Besseggen hike, also known as Besseggen ridge hike is the most famous walk in Jotunheimen National Park in Norway. The hike is just as popular among foreign visitors as it is among Norwegians, for whom completing Bessegen is perceived as a ‘must have life experience’. Once you’ve conquered the ridge you can call yourself a ‘serious hiker’. All of the above means that the route is incredibly popular and tends to get busy, hence we recommend planning it in advance, for the best experience. Especially that the hike involves crossing a lake by boat, you DO need to ensure to get a spot on this boat!
In this article we’re sharing our experience of hiking Besseggen Ridge and tips on how to make it the smart way, to ensure an unforgettable experience!
Besseggen Ridge hike in Jotunheimen National Park, fact sheet
- Height: Veslfjellet 1743 masl
- Total time: 8 hours
- Total distance: 14 km
- Total elevation gain: 1000 metres
- Parking: car park at Gjendesheim, pay & display (directions)
- Level of difficulty: 3/5 – straight forward hike with steep sections, easy scrambling. Norwegian standards: RED – demanding
- Besseggen weather: weather forecast for Besseggen Ridge
How to get to Besseggen Trailhead
Besseggen trailhead is located at Gjendesheim cabin, off road 51 at the eastern edge of Jotunheimen National Park, a home to the highest mountains in Norway!
There are two ways of hiking the Besseggen Norway, which we’ll explain below, however both options will bring you to the car park at Gjendesheim cabin.
Besseggen hike follows a ridge over the northern shores of lake Gjende, and is a 14 km linear route, therefore you have to consider how to tackle it.
As a day trip, the most popular way, and in our opinion, the least pressured way of conquering the Besseggen is taking the boat to Memurubu hut first, and then walking back to Gjendesheim.
Otherwise you can climb the ridge directly from Gjendesheim and finish the hike in Memurubu, however this means you’ll have to time it well to catch the boat you booked, or stay overnight at Memurubu and return by boat the next day.
Both options have pros and cons. By taking the boat first and starting from Memurubu you are free to take as much time as you need, without worrying about the transport back. In addition, you will scramble up the steepest section of the route, which we believe is easier than descending it. On the other hand, hiking Besseggen Ridge from east to west you’ll have the best views right in front of you, most of the way…
To be completely honest with you, we hiked Besseggen from Memurubu to Gjendesheim and can’t complain about the views at all, as they were stunning and we enjoyed a short break every so often to look back and catch breath. So we guarantee that whichever hiking direction you pick, you’ll be satisfied!
How to book Gjendebåten, the boat to Memurubu hut
We strongly recommend booking the boat to/from Memurubu online, in advance (book here). However, don’t worry if your preferred crossing is unavailable online, not all is lost, and you still have a chance to get onboard and cross the lake. In Norway, by law, ferry and boat operators are required to keep a certain percentage of boat-space/tickets for travellers who just turn up on the day, they’re not allowed to sell all tickets online.
A word of advice: as Besseggen is a very popular hike you can expect that trying to book online last-minute or only a day before, there may not be any tickets left. In this case try your luck and turn up at the Gjendesheim pier well before your preferred sailing and you may still be able to get one of the remaining tickets. First come, first served!
From our own experience: Having, unsuccessfully tried to book the crossing to Memurubu online a day before, we took our chances and queued at the Gjendesbaten stance well before the first sailing at 7:45am. We arrived to Gjendesheim at 7am (and the car park was already mostly full by that time!), we thought that we had most chances to get ticket for the early crossing, most likely we wouldn’t succeed later in the day. This strategy worked for us very well! However, we were quite surprised that despite coming an hour early, and only 7 am we were not first in the queue! The boat was already awaiting and walkers with online reservations were let onboard around 7.30am, while we were being constantly reminded that it was our own risk and we may not be able to cross that day. Sadly, the crew was much friendlier towards people with online bookings. Only when all people with online tickets showed up, we were approached by the crew, who reluctantly sold us remaining tickets. We got onboard and only a while later the boat was already sailing to Memurubu! Some 30-40 minutes later we disembarked, passed Memurubu hut without a second glance and headed to Bessegen Ridge!
Crossing fare was 160 NOK per person, to Memurubu one way (2019).
Parking at Gjendesheim
Due to the amount of hikers keen on conquering Besseggen Ridge, the large car park at Gjendesheim tends to fill up very early in the morning already. To ensure to get a parking space we recommend arriving to Gjendesheim early in the morning! Despite being a large car park the demand forces early arrival. Gjendesheim car park operates ‘pay and display’, full day charge was 160 NOK (summer 2019)
What to expect along Besseggen Ridge hike
First things first: stay on the trail! Due to heavy traffic, there has been severe erosion and destroyed vegetation along the route. Norwegian Hiking Association are constantly repairing most affected sections of the trail, hence it is crucial that hikers stay on the trail and do not destroy fragile vegetation. Respect the nature!
