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Rago is one of the lesser known national parks in Norway, nonetheless it’s an area of great beauty! Located rather far north, at the border with Sweden, Rago National Park can easily be described as ‘off the beaten track’ hiking destination. What is more, Rago is a wonderful gate for exploration of some of Europe’s wildest areas! Directly over the Swedish border are majestic and remote Padjelanta, Sarek and Stora Sjofallets national parks which are a natural continuation of Rago. These 4 national parks are connected by a web of solitary paths and trails, a dream come true for seasoned hikers, wanderers and confident solitude seekers.
Landscape of Rago nasjonalpark (its Norwegian name) is spectacular. It’s a land of countless lakes, waterfalls, rugged mountains, ravines, randomly laid boulders and majestic old pine trees. The feeling of remoteness, wilderness and ‘far away from the world’ makes Rago an awesome hidden gem, where one can re-balance and re-connect with nature.
During the 3 months we spent over the Arctic Circle in 2019, exploring Norway, Finland and Sweden, we discovered that we’re increasingly passionate about multi-day hikes. We were eager to spend more time in wilderness without the burden of steep ascents and descents each day, but with a chance to enjoy sunsets and sunrises from our tent, pitched amongst breathtaking scenery. Rago National Park turned out to be a fantastic location for a 2 days (or more!) hike; the vast space brings countless opportunities for long-distance walks with over nights stay under the stars or in a wilderness hut.
In this post we’re sharing our unique insight into Rago National Park in Norway, our experience of exploring its secret corners and gems over a 2 days, circular hike. Visiting Rago was one of the greatest highlights of our Scandinavian tour, therefore we’re hoping to pass the enthusiasm and respect for this beautiful little national park in Northern Norway!
Wonderful 2 day circular hike in Rago National Park in Norway, fact sheet
- Heighest point: 430 masl
- Total time: 2 days
- Total distance: 25 km
- Total elevation gain: 950 metres
- Parking: any of the 2 car parks in Lakshole, 2 km apart. (directions car park 1) (directions car park 2), free of charge, no facilities.
- Level of difficulty: 3/5 – medium difficulty walk, with short steep sections. Can be very slippery when wet.
- Rago National Park weather: weather forecast for Lappfjellet
How to get to Rago National Park
Rago National Park is located in Northern Norway, near border with Sweden. It’s easy to reach by car, but getting there using public transport is a bit tricky. Let’s have a look at the options:
Getting to Rago National Park by car. Whether coming from the north or the south, follow the E6 highway till Trengselet and turn into road Fv 617 (Laksholveien), directly at the tunnel. Continue along FV 617 for another 4.5 km (to car park 1). Driving time from Bodo to Lakshol is approx 75 mins.
Getting to Rago National Park by public transport is tricky as the nearest location accessible by bus is Torkilseng (near the tunnel on road E6).
There is a bus service running between Fauske and Torkilseng (5 times a day, 20 mins journey). From Torkilseng, however, one will have to either walk (6km) or take a taxi to Lakshol / Rago National Park.
If travelling from Bodo: there is a direct bus service running between Bodo and Torkilseng (4 times a day, 2 hours journey), alternatively one can travel by train from Bodo to Fauske (every 4 hours, journey time 46 mins) and continue by bus to Torkilseng (see above).
Please keep in mind that the road Fv 617 to Lakshol is a single track with passing places (marked ‘M’) and can be temporarily inaccessible in winter due to snow/ice cover.
OUR EXPERIENCE IN RAGO NATIONAL PARK
We had our eyes set on Rago nasjonalpark for some time already and were very keen on spending a couple of days hiking and exploring this unique area. While driving thru Norway, I (Ela) was fascinated by ‘fjellstua’ – landscape of smooth grey rock slabs and ribs dominating over mountain flora. I loved the thought of seeing them up-close, but somehow we never really had a chance of exploring any fjellstuas… until we came to Rago National Park!
