When I first visited the Sunmøre Alps in the year prior to hiking the Urkeegga Circuit, I knew right away this won’t be my last visit. For hiking enthusiasts like myself, this area is a paradise.
Everything to know about the Urkeegga Circuit Trail in Norway
My ultimate goal for the recurrent visit was to summit Mount Slogen, the most famous peak of the Sunmore Alps, however, even at the end of July, there was still lots of snow lingering on the slopes and I didn’t feel comfortable venturing on my own. I had to settle for plan B – The Urkeegga Circuit Trail.
Urkeegga day hike: the stats
- Total distance: 10 km / 6.2 mi
- Time required: 5-7 hours
- Total Ascent: 950 m / 3117 ft
- Type of hike: Circuit
- When to go: July – September
- Parking: Haugemyrvegen Parking
- Parking fee: 50 NOK
Where is the Urkeegga hike?
The Urkeegga circuit is located in one of the best hiking locations in Norway – the Sunmore Alps. According to Nat Geo, this area is on its way to becoming Scandinavia’s hottest travel destination.
Mountains rising over thousand of meters straight from the sea level, sharp peaks, and dramatic cliffs, that’s the best way to describe it.
The nearest town is Urke (pictured above). I think a tiny village is a better label for it. Sæbø a slightly larger settlement is only a short ferry ride away, just on the other side of the Hjørundfjord.
If you are coming from the other direction you will pass Øye, a gateway town to the attractions of Hjørundfjord and a popular docking spot for sailboats.
The map of the hike
Above you can see the path I followed along the Urkeegga circuit. I measured the distance, elevation gain, and route with my Garmin Fenix 6S pro watch.
This map is for showcasing purposes only and should not be used as navigation.
I chose to follow the circuit anti-clockwise, but it can be done in both directions. I will get to it in more detail later in the post.
How difficult is the circuit?
On a scale from 1-4, 1 being the easiest and 4 being for the absolute nut jobs, who enjoy scrambling with sheer cliffs on either side of them, Urkeega is somewhere in the middle.
Norwegians use four colors to describe the difficulty level of a trail. Green (easy), blue (intermediate), red (challenging), and black (go for it, if you love adrenaline). I am yet to tackle a black trail. I have a few red trails under my belt and I came to the conclusion that they can differ a lot in difficulty.
The toughest parts of the trail for me were the steep forest climb at the start of the hike and the ridgeline, which required some easy scrambling. There are no chains to hold onto along this hike, unlike the ones aforementioned, but also at no point, I felt like they were needed.
The descent and the hike back to the car park across the Langsæter valley, towards the end of the trail, were very easy. I would label the last bit of the trail as blue.
Red-painted marks are visible throughout the entire trail. Look for T-shaped signs on rocks!
The best time of year to hike Urkeegga
The official hiking season lasts from July until September, but it depends on the snowfall and weather.
There is usually a two-week shoulder period starting in mid-June and also at the end of the season in October when it may also be possible to hike in the Sunmore Alps.
However, if you want to be on the safe side, then it’s best to plan your Norwegian road trip for later in the summer.
In August and September, trails are also less muddy and you don’t come back to your car looking like Rambo.
How to get to the trailhead
Contrary to what your instinct might tell you, it is actually better to start from the lower car park. You are now probably wondering why.
Firstly, the lower car park is easier to reach from the village and secondly, there is no fee for driving along the road to reach it. If you decide to drive to the upper car park you will have to pay a 30 NOK fee for the usage of a private road.
Lastly, go for the lower parking lot if you plan to hike the circuit clockwise. Otherwise, once you make it back down from the ridgeline then you will still have to hike back up.
The only time it actually makes sense to park at the upper car park is if the lower one is already full.
As for the actual trailhead, there is a big sign (see photo above) right near the car park which will guide you in the right direction.
Both car parks are subjected to a 50 NOK parking fee. It was only payable with the Norwegian Vipps app, not accessible for tourists without a local bank account.
Sometimes that means you get away without paying, as there are no means for you to access the system. Other times you need to be prepared and bring cash and throw it into a box provided at the car park.
There was none at the Urkeegga trailhead parking lot, but that might change in the future.
Is it better to hike the Urkeegga circuit clockwise or counter-clockwise?
There is no right or wrong answer here, just personal preference.
If like me you prefer to get the hardest part out of the way at the start and your knees hate sharp descents then go counter-clockwise. You will first battle the sharp ascent, but the hike back across the valley toward the end of the trail will be easy.
If however you prefer a gentler ascent and don’t mind hiking down on a steep trail then hiking the circuit clockwise might be better for you.
