(Rondane to Snohetta) The view from Doralseter
Lillehammer to Snøhetta    3 trips combine to 1 superb route . Classic Norwegian Walking    Sounds perfect? View our trips!

Lillehammer to Snøhetta: A guide to the trekking

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Introduction

Why this area of Norway?

During a wonderful first season on our inaugural Norwegian trip, the Jotunheimen Tour, we returned to Norway and set about researching a trip which explores a slightly different part of Norway. We aimed to cover three distinct areas of Norwegian walking which can be combined as one long trip or walked as separate trips, each with a different feel. The theme is a South to North crescendo from the wooded hills above Lillehammer, through the famous Rondane national park, to the tough peak of Snohetta in the wild Dovrefjell national park. It’s really as Norwegian as it gets!

The SAGA trek

When these trips are combined they form the SAGA trek, a name coined by the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT). The SAGA is a continuous two-week trek from Lillehammer to Snohetta. Please ask us for the options around Rondvassbu, the meeting point of the two routes, where it's possible for thru-hikers to save a day if they wish.

Photos from trips: Lillehammer to Snohetta

Three sections

The trip naturally falls into three sections, the first being Lillehammer to the Rondane:


Research 2019

Simon Stevens at Alpine ExploratoryJoy O'Flanagan at Alpine ExploratoryAlpine Exploratory's 2019 research in Norway will be led by:
Joy Flanagan in June
Simon Stevens in June

Recces 2019



Trips 2019

Alpine Exploratory offers the following holidays based on our Lillehammer to Snohetta research:

Lillehammer to Rondane
Rondane Tour
Rondane to Snohetta

  The view down to the Djupslia hut    Lillehammer to Rondane


Lillehammer to Rondane

Length: 8 stages (the first 8 of the total 13 to Snohetta)
Start: Lillehammer
End: Rondvassbu for a night in Otta

The trip begins in Lillehammer, famous for hosting the 1994 Winter Olympics. A friendly, neat town and a local hub for Summer outdoor sports, Lillehammer is easily reached by train from Oslo. and the route begins from the town.

The walking on the 8 stages of the Lillehammer to Rondane route is mainly gentle in terms of ascent, crossing moors and walking through forests without high peaks.

This part of the overall route is particularly attractive to those who are drawn to experience Norway’s self-catering huts: a unique experience in the wilds! These cabins are stocked-up with food and fuel. You enter with a key, light the fire and make dinner from whatever you select from the store cupboard. We recommend the Reindeer meatballs.

There is an optional day's walk from Lillehammer itself, up to the start at Nordseter. This is a steady day in forests, following the Mesna river and passing many waterfalls running strongly in Summer. Later pass through meadows and forest to Nordseter, a grouping of cottages set amongst gentle hills and best known as one of Lillehammer's cross-country skiing areas.

Rolling forests and lakes are the scenery for the first two days from Nordseter to Djupslia before the terrain leaves the tree cover and turns to lichen covered moorland, windswept and wild.

From the heather covered hillsides we reach Venabu Fjellhotell, a highlight in the region, a hotel built in the 1940s and still run by the Tvete family. Known to many in Norway as a centre for cross-country skiing, it maintains the feel of an outdoor pursuits lodge with a large lounge area and comfy chairs. We hope you enjoy the cosy hospitality!

North from Venabu we cross moorland and the remote Vesidalslægeret valley, a 2-day stretch with a self-catering hut, to come to Bjørnhollia. This is a large catered DNT hut and a fine base at the start of the Rondane massif.

The hills turn to mountain peaks and the route enters the Rondane national park, Norway’s oldest national park founded in 1962 when public sentiment turned to preserving the nature of the country. The mountains themselves as opposed to the valley trails can be rocky and sparse, lichen and heather covered. We reach Rondvassbu, the chief DNT hut in the area and the main way into the mountains. It is likely to be bustling with Norwegian trekkers coming and going.

Lillehammer to Rondane





The DNT

The DNT, Den Norske Turistforening, is the Norwegian trekking and travel association. The DNT runs many mountain huts and maintains information offices in Norwegian towns. We include the year's DNT membership with all of our Norway treks.


The DNT sign at the Gjendebu hut

The DNT's website

  The hut Rondvassbu from the track    Rondane Tour


The Rondane Tour

Length: 3 stages (duplicating 2 of the Lillehammer to Snohetta route)
Start: Rondvassbu
End: Rondvassbu for a night in Otta

The famous Rondane peaks are in view on all sides as we trek a circuit of 3 stages. We start and end at Rondvassbu, the main hut in these hills. We reach Rondvassbu itself by a 6km walk along a smooth track, from the parking area and bus stop.

From Rondvassu the day North to Doralseter is quite long at 21km but it can easily be shortened by taking the ferry the length of the Rondvatnet lake which cuts off 6km. Then after back-tracking up the valley we climb to the col and descend to Bjørnhollia.. this second stage is the one that is not common with either the Lillehammer-Rondane or Rondane-Snohetta treks, and is a shortcut if thru-hikers wish to save a day. Now at Bjørnhollia we take the path West to Rondvassbu past the chain of lakes lining the Illmanndalen valley.