First, we planned a possible route; we ensured to include the most unique and iconic locations along our way. Only then we calculated the distance and started planning the journey and fitting it into a ‘good weather window’. We thought that 2 days spent in Rago will give us good insight and feel about the park (and we were right!).
We arrived to the small car park (car park 1 directions) along Laksholveien early in the afternoon. First thing we noted was the amount of other cars already parked on the car park and along the road. ‘I thought it was going to be a deserted place!’ I said, but Bea mentioned that many walkers hike to the Litlverivassforsen waterfall as a day trip from nearby towns and most of these cars will probably be gone before we even set off.
We were positively surprised by the car park itself; it had a newly built wind shelter, dedicated bonfire/grill place, a couple of picnic tables and dry toilet nearby. Most importantly, it was located directly over a brisk, crystal clear river, which made it a dream picnic spot, and even better – a fantastic place to spend the night after our return from the hike, the following day.
‘Hmmm’ I thought, ‘tomorrow, when we’re back, we can have a nice, relaxing evening with a bonfire, or even maybe refresh ourselves from the mountain dust in the river!’ This sounded especially appealing to me, wild swim in a crystal waters!
But before all that happened, we actually had to go hiking first, obviously! And before we set off to explore Rago National Park, we still had to prepare and pack!
As we travelled in a self-converted camper, we had all our stuff handy. But it also meant that having arrived to the Litlverivarssforsen trail head, we had to shuffle our belongings in the van in order to find all items and gear necessary for walking. That’s always a pain in the backside, as it involves removing boxes and water tanks etc every time we’re leaving for a multi-day hike (the van is fully stuffed with things, as you can probably imagine!) Nope, it’s not a complaint! We both greatly appreciate being able to travel long term in comfort; having a camper is a definite upgrade, comparing to travelling with a tent!
All packed and ready to go! One last look at the route map and we headed off to explore Rago National Park!
Day 1 – hiking from ‘car park 1’ to Litlverivassforsen waterfall and Solvskaret (10 km, total elevation gain 496 m)
Our first destination was the iconic Litlverivarssforsen waterfall; trail head was very easy to find as it’s a partially marked path, signposted from the car park. We weren’t ready for what was coming thou! We set off to Rago on a hot, still afternoon and after only a couple of steps we realised that the initial walk was anything but easy!
OK, the path was well trodden and easy to follow, but it was incredibly steep! Add the hot weather and a rucksack packed for a 2 days wander and you’ll instantly know the effort we had to put in every step…
Madly sweating we pushed further and higher. Instantly, we felt uneasy about the amount of water we carried. As per the map, we were to pass a couple of streams on our way to Litlverivarssforsen, but we were aware that the continuous hot weather and lack of rain for nearly 2 months, resulted in very low level of rivers and streams… Indeed, along the way we passed 2 streams, but both reminded small paddles of cloudy soup rather than flowing water; both unsuitable to drink.
As we followed the trail, we passed raspberry and blackberry bushes, lush vegetation, tall spruce and pine trees. But when we gained height, we noted that the vegetation around us changed; we spotted species typical for colder areas, further north.
To our astonishment, we spotted the characteristic little ‘balls’ of cloudberry fruits! None of us expected to see them in a region so far south! Still hardly believing our eyes, we run off the trail in excitement to look for the ripe ones. We completely forgot about the tiredness and the weight on our shoulders!
However, what we thought to be a ‘cloudberry bonanza’ turned out to be a ‘cloudberry torture’… All the fruits were still red, not quite ripe yet!
I guess, only a person familiar with the ‘gold of the north’ (as cloudberries are sometimes called) can appreciate the disappointment we felt. How ironic is to find a spot with hundreds of cloudberries, but being unable to enjoy them!!!
Since the path flattened we finally could catch our breath and take a short break. We came to a viewpoint and were greeted by joyful barking of a small cute dog… and a bright ‘hello’ (followed by a curious chat with couple from Tromso). These were the first humans we saw along the trail, till then we were only accompanied by enormous amount of berries!
