Segla is the most famous mountain on Senja island in Northern Norway. Looking at the photo above, you’ll instantly know why! It’s towering high above small village Fjordgard, at the edge of a narrow mountainous peninsula surrounded by two beautiful fjords: Mefjorden and Ørnfjorden. At 639 masl, Segla is a small but very steep mountain; you can only reach the summit by climbing it from Fjordgard’s school car park. The mountain is totally inaccessible from any other direction; its north cliff is nearly 300 metres high vertical rock face, whereas on the west side it drops vertically 639 metres, directly to the icy waters of Mefjorden.
You should keep in mind thou, that the best viewpoint to Segla is the neighbouring mountain, Hesten. The iconic photographs of Segla’s bare cliffs are taken from Hesten’s summit or from rough saddle between the two mountains (as on the picture above).
Segla and Hesten attract hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts every summer; undoubtedly you’ll be planning to hike the two before even reaching the end of this article! But, don’t drop everything just yet and read it thoroughly to learn how to make the most of your visit to Fjordgard, where to search for the best views in the area and how to experience the great generosity of the locals!
Segla and Hesten – an ultimate Senja experience
We arrived to Senja in the afternoon and were so eager to explore the island, especially its mountains. Having previously visited Lofoten (click here to read all about our experience) we were a bit anxious; will Senja deliver on high expectations we had? Will it be warm and friendly or rather give us cold shoulder like Lofoten? In our minds the island became some sort of a dreamland, we read so much about its unique landscape and mind blowing hikes…
Weather forecast for the next couple of days looked very promising hence, without any delays, we drove to Fjordgard and started our Senja adventure with a morning hike to the top of a mighty Segla. In fact, the day was so great that we topped it off with a hike to Hesten.
Hiking Segla, Senja
Oh boy!!! From the very morning, it was a fantastic day! I think it greatly added to the ultimate experience of Senja’s mountains we had that day. But let’s start from the beginning…
Hiking Segla on Senja island in Northern Norway, fact sheet
- Height: Segla 639 masl
- Total time: 3-4 hours
- Total distance: 5 km
- Parking: car park near school in Fjordgård (directions)
- Level of difficulty: 3/5 -moderate, short but very steep climb to the top. Norwegian standards: RED – demanding.
- Segla weather: weather forecast for Fjordgard
How to get to Segla trail head
The hike starts in Fjordgård – a small fishing village over Ornfjorden. Leave your car on the dedicated car park, behind primary school (directions). The trail head is signposted and cannot be missed. Also, most probably you won’t be hitting the trail alone, as this is one of the most popular hikes on Senja.
Despite its very steep final section, Segla is the queen of Senja’s mountains, greatly loved by visitors.
Segla trail starts as a wide gravel path, but it steadily gains elevation. All the way, it’s well defined and marked – look out for red marks on the trees and rocks.
At first there are no difficulties at all, although gravel path turns into a muddy track. Only when you pass the fork signposted to Barden and a small valley, the path narrows and becomes very rocky – some sections have dwarfed birch roots sticking out making it harder to pass. So take your time and be careful, especially when the trail is wet.
The views over Fjordgard and towards Barden become nicer with every step. In no time you get to a wide plateau finished with a 350 metres drop on one side, but with plenty space for picnic. Here you will get first glimpse of your final climb to Segla. It may look a bit intimidating but in fact, it’s not very exposed if you keep to the right side of the slope. If however, you want an adrenaline kick keep to the left, especially near the top… Or if you dare, lean over the edge and look down. Whatever you do, please be careful!
Once you reach the cliff edge, you’ll be able to fully appreciate the steepness of the final climb to Segla’s summit. Hiking it, is quite tough! And very steep indeed! Some sections are quite eroded, small stones are escaping from under your feet, making it more difficult still. Don’t worry thou, take your time and climb carefully!
The very final section before summit passes large boulders, then you’ll need to use your hands to continue climbing. Keep in mind, there’s no ‘wrong or right path’ at that point – just find your way and slowly move up.
The climb from the plateau to the summit takes approximately 40 minutes, and as I mentioned already, you will have spectacular views around you, but won’t really see the beauty of Segla itself. Don’t worry thou, views over Mefjorden and the surrounding mountains are magnificent, they really are.
The top of Segla is rocky and apparently it can get very busy during summer. We heard that sometimes people are queuing to get to the top! We hiked Segla in autumn and conquered the summit quite early, therefore we enjoyed it in company of just few more people and had time to admire the views for a while, undisturbed.
