Lake Gjende viewed from Besseggen ridge, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Hiking the Besseggen Ridge – Jotunheimen National Park, Norway

Hiking the Besseggen Ridge – Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Lake Gjende viewed from Besseggen ridge, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Photo: Lake Gjende and Bessvatnet from Besseggen ridge, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

The Besseggen ridge hike is one of the most popular in Norway, with some 30,000 people making the trek between Gjendesheim and Memurubu each year.  Located in the stunning mountain scenery of Norway’s Jotunheimen national park, the trail roughly follows a ridge on the north side of lake Gjende and provides amazing views of the whole length of the long and colorful lake as it sits surrounded by glaciated mountain peaks.

With a distance of about 8 miles (13 km) and climbing 2,500 feet (759 m) above lake Gjende the hike requires a moderate level of physical fitness.   Expect to take 5-7 hours to complete the hike between Gjendesheim and Memurubu.  The trail is well marked and easy to follow, and due to its popularity, it’s doubtful you’ll be alone – even in bad and rainy weather.

From Gjendesheim, the trail climbs at a moderate gain for several kilometers until finally reaching a high and rocky alpine plateau.  Even if the wind is calm at lake level, it can be cold and windy once up high, be prepared.   The steepest and narrowest section occurs shortly after passing the high point of 5,718 feet (1743 M) – marked with a large cairn.   After this point, the trail then proceeds to quickly drop down to the southern shore of lake Bessvatnet at 4,504 feet (1373m).  Here is were you have one of the best views of Lake Gjende. Lake Bessvatnet represents the approximate half way point and is a good place to sit in the sun (if your lucky) and have a nice lunch.

Continuing from lake Bessvatnet the trail is relatively flat with only moderate climbs/descents until the final short and steep descent to Memurubu and the shores of lake Gjende.

HERE is a good online topo map for all of Norway.  Take a quick look so you can get a bit more comfortable with my descriptions and not mix up Gjende for Gjendebu for Gjendesheim.  Enter either ‘Besseggen’ or ‘Gjende’ in the search box and hit the ‘Kartsøk’ button.  This will get you where you need to look…


Photo: Ferry leaves Memurubu for Gjendesheim (in far distance)

View of Besseggen ridge and Bessvatnet lake, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Photo: view east of Besseggen ridge rising above lake Bessvatnet

Day hiking the Besseggen ridge gives one several options on how to go about things and how long of a day is desired.

• Ferry Gjendesheim – Memurubu : Hike Memurubu – Gjendesheim:
A popular way to make the hike is to take the morning ferry from Gjendesheim to Memurubu and make the hike back.  This way has the benefit of not having to meet the ferry schedule for a return trip, thus meaning that one can go as slow or fast as wanted.  One drawback is you will likely be hiking in a crowd of people all arriving with the boat, unless one sits around Memurubu while the crowd continues up the trail.

• Hike Gjendesheim – Memurubu : Ferry Memurubu – Gjendesheim:
This way one can get an early start and have the trail relatively empty.  Though if looking for mountain solitude, I suggest going elsewhere in the park.  The main drawback of this way is that one has to keep schedule to catch the ferry back to Gjendesheim.  Personally, I think the view is more scenic in this direction, and the sun will be at your back during the morning hours.

• Hike Gjendesheim – Memurubu : Hike Memurubu – Gjendesheim:
For a longer day, it’s possible to hike the ridge to Memurubu and back.  Or, to save some tired knees, there is a flat trail that follows the lake, connecting Gjendesheim and Memurubu.

• Ferry Gjendesheim – Gjendebu : Hike Gjendebu – Gjendesheim:
For a long day, take the morning ferry to the end of lake Gjende and Gjendebu and hike back to Gjendesheim.  The section between Gjendebu and Memurubu is relatively uncrowded and provides stunning views of lake Gjende and one approaches Memurubu and also some amazing views of Memurudalen – Memuru valley.

