Mardalsfossen

Eikesdal, More og Romsdal County, Norway

About Mardalsfossen


Hiking Distance: 3.4km round trip
Suggested Time: 60-90 minutes

Date first visited: 2005-07-03
Date last visited: 2019-07-16

Waterfall Latitude: 62.47429
Waterfall Longitude: 8.12281

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Mardalsfossen was a waterfall that certainly impressed Julie and I, and we tended to think of it in much the same way that we think of Yosemite Falls.

With Norway winning the proverbial Nature lottery with its plethora of fjords and U-shaped glaciated granite-laced valleys, this place convinced me that Yosemite Valley was but a singular example of what’s all over this Nordic country!

Eikesdalen_047_07162019 - The full context of Mardalsfossen as seen against the afternoon sun from the Fv191 across Eikesdalsvatnet
The full context of Mardalsfossen as seen against the afternoon sun from the Fv191 across Eikesdalsvatnet

In terms of waterfall height, Mardalsfossen was said to have cumulative height of 655m (2,149ft) with one of its tiers having a free-fall of 297m (974ft).

By comparison, Yosemite Falls was widely quoted as having 2,425ft of cumulative drop with its tallest free-fall at 1,430ft.

Both waterfalls also sit in granite-laced U-shaped valleys, where Mardalsfossen sat deep in the Eikesdal Valley while Yosemite Falls sat in California’s treasured Yosemite Valley.

We also had the ability to witness the waterfalls from a variety of locations in their respective valleys.

Eikesdalen_016_jx_07032005 - Mardalsfossen as seen from across Eikesdalsvatnet during our first visit on a beautiful early July morning in 2005
Mardalsfossen as seen from across Eikesdalsvatnet during our first visit on a beautiful early July morning in 2005

However, the similarities ended there as Yosemite Falls lacked a year-round flow due to its rapid depletion of the snow-pack, which typically would run out by the mid- or late-Summer season and won’t revive until after the Fall season.

On the other hand, Mardalsfossen flowed at the opposite times of the year as it was allowed to flow during the Summer tourist season but would be regulated to the point of not running the rest of the year.

The Mardalsfossen Exercise in Compromise

Mardalsfossen would have been a permanent waterfall except the Grytten power plant at the foot of the mountain Romsdalshorn regulates its flow.

The regulation wasn’t without controversy as apparently 300 opponents to the project had formed a human-linked chain to prevent the work from commencing in 1970.

Mardalsfossen_030_07032005 - Mardalsfossen as seen from its base during our first visit on a beautiful early July morning in 2005
Mardalsfossen as seen from its base during our first visit on a beautiful early July morning in 2005

While I tend to associate our Mardalsfossen experience with that of Yosemite Falls, perhaps its controversial past had more in common with Yosemite Valley’s twin in Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Yet despite the protests, the work ultimately completed in 1973.

Fortunately for visitors like us, the administrators compromised by letting this waterfall flow at a regulated rate from between 2.0 to 2.5 cubic meters per second from June 20 to August 20 (pretty much during the tourist season of Summer).

By comparison, the maximum recorded flow prior to the diversion was 45 cubic meters per second!

Hetch_Hetchy_001_scanned_05312002 - An old photo of the drowned Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park from atop of O'Shaughnessy Dam back in early June 2002
An old photo of the drowned Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park from atop of O’Shaughnessy Dam back in early June 2002

I guess this was an acceptable compromise considering this one could’ve gone the way of Mongefossen or Tyssestrengene among others where their watercourses have been blocked entirely and diverted to power generation.

By the way, Mongefossen was also sacrificed by the same Grytten power plant that regulated Mardalsfossen.

In addition to the regulation of the flow, we learned that the county road Fv191 that we took to get this far into Eikesdalen was only completed in 1991.

Prior to that, primary access to this part of Eikesdalen could only be accomplished by boat across the lake Eikesdalsvatnet.

Eikesdalen_023_07162019 - The scenery around the lake Eikesdalen as I was driving south on the Fv191. It was hard to imagine that 14 years prior, you had to take a boat or a very long hike to get past this lake as the Fv191 hadn't been constructed yet
The scenery around the lake Eikesdalen as I was driving south on the Fv191. It was hard to imagine that 14 years prior, you had to take a boat or a very long hike to get past this lake as the Fv191 hadn’t been constructed yet

So for better or for worse, “progress” and the random happenings of history at least afforded us the ability have a Mardalsfossen experience.

And in that experience, the falls still seemed to have retained its naturesque character in each of our visits (once in early July 2005 and again in July 2019).

Experiencing Mardalsfossen from across Eikesdalsvatnet

For the most comprehensive views of of Mardalsfossen, we happened to get those from across the vast Eikesdalsvatnet along the narrow mostly single-lane county road Fv191.

