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A man and a woman walking next to a small wooden hut in the dramatic landscape in Aurlandsdalen valley. Steep mountains, clear blue river and green vegetation.

Hike the wild Aurlandsdalen Valley

Aurlandsdalen valley is one of the most beautiful and popular hikes in the area around Flåm. The almost 50 km long valley from Finse to Vassbygdi in Aurland is often called Norway's answer to the Grand Canyon. Comparable or not, at least the last stretch from Østerbø to Vassbygdi is a trip all outdoor enthusiasts should do at least once in their lifetime.

Two people hiking on a rocky path in Aurlandsdalen Valley seen through a frame of green leaves.
©Chris Baldry

Aurlandsdalen from Østerbø

The stretch between Østerbø and Vassbygdi is the most popular route, and what many associate with Aurlandsdalen. Here you get fantastic natural impressions from start to finish.

The route starts gently, and after a few kilometres the trail splits and you must choose which route to take. You can either go up via Bjørnstigen or continue the path along the river and Vetlavatnet lake. The route via Bjørnstigen gives phenomenal views down the lush and dramatic valley, but should not be taken if it is raining or if you are afraid of heights. Further, the route downhill and alternates between scree, pack-horse trails, and easy sections alongside the turquoise and clear river.

This is a hike you want to spend time doing. Stop and enjoy the viewpoints. Take the signposted detours and experience beautiful natural phenomena. Look at the waterfalls and the wild river. In several places you will come across boards with information and history.

Two hikers on a suspension bridge in Aurlandsdalen. Steep mountain side behind and large boulders in front.
©Chris Baldry

Finse to Østerbø

If you want to go the full length of the valley, you start at Finse and should calculate 3 full days of walking. The first stage goes from the high mountains at Finse to Geiteryggen, where you can spend the night at Geiteryggshytta. Bring a map and compass to be safe, as patches of snow can make it difficult to follow the trail markers. This stage is approx. 16 km.

From Geiteryggen, the trail continues to Østerbø. This 22 km long stretch can be divided in two, with an overnight stay at Steinbergdalshytta. At Østerbø you spend the night at Østerbø Fjellstove.

Photo of the dramatic landscape in the Aurlandsdalen valley. Steep ridges covered in forest and a tall waterfall in the distance.
©Chris Baldry

Practical information

The section from Østerbø to Vassbygdi is approx. 20 km, and you should calculate 6-8 hours. The trail is marked with red T’s and easy to find. The Aurlandsdalen valley is a demanding hike, and you should be used to hiking in varied terrain and in good physical shape before you start. Feel free to bring walking poles to relieve your knees. It is also possible to walk the opposite direction if you prefer going uphill.

The season starts in May/June and lasts till October. Early in the season, there may be remnants of landslides and rocks on the trail and flooding due to snow melting can make parts of the route impassable. Always check the conditions before setting out on a hike.

A woman and a man walking on a narrow path with a steep mountainside on one side and a lush valley and mountains on the other side.
©Chris Baldry

The hiking bus and parking

The easiest way to get to Østerbø from Flåm or Aurland is with the Hiking bus*. If you have your own car and want to be free to spend as much time as you wish on the tour, you can park in Vassbygdi and hop on the bus from there at 09.00. At the bus stop you find a service station and parking lot with space for 40 cars, free of charge. If this is full, you can park on E-CO's guest parking a few hundred metres down the road. You can also drive to Østerbø and park there. Then you need to either have an extra car parked in Vassbygdi or order a taxi from Aurland Taxi to bring you back to your car.

The service station in Vassbygdi offers coffee, cold refreshments, waffles and light food. If “nature calls” during the day, it is recommended to use the outdoor toilet facilities that are signposted to from the trail, or the sanitary facility at the service station.

A woman wearing shorts and t-shirt squatting by a river where she fills her waterbottle.
©Chris Baldry

Spectacular natural phenomena

Several places along the trail you see signs of nature's spectacularism. Perhaps the best and most famous example is Vetlahelvete (Little hell). One of the country's largest giant’s kettles is a short detour from the trail and is well signposted.

The giant’s kettles were created during and after the ice age, by rivers bringing gravel and stones into circulation. Over time, round caves were cut out in the rock. Vetlahelvete is filled with water and has an opening in the “ceiling”, where sunlight apparently only comes in for a short time during the day. If you stand inside the kettle when the light occurs, you understand why this is called a natural wonder.

A man and a woman standing on a boulder looking up on the steep mountains surrounding them in the Aurlandsdalen Valley.
©Chris Baldry

The wild nature of the valley

If there is one thing that is certain, it is that up to several times during the hike, you will really feel how small you are. That Aurlandsdalen is wild and spectacular is not something we just say. The trail runs along steep, high mountain walls. Through piles of rock and steep stairs of rocks. The mountains and forest down the valley look almost endless. Several hundred meters above you, the waterfalls plunge down the mountainsides, and below you have the clear, roaring river.

Three people in colourful hiking outfits walking through the garden in front of Fretheim Hotel in autumn.
©Jon Hunnålvatn Tøn

Accommodation incl. food

Aurlandsdalen is a full day trip, so we recommend that you stay in the area to gather energy before and relax after the trip. Both the historic Fretheim Hotel in Flåm and the newly renovated Hotel Aurlandsfjord in Aurland ensure a good night's sleep and a good meal, and are close to the hiking bus.

When booking a hiking package at one of the hotels, you get two nights with breakfast, dinner both evenings, self-packed lunch for the hike, après hike with local drinks and cured meats.

A man and a woman sitting next to a stone hut eating their packed lunches on a sunny day in Aurlandsdalen.
©Chris Baldry

Get close to the cultural history

The tour through Aurlandsdalen valley not only provides great nature experiences. You also get a good dose of cultural history along the way. The valley was not only a transport route, but also a lively valley where people have lived since at least medieval times with up to 10 farms and homesteads.

At Nesbøvatnet lake, at the beginning of the trip, you walk past Nesbøgalgen. Before the path was cut out in the early 20th century, one had to manoeuvre past on steps attached to cracks in the rock. Nesbø farm was first registered in 1664. Later it was divided into two farms and in the middle of the 19th century 15 people lived here. There has been no permanent settlement here since the beginning of the 20th century.

You see Sinjarheim long before you get there. The yard, which is built on several meter-high foundations, has been inhabited since long before the Black Death. Here they ran their own household with cows and sheep, and had 3-4 pens they moved the animals between in the summer. Butter and skins were commodities, and reindeer hunting was an important part of lifesaving. The farm was inhabited until 1922, when the family moved to Vassbygdi, to among other things get an easier school road for the children.

Not far from Sinjarheim you pass Almen farm, where you see an old half-timbered cottage built under a large stone slab. The stone protected the house from rockfall from the steep mountain sides behind it.

Fun fact: It takes approx. 30 000 steps to walk Aurlandsdalen from Østerbø to Vassbygdi