Have a look at Segla’s hiking ‘guest book’ and find our names under 1/9/18! Needless to say that we greatly enjoyed view from Segla’s top – it’s Bea’s favourite combination: mountains and sea.
About 1 hour and countless photographs later, we retraced our footsteps and returned to the car park. On our way down we met an American solo traveller, Jason. Having chatted about our experience in Senja island and love for the outdoors, we decided to top off the day with another hike in the afternoon. That’s how we ended up conquering Hesten for the sunset.
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Hiking Hesten, Senja
We descended from Segla just in time for late lunch, so before hitting the trail again, we decided it’s best to have a short break and a snack. We also moved our self-converted camper van nearer Hesten trailhead. When we got to a small parking bay where path to Hesten starts, we found an open wooden shelter, perfect to rest! I think, in summer, the shelter serves as a makeshift cafe, however in September it was deserted, just waiting for us. Bea and I were surprised to see all equipment left behind – kettles, mugs and most importantly – log wood benches still covered by reindeer skins! You can only imagine how happy we were to rest seated on soft skins, looking at the mountains and eating lentil soup!
If you didn’t like the sound of steep climb to Segla, you’ll be glad to know that trail to Hesten is easier. Don’t take us wrong – again, it’s a steady 1.5 hours climb, but definitely less steep. Also, if you’re hiking Hesten only because of Segla views, you don’t really have to conquer the summit! We have checked it ourselves, and trust us – the best photographs of Segla’s rock face are taken from the cliff edge between the two mountains, rather than Hesten’s top.
Hiking Hesten on Senja island in Northern Norway, fact sheet
- Height: Hesten 512 masl
- Total time: 3 hours
- Total distance: 5 km
- Parking: small parking bay in upper Fjordgård (directions)
- Level of difficulty: 2 or 3 /5 – easy to moderate: hike to the saddle is relatively easy, but reaching the summit requires scrambling on mildly exposed and steep slope *
* Path to the top of Hesten is quite rocky with some awkward sections requiring more care, but is only mildly exposed. If that sounds good to you, we definitely recommend to make an effort and conquer Hesten’s summit – views to the north are fantastic and you won’t be able to see them from any other spot.
How to get to Hesten trailhead
The path to Hesten is not signposted nor marked, but it is easy to follow once you find the trail head. It starts in upper part of Fjordgard, on the highest street, at the bend (exact location) .
You will know, you are in the right place if you see poles marking the skiing slope, and an open shelter just over the road. As we mentioned, this shelter is a perfect spot for lunch break.
At the beginning the path to Hesten is rather wet (quite typical for Norway) but there are wooden footways built to avoid getting wet feet. After 300 metres path comes closer to Segla’s cliffs and turns right to follow tree line of a low birch woodland. Trail becomes more rocky and steepens, but to be honest, at that point you won’t mind anything at all, you’ll be too busy getting your eyes on the ‘tower’ of Segla.
Once you are higher, the north face of Segla becomes visible (but still keep walking for best views).
To get to top of Hesten continue ahead to the saddle between Hesten and Stavelitippen, then turn left and follow the rocky ridge. This part gets a bit tougher – you’ll have to take a narrow, mildly exposed path cutting the rocky slopes of Hesten and scramble over some boulders before reaching the top. You can be sure – it’s worth the extra effort!!!
From the top of the Hesten you not only have breath taking views towards vertical cliffs of Segla, but in all directions! To the north you can admire walls of Inste Kongen – one of the most inaccessible peaks we have climbed on Senja. To the west, Hesten ridge extends towards another summit, Stavelitippen. However to the east the mountain seems to be smoothly cut, looking down you’ll see blue waters of Mefjorden, some 556 metres below.
It is now easy to see why Segla is often referred to ‘Sail of Senja Island’, however we still struggled to find a connection between Hesten and a horse (‘hesten’ means a horse in Norwegian)… One thing for sure – I promise you will struggle to leave this place, just as we did.
When we were at the top, a young Norwegian guy joined us. His English was very limited and our Norwegian virtually non-existent, but as usual – using hands and Google translate we managed to have a good chat about hiking on Senja and the best mountains in the area! He has already climbed many peaks on the island and was happy to share the knowledge and experience with us… and you know, we’re always keen to learn about good hikes, undiscovered paths and best views.
It was the guy, who encouraged us to do few more hikes on Senja and pointed some of the best ones. He was so friendly and enthusiastic that we couldn’t help but feel the same. We promised ourselves to hike all the mountains he suggested, and we did!
