The St. Olavs Way is suitable for the experienced bicycle traveler. The route is challenging in relative terms, but...

  • because of the many accomodations, you have the option to do shorter distances.
  • the summers are short, but it is a misconception that they are cool. Warm summers are no exceptions in Scandinavia. The weather does tend to change more quickly than in southern Europe.
  • the Norwegian people are friendly end hospitable: as pilgrim you get a warm welcome.
  • but the most important reason to go over this route is bacause of the wonderful incomparable landcapes Norway has to offer!

All practical information at a glance:

praktisch dovrefjell

Guide

The guide contains:

  • route segmentation per region
  • maps with the bicycle route and the alternative routes
  • elevation profile per segment
  • a global route description
  • information on how hard it is and road surface quality
  • information in attractions and highlights
  • mentions of accommodations, shops and places to eat
  • all the information to arrange your trip to your preferences
  • Three extra bicycle routes: Cycling in Oslo (15 km), Cycling over Nes & Helgøya (79 km) and Tour de Dovre (125 km)
  • Information about transportation
Route-app

An app is also currently being developed. The app is in Dutch, but the route description itself is in English. The app contains the GPS tracks, but also facilities such as supermarkets, bicycle repair shops and accommodations. The app is interactive. That means you can easily report changes and obstacles in the route. As well as adding or assessing any facility.

GPS tracks

The tracks can be found through the QR code in the guide.

For cyclists the Gudbrandsdalsleden is 628 km via the eastern route and 645 km via the western route. The daily distances may be a bit shorter than you are used to, because the route is considered strenuous and challenging. A good basic condition is a must. Time and again you will have to climb out of a valley and because of changing road conditions you will not always be able to descend carefree. Although the hills and mountains are not very high, there are multiple and sometimes steep climbs. Therefore your stamina will be challenged regularly.

However, you can make the days as long or as short as you like, because the pilgrim accommodations are located within walking distance from one another (max. 30 km). You can also choose not to bring a tent with you, which means less weight. If you do take your tent with you, you have a lot of campsites and wild camping spots to choose from.

So do not let the difficulty and the challenges deter you, for you will be greatly rewarded for your efforts: the views are magnificent and instantly make you forget the effort it took to be able to enjoy your surroundings. And it gives you a wonderful excuse to take a break. Add a couple of rest days or take some time to visit Oslo and Trondheim, and you will need two weeks.


Elevation profile

From Oslo there are two routes, an eastern route and a western route. They meet at Lillehammer. The route will be a bit longer if you choose for the western route.

Elevation profile of Oslo to Lillehammer over the eastern route:

hoogteprofieloostroute

Elevation profile of Oslo to Lillehammer over the western route:

elevation profile via west

Elevation profile of Lillehammer to Trondheim:

elevation profile via lil trond

Elevation

Actually, I'm not a fan of displaying the total of ascent and descent in metres. In my view these are just 'numbers' used for indication and can differ in the real world. Depending on the source or app, the elevation can differentiate up to 10%.

For those who still like numbers, there's an overview of numbers in the guide at the beginning of each stage. The source is judise.nl, a gps-route editor who's elevation numbers in Scandinavia are comparable to the popular Strava (for The Netherlands, Belgium and Nord-Rhein Westfalen the numbers of Judise are even more precise). Maybe your route app shows different altitude meters than here for the Gudbrandsdalsleden. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle or above or... and this is exactly the reason that I don't attach much importance to the numbers myself...


And now for a personal note: from experience I know that numbers are not very relevant. In context, over a distance of 600 km a couple of hundred elevation meters are not that useful. What matters most are the percentages in elevation. A kilometre climbing with 3% is different from a kilometre climbing with 18%. Even more relevant is the fact that one day can be better that the next depending on the mood. health, weather... In short, there are many factors that can make the experience of a trip difficult or easy. No number can account for that.

Temperature variationsThe best season for this route is from mid-June till mid-September. Before mid-June there will be snow in the higher areas of the route and after mid-September the snow will start again. In the beginning of spring you may encounter floods caused by meltwater. After mid-September the tourist season is over, and a number of accommodations close their doors.

fietspadThe road conditions for the cycling route are reasonable to good. The larger the roads, the better the conditions. You cycle on paved roads as well as on gravel roads (grusveier). These gravel roads are semi-paved, usually rural roads which are not always easy to cycle on. The conditions vary. Sometimes the roads are very good, sometimes there are holes, cracks, and bumps. All this depends on whether the rain or frost damage has been repaired or not.

