Hiking to Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) is one of Norway’s most popular things to do, and is a great experience from Stavanger. In this post, we’ll share photos, our hike report, tips for how to do this hike as a cruise port activity, and much more.
The hike to Preikestolen is moderately difficult, with well-marked trails that are completely safe (albeit somewhat strenuous due to the elevation gain for a couple of short stretches). The hike takes around 4 hours round-trip, is 4.4 miles long with an elevation gain of ~1,000 feet. The trek to Pulpit Rock is Norway’s most famous hike due to its incredible vista overlooking Lysefjord.
We did the hike to Pulpit Rock during our DCL Norwegian Fjords cruise (so if you’ve already read our report on that experience, this is nothing new), with the commute to the trailhead and the hike itself consuming almost the entirety of our port day. Despite the time commitment, we felt the hike to Pulpit Rock was 100% worth it, as it was one of the best hikes we’ve ever done…
Going into this hike, we knew that it would take our entire day, but in reviewing the different options in Stavanger (many of which looked quite fun), and then seeing photos of Pulpit Rock, it was an easy choice for us. Fortunately (I guess?), we fell in love with Norway during our visit, so we’ll be back at some point in the future to visit the other must-dos that we missed on this trip.
The threshold question is whether hiking to Pulpit Rock is for you. As noted, this is a moderately intense hike, but an entirely safe one. There is no scrambling involved, and aside from the ledge at Pulpit Rock, you’re never near any ledges, and even then, you only are if you want to be.
The hike to Pulpit Rock is appropriate for people of all ages who are physically fit to a reasonable degree. You will need hiking shoes, and I’d also recommend athletic attire and a hydration pack.
I’d also recommend a thin, waterproof and windproof jacket (think GORE-TEX). Unless you’re visiting at a particularly cold time of the year (in which case snow might preclude you from doing the hike), you won’t need any insulating layer because you’ll be on the move.
Most cruise lines, Disney included, offer an all-inclusive port excursion for hiking to Pulpit Rock, that takes the DYI transportation element and uncertainty of missing your boat’s boarding call out of the equation. However, as people who love to live on the edge, we opted to retain this to keep things exciting.
That, or we were too cheap to pay the exorbitant price for the all-inclusive option. Instead, I did some research and found what appeared to be a relatively easy way to do the hike to Pulpit Rock on our own via public transit.
For this, we’d recommend purchasing a Tide Ferry & Bus ticket. With that ticket in hand, be ready to get off your ship bright and early and make a mad-dash to the ferry, which is about 15 minutes away.
We literally ran through Stavanger, and made it onto the ferry just before the boat left (promptly at 8 a.m.). Running was most definitely of the essence for us; if we were cleared to go ashore just 2 minutes later, we would have missed the ferry.
Catching that first ferry offered a huge advantage in terms of crowds on what can otherwise be a busy and narrow trail. I’d hazard a guess that we saved over an hour of time of by virtue of catching that first ferry.
From the ferry, Tide has buses that are synchronized, so it’s a simple matter of stepping off the ferry and lining up for the bus. All told, the ferry and bus take around 70 minutes to get you to the Pulpit Rock trailhead. The hike starts from the parking area by the Preikestolen Mountain Lodge, which also offers a restaurant, restrooms, and other facilities.
Speaking of the parking area, on the off-chance you’re reading this as someone who is renting a car in Norway and doing everything on your own, I would highly recommend doing this hike early in the morning (starting by 8 a.m.) or after 3 p.m.
The hiking season for Pulpit Rock is April through October, with the snow closing the trail outside of those times. Peak season is during the summer months, which coincides with vacation and the cruise season, of June through August. Weekends also bring out the locals, so if at all possible, do what you can to avoid when other people will be there.
Reason being, most of the hikers are arriving from Stavanger via the ferry/bus, so if you work outside of their schedule, you should encounter exponentially fewer people. Personally, I’m not particularly keen on crowded hikes, so this would be my approach if I were to do the hike again outside of a cruise.
From the trailhead, the hike to Preikestolen is roughly 4 hours long, plus however long you want to spend up at Pulpit Rock. Be sure to take plenty of water, and you might also want to pack a lunch to enjoy at the plateau.
Tide is one of two bus services operating at the trailhead–if you’re tight on time, you may have to purchase a ticket for the other bus. No big deal. While we encountered many people on the cruise who fretted about having to turn around before making it to Pulpit Rock, or worried about worst case scenarios involving paying for a taxi from the trailhead to the cruise port.
Above, I described the hike as ‘moderate’ which I’d call an accurate rating based upon my experience with other hikes. Sarah is more of a casual hiker, who usually sits out my crazier adventures. (Details about strenuousness and dangerousness of hikes I do are sometimes omitted when I tell her the stories from my hikes. 😉 )
I mention this because Sarah and I have different opinions on the strenuousness of the hike to Pulpit Rock. She’d describe the hike to Pulpit Rock as intense. Thankfully, she found a blog that described the hike as “easy” while we were researching the trip.
To the badass Norwegian who thinks this hike is easy, I am eternally grateful. I think Sarah would have been discouraged from doing the hike had she read more about its intensity. Really, though, it’s not that bad, and she agreed with me that it was worth the effort.
The beginning of the hike was the most intense stretch, with the first 20 minutes or so consisting entirely uphill. This took the form of well-maintained rock steps, although I’m not sure that was preferable to dirt switchbacks, given that it was drizzling and the rocks were slick.
