Aurlandsdalen has been called Norway’s grand canyon. Whilst the comparison might be a bit too far-fetched, there is no denying that it’s a beautiful corner of Norway.
Aurlandsdalen traverse is a very popular multiday hike in Norway, but its most scenic part between the high alpine mountain station Østerbo and the little valley settlement Vassbygdi can be walked in just one day.
10 Things To Know About The Aurlandsdalen Hike
I came across the Aurlandsdalen hike when I was searching for a hike I could do with my parents when they were visiting me on my road trip through Norway.
Since it’s a walk through the valley I naively thought that it must be easy. On the contrary, the hike through Aurlandsdalen can be demanding at times and I am glad my parents, my mum in particular, managed to complete it.
If you think about hiking Aurlandsdalen check out all the information below that will help you plan your trip.
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1. Aurlandsdalen day hike: the stats
- Total distance: 18 km / 11.2 mi
- Time required: 5-7 hours
- Total Ascent: 424 m / 1390 ft
- Total Descent: 1100 m / 3613 ft
- Type of hike: One-way relocation
- When to go: mid-June – mid-October
- Parking: 60.87449, 7.33662
2. Where is the Aurlandsdalen hike?
Aurlandsdalen is a deep valley that stretches for about 40 kilometers and is located in the Vestland County of Norway.
The nearest towns are Aurland and Flåm. Both of them are 10 minutes apart and were built on the shore of Aurlandsfjord which branches off of the main Sognefjord.
Flåm, in particular, is a very popular tourist town in Norway, with such famous attractions as the Flåmsbana scenic train route to Myrdal, and cruise along Aurland and Næroyfjords.
3. The map of the Aurlandsdalen hike
Above you can see the path I followed from Østerbo, where the hike begins to Vassbygdi where it ends. I measured the distance, elevation gain, and route with my Garmin Fenix 6S pro watch, which I wore on the day.
4. How difficult is the hike across Aurlandsdalen?
When it comes down to navigation, this is a very easy trail to follow. Waymarks are plenty and you have a sign every kilometer telling you how many kilometers you have left. This is also a very popular hike so the trail is boot beaten albeit sometimes muddy and slippery.
If you choose to hike from Østerbo to Vassbygdi, the way I would recommend you are looking at around 400 meters (1400 feet) of elevation gain and 1100 meters (3600 feet) of elevation loss.
If your knees don’t like sharp descent you might be on the last 5 kilometers of the trail, when you will have to take big steps down rock slabs.
Since my parents and I hiked through Aurlandsdalen at the end of June, we were met with high water levels in the rivers and waterfalls flowing through the valley. Twice we had to cross a raging river holding onto a chain which has been installed for assistance.
We didn’t even dare to take our shoes off. The depth was up to our knees and we simply had to give in to the fact that our boots and feet will be wet for the rest of the hike.
5. The best time of year to hike Aurlandsdalen
Similarly to other day hikes in the Norwegian Fjords, the hike across Aurlandsdalen is accessible from mid-June until mid-October.
However, because of the high water levels in June and the fact that some river crossings are involved, I would recommend waiting until late July, August, or September to tackle it.
Whilst hiking I also couldn’t help but wonder how amazing this hike would be during the autumn season when all bushes and trees turn orange and yellow.
6. In what direction is best to hike Aurlandsdalen
Since Aurlandsdalen is a relocation hike, which means you start and end it in different locations you have to make a decision in which direction to hike it.
I personally chose to hike it from Østerbo and end it in Vassbygdi, and most other hikers follow the same direction.
This makes it slightly easier as you will have less elevation gain. If you prefer hiking up instead of down then going from Vassbygdi to Østerbo may be a better option for you.
7. How to get to the Aurlandsdalen trailhead
Østerbo Fjellstove is half an hour’s drive from Aurland and 40 minutes from Flåm. Daily buses operate along this route during the summer hiking season. You can also drive your own car.
Getting to the trailhead by car
If you choose to drive your own car it means you won’t be pressed for time to finish the hike at a certain hour. The best way is to park it at the parking lot near the bus stop in Vassbygdi at the end of the Aurlandsdalen trail, take the shuttle bus to Østerbo then hike back to the car.
If the parking lot is full there is another one just 1.5 kilometers further down the road.
Getting to the trailhead by bus
You can also take the bus directly from Flåm or Aurland to Østerbo then hike to Vassbygdi and take the bus back. This is the most environmentally friendly option.
During the high season (July – August) the buses operate daily. In June, September, and October, you can take the bus only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Below are the 2023 bus schedule and rates. You can book the bus tickets here.
8. Facilities along the Aurlandsdalen trail
There are toilets at the Østerbo mountain station at the start of the trail as well as (very stinky) outhouses every few kilometers directly on the trail.
