Hike St Olav Ways in Norway
A wonderful and practically undiscovered pilgrimmage route that rivals the El Camino in Spain in its beauty and fulfillment, is St. Olav Way sin Norway. St Olaf is a viking king who united Norway and introduced Christianity to Scandinavia. There have been many miracles attributed to St. Olaf Haraldsson (995-1030), so since medieval times, people have walked to Trondheim Cathedral to repent for sins, pray for healing and/or ask for blessings. Today, folks walk it not just for traditional pilgrimmage reasons, but also for the joy of taking a long distance walk for both beauty and mental clarity.
The paths that makes up St. Olaf's Way are historical routes that people once used to use get to the cathedral. Less than twenty years ago, they began signposting these traditional paths, which brought about a revival of these pilgrimmage routes. Yet still, barely 1000 people walk it each year, and mostly along just one of the trails. Compare that to the over 200,000 folks who walk the El Camino! If you are looking for the peace and tranquility that used to describe the El Camino, perhaps this is a better option for you!
This pilgrimmage is actually made of of seven different routes through rural Norway (some begin in Sweden). which lead to where St Olaf is supposed to be buried at Trondheim Cathedral. These well marked paths allow you to experience Norway away from the throngs of tourists who cluster along the fjords! Walk from June 1 – August 31.
Choose one of the seven paths of St Olav Ways
1. The Gudbrandsdalen Path
If you've got four weeks, consider the most popular path, and what was once the main road used during the Middle Ages to get to Trondheim. Almost three quarters of pilgrims take this 399 mile path.
2. St Olav's Path
Like a lot of history? This 350 mile path starts in Selånger in Sweden, and was used by Saint Olav Haraldson himself on his final journey en route to the historic 1030 battle in Stiklestad.
3. The Østerdalen Path
Got a lot of hiking experience and love being in the middle of no where? Consider this 310 mile path that showcases the magnificent ruggedness of Norway. Perfect for those who want to get away from it all!
4. The North Path
This northernmost 186 mile path begins at the Gloshaug Church in Gloshaugen and eventually hooks up to the St Olav Path (#2 above) in Stikelstad. This historical way passes many areas with a connection to St Olav.
5. The Rombo Path
Get a taste of both Norway and Sweden on the oldest pilgrimmage path in Norway. A bit shorter at just 93 miles, this path will take you from the forests of Sweden through the countryside of Norway!
6. The Borg Path
Like the North Path, the 109 mile Borg Path connects with another pilgrimmage path, the Gudbrandsdalen Path (#1 above), to finish up in Trondheim. If you are a cyclist, note that there are many sections you can bike!
7. Valldals Path
You don't want to miss the fjords, do you? Here's another path that hooks up with the Gudbrandsdalen Path (#1 above).
Need more info to determine which path?
Check out the excellent maps and more photos here!
Planning your St Olav Ways Hike
Fortunately, there is a fabulous resource available online that can take you step by step.
You can learn more about:
*The Seven Paths
But be sure to also download the Active Travel Adventure's St. Olav Ways Travel Planner as well, as it has other important information and links to help you plan your adventure. Click the adjacent box to get your FREE St. Olav Ways Travel Planner!
St Olav Ways Accommodations
This excellent website can help you not only plan which route to take and how long to do it in, you can also select and book Norwegian (only) accommodations according to what you are looking for! I wish all long distance trails were this easy!!!
There are lots of FREE shelters you can stay in along along the route. Or you can choose more experiencial lodgings or a regular hotel. If you are not staying in a hotel, you will most likely need to pack your sleeping bag. The list will outline what you need to bring for sleeping. Call at least a couple of days in advance to book.
Norway allows wild camping, called Right of Access or Right to Roam, but please be courteous and follow the rules if you choose to backpack.
Some of the accommodations may have laundry facilities, but usually you'll have to do it yourself, or you might have to use a sink. So bring some laundry soap and a strong but lightweight cord to hang your clothes (I like parachute cord).
St Olav Ways Food
You will likely be hiking without much access to grocery stores (and the ones you find are usually closed on Sunday), so be prepared to bring most of your food for the day. It's a good idea to check with others you meet along the path or your host to get an idea of what to bring for any given day.
You can usually find at least one restaurant or diner open during each day, and most – but not all– will have ATM's. However, it's best to keep about 3000 kroner on hand in small bills to be safe.
