Hiking Norway's Massive Trail System
There is a reason Norwegians look like someone dumped Slimfast into the water supply: Everyone walks. It's not unusual to see couples, often with small children in tow, take advantage of summer's dogged daylight on hour-long hikes through the fjords. "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing" – a local adage that rolls off the tongue more gracefully in Norwegian – is a constant refrain. When travelers decide to experience the angular majesty of fjordland from the deck of a cruise ship or a helicopter, locals are confounded; to them it is like experiencing the Louvre by driving past in a Peugeot.
Adventurers in the know take advantage of Norway's 20,000 km trail system, which winds around virtually every topographic blip in the country. The accessible yet fairly remote section of this massive maze near Balestrand is particularly lovely. The waterfall-to-hiker ratio is off the charts. Hikers looking to revel in Scandinavia's summer warmth can wander the trails for days thanks to the Norwegian Trekking Association's huts. There are currently 420 of these basic wood, sand, and stone structures, which are similar in aspect and purpose to those along the Appalachian Trail. Some offer food, comfortable beds, and pre-stoked fires, while others simply offer hikers a key and a little shelter. The Skålatårnet shelter is a particular memorable waystation – it looks like the lone stone turret of a medieval castle perched atop a mountain.
Visitors to the Southern fjords near Stavanger will be able to see the massive overhang Pulpit Rock on an overnight hike and stay in one of the country's more modern mountain huts. With 110,000 people a year glancing over the knee-shaking edge of the 604-meter high slab of rock, this is hardly a lonely hike, but the view is striking enough to justify the crowd.
Like everything else in Norway, the world's most expensive country, trail hiking can be a bit pricey: Huts charge roughly $100 a night with full board. Consider it both a travel and a cosmetic investment. Put enough miles on and you, too, can be as strapping as a Norwegian.
More information: Balestrand is a six-hour drive from Oslo through absolutely beautiful forests. Stop in Hemsedal for a round of golf or a warm up stroll up one of the local ski slopes.