CLICK HERE for ferry schedule
CLICK HERE for ferry prices
CLICK HERE for DNT mountain hut info
CLICK HERE for a topo map of Norway. Search ‘Besseggen’ or ‘Gjende’

lake Gjende ferry

Photo: Ferry and mountain reflections on lake Gjende from Gjendesheim

Overnight trips to the huts:
The lake ferry boat not only carries people, it will also carry luggage.  So, say one is looking to stay overnight at Memurubu or Gjendebu hut, put your luggage on the ferry and hike from Gjendesheim.  When you arrive in Memurubu, your bags will be waiting.  This can also work in reverse, staying your first night in the hut and then hike back to Gjendesheim while your luggage takes the ferry.

Wild camping is possible basically everywhere, the only restrictions being the immediate area around the huts.  Water is plentiful and tasty.  On the other hand, finding a flat and dry spot to pitch a tent can sometimes take a bit of searching, but is well worth the effort to sleep with some amazing views out the tent door.

Camping near Gjendesheim.  Walk past the end of the parking area and continue along the lakeside trail for 100m.  Beginning here you you see plenty of places to pitch a tent.  Can get a bit crowded on a nice summer weekend.

Scenic mountain landscape of Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Photo: Alone in the wilderness.  Wild camping in Norway’s Jotunheimen national park

Further into Jotunheimen:
Jutunheimen national park is an amazing place.  I highly recommend making a longer hike through the park, either as a multi-day loop or through hike.  While I enjoy camping in the wild, it’s also possible to carry a light pack and overnight in the well connected network of huts, many of which also serve food.

When to go:
The main summer season in the Norwegian mountains in July and August.  These months will be your best bet for sunny, warm days.

Getting there:
The start or finish of the Besseggen ridge is located at Gjendesheim, on the eastern end of lake Gjende and Jotunheimen national park itself.  Here you’ll find a full service DNT hut, a small (expensive!) shop/cafe, toilets, the ferry boat, and parking area.

By Bus:
Several busses travel to Gjendesheim daily.  The two options are to travel via Fagernes (to/from Oslo) in the south.  To the north the bus travels to Vagamo where one can transfer east to Otta and the train, or continue west through the fjords.

By Train:
There is no direct train link to Jotunheimen national park.  If traveling by train, say from Trondheim in the north, exit at Otta, where you will have to take the bus to Vagamo, then on to Gjendesheim.  The bus/train does not always meet at a convenient time, so be sure to check schedules.

Transportation links:
NSB – Norwegian train company
Nor-Way – Long distance bus routes incl. Olso – Gjendesheim
Ruteinfo – Local and regional bus information
Gjende – Lake Gjende ferry.  Prices and timetable

Other Useful links:
DNT – The Norwegian Trekking Assocaition
Interactive topo map including trails and huts for all of Norway
Norwegian weather

CLICK HERE for more photos of Jotunheimen national park from summer 2010

If there’s anything I seemed to miss, let me know and I’ll try and add it.

View towards Gjendesheim and lake Gjende, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Photo: Looking towards Gjendesheim on the shore of lake Gjende from near start/finish of Besseggen Ridge trail

29 replies
  1. jorge says:

    hi! by car where parking the near point to bessengen. i speak very bad english, sorry. do you speak spanish?

  2. Ditte says:

    Thanks for wonderful and priceless info! You just answered all my questions, which all the visit-something-sites couldn’t!

  3. Tomas Eklund says:

    Great article and beautiful pictures. It’s worth noting that parking at Gjendesheim is pretty expensive at 100 NOK (~13.70 EUR or ~16.90 USD as of August 2012) per day for cars (different rates apply for mobile homes and motorcycles). On weekends the parking lot located near the ferry can quickly fill up. There is a larger (long-term) parking lot about 1 km up the road. But it’s not cheap either at 80 NOK.

  4. brendan mckeown says:

    When does the snow and ice clear off the Besseggen ridge? I was hoping to go in mid June ’13.


  5. Rune W. says:

    June can still have some patches of snow – it depends on temperatures in the spring and the month of may in particular. Generally the ridge itself will not have any snow/ice. Should be fine in hiking boots. Do bring some warm clothes, wind/rainproof clothes and something to drink in your sack, the weather is famous for changing from good to bad in 15 minutes here (including fog with visibility down to a couple of meters) – but if the day you are going as well as the forecast for the following day is all sunny and warm, then you’re generally safe – even in just sneakers and light clothes. If the weather is generally cold and unstable, keep in mind that it can snow at the peaks even in mid summer.