On our first experience in late July 2005, we had trouble finding suitable pullouts along the narrow road to get decent views in the morning light.

Eikesdalen_009_jx_07032005 - Going around Eikesdalsvatnet towards Mardalsfossen as seen back in July 2005
Going around Eikesdalsvatnet towards Mardalsfossen as seen back in July 2005

Fortunately with the relatively light traffic back then, we managed to pause and take pictures without causing a traffic incident.

On our second visit in mid-July 2019, it seemed like there were more pullouts and rest stops (rasteplass) along the way for a slightly more relaxed experience.

And that was a good thing because there also seemed to be noticeably more traffic along this narrow county road than there was 14 years earlier!

In any case, these more distant views of Mardalsfossen allowed us to better appreciate its full height and context, especially as the picturesque Yosemite-like granite cliffs caused the Mardøla to make its massive plunge into Eikesdalen.

Eikesdalen_102_07162019 - A rest stop (rasteplass) along the Fv191 skirting the east shore of Eikesdalsvatnet.  I didn't recall seeing this particular rest stop on our first visit back in 2005
A rest stop (rasteplass) along the Fv191 skirting the east shore of Eikesdalsvatnet. I didn’t recall seeing this particular rest stop on our first visit back in 2005

From my GPS waypoints, I’ve provided more specific driving directions in that section below.

The Hike to Mardalsfossen

The signs at the large car park at Mardalsfossen’s trailhead predicted that the hike to the bottom of the falls would take between 30-45 minutes each way covering a distance of about 1.8km (or 3.6km round trip).

According to our trip logs in 2005 and 2019, the signs were pretty much spot on as Julie and I took about 90 minutes on our first visit, and I took about 100 minutes after lingering at the falls for longer on my second visit.

From the large car park at its trailhead (see directions below), we backtracked along the unpaved access road before following along a somewhat wide path following along the Mardøla for about the first 800m or so.

Mardalsfossen_005_07032005 - Julie passed by a mountain biker in the first 800m of the hike towards Mardalsfossen as seen back in early July 2005. I wasn't sure mountain bikers could do this trail anymore when I came back in July 2019
Julie passed by a mountain biker in the first 800m of the hike towards Mardalsfossen as seen back in early July 2005. I wasn’t sure mountain bikers could do this trail anymore when I came back in July 2019

Back on our first visit in 2005, I swore this path was wide enough to accommodate mountain bikes though on my visit in 2019, it seemed to be a bit rougher and only suitable for pedestrians.

Eventually, the gentle uphill climb became a little more steeper and moderate as the trail ascended up towards a bridge traversing the Mardøla (roughly 1.3km from the trailhead).

Again, I sensed that there was a little re-routing of the trail because on our first experience that the hike at this point was more narrower, twistier, and more shaded with trees. The trail felt straighter and more open on my second go.

In any case, around the bridge, I noticed a rest area (probably best suited for groups), where we could enjoy a distant bottoms up view of the main Mardalsfossen.

Mardalsfossen_110_07162019 - View of Mardalsfossen from the rest bench area just prior to the bridge traversing the Mardøla
View of Mardalsfossen from the rest bench area just prior to the bridge traversing the Mardøla

After crossing the footbridge, the trail was a little rougher and steeper, but remained quite tame compared to some of the other more primitive hikes in Norway that I’ve been on.

Eventually after roughly 400-500m beyond the bridge, I reached an overlook with a neck-cranking view of the dual drops of Mardalsfossen.

On the opposite side of the gorge, I was also able to notice a separate waterfall on the Ytste Mardøla watercourse, which didn’t have as much of a vertical drop, but it was impressive in its own right.

Beyond the lookout, I noticed more trails of use continuing the hiking to get even closer to the main falls.

Mardalsfossen_081_07162019 - Looking across the canyon towards the Ytste Mardalsfossen from near the base of the main Mardalsfossen
Looking across the canyon towards the Ytste Mardalsfossen from near the base of the main Mardalsfossen

I only went as far as I was able to get a cleaner look at the falls, but I wasn’t interested in contending with too much of the spray headed my way.

I’ve seen other people brave the slippery wet rocks and get their cold shower courtesy of Mardalsfossen.

Anyways, one thing that Julie and I noticed from this close to the falls was that it didn’t appear quite as tall given the forced perspective that made the upper tier show less of itself.

This was why I felt that you really can’t appreciate its height unless you see it from across the lake.

Mardalsfossen_089_07162019 - Looking up at the towering Mardalsfossen from its base in the late afternoon in July 2019 as it seemed to throw up a lot more mist than on our first visit back in July 2005
Looking up at the towering Mardalsfossen from its base in the late afternoon in July 2019 as it seemed to throw up a lot more mist than on our first visit back in July 2005

In any case, this was our turnaround point, and at least we could look forward to the mostly downhill hike all the way back to the car park.

