About Svartdalen (The Black Valley)
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 14 kilometers (point‑to‑point)
- Elevation Gain: 610 meters
- Duration: 5–8 hours
The popular hiking route from Torfinnsbu to Gjendebu takes you through Svartdalen – meaning “The Black Valley” –, which is often referred to as the most beautiful valley in Jotunheimen. As you wander through this lush valley, majestic towering peaks will surround you, several of which are over 2000 meters high.
The journey starts out from Bygdin, where you catch the historical Bitihorn boat to Torfinnsbu. Here at the shores of the Bygdin lake, you will find the DNT cabin (mountain lodge run by The Norwegian Trekking Association) which has the easiest access to the most 2000+ meter mountaintops of all. From here, you will climb up a steep hill leading into Svartdalen. From there, the terrain through the valley will be relatively flat and easy for eight kilometres, and on your journey, you will be walking alongside beautiful lakes and streams.
During the last leg of the hike, the majestic pyramidal mountain Knutsholstind, will be your companion. This staggering 2342 meter giant, also known as the king of the Gjende Alps – a mountain range in the eastern part of Jotunheimen – was considered Norway’s highest mountain in older times. In actuality, it is the 13th highest one.
As you leave this companion, and the gorgeous valley behind, the track takes on a very steep descent, of about 500 meters over only a few kilometres. As you approach Gjendebu – which is DNT’s oldest cabin –, you will through sheltered birch covered mountainsides, and wander over beautiful flower meadows, possibly alongside grazing cows. As you make your way down, be sure to stop and soak up the view of the emerald green waters of Gjende.
From here, you can hop on one of the Gjende Boats, which will take you to Gjendesheim. The duration of the walk through Svartdalen will be anywhere between 5-8 hours, depending on walking pace. Being dependant on two boats however, only gives you 6,5 hours if you are to make the trip in a day. Should that prove difficult, you can also spend the night at Gjendebu DNT cabin. Situated at 995 meters above sea level, at the intersection of high mountains and forests with a rich variety of peaks and glaciers you can explore, as well as opportunities for mountain fishing, or even beach life with swimming and volleyball, that might not be a bad option at all.
Svartdalen hiking map
The Svartdalen track is located in the eastern parts of Jotunheimen, and takes you through the municipalities of Vågå in Gudbrandsdalen, and Vang in Valdres. The route is 14 kilometers long (point-to-point), with an elevation 610 meters.
Gjendebu has made its name within the Norwegian musical history, as Gjendine Slålien, who was born here in 1871, spellbound the world-renowned Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg, with her beautiful folk song in the late 1800’s. Gjendine really inspired Grieg, and he used many of her folk songs in his music, which would reach worldwide acclaim.
Also, themountain lakes Gjende og Bygdin and the surrounding mountain areas, are considered to be the birthplace of DNT, and the historically significant Norwegian mountain tourism.
The area was earlier considered to be the home of Norway’s highest peaks, several of which have been the root of arguments between mountaineers back in the days. “The king of the Gjende Alps” was originally thought to be the region’s most demanding peak to climb, but a mountaineer named William Cecil Slingsby – the first person to climb Store Skagastølstinden (2405 m) – brought a local milkmaid on his ascent to Knutsholstinden, to prove that it was “a ladies peak”.
Whom the trip fits for
The hike is considered demanding, and is recommended for people in good physical health. The descent down to Gjendebu is especially steep, and becomes extra demanding when the rocks you walk on are wet and slippery.
What you need to bring:
- Map and compass
- A fully charged cellphone
- Food and snacks
- Drinking water
- Comfortable hiking shoes
- Wind- and waterproof jacket and pants
- Hat and mittens
- Thermal underwear
- A sitting pad
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Blister plasters and a simple first aid kit
- Money and/or card
Best time to go to Svartdalen?
As the journey is dependent on boats, the season begins in June when snow and ice has melted in the area, and lasts throughout September. As with other popular destinations, there will be more traffic during high season (July and August) and on weekends, whilst weekdays and low(er) season is quieter.
All our fixed excursions in Svartdalen Valley
Discover Jotunheimen: Besseggen and Svartdalen (4-days)
Try the Jotunheimen highlight combination of two of the best hikes in the area, Svartdalen and Besseggen. The tour is a great fit for hikers in good physical condition and with some previous hiking experience.
For more options, see all our excursions.