Uplifted by beautiful views and easier path underfoot, we continued further. Finally we were on partially open, flat-ish ground; trees around us thinned and changed, from pines and spruces to birches. It felt like we entered a new area, left the lush forest behind and progressed into an arctic scenery, with many signs typical for much colder regions of Swedish and Finnish Lapland. This made us wonder, was Rago National Park a thin line between these two worlds?
With every step the views were changing; suddenly the trail took us over large flat white slabs and rock ribs. Before our eyes were rugged mountains, also covered by massive slabs. They looked so inaccessible and … arctic. Yes, I think that ‘arctic’ is the word best describing what we saw and felt. Rough, wild landscape, vast spaces and snow fields still remaining in the higher parts. The view was out of this world!
We also admired the colours around us; it seemed that tundra have already for autumn. Yellow, orange and brown grass matched colour of the rock perfectly. Despite the lush green forest blooming on lower ground, we found that higher up was already early autumn…
In no time we came to another viewpoint, and we were truly awed! This was the most spectacular scene, the iconic view of Rago National Park. One has to see it on a nice sunny day in early autumn, to fully appreciate it…
We arrived to Litlverivatnet, a blue lake surrounded by rough peaks. In warm, afternoon sun it looked stunning! The lake feeds a unique Litlverivarssforsen; more a ‘water-slide’ than a ‘water-fall’, but impressive just the same. Even from afar we could hear its thundery noise!
Mountains in the distance were dotted by remains of snow and ice, scarred by white lines of waterfalls. Yes, I’m going to say it again – it looked so ‘arctic’! And I can’t help, but show you another photograph of Litlverivarssforsen!
Amazed by the view we felt totally under the spell of Rago National Park! Oh, what a place!
We descended to the lake and crossed the top of Litlverivarssforsen over the bridge. A thought came to my mind, ‘what if we stay overnight at the lake? We would wake up to the view of waterfall disappearing into a green valley down below, illuminated by rising sun…’ but at the same time I was aware that we had only walked 6 km of a 25 km route… so we filled water bottle, enjoyed the view for a couple more minutes and moved on.
Initially we walked along the lake, but soon the path took us a bit higher and we climbed Solvskaret, the highest point along the trail.
At this point the path as we knew it totally disappeared, giving way to rough rocks, small swamps, randomly placed boulders. However, from time to time we could still spot the red marks painted on the ground or rocks; it was sufficient to give us a general direction.
Traversing Solvskaret, we found it a good viewpoint to the meanders of Tjonnmoa. The river winds thru a spruce forest, watching it from above was very interesting; some old parts of the river already cut off, new currents endlessly shaping perfect curves…
Usually, while on a multi-day hike we take great care to pick a perfect camping spot. We don’t just choose one at random! Quite the opposite – surrounded by beautiful nature, we expect the overnight stay spot to have a nice view, to be close to fresh water, to be dry and flat. That’s not always possible to get, of course, but we give it our best shot. Sometimes we walk on for several kilometres in search of a perfect camping place. This was the case during the Rago adventure.
Having consulted the map, we knew that there was a great camping spot further along the trail, but we hoped to find another one a bit closer to ensure we have sufficient time to prepare a meal before sunset.
Climbing the steep path to the waterfall and the never-ending ups-and-downs of traversing Solvskaret wore us out. However, despite passing a few suitable locations, we pushed on for another 4 km until we reached the ‘dream camping spot’.
What was so special about the Solvskarvatnan area? For starters, the views were fantastic – especially over the lake, with mountains illuminated red by setting sun. Secondly, we had two lakes, a stream and a small waterfall at our disposal! That meant, we were able to have a proper bath in the evening and unlimited drinking water. Lastly, we managed to pitch on a perfectly flat, sheltered spot – good night sleep was guaranteed!
