When I was on my way to the Lofoten Islands, driving all the way from Austria, and already having done 2000 kilometers over the span of a few days, there was one detour I really couldn’t say no to. A detour to hike Saksa – the icon of the Sunmøre Alps
Everything to know about the hike to Saksa in the Sunmøre Alps of Norway
I reserved that summer for the Lofoten Islands, but even though I knew I will be returning to the Fjords next season for proper exploration, I just couldn’t wait another year to hike Saksa. This is my recount of the trip as well as all the info you will need to hike Saksa yourself. Go now, before it becomes the next Trolltunga!
Saksa day hike: the stats
- Distance roundtrip: 7 km / 4.35 mi
- Time required: 6-8 hours
- Total Ascent: 1000 m / 3280 ft
- Type of hike: out and back
- When to go: July – September
- Parking: 62.21528, 6.56678
- Parking fee: 50 NOK
Where is the Saksa hike?
Saksa is one of the peaks of the Sunnmore Alps (Sunnmørsalpane) – a mountain range in the region of Møre Og Romsdal county in Norway. This is my favorite area in the Fjords.
The nearest towns are Urke, located at the foot of Saksa; Sæbø, which can be seen from the summit and Øye, located just 6.5 kilometers from Urke. All three towns were built on the shore of the Hjørundfjord.
The map of the Saksa hike
Above you can see the path I followed from the car park to the summit. I measured the distance, elevation gain, and route with my Garmin Fenix 6S pro watch.
In yellow you can see the official trail. The purple route marks the alternative start or descent. I will talk about it in the trail description.
This map is for showcasing purposes only and should not be used for navigation.
How difficult is the hike to Saksa?
The hike to the summit of Saksa was only my second hiking experience in Norway, after hiking to Blåvatnet. After tackling a few more trails that summer I was led to believe that Norwegians don’t really understand the idea of zig zags. If there is a mountain, no matter how steep, they will climb it by using the shortest way possible.
Jokes aside, with 1000 meters of elevation gain over just a 3.5-kilometer distance between the summit and the parking lot, you can just imagine how steep it can get.
Summiting Saksa definitely requires some serious stamina, a good set of knees, and a lack of fear of heights. There are some chains installed for protection in the steepest parts.
The best time of year to hike Saksa
The general rule for hiking in Norway is that the trails are free of snow between July and September (sometimes October).
Personally, I hiked Saksa at the start of July and the conditions were snow and mud free. However, when I returned to the area the following year, to hike the Urkeegga circuit, there was still lots of snow up in the mountains at the start of July.
Trails in Norway also tend to be very muddy, the driest conditions are usually in August and September.
How to get to the Saksa trailhead
The trailhead of Saksa is located a mere 150 meters off the main road in Urke. Plenty of signs in the town point to the hike. After all, it is one of its main attractions.
If like me, you are traveling in a campervan I recommend staying at the campground in Urke, where you can leave your van for the day and just walk 200 meters to the trailhead.
Saksa has also another, lesser-known trailhead right near the ferry terminal in Leknes, at the end of road no. 655 (refer to the map).
I chose to hike up from this side and walked back down the other side to make the hike more interesting. A friend of mine picked me up when I completed the trail and brought me back to my van, which was parked at the ferry terminal. If you don’t have this option, just hike up and down the same way. In that case, trailhead No. 1 makes more sense.
The cost of parking
Parking at the official trailhead costs 50 NOK and can only be paid through the VIPPS app, which funny enough is only possible to use if you are a Norwegian resident with a local bank account. As a foreign tourist, you don’t pay anything.
This, however, can change in the future as on some trailheads there are boxes where you can throw in cash in the envelope. I recommend having some cash on you just in case.
Parking at the ferry terminal is free but limited to only a few spaces.
The highlights of the Saksa hike
When it comes down to weather conditions I have to say I really lucked out on the day I hiked to Saksa.
My friend and I left really early (6 AM), got to the summit by 9 AM, and stayed on it for two hours. We were completely on our own before the other groups showed up. Leaving early was definitely worth it. Once we started the descent, the sky was covered in grey clouds.
The views over the Hjørundfjord branching off in 3 directions were the highlight for me. The clouds were throwing shade on the turquoise waters of the Fjord creating some stunning patterns.
I didn’t know in which direction I should take photos. I kept running from one side to the other because I just couldn’t get enough of the views. In terms of views Mount Saksa is definitely one of the best day hikes in the Norwegian fjords.
Facilities along the Saksa trail
There are toilets at both trailheads and a little open shelter around 1 hour into the hike when you start from Urke. It’s a good place to find cover in case you get caught in the rain or thunderstorm. There is also a long drop toilet close to the shelter.
Always take out what you brought in, including toilet paper! Never leave any trash behind and if you notice some left by others, then try to bring it out with you to keep the trail clean.
Saksa trail description
Leaving from Urke
For the first kilometer from the trailhead, you will hike through a forest with no views. You will get a first glimpse of the Hjørundfjord from above when getting close to the shelter.
This part of the trail is quite tough with lots of stone steps and roots sticking out. I remember not enjoying it very much when hiking down from the summit. I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.
After ca. 1 hour, you will reach somewhat of a plateau, where the trail gets more manageable for a while. Now it gently climbs up through scattered bushes before once again becoming steep and exposed.
Just before the summit, some stairs were laid out by Nepalese sherpas, who were commissioned by local authorities, to make the trail more accessible and safer for hikers.
The summit of Saksa is quite ample with enough space for at least a dozen of hikers to sit and enjoy the views. There are also plenty of ledges and ridgelines for taking some fantastic shots of the landscapes around you.
Hiking from the ferry terminal in Leknes
For the first 15 minutes, you will be walking up a wide gravel road before veering into the forest.
For the next hour, the trail follows a narrow, steep, and at times overgrown forest path. On a few occasions, we had to assist ourselves with some chains that were installed along the steepest parts. I also had to help out my dog a few times, when it was too high for him to jump.
The route then joins the other one at the plateau, where you continue to the summit, following the same path.
What to bring and wear on the Saksa hike
Where to stay nearby
There are a few accommodation options in Urke, mostly run by locals. I have already mentioned the campsite in Urke which is right near the main road.
Don’t worry the road isn’t very busy so you won’t be hearing traffic noises at night. They also rent some basic cabins.
There are a few hotels in Øye and Sæbø, but all in all, choices are limited. I recommend the Sagafjord Hotel in Sæbø. It is only a short ferry trip away from the Saksa hike. You can see the mountain from the hotel’s restaurant and lounge!
Other hikes to experience nearby
A great and slightly easier alternative to Saksa. Urkeegga is a circuit hike that spends some time along the ridgeline with great views over Hjørundfjord, similar to those visible from the summit of Saksa.
The highest peak of the area and the ultimate challenge. This is a black trail, which means it’s for highly experienced hikers only. This video from Julie greatly depicts what it is all about.
Skårasalen is described as one of Sunnmøre’s classic day hikes. This red trail is another one involving over 1000 meters of elevation gain over just 3.4 kilometers. I told you Norwegians don’t know what zig zags are!
Another classic in Sæbo and another black trail which includes scrambling. You can however just hike a part of it to a little cabin, where you already get great views over the town and the Fjord. See the full description and the map of Dalegubben trail here.
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