Rondane Tour


  The view down the Dovre valley    Rondane to Snohetta


Rondane to Snohetta

Length: 5 stages (the last 5 of the total 13 to Snohetta)
Start: Rondvassbu
End: Kongsvold

North of Doralseter the walking has some trickier sections not seen so far on the walk as we enter the Dovre National Park. The terrain is still within a Red difficulty rating and is less demanding than the Jotunheimen! The path follows the twisting shape of the valley until narrowing dramatically as it reaches the Dørålsglupen gulley. The Dørålsglupen valley lies in shadow until the afternoon so it’s likely any recent snow will be slow to melt. Their striking green lichen is quite slippery after rain so the boulders should be crossed with great care after poor weather. The boulderfield is short-lived and the day is better characterised as two fairly gentle cols. The Dørålsglupen is followed by the wild Gravhotangen plateau and a descent to the Grimsdalshytta hut through birch.

We follow a hillside traverse along the lush Tverråi valley, a crossing of the broad plateau between Gråhøe and Pikhett. It's a descent through wetlands to Hageseterhut then skirting the Easterly flank of Vålåcjøhøe to Hjerkinnhus. Hjerkinnhus is a large outdoor centre with a good cafe. From here we take the regular afternoon shuttle bus through the military training range to Snøheim, a large hut marking the boundary of the Dovrefjell national park. Surrounded by wild, rocky landscape and the looming Snøhetta peak occasionally visible through the cloud, we can get mentally prepared for a tough walk the following day to the summit.

The hut warden will advise in the morning with their thoughts on whether you should make the summit based on the weather but if the visibility or weather conditions are poor then it’s no problem to take the lower hillside route to Reinheim.

The route to the summit is boulderfield to the top and marked by poles at 20m intervals. Navigation would be tricky in snow or heavy cloud so care is advised and you should be prepared to turn around for the easier route if conditions change.

Once at the summit we retrace our steps and take the path East along the spine of a gentle ridge line to the Reinheim hut just as boulderfield gives way to lush valley. Reinheim is a wonderful self-catering hut where trekkers rub shoulders with weather-worn hunters. The fire should be going strong by the time you get there!

From Reinheim the final day is the superb, broad Dovre valley slowly descending to the populated valley. This is a special day as it’s home to Norway’s Musk Ox population, roughly 250 unusual mammals. These remnants of prehistory are certainly a curio and can be spotted grazing in small family units throughout the valley. They can be defensive so if you see one on the route please give it a wide berth.

We finish in the historic mountain lodge, Kongsvold Fjeldstue which has been welcoming travellers in some form since the 12th century. The current buildings date to the 1700s and it has a wide reputation for gastronomic dining and its wine cellar.

For those who fancy a less opulent finish, the train station is 500m away with good links to Lillehammer and Otta.

Rondane to Snohetta


  A typical DNT waymark and narrow path on the Lillehammer-Rondane    Lillehammer to Rondane


What is the route like underfoot?

The walking covers a hugely broad range of conditions but expect a lot of fjell walking, sometimes wet underfoot with frequent small stream crossings and some large ones. The paths are generally good, firm underfoot, and overall there is little boulderfield terrain to cross with the exception of Snøhetta.

A stout boot is called for with good ankle support and a pair of gaters can really help to keep water out in the occasional boggy sections or small stream hops.


Comparisons with the Jotunheimen

Our 6-stage Jotunheimen Tour is more consistently tough than the Lillehammer-Snohetta, though it is hard to characterise the two trips in simple ways. As a week's introduction to Norwegian walking and hut life it's hard to beat the Jotunheimen. We see the appeal of the Lillehammer-Snohetta, as a the full 13-stage trek, to be traveling cross-country through three distinct areas.

In terrain the Lillehammer-Snohetta is less challenging but it still includes some potentially tricky sections such as at river crossings, in remote cols and finally on Snohetta.

Features of the Lillehammer-Snohetta that do not occur on our Jotunheimen route include self-catering huts (and we give full details fn this Norwegian experience), long miles over lower forest and moorland, a shuttle bus up to the Snoheim hut, and Musk Ox in the area on the last two stages.

Considering the Rondane Tour separately, this route is fairly similar in style to the Jotunheimen. It treks through valleys - slightly easier overall - and over small passes, linking super catered huts.

Jotunheimen Tour


How is the navigation?

Navigation is thankfully quite simple compared with the Alps! The path network is generally clear with often only one or two path options to take on a given day. Paths are well waymarked when needed and the Norwegian mapping is solid with detailed coverage at 1:50,000. Paired with our route notes you should feel confident.

It is worth noting that in bad weather - strong wind and rain, or in particular low cloud - navigation can be tricky and after a mistake it could be hard to regain the path. This is wild country where the path is our saviour; otherwise we are on entirely open and unmarked hillsides.


Trek the Lillehammer-Snohetta with Alpine Exploratory

Alpine Exploratory offers the Lillehammer-Snohetta (SAGA) trek in two self-guided halves, breaking at Rondvassbu, as well as the 3-stage Rondane Tour. We're also pleased to book shorter or longer sub-sections of the route according to your available dates. Please contact us to discuss options.

Our self-guided holidays give you what you need to complete the route under your own steam. We book your accommodation in a mix of huts and hotels and we give you our detailed routecards, the local maps, and lots of notes. Importantly we will advise on the ideal schedule and accommodation to suit your approach to Norway.


Guided and self-guided holidays - see our full range




City breaks after trekking

Our Norwegian holidays come with notes on the following cities, in your info pack:

Oslo
Bergen
Trondheim

City breaks after trekking


Alpine Exploratory
Alpine Exploratory is a system of knowledge on the best mountain trekking in our areas, giving clients superb holidays based on this exploration.
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