We were especially happy to refresh ourselves in a small waterfall. What a joy that was! We didn’t even mind cold water, we totally embraced the opportunity and the fact that we were invisible from the trail, just in case some late hikers showed up…
DAY 2 – DESCENT FROM LAKE SOLVSKARVATNAN TO STORSKOGVASSHYTTA MOUNTAIN HUT AND RETURN TO CAR PARK 2 (15 km, total elevation gain 450 m)
Morning brought more sunshine and calm weather. After a hearty breakfast we packed our ‘home’ and hit the trail again, following the sign to ‘new path’.
Our next destination was Storskogvasshytta (mountain hut) set in spectacular surroundings of lake Storskogvatnet and old pine & spruce forest. Walking on a higher ground we could see a small boathouse and a waterfall located near the hut, it seemed we were so close already! However, it turned out we were wrong, as the path winded further thru the park. Despite the amazing scenery and views we enjoyed along this section, we quickly got tired of endless ups-and-downs and steep descents.
We also passed a couple of smaller viewpoints giving us a completely different overlook than the previous day. We had an insight into a hidden world of hundreds of small lakes and ponds, ravines, rugged slopes shaped by mighty nature and harsh weather. The sensation of hiking thru the old pine forest was very intense; trees warmed by the hot morning sun smelled amazing, birds chirped… we felt totally spoilt by Rago National Park!
With relief we welcomed the sight of lake Storskogvatnet; we finally descended to lower grounds! Of course, we couldn’t ignore such great opportunity to have a break! The lake was still, rocks and pines reflected in its waters. We dropped the bags and enjoyed sunshine. For a moment Bea even considered having a swim! But as soon as I put my feet in water, I knew I wouldn’t accompany her; water was icy cold!
Finally we decided to move on; Storskogvasshytta mountain hut was only a stones throw away.
In order to reach the hut, we had to get over another waterfall, very similar to Litlverivassforsen but much smaller (unfortunately it’s not visible from the hut, the best view of this waterfall is from higher ground). We crossed it over a long rope bridge; the crossing itself was an adventure and we knew some hikers found it challenging. The bridge sags considerably under person’s weight, it bounces a lot in all directions. I loved it thou, and crossed it several times!
Having crossed the bridge we passed a small wooden boat house and only a couple of steps later we arrived to Storskogvasshytta.
Storskogvasshytta is a small mountain hut, built near lake Storskogvatnet. Part of the hut is open and free to use; there are 2 basic bunk beds, a table and a simple kitchen. We took this as an opportunity to have a proper meal, we had been already hiking for some time and felt the need to build up new energy.
We were very surprised to find out that Storskogvasshytta is quite popular amongst Czech walkers; the instructions and a welcome note inside were in Norwegian, English and Czech! How intriguing!
Finally, after over an hour break, we were ready to hit the trail again! Our final destination was ‘car park 2’, which was still over 7 km away. Leaving Storskogvasshytta we entered a dense forest and were looking forward to a chilled walk over a good path. Which didn’t happen!
Very soon we realised that there is no such thing as ‘easy chilled section’ in Rago National Park, as every path and trail required some effort, sooner or later. Walking towards the car park was no exception; the trail took us up, over small rough hills, then down to meadows, then up the cliff again, then down to wetlands, then up over the ravine, on and on, and on… Also, path required great care as tree roots were sticking out, some sections were very steep (and would be very slippery in wet weather!) and some of infrastructure, like log steps and planked walkways were damaged in places.
Last couple of kilometres we followed the beautifully meandering river (which we have previously viewed from high grounds). But even walking along the river we still had to take a lot of care due to large rocks and trees blocking the way! And on the very last kilometre before ‘car park 2’, when we thought nothing can surprise us anymore, we had to climb another small hill! Oh!
‘Car park 2’ is located at the end of the road, in Lakshol village (hardly a couple of dwellings). Phew, we felt really happy to have reached it at last! We found the final section of the hike (between mountain hut and Lakshol) quite tiring. We actually were looking forward to walking the remaining 2 km (to car park 1) along paved road, flat and reasonably smooth!
WILD CAMPING IN RAGO NATIONAL PARK AND NEAREST CAMPSITE
We feel that Rago National Park is one of the best areas in Norway for wild camping. Not only the area is of great beauty, but finding a perfect overnight spot is quite easy.
