Trollstigen (also known as the Troll’s Path or Road) is a winding mountain drive in Norway’s Reinheimen National Park that takes visitors through hairpin turns of the Trolltindene mountain range. In this post, we’ll share our report from the Troll’s Path, tips for Trollstigen, and our photos from deep within Norway’s troll country!
If you’re unfamiliar with Trollstigen, the idea of a ‘mountain drive’ might not sound particularly appealing as a thing to do in Norway. However, if you’ve ever been on Pinterest or Instagram, there’s a good chance you’ve unknowingly seen photos of Trollstigen. As you can see from the photo above, it’s breathtaking.
Trollstigen was my #1 choice for our port day in Ålesund. Unfortunately, Troll’s Road is not actually in Ålesund, and doing it would basically consume our entire day. With only four days in port and a ton of other awesome-looking things to do in Ålesund, this was a tough goal. We’d basically be skipping 4-5 other things to do Trollstigen. The lure of those photos was strong, so Trollstigen was our choice. (Plus, we had already resolved to return to Norway by this point of the vacation.)
First, let’s talk logistics. I tried to rent a car in Ålesund so we could do Trollstigen on our own, much like we had done the hike to Pulpit Rock, except this time with a rental car instead of public transit. The alternative was to do a port excursion, which would be pricier and (I feared) allocate time in ways that didn’t mesh with what I’d want.
Unfortunately, the Avis rental car agency in Ålesund was sold out by the time we booked the cruise. To my knowledge, every other rental car place in Ålesund was actually at the airport, and not accessible from the port. (If you’re taking a cruise and need a car for Trollstigen, book early!)
I looked to third party tour operators, but there was nothing. Finally, we considered a Disney Cruise Line Port Adventure. There were two options for this, one without lunch and one with lunch. The cheaper without lunch version was fully booked by the time we booked the cruise.
Even though Trollstigen was the thing I wanted to do most in Ålesund, we went back and forth on booking this expensive ($165 each) excursion for weeks, until finally booking it 3 days before the cruise. Even though we were trying to do this cruise on a tight budget, we figured we’d really regret not experiencing this.
The drive began with a stop at Stordal Church, which gave us time to explore on our own for 15-minutes. This church was beautiful, with a tapestry of fresco paintings covering the interior.
It’s an odd way to describe it, but this felt almost stepping inside the intersection a church and a tattoo sleeve.
Our bus was the first to arrive at this small church (there were several buses), and we immediately raced off the bus to be the first inside the church once we stopped.
The downside of traveling in a large tour group is that you’re part of the kind of tour group that drives other travelers mad and overcrowds sites.
The next stop was somewhere in Valldal valley along the waterfront, which was basically a stop for some photos, and a chance to get refreshments at a nearby cafe.
Following that, we headed to Gudbrandsjuvet. This is a narrow gorge through which the Valldøla River runs. Over this area, a beautiful boardwalk and observation platforms have been built.
If there’s one thing Scandinavia does really well, it’s these organic designs. The styles simultaneously enhance outdoor spaces and blend with them. We noticed this throughout Norway and Denmark.
It’d be great if the U.S. National Park Service took note, as drawing inspiration from these designs (or hiring the architecture firms) would be a great way to spur a whole new wave of ‘parkitecture.’
The chaotic flow of the water here has created some really beautiful formations in the rocks, and the way the boardwalk is built above the river and waterfalls immerses you in the experience and is really great.
We would’ve never even known this place existed if we did the Trollstigen “tour” on our own with a rental car, and it ended up being one of my favorite stops along the way.
The stops we had made up until this point made me really pleased that we did the Path of Trolls. Already, I was satisfied with the experience.
Gudbrandsjuvet is almost something of a base for the drive up Trollstigen. Almost as soon as we had left this lovely little area, we began our ascent, entering Reinheimen National Park.
All of what we experienced up until this point was merely an opening act.
The visuals got progressively better as we passed through Reinheimen National Park, with some beautiful peaks that surpassed even the best in the United States, and rivaled those of the Canadian Rockies and even the Swiss Alps.
However, I don’t think we were prepared for the jaw-dropping grandeur of the view from the top, nor did we comprehend what the Trollstigen had in store for us.
After a meandering through Reinheimen National Park, we arrived at what I guess is the “peak” of Trollstigen, a visitor area known as Stigrøra. This area offers a sweeping view down on the “Troll Ladder,” its 11 hairpin bends, and the mountains in the distance.
You can see everything from Stigrøra, including a panorama of peaks: Kongen (“the King”), Dronningen (“the Queen”), Bispen (“the Bishop”) Trollveggen (“Troll’s Wall”), Romsdalshorn, and Alnestind.
The Troll Ladder is also known as Ørnevegen or “the Eagle Road” (at least, I think so–so many of these spots have multiple names that it’s tough to keep them straight) and this is the steepest part of the mountain road up, starting at over 2,000 feet above sea level and peaking at Stigrøra, which is over 2,800 feet above sea level.
This road is carved into the mountainside and buttressed by rocks, all a pretty impressive feat of engineering. And you thought Scandinavian design was only for cheap, minimalist furniture from big box retailers!
