Bergen is, of course, famed for being surrounded by mountains. It would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to hike the varied terrain encircling the city. The greatest advantage of hiking in Bergen is that you can leave directly from the city centre. They are also relatively popular, and hiking trails are clearly waymarked. Nonetheless, as I would soon find out, the weather in Bergen city does not necessarily match the ever-changing conditions in the mountains.
The first stretch of the hike brought me up Stoltzekleiven, whose entrance is found by Fjellveien 13, by a popular jogging and dogwalking route around the base of the mountain. The path began to steepen immediately after departing Fjellveien, the well-paved concrete path soon transforming into mossy rocks and a breezy temperate forest. As I climbed, the forest gradually thinned, and rays of morning sunlight peeked through the trees to illuminate the path. 800 stony steps and a 330 metre climb later, I reached Sandviksfjellet, one of the Bergen’s seven mountains. An easterly view of Bergen emerged, the still waters of the harbour reflecting the light that peered through a shroud of grey.
The peak of Sandviksfjellet offers more than just a beautiful vista of Bergen. A stony dam cuts across the tranquil Storavatnet Lake, surrounded by naked trees of a new-born spring. The grey clouds soon thickened, betraying forecasts in Bergen city centre. Cloud soon turned into rain, and as the winds rose, rain transformed into snow. I had little choice but to strive on towards Fløyen, the most prominent peak overlooking Bergen.
The rain and snow relentlessly beat down as I dragged my feet along a well-paved concrete path towards Fløyen. From Sandviksfjellet, paths branched out deeper into the mountains of western Norway. The path followed a mountain stream, recently replenished by the heavy rain and snow. The paved path led towards Nedrediket, another small tarn, dammed by another rocky path. Suddenly, the clouds cleared, revealing the warm spring sunshine and the vibrant greens of the Norwegian wood. The mountains of Norway seemed to blossom: streams revealed themselves, wrapping around mossy stones and roots; birds emerged from the cold to sing their favourite songs.
I finally reached Fløyen drenched in sunlight. Fløyen is the main peak looking southwards towards the Bergen peninsula. Ships bobbed along the harbour, cutting across the still Norwegian Sea. Schools of tourists emerged from the famous Fløibanen, the funicular which leads groups directly into the city centre. Fløyen also neighbours Skomakerdiket, another small lake. During summer, you can apparently kayak on the small lake; in late April however, the strong winds and unstable weather prevents many of the outdoor activities around Fløyen. Besides, there was scarcely time to spare as I had to move on towards Ulriken, Bergen’s highest peak.
Fløyen to Ulriken is known as the Vidden Trail. While geographically the two peaks are close to each other, both overlooking Bergen, the trail between the two requires the hiker to go northwards, away from Bergen, deep into the mountains, before winding around and back to Ulriken. Leaving Fløyen and climbing into the mountains, views of dreamy clouds looming over Bergen’s surrounding settlements emerged, accompanied by the dull grey tarns of the foreground, sheets of ice lingering in their moody waters.
The seemingly easy terrain soon turned uneven, and I was again betrayed by the unstable weather on the peaks. Continuing north towards the lakes Tarlebøvannet and Øvre Jordalsvatn, the muddy path began to be covered in snow, requiring a lot more caution and effort to trespass. Surrounding me was the drip, drip, drip of glacial meltwater, yet even in late April, the peaks were still capped with ice and snow. The clouds briefly opened up northwards, revealing a glimpse of the valley towards Erdvik.
From this point on, the trail became noticeably less well waymarked. Combined with the path being increasingly buried in snow, there was little path to speak of at all; instead, the trail was marked by large rock cairns, which were at least visible from a distance. The unpredictable weather reared its ugly head, as the snow began to beat down, further reducing the visibility. I began to question my decision to hike this trail alone, and at this time of year.
At this point, the hiking became scrambling; the semblance of a path became merely footprints in the snow. Following the compressed ice, understanding that the well-trodden path will likely lead me to my destination, the terrain again transformed from the rocky paths of the mountains to an unremitting marshland. Every step taken risked plunging your foot into a bottomless swamp. What was originally a straightforward hike had now become a challenging and risky scramble.
Thankfully, the path was waymarked well enough for me to follow the cairns, at times using both hands and feet to cross the marshland, eventually reaching Ulriken and a glorious view of suburban Bergen.
My weary legs meant that I didn’t spend long atop Ulriken, instead taking the cable car back down to Bergen. However, as the clouds parted, I couldn’t resist returning to Fløyen in the twilight, this time by funicular. What greeted me was the howling wind and dropping temperatures, but also a magnificent view of Bergen, perfectly bookending my weekend in the lovely city of Bergen.
With more time:
Fjords: Bergen is one of the most popular gateways to the fjords of western Norway. There are several options to visit the fjords from Bergen: the ever-popular Norway in a Nutshell offers day tours to beautiful fjords such as Sognefjord and Nærøyfjord, while those with even more time can consider driving up the meandering western coastline of Norway to visit fjords on a more flexible schedule.
Statsraad Lehmkuhl: a beautiful pearl-white three-mast sailboat built in 1914 offers half-day mini cruises to different Norwegian coastal towns and cities starting from Bergen. It offers hands-on opportunities to operate the sailboat without previous experience. Operating only in the summer months, Statsraad Lehmkuhl offers an unforgettable experience, cruising along the coastline of western Norway.