We gave him a nickname ‘Viking Blood’. It was quite funny; when we were carefully descending from Hesten, slowly scrambling down, he passed us – easily jumping over the boulders and careless of the drop below, he was running on the rocks like he had no fear whatsoever. As he passed us, we joked that he’s at such ease with the difficult terrain, and he only laughed, pointed at his chest and said ‘viking blood!’
Lets hope that one day he’ll see this picture on our blog and get in touch!
After around 1 hour spent on Hesten chating, taking pictures and admiring the views it was time to descent, but not to the camper, not just yet. Although sunset was a bit disappointing that day, we still wanted to stay around… maybe get down to the cliff edge between Segla and Hesten, see if the last rays of sun lighten up the sheer rock.
Retrace your steps from Hesten summit, but pay attention and try to spot a very steep path descending directly to the cliff edge. Definitely try to get to the edge of the cliff for better views; as scary as it sounds, you won’t regret it. This place is magical – the abrupt cliff, waters of Mefjorden and Sail of Senja. Why moments like that don’t last forever?
It was already getting dark when we started descending back to Fjordgard. There are various faint paths – use any to get back to the main trail which then takes you back to the small parking bay where you started the Hesten adventure.
Camping in Fjordgard, near Segla and Hesten
Unfortunately, there aren’t many campsites in northern and western Senja. The only one in the area is Fjordbotn Camping (website) located in Indergard, 15 km away from Fjordgard.
Wild camping is allowed and widely accepted in Norway. By law, everyone is allowed to stay overnight at any spot at least 150 metres from nearby buildings. That means that you shouldn’t stay overnight at the parking bay at Hesten trailhead, nor school car park below Segla.
Finding a good spot to pitch a tent along Segla trail would be tricky, as lower parts are rather wet and higher up terrain is too steep – the only option would be staying near cliff edge, below Segla’s rocky slopes.
Hesten area provides much more opportunities for pitching tent, although again, lower parts of trail are wet. However, Hesten ridge is spacious enough for tents, not to mention the rough meadow between Hesten and Segla. That would be my top pick.
A heavenly answer to wild camping in Fjordgard & generous heart of local community
At the end of the road in Fjordgard is Purkenesvika – an idyllic outdoor area with benches, barbecue hut and a toilet. There is also space for few tents and a couple of cars or caravans. It’s a fantastic place to ‘stay wild’ while visiting Fjordgard (in exchange for a donation), but please be respectful. Local community is amazing, generous and very welcoming. They look after Purkenesvika and visit it on regular basis. Purkenesvika is also perfect for fishing, but you need to have your own fishing rod (fishing in ‘open waters’ is allowed without licence). Drinking water can be filled up at the village shop (hose with fresh water is fixed at the shop left side).
We stayed at Purkenesvika for about a week in total, by far it was the best local community experience in Norway. During the stay, we saw elders coming for their daily walk to the beach, parents with kids enjoying the Sunday sunshine. As ‘wild campers’ we were greeted and treated very friendly. What was even more amazing, local school allowed hikers to use their facilities (toilet and shower!) when the kids were out. I really wanted to mention this, because it touched me to see such responsible and generous community. You know, the trails near Fjordgard were the cleanest ever, we didn’t see any rubbish, toilet paper nor ‘human waste’ at all. And I believe this was mostly due to the fact, that local community recognised the increasing need for ‘tourist infrastructure’, and, as there’s none, they allowed to use school’s facilities and Purkenesvika.
Majority of visitors at Fjordgard were respectful, but with time we noticed that some campers used the toilet to leave their rubbish… because they didn’t bother to walk 100 metres to the large rubbish container provided. What a shame!
Please note that there is a large rubbish container along the road between Purkenesvika and Fjordgard village. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR RUBBISH IN THE TOILET! Do not expect anyone to clean after you! If you’re not a respectful guest, the local generosity may end… that would really be a shame.
Staying at Purkenesvika was a pleasure, a real highlight of our Norwegian adventure. We both left a piece of our hearts at the road end in Fjordgard… on the day we left Fjordgard for good, we shed some tears…
Update July 2019 – Purkenesvika parking area had temporarily been used by tunnel maintenance crew to store heavy machinery while they’re working on Fjordgard tunnel upgrade. Hence this area may be temporarily unsuitable for camping in summer 2019. In this case you can try the two parking areas at the entrance to first Fjordgard tunnel from main road no 862 (directions) where the machinery was previously kept.
*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