Around two-thirds of the way, you will come across Sinjarheim. It’s an old farm, which has been out of use for over 100 years but has been repurposed as a mountain refuge and restaurant for hikers.
I did not stop there but saw many other hikers sitting outside and enjoying fresh drinks. I would recommend bringing cash just in case card payments aren’t possible.
Once you get to Vassbygdi there is a little shop at the bus station/parking lot which sells snacks and ice cream. There are toilets at the back of the shop.
9. Aurlandsdalen trail description
You start the hike near the mountain station in Østerbo. There are plenty of signs pointing in the direction of Vassbygdi. You won’t be able to miss it.
The first half of the trail undulates gently with a few short uphill bursts. For the entire trail, you will be close to water, either along the lake shore or the river which flows through the Aurland Valley.
The lush green valley feels prehistoric. I was half expecting a dinosaur to jump out of the bush and cross my path. Instead, we were often followed by swarms of mosquitos. Stopping for more than a minute was challenging. Make sure to bring mosquito repellent!
Every kilometer there is a sign telling you how many kilometers you have left, but I sometimes found them inaccurate, especially when comparing them with the data from my watch.
Once you reach an old farm called Sinjarhaim the descent begins. Beware of the very curious goats near the farm. They did not want to budge one bit even though I had a shepherd dog with me.
The descent is not very pleasant and I found it to be the most difficult part of the hike through Aurlansdalen. The spray from the nearby waterfalls coming down the mountains makes the path very slippery. I did slip a few times so take extra care.
Once you reach the car park and a bus stop treat yourself to an ice cream from the local shop.
10. What to bring and wear on the Aurlandsdalen day hike
For the most part, the trail across Aurlandsdalen is well-boot-beaten so you can opt for low-cut hiking shoes. My parents walked the trail in their sneakers.
Just remember your shoes should have a very good grip. I own a pair of Salewa Wildfire Approach shoes and wear them on less demanding hikes or via ferratas.
I am a big fan of Osprey backpacks and own a couple myself. For day hikes I highly recommend the Osprey Kyte 36.
Visit the Osprey Amazon Store to find your perfect Rucksack.
It’s also big enough to do an overnight camping trip or hut-to-hut trek.
When it comes down to Trekking poles only one brand exists for me and that’s Black Diamond.
I am a huge fan of their Carbon Z-Poles and I already own a second pair after accidentally leaving my first one near the trailhead of the hike to Saksa in Norway.
Garmin InReach mini
If you hike on your own or in areas with no reception as is the case for Aurlandsdalen, I recommend that you carry some kind of emergency communication system with you.
Garmin In Reach Mini satellite phone is the perfect companion to keep you safe.
Where to stay nearby
When it comes down to accommodation Flåm or Aurland are the best choices to stay for a few days and explore the area.
If you are traveling in a campervan I can recommend Lunde camping near Aurland. It’s located in a beautiful valley setting right near a river.
Great for single travelers and budget-conscious groups. Great and central location close to the train station and ferry terminal.
Very cozy atmosphere with wood-paneled rooms. Reserve a room with a balcony overlooking the Fjord and watch the cruise ships and trains come and go from the terminal.
Wangen Apartments (Aurland)
Beautiful and modern apartments with a Scandinavian feel. When looking through the windows of the apartment you will feel like you are floating on the fjord.
Other hikes, places, and activities to experience nearby
The area around Aurlandfjord is a popular Norwegian outdoor destination. Below I recommend a few more top activities in the area.
Hike to Prest
Another great and classic hike in the area. The Røyrgrind viewpoint on Mount Prest offers fantastic views over Aurlandsfjord and Røyrgrind, the famous viewpoint along the hike can be reached within 90 minutes of leaving the trailhead.
Hike to Bakkanosi
Arguably the best viewpoint of Næroyfjord and to me the best sunrise spot I had in all of Norway. This moderate hike takes you to the summit of Bakkanosi where you can enjoy expansive views of Norway’s narrowest Fjord.
The famous Stegastein viewpoint platform was built 650 vertical meters above the Aurlandfjord. You can either take a bus from Flåm or Aurland or drive up there yourself. It’s on the way to the trailhead of the previously mentioned Prest.
Flåmsbana – Flåm’s scenic train
The Flåm Railway is considered one of the most beautiful train journeys in the World. This leading Norwegian tourist attraction features the finest aspects of the stunning scenery of Norway. The train runs from Flåm station built at the end of Aurlandsfjord up to the high mountains at Myrdal station.
Flåm Fjord cruise
Travel from Flåm to Gudvangen on the emission-free cruise ship. The Future of the Fjords ship is fully electric and battery-power operated. This also means it is very quiet so you can enjoy the sounds of nature on the cruise.
Kayaking on the Fjord
Flåm is one of the best places in Norway to join a paddling trip. The 3-hour kayaking trip will let you enjoy Aurlandfjord from the water. If you love water activities this one should be on the top of your list.