A Norwegian Adventure: Nordmarka, Oslo

The hiking trip began as a casual invitation to a friend if he would be interested in a long weekend backpacking in Norway. As a Canadian, Denmark just doesn’t cut it when it comes to wilderness and nature so it’s necessary to expand your horizon. Naturally, I set my sights on its Scandinavian cousin to the north.

While Norway has wilderness in spades, I was looking for something readily accessible. I quickly identified Nordmarka (North Forest), part of a ring of forest surrounding Oslo known as Oslomarka. With much of it located within Oslo city limits, this vast tract of woodland stretches some 75K into the hills north of the city and is filled with dozens of lakes and rivers. Best of all, the park is readily accessible by public transit, a mere 30 minutes from downtown.

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As it turned out, my friend was unable to go because of other travel commitments. However, a couple of other friends overheard my invitation. Soon, the crew had expanded to six and we found ourselves at Frognerseteren, the primary entrance to Nordmarka just above Holmenkollen, the famous Oslo ski jump.

Our hike took us some 40 km (25 miles) over 3 days, north to the lakes of Østre Fyllingen (Eastern Dump) and Bjørnsjøen (Bear Lake) before swinging back to Frognerseteren in a big loop. While distances may not seem overly ambitious, this was done while carrying 20kg (45 lb) packs over undulating terrain and included several climbs of a 100 meters (330 ft) or more. To top it off, the weather was stunning with temperatures hovering in the high 20Cs (80F) the entire weekend.

Despite their unceremonious names (seriously, Eastern Dump?), the lakes were absolutely beautiful and crystal clear. Given the high temperatures, we took the opportunity to swim on a number of occasions although this was forbidden in several of the southernmost lakes as the watershed served as water source for Oslo.

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With the exception of Denmark, Nordic countries have extensive “freedom to roam” policies, meaning you can hike and camp on public and private land without permission. Although there is an extensive network of hyttas (huts) and stuas (cabins) throughout the forest where you can stay and eat (most also have showers and toilets), we took advantage of the freedom to roam policy and camped throughout the duration of our trip.

Despite it’s proximity to downtown, the park was largely deserted throughout our trip. Although some of this is likely attributed to most Norwegians being on holiday in late July, the forest is so large (we only saw a fraction of it) and the number of alternative outdoor recreational opportunities so extensive that I doubt it ever gets excessively busy.

During the winter, the park is a popular cross country skiing destination with approximately 350 km (220 miles) of groomed and ungroomed trails. Trails are labeled blue and red. This might seem logical until you realize that blue denotes summer trails and red winter. To further add to the confusion, there are often huge discrepancies in distances to the same destination as winter trails often cut directly across lakes and swamps. Despite these minor issues, the trail system is well signed and the Norwegian Treking Association (DNT) has excellent topographical maps of the area which can be bought online or at their center in downtown Oslo. As with all things in Norway, they are extremely expensive, especially if you are not a DNT member (175NOK or $30CAD/USD).

View of hills overlooking Oslo and the Holmenkollen ski jump. The trailhead at Frognerseteren is located near the radio towers

Øvreseter-tjern, a small pond located near the trail head

Øvreseter-tjern, a pond located near Frognerseteren, with the radio towers looming overhead

Store Tryvann, a small lake where we had lunch

Store Tryvann, a small lake where we had lunch

Nordmarkskapellet, a chapel located in the forest

Nordmarkskapellet, a chapel located in the forest

A shoe lost by some little tyke...

A shoe lost by some little tyke…

The last hues of sunset falling over Østre Fyllingen, our first campsite

Our first campite, Østre Fyllingen. This picture was taken at 10:24 P.M., giving an indication of the long days

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Early morning calm, Østre Fyllingen. Our campsite was on the point

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Close-up of our campsite in the mid-morning sun

Close-up of our campsite in the mid-morning sun

View of Bjørnsjøen with the mountain Kikut in the background

View of Bjørnsjøen with Kikut mountain in the background

On the trail, a gravel road at this point

On the trail (a gravel road at this point), near Bjørnholt

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Bjørnsjøen, with Kikut in the background

Heading into the forest, a narrow trail along Bjørnsjøelva (Bear Lake River) gorge

Heading into the forest, a narrow trail along Bjørnsjøelva (Bear Lake River) gorge

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Store Åklungen, our campsite the second night

View from our campsite

View from our campsite

Outflanked by mom and her ducklings...

Outflanked by mom and her ducklings…

Ullevålseter

Ullevålseter

The best alternative to a lawnmower, Ullevålseter

The best alternative to a lawnmower, Ullevålseter

The trailhead, view from Frognerseteren Cafe

Frognerseteren Cafe, the trail’s end overlooking Oslo fjord. Three bottles of Coke here cost 140 NOK ($25CAD/USD)

View of downtown Oslo, Frognerseteren Cafe

View of downtown Oslo, Frognerseteren Cafe

Interior of Frognersetern Cafe

Interior of Frognerseteren Cafe. I think I could enjoy it equally well in front of the fire after a day cross-country skiing…

Holmenkollen ski jump

Holmenkollen ski jump. For a small country, Norwegians dominate cross country and ski jumping at the Olympics

Holmenkollen. Notice the person coming down on the zip line?

Holmenkollen. Notice the person coming down on the zip line?

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About Canadianindenmark

A Canadian expat working in the biotechnology industry in Copenhagen, Denmark
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3 Responses to A Norwegian Adventure: Nordmarka, Oslo

  1. Bastiaan says:

    Nice write-up and beautiful photos. I’m going to Nordmarka myself next week and your story makes me even more excited to go. Just one question, when you were there, was there any indication that there were bears in the forest? Greetings from Amsterdam, Bastiaan

    • No, there was no indication of bears. I must admit I was somewhat suprised by the lack of wildlife although we did see a couple of snakes…

      • Bastiaan says:

        Ok, thanks. I wasn’t sure how careful I was going to have to be. From what I’ve learned so far the risk of bears is virtually nonexistent in that area. That means I can make camp in one spot and then fish and cook there.

        Cheers, Bastiaan

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