Road signThe stages in this guide are described so that you get an impression of the route. In principle the topographic maps will be sufficient. Next to this the route-app or the GPS tracks are handy tools to find the right way. The cycle route follows the (official) hiking trail for 50%. In those stages where the hiking trail and the cycle route run parallel you can use the signage of the official Gudbrandsdalsleden. In the guide these stages are highlighted on the maps. The hiking trail is marked with a logo: a combination of the icons for cultural sights and the St. Olav’s Cross. The logo can be found on wooden poles, plastic shields, enamel shields, and stones. Generally the marking is excellent.

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pilgrims to trondheimCompared to the popular route to Santiago de Compostela (Camino Francès) the Gudbrandsdalsleden is very quiet. Each year some 400,000 pilgrims walk to Santiago; to Nidaros the number is between 1000 and 2000. Especially in the stretch between Oslo and Lillehammer, you can cycle for days without meeting a ‘colleague’. The last 250 km from Dovre are somewhat busier. In the forests and on the plateaus, you meet few people anyway. The Gudbrandsdalsleden is ideal for contemplative people and seekers of peace and quiet. Most pilgrims are German, Norwegian and Dutch. Other Europeans and non-Europeans have discovered the path as well, but so far in small numbers.

If there are any cyclists you will mainly see them on the EuroVelo 7, a national cycle route from Oslo to Trondheim, which runs parallel to the Gudbrandsdalsleden in some stages.

To celebrate the feast day of St. Olav (July 29), the Olavsfestdagene festival is held in Trondheim each year, with many art, music, and church related activities. Not only is it the largest festival in Norway, it is also the time of the year when pilgrims plan to arrive. Groups of pilgrims often arrive on organized trips, so booking accommodation in this period may be more difficult for the individual pilgrim.

accommodatie rennebuAn up to date accommodation list can be found at Accommodations Gudbrandsdalsleden.

The accommodations that are available along the route vary from very basic to luxurious. You need a sleeping bag, even if you do not take a tent with you. In many accommodations, you pay less when you do not use bed linens, and sometimes they are not available at all. This guide mentions the accommodations that have associated themselves with the Gudbrandsdalsleden. More accommodations can be found through Airbnb, Booking.com, Warm Showers, DNT cabins, and various camping-sites.

You encounter enough of restaurants, cafes and shops along the way. Once in a while you'll need to make a detour. The guide provides indications where needed.

camping or staying in accommodations

Carrying a tent with you has some advantages in Norway. There are plenty of campsites along the route. Carrying your own tent allows you to be in charge of your daily schedule, but also helps your budget. Apart from the extra weight you have to carry, the biggest disadvantage is that you often have to buy food for several days ahead. You will not pass supermarkets and places to eat every day. Sometimes, you may even have to make a detour. Staying in a hotel or hostel every night means less weight on your bike, although do need to take a sleeping bag with you. In many places you will be able to get dinner, breakfast, and a packed lunch. But it also means you may not be in charge of your diet (for instance, there might not be a choice at dinnertime). This can be particularly difficult for vegetarians and vegans. Because of the price levels in Norway, eating dinner at your hotel or hostel will make your pilgrimage fairly pricey. If you want to cycle without carrying a tent, but still want to limit your expenses, make sure to stay in as many cabins (at campsites) and cheap hostels as possible, and prepare your own food whenever there are cooking facilities. Because the accommodations are situated within hiking distance from one another you will have a reasonable number of choices even without a tent. In the accomodation overview of the guide you can see what amenities are available there. (See Cycling on a small budget)

Wild camping, shelters and hammocks

Wild camping in nature is allowed almost everywhere in Norway, as long as you are at least 150 metres away from houses and fences. On farmland, you have to ask permission from the farmer. Along the route you can find several shelters, or gapahuks as they are called in Norwegian. These are simple wooden cabins with one side open. You can camp there, and water is generally close by. Between Oslo and Hamar (east route), and Oslo and Granavollen (west route), you can borrow an ultra light-weight hammock (with mosquito netting and tarp) for free! In Oslo you can borrow one at the Oslo pilgrim center. You can return the hammock in the pilgrim centres of Hamar or Granavollen. You can also borrow one at Eidsvoll prestegård and deliver it at Millom (accomodation no. XXX).

