Austerdalsbreen is an easily accessed glacier viewpoint compared to many other glacier hikes, and it is absolutely incredible. We were so surprised at how incredible of views we were able to get from this hike that is mostly flat.
I love glaciers so much and this one is huge. Austerdalsbreen is an arm of the Jostedalsbreen glacier. Part of the hike is the Jostedalsbreen National Park. Compared to other areas, this area was much less visited and felt like we had this huge glacier all to ourselves. This guide tells you all you need to know to hike to Austerdalsbreen.
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*****Everything in this article is my personal opinion and experiences. Check your own resources and choose to do anything I discuss at your own risk. Some of the things in this post may be dangerous and not recommended for every body.
About Austerdalsbreen and Jostedalsbreen National Park
Austerdalsbreen is one arm of the huge Jostedalsbreen (-breen means glacier). Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier in mainland Europe (with the largest glacier in Europe being in Iceland). The glacier and the area around were designated as a national park in 1991. Austerdalsbreen is one of the arms of the glacier that you can visit, but it is less visited than Nigardsbreen and Boyabreen. For more information about Jostedalsbreen National Park, check out the Norway Tourism website.
The Hike to Austerdalsbreen
Trailhead location: Tungestolen
Length: 6.7 miles RT
Elevation Gain: around 1000ft
I absolutely loved this hike and was surprised at how nice the views were. It was not a difficult hike to get great views. Even though it is in the national park, we did not see very many people on the hike to Austerdalsbreen. It was not crowded, but the trail is very well-kept and well-marked.
The trail starts from Tungestolen where there is a very nice DNT hut (side note: Tungestolen translated means Tongue Twister). The river you cross to start the trail is the same river that is coming directly from the glacier you will see at the end of the trail.
For the first probably half mile, there is some tree cover as the trail weaves along a hillside. This first part of the trail is a little rocky and slippery with mud. Eventually the trail slightly descends into the flat area that will make up the majority of the hike. There are sheep in this area, so you may here the melodic clanking of bells while walking the trail.
The trail in this flat part follows the river, but there are many stream crossings and low-laying water that makes the trail a bit muddy. This is definitely a trail that you want to wear boots or shoes that can get really muddy. There are shrubs and bushes, but the trail is mostly pretty exposed to the elements from here to the viewpoint. Over most of the little water crossings, there are little bridges to help you across.
You can see the trail on the hill in front of you at the end of the flat area, which is the trail that you will be taking. When you get to the hill, the scree will begin. Climb the hill, following the trail. At the top of the hill will be a little monument about an explorer that loved this glacier and you will get your first view of the glacier.
However, to see the glacier even better, continue on the trail. As you go around the hillside, you will see greater views of the glacier and how expansive it is. Once you get to the full scree field (where it is only rocks and dust around, not really any vegetation), the trail is harder to find. There are some rocks marked with red denoting the official trail.
To return, there are two options: continue back the way you came OR descend to take the trail that goes along the glacial lagoon and river. Depending on what map you have, it may show a trail that connects down to the lower trail. Try to follow the official trail if you can, but you may have to follow an unmarked trail to get you down to the bottom. Since the rocks are constantly moving, the official path may have changed since it was last marked.
Once you reach the flatter, sandier area closer to the water, the trail will be easier to follow. Depending on the day you visit and the conditions, you may even be able to touch a mini iceberg part of the glacier. Follow the lower trail and it will meet up with the original trail you walked on after the hill.
How to Get to the Trailhead
Location: Tungestolen Parkering
There are a few things to know before driving out to Tungestolen to start the hike. First of all, the road is around 38 km long and narrow pretty much the entire way. Throughout the road there are multiple pull-offs to allow cars to pass as needed.
The scariest part of the road are the unlit, single lane tunnels (for two-way traffic). There are several tunnels, some around a kilometer long. They are dark and only have room for one car. In the tunnel there are pull-offs for cars to pass if you meet a car coming the opposite direction. They are doable, just go slow and take your time.
The road isn’t heavily trafficked, so it is unlikely that you will encounter many people on these parts of the road.