    The Eidsbugarden webcam will give a good indication of what to expect with regards to weather and remaining snow.

    If you want the most uncrowded tour, then take the last boat to Memurubu and walk towards Gjendesheim.
    Temperaturewise take into consideration that the temp drops with 1C per 100m up, so expect 8-9C lower temp at the highest points compared to the Gjende lake.

  6. Steve says:

    What is the terrain like on the hike? I wanted to try it but have a 1 year old who I’d carry in a backpack carrier. I’ve done a lot of hikes this way so am not worried about the length or fitness, but wasn’t sure if its got sections of climbing rocks which wouldn’t be feasible for us.

  7. Cody says:

    Hi Steve,

    The only steep-ish section is on the descent to lake Bessvatnet where the ridge narrows and there are a few short rock steps from time to time, but nothing too difficult…

  8. Gene says:


    I’ve seen the Besseggen hike from Memurubu to Gjendesheim listed anywhere from 13 kilometers to 18 kilometers, depending on the source. Can you tell me why there is such a great disparity as to the distance of this hike, and what is the correct distance for this hike?
    Also, what month in the summer is the best month to do this hike? When is it the warmest and least likely to rain?

    Thank you very much,

  9. Jessie says:

    My friend and I would like to hike Beseggen Ridge in early June. Is it generally ok to do then? We were also wondering where around Jottenheim to stay and where to park the car for the hike. Thanks!

  10. Cody says:

    There can still be a lot of snow in early June, so be prepared. Car park is at Gjendesheim. It is more expensive to park near the lake, or there is a cheaper one a bit further back on the road.

  11. Kristen says:

    Super helpful post! We are hoping to hit this late October and much of what I’ve seen says that may be difficult. You mention hiking Gjendesheim to Memurubu and taking the lake trail from Memurubu back to Gjendesheim. If we do this, what would our distances look like and could we do it in a day? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

  12. Dominik says:

    Hi. Is it possible to make this hike in the end of april? Is it allowed? Isnt it forbiden? And if it is allow, is it possible to make it? We just want to come with car, park than climb on that highest peak, that one with the best view on lakes and come back. What do you thing about it? Thank you a lot.

  13. Cody says:

    There are no rules about when you can hike in Norway. However April is still winter, so skis will be the best option. The lakes will still be frozen.

  14. Carol says:


    thank you for all the great information and photos.

    My daughter and I are planning to be in Norway from June 2 to June 14 2016 and definitely want to make the Besseggen ridge hike.

    maybe you can help us with some additional information.

    how far is the hike from Gjendebu to Memurubu? we are thinking a taking the ferry to Gjendebu and hiking all the way back, staying the night at Memurubu. is that a good plan? is there a better 2-day hike to do?

    I understand that the ferry starts running around June 9th. how does the ice melting look? any estimate by when the ferry will be able to start this year?

    thank you in advance!

  15. Cody says:

    Hi Carol,

    You can see hiking distances here:

    Probably better as a 2 day hike.

    I don’t know about the ferry, but they probably use a fixed schedule, regardless if they can begin earlier, as the huts need to be staffed, etc.

  16. Ella says:


    I’m planning to go on a hike with a friend, we’d love to walk the Besseggen Ridge, but as a part of a 4 to 5 day hike… Would you by any chance know if there are routes that include the Besseggen Ridge?

    Thank you!

  17. Cody says:

    Jotunheimen is full of an near endless amount of trail, so it’s easy to combine Besseggen with other areas of the park, either as a loop back to Gjendesheim or a thru-hike to elsewhere.

  18. JP says:

    I would prefer to hike uphill for the steeper sections (steep downhill is rough on my knees and quite frankly, scary!). Which direction should we hike with this in mind? Thank you. Great article!

  19. Ragen Nash says:

    I was wondering are ticks a big problem in Jotenheimen national park? my friend and I plan to wild camp for 10 days and am wondering if ticks will be everywhere…
    Thanks in advance…:)

  20. Wendy says:

    Can we do (easy) hiking in mid of April by ourselves or must join tour?
    Any easy trekking route would you suggest? We are beginners, thanks!

  21. Cody says:

    April is still full winter in Jotunheimen/the mountains of Norway, so you will need skis. Any ‘easy’ hikes will just be small hills in coastal areas.

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