Surrounded by lush green forests, freshwater lakes and picture-perfect fjords, Oslo is a dream destination for hikers who still want to enjoy all the museums, restaurants and sights of Norway’s capital city.
Nature is never far away in Oslo – two-thirds of the city itself is made up of protected forest, hills and lakes, and there are easy-to-navigate public transport links to hiking trails of all levels just beyond the capital. “You can be in the middle of a big city and very quickly get to a forest where all you can hear is birds,” says Einar Tønnessen, an experienced guide with tour group Oslo Hiking. “It’s very easy to go on a hike even if you’re only on a short break to Oslo. There are hikes for every level, from easy to very difficult. You could walk in the forest for three weeks straight and not pass the same place twice.” These are the best hiking trails in and around Oslo, according to local expert Einar Tønnessen.
Hike past hidden waterfalls and rapids at Lysaker River, easily reached by metro from Oslo’s city centre. Take the Røa line to Røa itself, then follow the secluded path along the riverbank, crossing bridges and spotting waterfalls along the way. Although a reasonable level of fitness is required, the path is not challenging and covers 4km (2.5mi) to Jar metro station. “It’s not quite for beginners, but it’s not difficult,” says Einar. “It’s a little up and down, but easy enough. You see a lot of birds, but it’s really about enjoying the wild river itself. It’s very peaceful but very close to Oslo.”
To combine history with hiking, take the metro line 5 to Sognsvann. Once there, explore the gravel trail around the lake, popular with picnickers and swimmers. For a slightly more challenging route still suitable for beginners, follow the 5km (3mi) trail deep into the forest towards an unexpected surprise, the peaceful Nedre Blanksjø lake hidden amongst the trees. This marks the geographical centre of the municipality of Oslo, yet is rarely visited. It is ideal for anyone hoping to escape the city’s hustle and bustle. If you’re still not ready to leave, follow the trail from Sognsvann to the top of Vettakollen mountain. “The view from here is absolutely unbelievable,” Einar says. “The summit offers a panorama of large parts of Oslo, the Oslo fjord, its coastline and many small islands.”
Wildlife lovers will be in paradise in the Nordmarka Forest, where you may spot foxes, beavers, moose, deer, eagles and hares as you hike. Take the metro for about 30 minutes from downtown Oslo to Frognerseteren, and follow the blue trails from there (the red trails are for skiing in winter). The trail to Sørkedalen is about 14km (8.7mi) and takes around six hours, including a long break for lunch in one of the cosy café cabins on the way. “You go right into the heart of the forest,” says Einar. “You should enjoy walking as it’s quite far, but it’s not difficult under foot. It’s mainly flat through the forest and not steep. Then you can take the bus back to the metro, and the metro back to the city centre.”
This 5km (3mi) hike is the perfect walk for beginners and suitable for all abilities, providing magnificent views over Oslo. Take the Frognerseteren metro line to Lillevann, which offers picturesque views of rural Oslo, before hiking down to the iconic Frognersetern Restaurant. Dating back to 1891, it is the perfect place to sample traditional Norwegian dishes (try the meatballs and sour cream porridge) while overlooking the city below. Afterwards, continue down part of the 50km (31mi) trail past Midtstubakken, Holmenkollen Chapel and a toboggan run from the first Luge World Championship of 1955. “The highlight of this hiking tour is without doubt the majestic Holmenkollen ski jump, one of the most famous sport arenas in the world,” says Einar.
“If you really want a challenge, this is the one to go for,” says Einar. “It’s really exciting and can be quite difficult in parts, but is very beautiful. It’s best to go with a tour group if you can, as it’s about a 45-minute drive from Oslo.” The 25km (15.5mi) hike starts at the spectacular Mørkgonga nature reserve where a narrow gorge was formed millions of years ago. You’ll then continue through the forests of Krokskogen, past Lake Nibbitjern and up the steep Gyrihaugen mountain. “The view from up there over the fjords and mountains really is great,” says Einar. “If you do it in a day, it takes about eight hours including the bus, so it’s important to bring food and water, and wear hiking shoes that can get wet.”
For an intermediate level hike of around 8km (5mi), head to Kolsåstoppen, a popular wooded mountain, which is around 12km (7.5mi) from Oslo’s city centre. Take the 150 bus from Oslo to Stein Gård, and walk towards the Stein Gård farm entrance to pick up the start of the hike. This takes about two hours and snakes through an enchanting forest and past a small lake where you can take a dip if the weather’s warm. However, be sure to wear plenty of mosquito repellent. “On this hike, you will climb two peaks and get a panoramic view of Oslo, Bærum and the Oslo Fjord,” says Einar.
With 256 square kilometres (100sq mi) of forest in eastern Oslo, Østmarka Forest is criss-crossed by hiking trails that weave past several vast lakes and through towering pine trees. Take the metro line 3 (Mortensrud) to Ulsrud station. Then pick up the 8km (5mi) trail south to the Mariholtet Sportsstue, a café deep in the forest perfect for a quick hot chocolate stop. Along the way, take a swim in the lake, climb rocky ridges for views across the forest or just rest your legs on one of the hidden lake beaches. Loop back or continue on to explore even more of the forest and the pretty Nøklevann Lake.
Described as Oslo’s Alps, the Mellomkollen mountain is a great day trip from Oslo for intermediate hikers wanting to get away from the city centre. The trail is about 12km (7.5mi) and takes between three and four hours past the shimmering Øyungen Lake and through the Nordmarka Forest before finally climbing the mountain. Cross the marsh at the plateau for the best uninterrupted views over Oslo. To get there from the city, take the 54 bus (Kjelsås) to Godals vei, and then change to the 51 bus (Maridalen) and travel to the very last stop, Skar. Return buses only leave from here once an hour, so be sure to know the times to avoid a long wait after your hike.