Authorities

Mardalsfossen resides in the Nesset Municipality near Molde in Møre og Romsdal County, Norway. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Eikesdalen_054_07162019 - During the drive south on the Fv191 on my July 2019 visit, I noticed several other waterfalls across the Eikesdalsvatnet lake, including this fairly big one. By the way, this photo and the next several shots took place on this day
Eikesdalen_056_07162019 - The scenery started even before the Mardalsfossen hike as I was driving south on the Fv191 with the lake Eikesdalsvatnet contrasting the blue skies and the gray mountains draped with green trees and bushes
Eikesdalen_092_07162019 - Looking across Eikesdalsvatnet towards the Mardalsfossen waterfall in full context
Eikesdalen_107_07162019 - The further south on the Fv191 I went, the more Mardalsfossen started to conceal itself (especially its lower drop)
Mardalsfossen_014_07162019 - Finally making it to the car park (toll required) at the Mardalsfossen Trailhead
Mardalsfossen_018_07162019 - Context of the partial view of Mardalsfossen from the car park at the trailhead of the hike leading to the very bottom of the falls
Mardalsfossen_026_07162019 - Following the trail to the base of Mardalsfossen, which seemed to be considerably less bike friendly than when we first saw it back in 2005
Mardalsfossen_029_07162019 - Even under the bright afternoon sun, the Mardalsfossen Trail seemed to benefit from a good deal of tree cover as well as a gentle and not-so-severe uphill climb
Mardalsfossen_033_07162019 - Mardalsfossen still showing parts of itself from the trail leading to its bottom
Mardalsfossen_044_07162019 - Starting to see parts of the other waterfall Yste Mardalsfossen from the main Mardalsfossen Trail
Mardalsfossen_046_07162019 - Roughly 1.4km into the hike, I encountered this rest area that I never recalled seeing before on our first visit back in 2005
Mardalsfossen_050_07162019 - From the little rest area with all the picnic tables and benches, there was a nice view towards Mardalsfossen with the footbridge providing a sense of scale below
Mardalsfossen_058_07162019 - Looking back through an opening in the foliage from near the rest area just before the footbridge over the Mardøla
Mardalsfossen_096_07162019 - This was about as close to Mardalsfossen as I was willing to go before turning back
Mardalsfossen_129_07162019 - My last look back at Mardalsfossen as the late afternoon sun was casting longer shadows at the end of my hike
Mardalsfossen_134_07162019 - The hits didn't stop at the end of the hike as I was driving back out of the Mardalsfossen car park and got these views towards the head of Eikesdalen
Eikesdalen_018_jx_07032005 - Looking towards the lake Eikesdalsvatnet on our way to Mardalsfossen as seen back in our first trip in early July 2005. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery took place on that day
Mardalsfossen_004_jx_07032005 - Looking up at the imposing Mardalsfossen near the trailhead in early July 2005
Mardalsfossen_001_07032005 - Julie checking out some of the signs from the car park with Mardalsfossen in sight up above during our first visit back in July 2005
Mardalsfossen_004_07032005 - Julie starting to walk the signposted spur path during our first visit in early July 2005
Mardalsfossen_008_jx_07032005 - Being passed by a mountain biker as we hiked closer to Mardalsfossen during our early July 2005 visit
Mardalsfossen_010_jx_07032005 - Some signage seen as the trail changed from gravel road to a narrow footpath through forest during our first visit in early July 2005.  On my July 2019 visit, I didn't recall such a sharp transition from gravel road to narrow footpath, which made me think they might have re-routed the trail over the years
Mardalsfossen_008_07032005 - Julie on the trail when it became primitive and narrow back in early July 2005
Mardalsfossen_010_07032005 - The path was indeed lush and narrow back in 2005
Mardalsfossen_014_07032005 - Julie and I started to notice this other waterfall on the Mardalsfossen trail, which we think was on the Ytste Mardøla watercourse. This photo was taken was back in early July 2005
Mardalsfossen_016_07032005 - Julie continuing on the Mardalsfossen Trail with the falls seen up ahead through the trees in early July 2005
Mardalsfossen_025_07032005 - A cleaner look at the Ytste Mardalsfossen in early July 2005
Mardalsfossen_034_07032005 - Julie and I made it only so far from the base of Mardalsfossen before we decided not to go any further during our first visit in early July 2005
Mardalsfossen_025_jx_07032005 - This was probably as close to the base of Mardalsfossen as we got
Mardalsfossen_037_07032005 - From the base of Mardalsfossen, we managed to get a clean look across the Mardalen canyon towards the Yste Mardalsfossen.  This picture was taken on our first visit in early July 2005 as it got favorable morning light as well as seemingly higher flow than my return trip in 2019
Mardalsfossen_038_07032005 - Returning to the trailhead with Eikesdalsvatnet in the distance. This trail seemed markedly different in 2019 than when we first saw it in 2005 (as shown here)

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We drove into Eikesdalen from Åndalsnes so that’s how I’m going to describe this driving route.

