of allowing rapid progression. It is good today under this beautiful sun. After a few kilometers we return to Dindalen. It is a pretty valley, dotted with charming chalets which seem uninhabited for the moment. To the south we can see the end of the plateau where we are going.

Before that, a short break at Dindalshytta, a refuge still closed at the start of the season.

Another small climb which gives a nice view on the valley and here we are, we enter the national park of Dovrefjell. Upstairs we are on a sort of plateau, it is “flat” and the wind blows very hard from the front here.

A few more tiring kilometers with this headwind. We arrive in sight of Snøfjellstjønna lake. There are quite a few pretty cabins here, some quite large, but people in sight. I think people don’t ride much this season.

Some easy crossings of rivers (from rocks to rocks) and we arrive at a big chalet at the foot of the climb on the west side of the lake. As the wind is still blowing so strongly, we use the chalet to protect ourselves from it. No one will mind. There is even a perfectly protected outside table. We therefore ask ourselves, end of the walking day.

Sheltered from the wind and in the sun it is good. We take advantage of the afternoon admiring the lights on the lake which vary from minute to minute.

We will install the tent on the heights, protected from the wind by a hill, near the lake there is too much humidity.

Traditional evening: sausage, cheese, lyophi, sleeping bag, reading, sleep.

A good first day, we didn’t do a lot of kilometers but at least we are finally in the Dovrefjell itself. Tomorrow we will progress further in the heart of the park.

Day 4 - Further in the Dovrefjell


The night was good despite the wind. The good news is that it fell this morning! We can therefore prepare for calm.

We will leave early. The path begins with the ascent of the hill to the west of the lake. From the top the view is appreciable:

The landscapes open and offer a beautiful view of what awaits us.

The land is made up of rocky moor as far as the eye can see. Lots of rocks on the surface which makes walking quite fun and not boring. In the distance, the Snøhetta massif overlooks the park.

There is no actual path but cairns often with a red dot or “T” are regularly spaced to facilitate orientation which is very practical in these landscapes where everything looks the same.

The progression is pleasant. We will have our lunch break next to a very small hunter’s hut (Pilbua maybe?) Before heading towards an intersection around Lake Urdvatnet. There is a wide river here to cross but fortunately rocks have been cleverly arranged to cross dry (with a little gymnastics all the same).

We will then pass a hill around 1500m above sea level before descending to the pretty Langvatnet lake.

Nature sometimes offers a nice encounter, this is the case during the descent when we come across a small nest containing an egg on the way. There is no tree here, so the birds manage like that. We do not linger so as not to frighten the parents who must be in the area.

We will take a short break at the (hunting?) Hut that we meet north of the lake. The hour is already advanced, we decide to stay here for the night but we have to find a corner where to put the tent.

We will find ourselves an absolutely superb bivouac area on a small strip of land in the middle of the lake. The view of the Snøhetta is magnificent.

We will start by setting up the tent before making us a hot tea and resting in the sun!

We did not meet anyone today. Or even animals except a few birds. The feeling of isolation is therefore complete. It is always as pleasant as it is disturbing at times.

We feel good this evening and the landscapes never cease to impress us. One has the impression of being alone in the world here.

It has been a great day. We fall asleep serenely and we can’t wait to be tomorrow to find out more.

Day 5 - Reinheim


What can we hope for more than waking up warm in our down in the middle of wild Norway … Well, it’s true that getting out of down is less pleasant but the weather is good today and a good little walk awaits us.

Classic morning ritual and on the way when everything is done.

The first stage of the day takes us to Åmotdalshytta, a large refuge that can be reached quickly from the lake. No one in sight. It’s been 48 hours now that we crossed soul alive …

Today we are joining Reinheim. From here 3 options are available to us: go through the summit of Snøhetta, take a pass at 1554m further to the NE or an intermediate route which passes at 1698m. We will choose this last option (the top of Snøhetta still seemed to us (too) snowy at the start of the season).

The landscapes are much more mineral now. We have gained altitude and even the grasses and lichens seem to be unable to stand here except for a few leathery ones. We will meet a hare in the distance … the only living creature we will meet today if we except a few birds.

We will take our break at 1698m above sea level, the highest of our journey. Here the view of the park and the Snøhetta is striking. There is no noise, not movement. We really have to be the last or the first humans on earth …

The descent to Reinheim will be quick and fairly easy if not a few tricky snowfields. We will take the path that we cross towards Larsurda and indicated by a sign.