Nevertheless, we stopped a few times along the way to catch our breath and admire the vistas. It was fairly slow going at first given said impediments, but things sped up once the trail leveled out.
A series of mostly-flat boardwalks made the next hour of the hike significantly easier than the first 20 minutes.
The final 30 minutes of the hike were again on the more intense, and mostly uphill side. I think we noticed this far less because the scenery was also spectacular. We were stopping not because we were out of breath, but because there was landscape begging to be photographed.
It was a really lovely hike, and on the way up we benefited from our early start which meant relatively light crowds. There were still plenty of people on the trail, but not many bottleneck points.
After a little under two hours, we made it into the final uphill stretch, which was absolutely beautiful.
We had almost decided against this hike at the last minute due to weather (we didn’t purchase our Tide tickets in advance in case the weather was bad and we wanted to call a last minute audible), and I’m thankful we did not.
Arriving at Pulpit Rock was simultaneously stunning and unnerving. The view from the top was breathtaking, with a panorama of mountains ahead and Lysefjord snaking past the mountain plateau. It was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever witnessed, and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular hike.
It was also a bit freaky, as the wind howled around us and the Lysefjord was really far down below us. To my surprise, Sarah is afraid of heights. Or, perhaps invisible trolls? I’m not really sure. We’ve been on edgeless observation platforms that have made me squeamish in the past, and she was perfectly fine then.
Just getting her somewhere near the edge of Pulpit Rock was like trying to coax our cat to get into the bathtub. She was not having any of it, and at one time I think she even might’ve hissed at me!
In her defense, it was so windy at Pulpit Rock, to the point that a strong gust could literally knock you back a bit. As important as a legit “mountain serenity” selfie might be, it seemed most people actually had the good sense to stay away from the edge.
I have no such sense. I’d probably mindlessly walk off a cliff like a lemming if I thought it’d offer a better perspective for a photo, and I was willing to get really close to “the shot.” I like to call this attitude a willingness to take ‘calculated risks’ but I suppose an argument could be made that it’s foolish.
Despite undesirable weather, we spent nearly an hour at the top of Preikestolen. The view down at the fjord and just the grandeur of the scenery and the impressiveness of this defiant mountain plateau was really something else. Pulpit Rock had this rapturous quality to it. Difficult to explain, but it was nonetheless a thrill and fun place to simply be.
Even though Pulpit Rock was quite crowded, it was not nearly as busy as I’d seen it in photos. I think our early hour coupled with the weather had kept the crowd level manageable.
My one regret was that we had not packed a lunch to have a picnic at the top. Oh, and that we didn’t have a beautiful sky with puffy clouds…but it’s difficult to “regret” something over which we don’t have control.
The hike back down was not nearly as pleasant as the hike up. At this point, the trail was significantly busier, and there were bottlenecks at numerous points. If you’re hiking alone and are relatively sure-footed, this wouldn’t be such a problem because you could pretty easily bounce around, but that’s not simple when you’re with a group.
This is why it takes about the same amount of time down as it does up, which is a rarity with a hike with such an elevation gain like this. If you had an empty trail, I could see a fit individual making it down in a little over an hour. Although I indicated the hike would take ~4 hours above, that was a conservative estimate. If you’re in good shape and it’s a dry day, I could easily see making the hike in 3 hours flat. Perhaps even less if you drive and avoid the crowds.
We finished our return hike with about 10 minutes to spare before the next Tide bus was to arrive. There was a modest crowd around the bus stop, some of which had formed into line. A good idea, since it seemed like there might be more people than the bus could accommodate.
Of course, not everyone formed a line, and a free-for-all situation developed once the bus arrived. Suffice to say, this did not end well. Some pushing ensued, and the atmosphere became decidedly more tense. The good news was that another bus arrived shortly thereafter (the regularly-scheduled one), so this all ended up being for naught. After an uncomfortable bus ride, we caught the ferry as scheduled.
We arrived back in Stavanger shortly with around an hour before we had to be back aboard our ship, which left us a bit of time to explore the city briefly…which of course we spent trying to find food (even though there was plenty of “free” food on our ship), because that’s how we roll.
Thanks to my notes and Google Maps, we quickly found a Godt Brød Bakery nearby, with a mission to get some school bread. This you non-Disney fans, this pastry is a cult-classic item at Epcot’s Norway pavilion, and we were eager to try the “real stuff.” It was nothing short of fantastic. So good, in fact, that we’d see out Godt Brød Bakery again at subsequent ports.
Ultimately, I would highly recommend the hike to Pulpit Rock to anyone visiting Stavanger, Norway. I love to hike, and have done some incredible hikes in the Canadian Rockies, Yosemite National Park, Swiss Alps, and many other locations. I would put the hike to Pulpit Rock among the top 5 hikes I have ever done. It’s a fun experience, and even though it’ll consume most of your time in Stavanger, the hike is well worth it. All in all, our port day in Stavanger was nothing short of exceptional. It was only the first day of our Norway trip, but already the country was exceeding our high expectations.
If you’re planning a visit to Norway, please check out my other posts about the beautiful country. (More coming soon!) I also highly recommend Rick Steves Snapshot Norway and Eyewitness Guides Norway to determine everything you should see and do while there.
Have you visited Stavanger, Norway? Did you do the hike to Pulpit Rock, or something else? What did you think of the experience? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Does visiting Norway interest you? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!