Stigrøra itself is quite beautiful, too. It was designed by Reiulf Ramstad Architects with dramatic lines and organic integration into the rock, soil, and water.
I surmise that this was done both for aesthetic reasons and to minimize the buildings’ exposure to brutal winter weather. Regardless, more stunningly organic Nordic architecture.
According to VisitNorway.com, it also houses a restaurant and the Trollstigen Road Museum exhibiting photos, models and hand tools from its construction.
Unfortunately, we were not able to step inside the visitor center at Stigrøra.
If you do the Path of Trolls, whatever you do, go to the far viewing point. The view is unbeatable, and this is the place from where all the “iconic” photos on Pinterest, etc., are shot. This is one of the most dramatic mountain views I’ve ever seen, and is far superior to the lower viewpoint.
By biggest complaint about doing the guided port excursion is the time provided at the Stigrøra viewpoints and visitor center, which is the main stop at the top of the Trollstigen and what offers the best view of the “Troll Ladder” of hairpin turns.
Our Stigrøra stop was only 30 minutes, which was a disproportionately meager amount of time as compared to other stops. I would’ve gladly cut some of the time we spent at Troll’s Wall or the lunch buffet to have stayed here another 45 minutes up there.
Really, I could’ve spent all day at the peak of Trollstigen. Even in extreme wind and cold, I gladly would’ve spent a few hours just looking out at the panorama, and I’m sure the gift shop, museum, and restaurant all would’ve been worth seeing, too. The views from the top of Trollstigen were intoxicating.
At this point, we began our descent through the 11 hairpin turns of Trollstigen (or Troll’s Ladder…or Eagle Road…or whatever)…
In hindsight, I’m really glad we did the Path of Trolls as a guided excursion, and that’s because I cannot fathom driving that Trollstigen stretch of 11 hairpin turns on our own. It was a nerve-wrecking experience as a passenger. It probably didn’t help that we had a front row seat on the bus, and could see just how close the driver got to the guard rail with each turn.
Those in the back of the bus were probably none the wiser, and might have the perspective that this was a leisurely drive through troll country, but it was not. We’ve done some scary stretches of road in the mountains, and although this did not have any terrifying drops, it had plenty incredibly narrow portions and modest drops. Let’s be real: there’s no practical difference between a 20’ drop and a 200’ one. You’re dead either way.
What made this more disconcerting was all of the buses and the fact that you’re in a foreign country. I can’t say getting into a car accident is my idea of a good time anywhere, but that’s even less the case when in another country, on vacation.
Trollstigen itself was incredible. I’ve done some of the best drives in the United States, including Going to the Sun Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Park Loop Road in Acadia, etc., and none of them compare to this. Neither photos nor words–or anything else aside seeing it with your own eyes–does it justice.
Shortly after finishing the hairpin section of the Path of Trolls, we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant at a place that felt a bit like the Norwegian equivalent of a truck stop shopping center.
This was a huge buffet, with tables set up for something like 11 buses full of visitors. The food actually was not too shabby, although I would’ve preferred to purchase the version of this itinerary that did not include lunch. I would’ve also preferred that this 75-minute truck stop break were considerably shorter.
This was the biggest downside of the group element–Sarah and I could’ve done lunch on our own in like 15 minutes (and at a picnic table with a view). One benefit to renting a car would’ve been skipping this stop entirely and getting back to Ålesund 75 minutes earlier.
We continued on, with the next stop being at Trollveggen…
This cool, but not nearly as impressive once you’ve experienced the height of Trollstigen. It also didn’t help that the sky had clouded over again, and there was light drizzle. We had 30 minutes here, but we both would’ve been fine with a shorter stop.
After that, we began the 2-hour bus ride back to Ålesund. Although we both tried to stay alert and watch our surroundings during the entirety of the bus ride, we each fell asleep at various points of this ride.
Our guide was hoping people would have questions at one point, but no one offered anything. Instead, she started cycling through random topics about Norwegian life, which was fascinating. A lot of this focused on Norwegian folklore, particularly that about trolls. We both found this incredibly interesting, and pretty funny, too.
We’re both incredibly glad that we did the Trollstigen excursion. The tour was pretty efficient and our guide was knowledgeable and had a subtly wry sense of humor that was engaging. While I was concerned that the tour would be bogged down with a lowest common denominator element, it was actually a fairly tight experience aside from the lunch break. Knowing what we do now, I’m not sure I would’ve felt comfortable driving Trollstigen, but your mileage may vary on that.
Even though we had to forgo a ton of other things in Ålesund–an incredibly cool city–we felt the payoff on Trollstigen was more than worth the time commitment and monetary cost. As mentioned, this was the coolest drive we’ve ever done, and the view from the top was nothing short of breathtaking. It also really helped that there were numerous worthwhile stops along the way, which not only broke up the long drive, but also made this multiple compelling experiences, instead of just one long trip for a single view. That single view would’ve been “worth it” even if it were the only thing, but we’re glad it wasn’t. Suffice to say, we’d highly recommend doing Trollstigen on a visit to Norway.
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 Ålesund, Norway? Did you do the Path of Trolls, 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!