Hiking with a toddler in Norway
In June 2019 we rented a mountain cabin in Norway for our summer holiday. Unlike our French trip the year before, we decided to go car-less because we wanted to save money and remove the pressure of having to see so many tourist places when you have a car. Our modest accommodation is located four kilometres away from the nearest supermarket, and our two year old daughter was just getting the hang of walking.
Geilo is the capital of Hol, in Viken county. Smacked between Bergen and Oslo, it’s a popular winter destination among Norwegians based on the number of privately-owned winter cabins in this area. Geilo is less busy in the summer and has a relatively cooler temperature compared to summer destinations in Europe. But what do you do in the mountains for 10 days when you don’t have a car?
Why go hiking with a toddler anyway?
Geilo is situated near the foot of the Hallingskarvet, right at the entrance of the Hallingskarvet National Park. This mountain range was shaped by multiple Ice Ages and now stretches from Viken to Vestland counties, rising to 1,933-metre above sea level. In short popular among expert hikers and extreme sporters.
We’re not hikers, nor do we enjoy long walks. Running has always been our sport but bringing our running stroller was too much of a hassle. While I enjoy the isolation of a mountain cabin spending our whole vacation sitting beside a fireplace the whole day is also not my idea of a holiday. Fortunately you didn’t go far to enjoy the nature around Geilo. There are enough walking trails doable for beginner hikers.
We didn’t come here unprepared though. Before our big trip, we scored a pre-loved Tatonka baby carrier and I borrowed a proper pair of hiking boots. So which are the most ideal walking/hiking trails in Geilo for parents with young children?
From the brochure of the Geilo Tourism Office, we chose two routes we thought were manageable for us.
The Prestholt Round trail
We thought that the Prestholtrunden trail was an easy hike. It was raining on the day of our hike and the temperature wasn’t expected to hit above 10 degrees. Dressed in proper rain clothes, armed with an umbrella, hot tea and Norwegian flat bread, we trekked up the Hasvdalvegen road to Prestholtseter Mountain Farm. This is the starting point of the Prestholtrunden trail, which goes up 6.5 kms up to the view point, 1,700 metres above sea level. This trail takes approximately 3 hours to complete.
However we’ve underestimated our fitness level, the time (at 3PM we left late) and the actual distance of this hike. From our cabin Prestholtseter is already 9.5 kms and another 5 kilometers up to the view point.
We turned back after reaching the top of the stone track. It was already 7PM, navigating an unknown Norwegian mountain in the dark would have been dangerous. A big part of the trail was still covered in snow and ice, making some areas slippery and with our 11kg kid on our back, we decided not to take chances.
The stone stairway is an important part of the Presholtrunden. This path was meticulously built by the Sherpas, a tribe of mountain people from Nepal. For 12 years, the Sherpas together with carpenter Geirr Vetti, have been laying paths in Norwegian mountains to make them accessible to hobby hikers like us.
We were jovial on the way up but coming down the mountain was another story. We were hungry and exhausted, except for my daughter who was singing all the way back. But the gorgeous view was balm to fatigued bodies, a sweeping landscape of mountain to valley, changing from barren slopes dotted with snow beds, tiny brooks with ice-cold water, shrubs and low vegetation to tress and forest, in different hues of brown and green, becoming lusher as you go down. The sun was already hiding behind the clouds but we were treated to a few minutes of gorgeous sunset before it disappeared behind Hallingskarvet. In the end we made 21 kilometers in 7 hours.
Geilo / Ustedalsfjorden Round trail
Masochists that we are, we went for another hike few days after, taking the Geilo / Ustedalsfjorden trail this time. This trail promised to be an easy one, about 10 kms and can be finished between 3-4 hours. I was especially intrigued by the Fekjo Cultural Park and the Tuftebrui bridge. From our cabin, we went to the Geilo Kulturkyrkje first.
The Geilo Cultural Church’s modern design rises above the valley’s green carpet, standing out among the red and black cabins around it. In the little cafe inside, old Norwegian ladies were making absolutely delicious Norwegian pancakes, which you can eat with local jams and clotted cream for just 20 Norwegian krone. The starting point of Ustedalsfjorden hiking trail is just across Geilo Cultural Church.
The gravel trail is relatively flat and well marked so the chance of getting lost is almost zero, unless you’re us. The trail immediately opens to Ustedalsfjorden Lake with Geilo’s lush mountain in the backdrop. It was sunny and warm enough for only two layers of clothes. We could have stayed a little longer at Geilo beach but the hammock was occupied.
Fekjo Cultural Heritage Park was believed to be a Viking burial ground. Archeologists dug relics from pre-historic and historic times in this area. There were some coal pits here as well and a hay barn.
What I found eerily beautiful were these wooden chimes hanging tiny, steel houses, a sort of modern landscape art. When the wind blows, they produce a soothing sound that washes over your body with a weird sense of tranquility and energy. It must have been the Viking spirits.
For more hiking trails, visit this link.
The Tuftebui bridge is actually just a small log bridge. What makes it special however is the river flowing underneath, the water that rages down between the boulders down to the lake. After living in the Netherlands for a decade, I’ve already forgotten the powerful sound and sight of raging waters and the beauty of a crystal clear riverbed. My daughter was hypnotized by the movement of the water and spent good amount of time hanging from the bridge.
My favourite part was eating our packed lunch in one of the benches they put around the trail. There wasn’t any scenic view, in fact we were facing a thick forest. My daughter was curiously investigating some plants and rocks. It’s always fascinating to watch children discover nature. Their curiosity is so strong that they take their time familiarizing with anything new, however small. I find it sad that we as adults have easily outgrown ours.
We didn’t complete the whole trail. Carrying a toddler on your back is exhausting. Before hiking back to our cabin, we stopped for coffee and blueberry cheesecake at Sofias Cafe & Bar at Bardøla hotel. The sugar rush helped us complete this 21km hike.
The supermarket walking trail
The disadvantage of staying in a mountain cabin is the accessibility of supplies. Without a car, you’re forced to walk long distances if you want to dine out or do the groceries.
From our cabin, going to Geilo’s town centre and back is about 8 kms so each grocery run was a hiking trip. I realized that walking down a mountain is much harder than climbing up, even with several kilos of groceries or a toddler on your back.
I couldn’t recommend Geilo enough. Whether you’re an active traveller, parents with busy children or just someone craving for isolation in nature, Geilo has everything. Go in the middle of summer to fully enjoy what this town has to offer.
More information about accommodations, places to eat, where to shop and activities, can be found at Geilo.no.