There are six pilgrim centres along the route: Oslo, Granavollen (western section), Hamar (Eastern section), Dale-Gudbrand, Dovre, and Trondheim. You can get up to date information on the route and on activities in the regions they are responsible for. You can also buy a pilgrim passport at the centres. The centres in Hamar, Dale-Gudbrands Gard, and Trondheim offer accommodation. Contact information can be found at:

Important information:

In 2024, during high season, Pilgrim centre Oslo will be located at the starting point of the Gudbrandsdalsleden (instead of Akersbakken).
Address: Sankt Hallvards plass 3 (entrence Egedes gate), Oslo.
As soon as the exact dates are known, they will be posted here.

A pilgrim passport in which you collect stamps at accommodations and churches allows you to get a (free) Olavsbrev (Olav letter) at the pilgrim centre in Trondheim. A diploma for finishing the journey. You are entitled to the Olavsbrev if you have cycled at least the last 200 km. The pilgrim passport with the dated stamps can be used as proof of your trip. The passport can also be used at accommodations, in museums, churches, and on the Skibladner where discounts for pilgrims are offered. Having a pilgrim passport, however, is not as necessary as on the way to Santiago where you really need it to be able to stay in the refuges. The pass costs NOK 50 and can be ordered through the ViaGaia webshop and can be bought at all pilgrim centres and some accommodations along the route.

As an independent cycle route the Gudbrandsdalsleden can be combined with:

To (or from) Oslo

1. The Jutland Route. From Emmen (NL) this route follows old trade routes in Germany and the Pilgrim route (Hærvejen – National Cycle Route 3) in Denmark. In Frederikshavn you can take the ferry to Oslo.
2. The Kristians route. A cycle route from Kristiansand along the southeast coast of Norway to Oslo.
3. On the way to St. Olav. A route from Oslo to Selånger connecting two pilgrim routes.
4. The North Sea Cycle Route. This route borders the whole North Sea. From Göteborg on the Swedish west coast you can take this route to cycle to Oslo.

From (or to) Trondheim

5. S:t Olavsleden. A pilgrim cycle route from Selånger to Trondheim.
6a. The Atlantic Coast Route (Eurovelo 1). This route follows the Norwegian coast to the North Cape. In Trondheim the Gudbrandsdalsleden links up with this route.
6b. Kystpilegrimsleia. This pilgrim cycle route follows the Eurovelo 1 broadly (under development).

For the adventurous: the coastal vessel Hurtigruten from Trondheim northbound to Kirkenes and southbound to Bergen. It calls at several ports in between those places. From Bergen, Kirkenes, or other ports of call you can pick up various other cycle routes.

Extra Routes

There are more additional (small) routes you can use to extend the Gudbrandsdalsleden:

  1. Cycling in Oslo
  2. Cycling over Nes & Helgøya
  3. Tour de Dovre
  4. Vinstradalen (under development)
  5. Oppdal Route (under development)

oslofjordBy train:

For the quickest connections by train to the ferry ports outside of Norway: visit the website of the Deutsche Bahn.
For the quickest connections by train to the ferry ports in Norway: visit the website of Entur

By ferry:

Tip If you book through a Norwegian site you pay considerably less than booking through the website in your own language (or in English). If you do not understand Norwegian, open the website in your own language in a different window of your browser and use this to fill out all the details until you reach the paying stage. At that point choose the Norwegian site (payment by credit card).

By Plane:

There are direct connections from Amsterdam and Brusseles from/to Oslo Gardermoen and Trondheim.

In Norway you can take the bike with you on the train and (sometimes) in the bus. The guide provides helpfull information on how to do it. These websites and apps are very useful.