Along the 2 days trail we described above, were countless awesome camping spots, we were spoilt with choice! The best spots were located at the viewpoint to Litlverivarssforsen (before the bridge), over Litlverivatnet, between the waterfall and Solvskarvatnan (and further, between the small lakes), and over Storsgokvatnet lake. There is a makeshift dedicated camping ground in the vicinity of Storskogvasshytta, but to be honest we came across hundreds of other locations along the trail and recommend settling in a spot with more ‘atmosphere’.
If you’re not hiking with a tent and would like to stay overnight at Storskogvasshytta, keep in mind that there are only 4 beds available the in free part of the hut, otherwise contact local DNT office to pick up the key for a ‘reservable part’ of the hut.
You can also stay overnight at the car park 1: there are suitable spaces for a tent nearby, overnight stay in the camper is also allowed.
Nearest campsite has a unique location – on a river island Torkjelengoyra. It’s only 3 km away from car park 1. We intended to stay at the campsite, but after coming to see it, we decided against. Oyra Camping does not have a guest kitchen and shower is not included in the pitch price, which already we felt a bit too expensive.
2 DAYS CIRCULAR HIKE IN RAGO NATIONAL PARK – HIKING MAP
Although we didn’t have a paper map of Rago NP, during our hike we navigated using off-line application ‘MAPS.ME’. It’s only a basic navigation tool (reflects trails and paths only, no terrain info) but we found it very handy on countless occasions. All paths and trails of Rago nasjonalpark are reflected on the app.
While planning the 2 day hike in Rago we used online hiking map of Norway, Norgeskart.
HOW TO SHORTEN AND EXTEND YOUR VISIT TO RAGO NP
Rago National Park is a hikers paradise, there are several possible hiking routes, long and short distance. Below we’re listing some ideas:
- visit to the Litlverivassforsen waterfall only. It’s a strenuous 6 km hike (one way), with a considerate 500 metres elevation gain. The trail is well trodden and marked, there are several benches provided along the way, some of them directly along the path, some at viewpoints. For detailed description see ‘Day 1’ section, above. Starting point: car park 1.
- hike to Storskogvasshytta mountain hut only. This 7 km trail (one way) leads along meandering river and upper Nordskaret, towards lake Storskogvatnet. Along the trail you’ll have to go over large rocks and climb wooden log stairs – these can be dangerous when wet. The highest point along the route is Storskogvatnet, at 191 masl. For more details see ‘Day 2’ (we walked opposite direction).
- Walk from Rago nasjonalpark towards Padjelanta and Sarek national parks in Swedish Lapland. As we mentioned in the introduction, Rago NP is a perfect gate for exploration of Sweden’s wild areas. Padjelanta and Sarek parks are a natural continuation of Rago. The 3 national parks are connected by a web of trails and paths and make an ultimate wilderness land of The North. The most direct trail towards Sweden runs from ‘car park 2’, via Storskogvasshytta, Ragohytta (7 km further) and crosses the border to Sweden at the foot of Rago mountain (the highest peak of Rago NP at 1312 masl, topped with a glacier!). Keep in mind, thou, that further parts of Rago, as well as Swedish national parks are wild, undeveloped, with only few marked trails (part of Kungsleden, section of Padjelantaleden, part of Nordkalottleden) and without mobile coverage. If you decide to venture into these amazing wild areas, you’ll be on your own; it’s only recommended for seasoned, confident hikers!
WHAT WE LOVED ABOUT EXPLORING RAGO NASJONALPARK
Without hesitation we can recommend visiting Rago National Park. We spent a fantastic time exploring the area, we literally loved everything about Rago NP. The views awed us at every corner, we felt privileged to sleep with such views right outside our ‘bedroom’, we enjoyed bathing in a waterfall and loved the abundance of berries. Litlverivassforsen waterfall was breathtaking, as was location of Storskogvasshytta. Would we return to see some more of Rago NP! The answer is a BIG YES!