I will also describe the driving route from Sunndalsøra.

Eikesdalen_020_07162019 - The narrow county road Fv191 started to go around the eastern shore of the lake Eikesdalsvatnet
The narrow county road Fv191 started to go around the eastern shore of the lake Eikesdalsvatnet

From Åndalsnes, we drove north on the Fv64 for about 32km towards the ferry at Åfarnes.

However, instead of taking the ferry, we then continued east on the Fv660 gor about 44km towards a mountain pass before descending towards the town of Eresfjord.

Once at the bottom of the descent where the Fv660 and Fv191 intersected, we then turned right to go south on the Fv191 as it skirted around the east shore of Eikesdalsvatnet.

It was during this 25km stretch along the Fv191 that we also managed to get our glimpses from across the lake at Mardalsfossen.

Eikesdalen_032_07162019 - The narrow and mostly single-lane county road Fv191 skirted around the lake Eikesdalsvatnet as it headed south deeper into Eikesdalen and towards Mardalsfossen
The narrow and mostly single-lane county road Fv191 skirted around the lake Eikesdalsvatnet as it headed south deeper into Eikesdalen and towards Mardalsfossen

The first of the viewpoints that I stopped at was at a camping area about 2.6km south of the Viketunnelen exit or 17km south of the Fv660/Fv191 junction.

The next pullout that I stopped at was about 2.4km south of the above-mentioned campground.

The next pullout to the south of the one mentioned above was a little less than 1km away.

Finally, I also stopped at a picnic area or rest stop roughly 1.4km further to the south (or 4.4km north of the Mardalsfossen car park turnoff).

Eikesdalen_069_07162019 - During the drive south on the Fv191, I started to see the full context of Mardalsfossen though as you can see from this photo, it was probably best seen earlier than the late afternoon
During the drive south on the Fv191, I started to see the full context of Mardalsfossen though as you can see from this photo, it was probably best seen earlier than the late afternoon

At the end of this 25km stretch, a little past a road bridge at the head of Eikesdalsvatnet, we then turned right onto an automated toll boom (charging 40kr as of my visit in 2019, but didn’t recall such a toll in 2005).

After the boom, the single-lane unpaved road ended at a large car park for Mardalsfossen after 2.5km.

Overall, without stops, this drive would take a little under 2 hours.

Going in the opposite direction from Sunndalsøra, we wound drive west on the Fv62 towards Eidsvåg for about 34km before turning left to go on the Fv660 towards Eresfjord.

Sunndalsora_015_07162019 - While driving west from Sunndalsøra along the Fv62, after leaving the long tunnel, I noticed this big waterfall possibly on the Erstadelva (so it would be the Erstadfossen?)
While driving west from Sunndalsøra along the Fv62, after leaving the long tunnel, I noticed this big waterfall possibly on the Erstadelva (so it would be the Erstadfossen?)

After about 18km, we wound then continue straight on the Fv191 and follow the directions as described above to reach the Mardalsfossen car park.

This drive would take under 90 minutes.

However, there’s a shorter but slower path going directly south of Sunndalsøra, which would traverse the toll road along the Aursjøvegen.

Because this route also has its share of many waterfalls and can easily be done as a half-day or a day long visit with many stops, we have a separate write-up for it.

Mardalsfossen_015_07162019 - The fairly sizable car park for the hike to get to the bottom of Mardalsfossen
The fairly sizable car park for the hike to get to the bottom of Mardalsfossen

For context, Åndalsnes was 128km (under 2 hours drive) west of Sunndalsøra, about 54km (over an hour drive) northeast of Valldalen, 87km (over 2 hours drive with a ferry crossing) northeast of Geiranger, 105km (under 90 minutes drive) northwest of Dombås, 108km (90 minutes drive) east of Ålesund, 303km (over 4 hours drive) southwest of Trondheim, 442km (over 5.5 hours drive) northwest of Oslo, and 508km (8 hours drive) northeast of Bergen.

Semi-circular sweep covering the beautiful scenery around Eikesdalsvatnet which also includes Mardalsfossen in its entirety in the distance


180 degree sweep covering the area around the base of Mardalsfossen including a waterfall opposite the gorge from the main falls


Sweep covering the falls from a group viewing area before the footbridge

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Tagged with: nesset, eikesdal, eresfjord, eikesdalsvatnet, aursjovegen, more og romsdal, norway, waterfall, regulated



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About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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