Arrived in Reinheim, we discover another set of chalets which seem quite cozy but which are mostly closed … As we said in the introduction, you must have a key to enjoy the shelters or we do not have it not. We will be a bit like tantalum to see armchairs, benches and wood stove through the window …

We are not all that bad because it is fine despite a fairly strong wind. If we protect ourselves we are fine.

We arrived early today, so we can enjoy the beautiful surrounding landscapes, the calm and the solitude. We can still eat on an outdoor table this evening, we appreciate the comfort.

Two more days in the Dovrefjell and still no muskox in sight or reindeer … To tell the truth, we have seen nothing for 2.5 days except the infinity of the landscapes … It is appreciable and we we feel good but sometimes it makes you a little dizzy. I do not know what would be such an adventure alone … It must be strange but I will try well.

Day 6 - Snøheim


Pleasant weather when waking up this morning. Another night away from the world and in the sun. We are repacking the camp for a short stop this morning as we are going to Snøheim just 6km from here.

The road begins with a climb in a large snowfield which allows us to admire the landscape in the distance. Once arrived at the top we discover a large very mineral plateau and away from the bad weather that comes right on us.

No choice we go to meet the rain that we see getting closer quickly. We will be below at the level of the lake which runs along the east. It’s raining hard! We are quickly wet, luckily we see Snøheim in the distance.

I am amazed at the size of the refuge because the map announces a “shelter”, we are here in the presence of a very large refuge. The fact remains that we are not there yet we have to walk. So put your head between your shoulders and walk as quickly as possible in the skidding rock garden with the prospect of a shelter or even a good fire in a few minutes.

We reach the refuge well wet. The rain has decreased in intensity but it is still drizzling with a lot of wind. So we cool down. On the spot, the calm intrigues us … but it is early perhaps that the hikers have not yet arrived … We look for the reception: closed !!

The refuge is closed! That we did not expect … we are on June 16 yet! Okay, let’s go get the winter refuge, it’s already a luxury.

So we go in search of this famous winter refuge … Short version: there is none. We will go around the huge refuge several times and nothing. Not an open shelter, not a room for hikers. We try to knock on the window if there is anyone inside, no one. We therefore resign ourselves: the refuge is closed, there is no one and no place planned for hikers out of season, it is still raining and it does not seem to want to stop … shelter.

We spotted a sort of covered balcony which gives access to the bedrooms. Fortunately for us there is a small bench and the whole is quite isolated from the wind. I’m not sure if we have the right but we settle here to shelter (in the end we will leave the balcony in the state where we found it I do not think we have bothered. ..). We start by putting on dry clothes and then we throw the stove to make an invigorating freeze-dried product. We look a bit like old wet dogs but we’re not bad.

We will settle down under the survival blanket after the meal to take a warm nap and sheltered from the wind. I am still impressed by the effectiveness of the covers. We are well below, the exit will not be easy.

After an hour or two spent on the balcony we want to stretch our legs especially since it is almost no longer raining. Will follow a long afternoon alternating walk to warm up and rest / reading. We will also spend a lot of time admiring the totally crazy chases of the ducks on the little lake next door (we can feel the level of distraction …).

In the evening we will take shelter to eat next to the reception because the area is sheltered from the wind. We will not be that bad after all, we will even have a good time listening to music alone in the world once again. It has now been 3.5 days since we met anyone except a hare, a few birds and our crazy ducks.

Day 7 - Meetings


It rained a little more last night but this morning we have only gray weather and a little fog. We have breakfast in the shelter on “our balcony”. At the end of the meal, we hear an engine noise! It is the refuge keeper who goes up to do DIY. It’s been almost four days since we met anyone, it’s always weird because it feels like a stranger enters our world which boiled down to the two of us.

We quickly fold the tent and our things and we hit the road. We start the descent which is done by following the track which leads to Snøheim. The path is not very beautiful but the landscapes compensate.

Lower down, once out of the clouds, we see in the distance a 4×4 which goes up towards the refuge but which is stopped for the moment as if to observe something … We thus pass in “vigilance” mode arrived at the level from where was 4×4.