  • Websites: entur.no and vy.no.
  • Apps:
    • Appstore (Apple): Entur, Vy, , Ruter 
    • Playstore (Android): Entur, Vy, Nå, Ruter (only Oslo and Viken)

fietsintrein1fietsintrein2

soloreizenTravelling alone

The Gudbrandsdalsleden can be cycled alone perfectly safely. The route may pass through nature a lot, but most of the time ‘civilization’ in the form of roads, traffic, houses, and farms is not far away. Even in the more remote areas like Dovrefjell, you will encounter other pilgrims. For women alone, no other precautions are necessary than elsewhere in life. Overall, Norway is a relatively safe country for women.

Despite the fact that Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world, you can travel the route on a small budget.:

  • Sleeping: combine wild camping, pilgrim accomodations (cheaper than regular hostels) and sleeping at warmshower addresses (have a look at Sleeping and eating)
  • food: cook your own food. A lot of supermarkets have treir own budgetbrands. You can find a lot of fruit in the wild and you can even consider catching your own fish. What is left that is still very expensive, is fresh vegetables.

Cycling with children

The Gudbrandsdalsleden is a tough and challenging route and therefore not suitable for young children who ride on their own bicycles. For older children the busier roads may be risky, but parents themselves will know whether their child is able to take that responsibility.
Tips for cycling with small children in a bike trailer, a trail-a-bike, a Hase Pino: at least one parent should be a strong climber and use a bike trailer with a suspension fork. Conditions for older children who cycle themselves: some climbing experience and a decent amount of stamina.
Cycling with children in Norway is very demanding. If this is not a problem for you and if you are well-prepared, your family will have an experience you will never forget.

Cycling with a trailer

fietsmetkarYou would like to cycle with a trailer? Then you're better off choosing the alternative routes as indicated in the guide. Between Oslo en Lillehammer the west route is the easiest for cyclists with a trailer.

Note:
The author has no personal experience with cycling with children or cycling with a trailer. I you had experience on this route in either way (or both), please share you experiences with with me through the contact form, so I can put it on the website. Other cyclists would be very much helped with this information!

In Norway electric bikes are more and more popular, and they are very suitable for the Gudbrandsdalsleden with its numerous climbs. Keep the following in mind:
Charging will not be a problem, as long as you do not wild camp. It is useful to plan your accommodations ahead. Check in advance if you can charge at a certain accommodation.
In Norway and Sweden charging points for bikes are rare, but thanks to recent developments this may well change. Places to eat and petrol stations are good places for charging.

  • The 'el-sykkel' is designated as motorised vehicle and there for prohibited from entering national parks. The only exception is Grimsdalen (part of Tour de Dovre), where the restrictions were lifted in 2021.
  • Charging: As long as you're not camping in the wild, it won't lead to any problems. It does help to plan ahead as far as accommodations are concerned. In the back of the guide you can find the accommodations and the services they provide. In most cases electricity is available, but not always. And with pilgrims accommodations it is wise to call in advance to ask if it is possible and/or allowed.
  • Under way there are no charging stations*. You do pass villages almost every day where there is a chance that you're allowed to charge your bicycle. Maybe even at a gas station, which are already convenient for coffee/tea, toilet, emergency rations... and very often have a place where you can sit.

In short: Some planning is in order. And even if it seems obvious at first glance, ask! They'll almost say 'yes' any time, unless it is not possible, but plugging in without asking is 'not done'. * Personal note from the author: I've never seen any charging stations for bicycles, But I haven't looked for it either since I have no e-bike.

*Call: have you cycled the Gudbrandsdalsleden with an e-bike? Or are you planning to? Could you let me know what your experiences are? And if there are locations where you can charge you bicycle, please share them (preferably as GPS-coordinates). I will collect these experiences and charging locations and put them on this site, so other (e-)cyclists can benefit from it!

Charching points

There is one (known) charching point along Gudbrandsdalsleden:

  • Eystein kirke. This is also a very nice place to pitch your tent. Outside the church there is a toilet and there is water. Pilgrimssenter Dovrefjell serves the pilgrims from here and everyone is welcome to stop by for a cup of coffee/tea, quiet moment, a conversation, a stamp or to get information about the trail further towards Trondheim.

And one along Tour de Dovre:

  • Folldal, outside the supermarket

Text follows between February 19 and February 29. Meanwhile you can take a look at Info & tips.

An up to date accommodation list can be found at Accommodations Gudbrandsdalsleden.

An up to date list of bike repair shops can be found at Bike repair shops Gudbrandsdalsleden.