When I first started researching a trip to Stavanger, Norway, Preikestolen (also known as Pulpit Rock) came up in almost every recommendation. It’s one of the most well known hikes in the area. Made even more popular after Tom Cruise scaled it during ‘Fallen’ (there was also a film screening up there!).
However, the problem with popularity is that it comes with crowds which make this breathtaking rock overlooking Lysefjord…not quite so peaceful.
How to See Preikestolen Without the Crowds
There are a number of ways that you can beat the crowds;
- Camp overnight on the rock
- Sunrise Hike
- Travel out of season (peak season is June – August)
Since I nearly froze in a tent in my friends garden a few weeks ago, we opted out of the camping trip (although I have to say, if I invested in some warmer equipment I would totally be up for that in the future) and signed up for a sunrise hike with Outdoor Life Norway. The tour cost 1390 NOK, about £120/$150 so it was not cheap but included transport from our hotel, a tour guide and equipment, hot drink and snacks at the top plus breakfast at a lodge afterwards. You could definitely complete this hike without a guide if you had a car and a head-torch as the route is easy to follow and well signposted.
We landed into Stavanger airport at 10.30pm. Picked up a cab to our hotel and were in bed by 11.30pm….with a 1.20am alarm set. Less than ideal but due to lower tourist numbers this year, it was the only morning the sunrise hike was running. So we decided to forgo sleep for this incredible start to our Norweigan trip.
You’ll be notified of your pick-up location and time directly by the tour company and varies due to time of year. (You can get a little bit of a lie-in if you opt to stay at Preikestolen Mountain Lodge at the start of the trail.) The drive from Stavanger takes around an hour and we all had to wear masks in the bus. Luckily at that time of the morning, sleep comes quickly. And so the trip was over in the blink of an overtired eye.
There’s a loo in the shop where you’ll get prepped for the hike, and you can borrow hiking poles (we actually didn’t need these but are free on the tour), eat a quick breakfast and get to know your fellow hikers.
Outdoor Life Norway sent over a substantial list of items to bring. Including waterproof trousers, gloves, hat, layers, snacks and water. In fact, the weather was so mild we only needed light layers. And most of my kit was left in my rucksack. We did this hike in August and it was around 21 degrees in Stavanger. 10-15 degrees overnight however it can get much colder even in Summer. The only thing we wished we’d had was insect repellant for the midges on the way down!
The first part of the trail is a steep incline and our guide set off at a rapid pace, testing our fitness levels. Our group was split in terms of pace. And so this allowed the guide to determine what pace we should walk to ensure we made it for sunrise. The trail is ‘Easy and Family Friendly’ – but this is Norweigan standards. If you’re more used to hiking in the US or UK, you might be surprised by what constitutes as Easy. But it’s totally manageable with only a reasonable fitness level.
Roundtrip the hike is around 4.7 miles and takes between 4-5 hours for most hikers.
It alternates between sections of easy, flat trail and stairs build of uneven rocks. You’re hiking through pine trees with occasional lakes and lookouts over the forests. Bring your swimmers if you’re hiking in the heat of the day. We saw people skinny dipping and it looked very refreshing.
There is a portion of the hike that takes you along the Cliff edge. It’s fairly wide but anyone with nervy legs may prefer to go around the back and take the Hill Trail to the lookout. Keep your eyes peeled for signposts on the way up. The sky is light by this point so you don’t have to worry about navigating the steep edges with just your head torch luckily.
We wished we had asked our guide more questions about the local flora and fauna. As well as the local area on our walk. He wasn’t very forthcoming with information however he was great at leading our group. And very patient for different speeds. And wanted everyone to get there together so we all hiked as one big group.
Unfortunately, despite a very clear starry sky on our hike up, there wasn’t much of a sunrise. The light was gorgeous but we didn’t get the golden glow over Preikestolen that we’d been hoping for. We heard from our guide that it had rained the day prior. So we were glad to get a glimpse of the fjord.
You need to be prepared for the weather at the top as when you stop moving it can get a bit chilly and rather windy.
We were given a mug of delicious hot juice, a bit like ribena, plus a bag of nuts at the top. But I’d pack extra snacks to eat on the way up and at the top. And don’t forget to bring plenty of water.
We hiked the trail when Norway is off limits to a lot of international travellers which means crowds were even lower than they could have been during a summer sunrise hike. Our guide said that 50% of their groups are usually Americans. Whereas our small group of 6 were made up of Germans and Swedes.
The hike down is obviously quicker, and was getting busier with plenty of families hiking up. About halfway down, I really needed the loo. So when our guide said that we could go ahead if we wanted, we did just that. Every time we stopped to regroup we were surrounded by midges so the sooner we were down, the better! Plus we were able to wait in the lodge with a cup of coffee before the rest of the group arrived for our breakfast.