Trailhead at Memurubu is well signposted and marked, we had no problem whatsoever to navigate! We passed the hut as well as a makeshift campsite and followed a well-trodden track uphill. The trail meandered thru low woodland and bushes, path under our feet was eroded and sandy. Without hurry we progressed up and ensured to look back at the green Memurubu area, an oasis in the land of grey rock and sparse vegetation!
Once we left the woodland, the trail became more rugged, but at the same time more solid and we welcomed it! There are two spots where paths fork to the left, ignore both of them.
One more steep section and you’ll be on the high edge over lake Gjende! Once on the high ground continue straight ahead and ignore all path forks going towards the mountains. Besseggen hike closely follows the high edge over Gjende, the trail is marked throughout and you’ll find small signposts every kilometre.
With all the signposts and trail markings (the usual Norwegian red ‘T’ and dots on stones and rocks along the way) navigating Bessegen was very straight forward.
Terrain on hillside edge over lake Gjende is rocky and rough, relatively level, with only a small amount of ascents and descents until the culmination section, the short Bessegen Ridge up to the top of Bessegen hill (1638 masl) a lower top of Veslfjellet (the highest point along the hike).
Along the way are numerous viewpoints (going from Memurubu you’ll have to look back) with amazing Gjende viewpoint, a vista over lake Gjende, also a keen eye would spot a couple of majestic glaciers nearby.
As you approach a small lake, slightly uphill you’ll notice that almost every kilometre of the way is different and brings new scenery, and the path constantly changes its character. In simple words, you don’t get bored along Bessegen hike!
Having passed the small lake you’ll start a lengthy descent to a large blue-watered lake, Bessvatnet, directly at the most exciting section of the hike, the very Bessegen Ridge! Walk down to the lake shore, a perfect spot for a short break before the final push, the last great ascent of Besseggen hike. The ridge is short, but requires some hand-on-rock skill as you’ll have to scramble up the full length. For an experienced hiker this will be the most exciting section of the trail and zero problems, however for a first time walker or a person struggling with fear of heights this could be quite troublesome. We actually passed several walkers who struggled with this short section.
By no means the ridge is exposed, it’s simply steeper and rockier and many times you’ll have to support yourself with hands taking steps up. That’s about it. Also, the ridge provides the most iconic view of Bessegen hike, the ‘two lakes view’ with emerald Gjende on the left and blue Bessvatnet on the right (featured photo at the top of page)!
Bessegen Ridge ends quite suddenly, to give way to a spacious rough plateau of loose rock, Veslfjellet (marked with large cairn). We were very surprised that such a fine ridge leads to such a surprisingly boring plateau.
Nonetheless, we still managed to discover a fine viewpoint at the edge of Veslfjellet, a cliff overlooking lake Gjende and Gjendesheim! Just another proof that it’s always worth to explore the area, whatever it may be!
From the large cairn (pile of stone) marking the top of Veslfjellet, continue east along a rough path towards Gjendesheim. At first, it’s a track covered by loose stones, but as you progress it becomes clearer and easier to walk on. Also, as you descent, the terrain changes and soon you’ll leave the rock desert to walk thru grassy meadows. We felt that the way down was long, but the prospect of having a refreshing shower at Gjendesheim cabin kept us motivated …
IF YOU’RE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH SCRAMBLING UP THE STEEP BESSEGEN RIDGE you can by-pass this section by taking a path along western and northern shores of lake Bessvatnet (see map below, path marked in blue) however keep in mind that this will add another 4 km to the hike.
Besseggen Ridge hike map
What we loved about hiking Besseggen Ridge
We thoroughly enjoyed the constantly changing scenery and terrain. The character of hiking trail was changing every kilometre or so, therefore we never got bored along the way! View over emerald waters of Gjende, to the glaciers, and to giant mountains in the heart of Jutunheimen National Park just sweetened the experience! We are looking forward to coming back to Jotunheimen and discovering more hiking trails! Besseggen hike was a perfect introduction to the land of giants!
Wild camping near Besseggen
Due to the ongoing flora preservation works by DNT, rocky terrain and the amount of loose rock along the trail we wouldn’t recommend camping along Besseggen trail. The best camping area are grassy meadows of Memurubu campsite, beside the hut. Higher, along the trail you may struggle to find a decent camping spot.
Good news it that after the hike you can refresh yourselves at Gjendesheim DNT cabin, ask at the reception and you will be allowed to use showers for a small fee! If you’re travelling in a campervan you’ll be pleased to know that there are numerous car parks and suitable overnight parking spots along road 51 (driving south of Gjendesheim) as well as a couple of spots over lake Sjodalsvatnet (north from Gjendesheim).
If you’re interested the nearest campsite or cabins (but do not fancy staying at Gjendesheim), there are some just a short drive away, Bessheim Fjellstue og Hytter
- *Level of difficulty explained: 1– easy walk, mostly flat 2– easy hillwalk, good path 3-moderate, possible some steep sections 4-long hillwalk, possibly some scrambling involved, possibly pathless 5-difficult, possibly pathless, long, requires technical skills
- NORWEGIAN DIFFICULTY LEVEL EXPLAINED: GREEN – easy , BLUE -moderate, RED – demanding, BLACK -expert