Facilities along the Urkeegga Circuit
A lot of people choose to hike the Urkeegga circuit to be able to have a picnic at the famous Egilbu shelter which was built right on the ridgeline. Some locals even bring sleeping bags or hammocks and spend the night in the open shelter to wake up to the sun rising over the Fjords.
If it wasn’t for the bad weather forecast looming over the next few days during my visit I would have done the same.
There are some wooden tables and benches at the shelter, however, the luxury ends there. A very small (and smelly) outhouse is located close to the shelter, however, I didn’t dare to come anywhere close to it. I am way too sensitive to smells.
There were also no toilets at the trailheads, but knowing Norway and its fantastic approach to conserving nature, there will probably be some erected in the not-so-distant future.
Remember to always practice the mindful hiker approach. Take out what you brought in, leave only footprints!
Urkeegga circuit trail description
I have waited 3 days in Urke for a good weather window to finally be able to leave for this hike. On the first two days when it was supposed to rain the whole day, the clouds ended up dispersing in the late morning.
However, I always dread taking photos in the middle of the day, when the colors are all washed out, so I decided to sit it out.
On the third day, I was done waiting. The forecast said it will be a mix of sun and clouds type of day. Having already spent 3 months in Norway at this time, I should have known better than to believe any forecast.
As soon as I made it to the Egilbu shelter it started raining and it looked like it won’t stop any time soon. I had no choice but to keep going and as a consequence, I got completely soaked. No regrets though. I still loved the hike!
But let’s start from the beginning.
Part 1: the trailhead to Egilbu Shelter
When following the circuit counter-clockwise you will first hike up a very steep forest trail, often very muddy. The good news is you will gain elevation quickly and get the toughest part of the circuit out of the way!
To give you an idea of how steep it is. The trailhead lies 335 meters above sea level. To reach the Egilbu shelter you will need to gain 700 meters over just 1.8 kilometers! That’s over 70 percent of the elevation gain of the entire circuit, in just under 20 percent of the total distance.
After the first kilometer, you emerge from the forest and the views open up on the Hjørundfjord and the surrounding mountains. You will be stopping a lot to take photos, but the best is yet to come.
When I reached the Egilbu shelter and it started raining, there was a brief moment when I considered going back down, but my knees were already shaking at the idea of hiking down this trail.
Part 2: Egilbu shelter – Maudekollen – Kloksegga
From the shelter, you will be following an undulating ridgeline to the summit of Maudekollen and then Kloksegga, before descending to the Langsæter valley below.
Thanks to the views, this was my favorite part of the trail, despite the rain. On a positive note, I had the shelter and the ridgeline all to myself!
When following the trail between the 3 summits, you are surrounded by beautiful 360 views at all times. The pointy mountain straight ahead is Slogen and it’s often the ultimate summit experience for visitors in the area. Slogen is still on my ‘to-hike’ list!
Part 3: Langsæterdalen
Once you reach the third summit along the ridgeline – Kloksegga, you will then start your descent toward the Langsæter Valley. You will see a lake at the bottom, it’s called Storevatnet.
At first, the descent is quite sharp, but it quickly flattens out. The gradient during the last 3 kilometers of the hike becomes gentle. Look back a few times to once again admire the sharp summit of Mount Slogen.
What to bring and wear on the Urkeegga hike
TIP: There is a possibility to fill up water along the trail in the stream flowing through the Langsæter valley, however, be aware of the fact that this is a grazing ground for sheep.
Where to stay nearby
If you are traveling in a campervan then stay at the campsite in Urke. I was able to get a spot on the day, but with the tourism in the area surging I would recommend calling at least a few days in advance.
There is a lovely hotel in Sæbo, called the Sagafjord Hotel. It is only a short and very scenic ferry ride away from Urke and it has fantastic front-water views toward the Hjørundfjord.
Other hikes to experience nearby
Another classic hike in the area. Skårasalen is accessible from the parking at Kvistadsætra near Sæbø. For more information about the hike check out this site.
Often the first choice for hikers in the area. Saksa has been crowned as the icon of the Sunmøre Alps and it’s hard not to give in to being a fan because of the views waiting for you at the top. Even if you will have to work really hard for them.
Any hiker who decides to summit Slogen faces a challenge of over 1500 meters (5000 feet) elevation gain in just a 3.7-kilometer distance. The incline of the slopes can be as steep as 60 degrees! I’ve said it before: zig-zags don’t exist in the Norwegian dictionary.
A great and easy half-day hike to e beautiful alpine lake. The trailhead for the Blåvatnet Lake trail lies 35 minutes away from Urke.
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