As you pass the last town before reaching Tungestolen, the road becomes a toll road (Bomveg Tollroad). There is a little shack to stop at that has instructions for paying. If you are from Norway and are able to have Vipps, you can pay with Vipps.
However, if you don’t have a Vipps account (like us), you can pay with credit card at a little kiosk. There is also a box for cash if you prefer to pay with cash. From the beginning of the tollroad, it is a well-maintained gravel road until you reach the trailhead.
Things to bring on the hike
- Sturdy Shoes (boots preferable due to the mud)
- Rain jacket
- Rain backpack cover
- First aid kit
- Hiking poles (could be useful here, but not necessary)
I have included Amazon links above to some of our favorite products, but what you already have is perfect. Also, if needing to purchase gear in Norway, we thought “XXL” was the most affordable and had the most choices out of all the outdoor stores. XXL can be found closer to cities like Oslo and Bergen.
Tips for hiking to Austerdalsbreen
The trail to Austerdalsbreen is pretty exposed and in an open flat valley without much vegetation. If there is inclement weather, there is nowhere to take shelter. Also, much of the trail in the valley is traversing over and through creeks and small waterways, so if there is a lot of rain while you are out, it could make returning much more difficult. Check the weather before your hike and never be afraid to turn around if needed.
Be careful when walking on the scree
Scree is technically loose rocks on a mountain or hill. As you get closer to the glacier, the trail weaves over glacier scree on a mountainside. It was dry when we hiked here and there were times when we could no longer see the trail due to the ever-changing nature of the glacial scree. The rocks are very loose and it is very easy to slip and fall or for rocks to slide out from under you.
Be extra careful if it is raining or the rocks are wet when you visit as they will be slicker and also more likely to move.
Don’t get too close to the glacier
Unless you are familiar with this specific glacier, do not get too close to the glacier. They are dynamic and constantly changing, melting, and calving. They can dramatically change without any signs and without time for you to get out of their path. People have died in Norway from the Jostedalsbreen glacier and for getting too close without experience or guidance.
If you are interested in hiking on Austerdalsbreen, check with the Tungestolen DNT hut at the trailhead as they sometimes have guided glacier hikes on Austerdalsbreen.
Staying near Austerdalsbreen
DNT Hut at Tungestolen
There is a gorgeous DNT hut at Tungestolen. I did not know that it even existed before we went to the trailhead for the hike. It looks truly incredible from both the outside in the inside. More information and booking information can be found on the DNT website.
Side note: You can book and stay at a DNT hut without being a DNT member. The DNT website is ONLY in Norwegian, so unless you speak Norwegian, I recommend having the Google Chrome Plug-in for Google Translate so that everything auto translates.
There are several AirBnbs located in Hafslo, which is around 38km away from the trailhead, but is the close to the main road.
Norway is one of the magical places that camping is always an option. You can wild camp anywhere along the trail, although most of the trail is pretty wet and there is livestock around, so I don’t know if on the trail is really the best choice here. However, at the trailhead there are large fields you could set up a tent in and loads of roadside pull-offs for boondocking if you’re in a camper van.
Other places to visit in Jostedalsbreen National Park
Nigardsbreen is one of the most popular parts of Jostedalsbreen to visit. It is east of the Austerdalsbreen area. One of the cool things to do at Nigardsbreen if you’re up for it is a Blue Ice Hike, hiking onto the glacier and getting to see the ice up close. You can also hike up close to the glacier on pretty developed trail even if you don’t plan on doing a glacier tour. See my Nigardsbreen Blog Post for more information about Nigardsbreen.
Boyabreen is another branch of Jostedalsbreen that is accessible. Unlike the other arms of the glacier, Boyabreen is visible without really any hiking. There is a restaurant and café near the parking area, where you can see the glacier. A short trail leads to the edge of a glacial lake with more views of the glacier. Boyabreen has melted a lot in recent years and is a bit farther away up on the mountainside, but is still nice to see.
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Overall, this is all the information on how to visit Austerdalsbreen for yourself! It is such an incredible hike, with the reward of a beautiful glacier. Let me know if you have any comments or questions below!
Thanks for reading!