That’s when we see them: two beautiful muskoxen peacefully grazing. We approach slowly while keeping our distance. Finally we stop a hundred meters to observe them.

Oxen are beautiful beasts, massive and impressive. The two specimens that we have in front seem peaceful and show no sign of stress or nervousness and we are very good like that. We did not try to hide when we arrived while remaining calm and “humble” so as not to appear as threats. We will stay maybe 30min to observe them grazing not far then we resume our road happy to have had this meeting.

We continue our journey on the lookout for new encounters but nothing apart for the moment can be two small black dots on the horizon.

We could join Hjerkinn during the day but we prefer to stay a bit more in nature. So we go out of the way to 2/3 of the descent to fork towards the summit called Kolla. We will find a great spot a little higher not far from a charming river with a magnificent view of the whole area and perfect for watching the oxen around.

So we set up our last camp of the trip. Once the tent is pitched, we do a little routine check of the surroundings to see if our musk friends are around. In the distance, we see what appear to be two silhouettes of oxen. We decide to go to meet them to check.

Simply equipped with our cameras, we walk towards a meeting point. We confirm as and when it is indeed muskoxen, what luck! Closer we realize especially that it is not two or three muskoxen who come to meet us but six in total !! Unbelievable ! There are even three calves, we are thrilled. They calmly go up the road and we head a little higher to watch them pass.

We are super happy, what a joy after all these days without seeing anything. We get closer to the road and that’s where we realize that they were not six but seven! The large male is just 50m away. We fall a little “nose to nose”, we are surprised. So we stop and we don’t move. It was then that an absolutely terrifying rumble filled the air: the male made it clear to us that he did not appreciate our proximity. We therefore move back quietly without sudden movement.

Once our distances are taken we take a little cover but the small group of oxen is on the alert and compensates for going back. We did not want to scare them but the presence of the calves must stress them. They therefore turn back but quickly branch off to the left of the path towards our camp. We therefore decide to follow them remotely while remaining discreet.

We will find a good observation post on a prominence from the military past of the park (the park has long been a firing range of the army). From there we can observe the whole family at will, keeping our distance. The male has seen us but does not seem worried given the distance.

It is extraordinary to see this kind of animal frolicking freely in the tundra, watching the little breastfeed, running after their mother, all without anyone and in the greatest calm. It’s a very beautiful moment.

The male is splendid. He watches peacefully and guides the troop. It emanates power and strength.

We will spend a long time observing them there, without trying to interact or get closer. We then return to our camp, very happy with this moment!

It is early and the weather is fine. We will spend the afternoon reading in the sun.

A little later the oxen will approach themselves while remaining at a distance. They will even arise for a while for a little nap, we will imitate them.

The end of the day will be calm with the muskoxen nearby. We start the list of the last: last meal in nature and last bed in bivouac. The oxen have established their “camp” for the night 400m from us. It will rain a bit at the start of the evening, a few showers but nothing too bad.

The day was superb and full of images that will quickly turn into memories. To be there in contact with these almost prehistoric animals in this magnificent setting and devoid of all humanity is great. We are lucky.

Day 8 - Return to civilization


Last awakening in the heart of Dovrefjell. The oxen continued their journey this morning. We fold the tent and back on the way we continue towards Hjerkinn.

The path is fast and without much interest as we descend. Once there, rather than return immediately to Oppdal, we opt to climb to the Snøhetta viewpoint which offers a striking view of the park. A final climb awaits us to reach the famous building at the top and the panorama is revealed.

This point marks the end of the trek. We finish with a picnic in front of this superb view, enjoying the kilometers covered.

We just have to go back to Oppdal and then take the train and the plane back tomorrow.

Conclusions


This must be the sixth time I have been to Scandinavia and I never tire of it. The Dovrefjell offers a still different face from other Norwegian or Swedish parks. I was amazed by the isolation we experienced during the first part of the trek. I think this is partly due to the season but still … Even at Sarek we met more people …

The meeting with the muskoxen was a beautiful moment and justifies by itself that we go through the park. I have rarely had the opportunity to be “in contact” with large mammals in a wild environment, it is a great experience to live.

Let’s not forget Innerdalen and its incredible panorama. In the same way, do not hesitate to take a look if you are passing through.

At only half a day of travel, the Dovrefjell and its region therefore offers very beautiful possibilities for wild hikes, far from the world and within a sumptuous park.