Briksdalsbreen glacier tongue is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Norway. Every day during the summer season tour buses travel from Stryn, through Loen and Olden, the three nearest big towns, to the Briksdalsbreen visitor center, where one can walk up the path to the glacier’s viewpoint.
Unfortunately in recent years, the glacier has retreated significantly. Nowadays if you want to get a better glimpse of it, you can choose to hike to Kattanakken – a great, but challenging day hike.
Kattanakken day hike: the stats
- Distance roundtrip – 11 km / 6.8 mi
- Time required – 6-8 hours
- Total Ascent – 1300 m / 4265 ft
- Type of hike – out and back
- When to go: mid-July – September
- Parking: Briksdalsbreen
- Parking fee: 75 NOK
Where is the Kattanakken hike?
Kattanakken means the cat’s neck in Norwegian. I have gone through many web pages and couldn’t find the reason why it received that name. If I were to guess it would probably have something to do with the shape of the ridgeline – the last part of the hike.
The hike is located in Vestland County, on the West side of the Jostedalsbreen National Park, one of Norway’s most visited National Parks, famous for its glacier field, which it was named after.
The nearest towns are Olden and Loen. Both are top tourist destinations in Norway.
The map of the hike
Above you can see the path I followed from the car park. I measured the distance, elevation gain, and route with my Garmin Fenix 6S pro watch.
This map is just an outline for the hike and should not be used for navigation. If you would like to see a more detailed map you can view it here.
How difficult is the Kattanakken hike?
The whole route is described in Norwegian as extra krevende which means very demanding. It should only be undertaken by expert hikers, as there is lots of scrambling involved, which starts at around 1000 meters above sea level.
I had to turn around circa 80% into the hike because it has gotten so steep, and my dog had trouble climbing some sections. I realized that even if we make it to the top, the way down, having him strapped to me at all times, will be a nightmare.
There are chains installed in the steepest sections. If you don’t feel comfortable scrambling you can still hike most of the trail and just skip the last part. You will still get a lot out of it in terms of views!
The best time of year to hike Kattanakken
My friend and I had perfect weather conditions when we hiked to Kattanakken. Bare in mind that this is rather an exception than reality in Norway.
Summer, particularly July can be quite rainy. The precipitation goes down in August and September. Those seem to be the best months for hiking.
According to a few online reports, June is still a no go for hiking to Kattanakken. Snow tends to linger for a long time at higher elevations. October can be a hit or miss, but generally speaking, should still be ok for tackling this hike.
How to get to the Kattanakken trailhead
Kattanakken branches off another famous trail in the area – the Briksdalsbreen glacier viewpoint trail. Both start in the same spot, near the visitor center and a restaurant.
To get there you have to take road no. FV724 from Olden all the way until the end of the valley. This is a fantastic drive with several viewpoints along the way of the Oldenvatnet lake and the surrounding mountains.
There is a huge parking area with a few sections built on different levels. The higher you park the shorter your approach to the visitor center will be. Parking here is not cheap and costs 75 NOK for the whole day.
It’s worth mentioning that the upper car park is reserved for buses only.
The highlights of the Kattanakken hike
There were 3 things that I particularly loved about this hike:
- The views of the glacier tongues
- The views of the valley and lake Oldenvatnet
- The blueberries
The first two are probably self-explanatory. As for the blueberries, Norway is full of them! Once we decided to turn around we just lodged ourselves on a small plateau, where lots of blueberries bushed could be found, and stuffed our faces with freshly picked blueberries.
Jasper loves them too. When it comes to blueberries he turns into a little bear. Overall it was a great way to replenish our lost calories, and on this hike, you will definitely lose a lot.
Facilities along the Kattanakken trail
There are toilets at the parking lot and in the Cafeteria near the trailhead (paid). Other than that, it’s just pure wilderness.
Remember to always bring out what you brought in, including fruit peels or any food rest. It’s never ok to leave them on the trail! Unfortunately, it’s a trend I often see on hikes around the World.
Kattanakken: trail description
For the first 30 minutes of the hike, you follow the wide and well-maintained path that takes tourists to the Briksdalsbreen glacier viewpoint.
You then turn right into the forest. The intersection is clearly marked with an information board for the Kattanakken trail and a sign hanging on one of the trees. This stands right before you reach the second bridge.
After walking through a forest for the first 10 minutes you will reach a section with flat rocks. It can get very slippery when wet so step cautiously. The next two hours are mostly spent in the forest with a few glimpses of the Briksdalsbreen glacier tongue behind you.
It’s a steep trail, with lots of roots and rocks. The reward doesn’t come easily, but trust me. It will be worth it!
The last hour is spent scrambling across big boulders and rocks. I would not do this in bad weather and trail conditions. As mentioned previously we did end up turning around at this point, because it got too sketchy with my dog in tow.
The entire trail is marked with red marks in the shape of a letter T painted on rocks and trees. I found them difficult to follow on the scrambling section. You have to pay attention to not lose the trail.
What to bring and wear on a Kattanakken hike
You definitely need a good and sturdy pair of hiking boots on the hike to Kattanakken. I highly recommend the Hanwag Alverstone boots. I have owned and tested many boots before and this one has been the most robust. It’s currently going into its third season of use and given how many hikes I do yearly, I consider it somewhat of a miracle.
I never leave the parking lot without my trusted pair of Black Diamond Carbon trekking poles. They are extremely lightweight (only 300 grams a pair) yet easily handle any type of environment I find myself in.
On the way up most of the time, I just wear a t-shirt, because I tend to get warm very quickly. However once at the top, especially when taking a longer break my body cools down quickly and I always put on layers, usually a lightweight down jacket or vest. I’ve linked to a few of my favorite down jacket brands.
Merino wool t-shirts
Speaking of t-shirts. I usually have two on me when going on a hike. One which I wear when hiking up and the second one to change into once I get to the top. I highly recommend investing in a good merino-wool t-shirt. I own 3 and just alternate them on the hikes. They last forever and don’t retain any bad smells.
Where to stay nearby
If you are traveling in a campervan I recommend staying at the Oldevatn camping. It’s a well-maintained ground with waterfront camper parking spaces. The views are amazing. There is direct access to another great hike in the area – Klovane. It’s also possible to rent cabins – a very popular accommodation option when traveling around Norway.
If you would like to be really close to the trailhead and the glacier viewpoint book your stay at the Briksdalsbre Fjellstove. The hike starts just outside of this hotel.
Other hikes and activities to experience nearby
A great, slightly easier, and shorter alternative. You can actually see the summit of Klovane from Kattanakken. You don’t get to see many glacier tongues up and close, but the views of lake Oldenvatnet from Klovane are jaw-dropping.
A quick-to-reach old mountain farm with amazing views over Innvikfjord and into the Olden valley. The whole hike takes 1.5-2 hours to complete.
Via Ferrata Loen
The most famous via ferrata in Norway, thanks to its long suspension bridge along the route. Via Ferrata Loen takes climbers to the top of Mount Hoven high above the Innvikfjord.
Gamle scenic route
This is a historically important route that connected the west with the east. The Gamle Scenic Route runs through alpine areas, still remains unpaved in a few places and its sides are laid with long rows of guard stones.