What you'll see along the St Olav Ways
On these paths, you'll get to see a diversity of Norwegian life and landscape, from cities like Oslo, to forests, pastures, mountains, valleys and fjords. Long distance hikes are truly a wonderful way to explore a country!
But it is important to stay safe. If you are not an experienced hiker, stick to the less remote paths, such as the Gudbrandsdalen Path (#1 above). Also, don't rush yourself! Plan your walk so that you are challenged but not dead at the end of the day. Give yourself a day off at least once a week.
Only you can judge your fitness and endurance levels, and know how much you will really train ahead of time. I learned the hard way on my recent English Cotswold Way long distance hike, that I would have enjoyed spending more time wandering around the villages. But when I arrived, I was often too tired to explore: SLOW DOWN!!! Nothing says you have to walk the entire length of any given path. One you've determined which path to take, set a modest average daily walking goal and work backwards to figure out where you'll start. On the longer trails, consider breaking up the adventure over multiple trips!
Other Long Distance Trails you might enjoy:
Cycling Trails you might enjoy:
Place a stone on the Cairn along St Olav Ways
Along the trails, as markers, you will come across large stone piles called cairns. Traditionally, cairns were used as a trail marker when there was no trees to blaze or, in mountains where the weather can get so dicey you need something to really stand out in order to find your way. Nowadays, hikers will often add to the pile of stones while simultaneously making a wish or leaving behind a burden represented by the rock. In some countries, this practice is now being discouraged as being damaging to the landscape, so check with locals to see what local customs are wherever you are hiking.
What to Wear on St Olav Ways
Most important is well broken in hiking boots or shoes. Allow room for your feet to swell. I like to wear liner socks (I am now using silk toe ‘glove' socks as liners!) plus wool socks. Even when wet, wool and silk are warm – super important!!!
And for the rest of your clothes, think layers! I bring a base wool underlayment that unless it is BITTERLY cold, I wear only as my pajamas at night. Two pairs each of my wool socks and silk liners. One pair of good hiking pants that breathe and dry quickly. A long sleeve roll up hiking shirt, a short sleeve hiking shirt, two underwears, one sports bra, a rain jacket, a thermal jacket, a wool or balaclava head covering, waterproof gloves, waterproof pants, wool mittens, and if in the shoulder season, an old cashmere pullover. Download my complete PACKING LIST here.
If backpacking, I'll hang my lightweight Croc clogs to my backpack with a carribiner, so I'll have comfortable shoes to walk in at the end of the day. Maybe some fold up ballerina slippers if I am going out to dinner. If I plan to eat at a decent restaurant, I'll also pack a lightweight (nicer) top, but usually I just try to pack as minimally as possible to keep the weight down. Folks along the trails know you've been hiking and they don't care what your clothes look like!
MOST IMPORTANT: Cotton Kills!!! DO NOT bring anything cotton. If you get wet (think sweat OR rain), and it's chilly, cotton will not dry and you can find yourself in trouble. I prefer quality athletic apparel, but if that's not in your budget then use 100% polyester. Get the wool socks and if there is any chance of cold, get the waterproof gloves, too (listen to my episode on hiking the West Highland Way in Scotland to find out why)! You can get away with cheap waterproof pants and jacket/poncho, but if you can afford it, good gear will breathe and you will be happier and more comfortable!
Long Distance Hiking
A long distance hike is very different than day hikes. Often you have to plan your accommodations in advance, which generally means that you MUST make it to your end day's destination, whether you feel like hiking or not.
I actually find that a long distance hike builds my ‘Grit Bone', as sometimes I might feel like an easier day, but I challenge my body to perform for me. It is an empowering feeling (of course that's once you're warm and cozy:). A long distance hike can ba compared to a ‘job' because it is WORK! Often the weather is uncooperative. Sometimes your feet, back or knees hurt. But still you must persevere. A long distance hike will make you super proud of yourself, but it's definitely not for everyone. I would suggest about a 100 mile hike as a test to see if it's for you. So for these paths, consider just doing a section, or try the beautiful 96 mile West Highland Way in Scotland.
Sherry Ott from Otts World
Our guest today is fellow adventure traveler, Sherry Ott. Sherry is an extraordinary world traveler who runs the wonderful travel blog, Otts World. On it you'll learn about her many adventures, get destination information and advice, see some incredible photography (like the ones showcased above) and more. It's a site to bookmark! You can read Sherry's blog post on her walk along the St. Olav Ways here.
Reach out to Sherry on:
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