About Ringedalsfossen and the Trolltunga Waterfalls
Ringedalsfossen (also known as Skjeggedalsfossen) was definitely the most conspicuous waterfall in the Skjeggedal Valley, and it acted as my waterfalling excuse to go on the epic hike to Trolltunga.
This waterfall was said to have a cumulative height of 420m with its highest vertical drop at around 300m (one early source said it was “only” 160m).
The same valley also contained another historically tall waterfall called Tyssestrengene (reportedly 646m tall with a freefall of 312m).
I also noticed other attractive waterfalls throughout the excursion, including one tumbling behind the P2 car park.
By the way, I’ll get into the logistics of driving and parking in the directions below.
So with that said, even though this is a waterfalls website and I’m paying homage to them on this page, no one comes here just to see the waterfalls before turning back!
Indeed these waterfalls were merely a sideshow even though they gave me the motivation to partake in another long adventure – this time to the protruding overhanging rock called Trolltunga (“the Troll’s Tongue”).
It’s like someone had imagined that the rock resembled the tongue of a troll stuck out over a sheer vertical drop.
Perhaps that’s why the Trolltunga excursion also became quite popular over the years (I never recalled it being this popular on our first visit in Norway in June 2005).
In fact, it became so popular that I think of it as another one of “Tourist Trifecta”, which included Kjerag and Preikestolen, mostly because of its notoriety and popularity internationally, especially in the social media circles.
So to make a long story short, if you’re going to take the trouble to come up Tyssedal Valley into Skjeggedal Valley, you mind as well do the whole thing.
Even though there is no way you’re going to be alone here (you’re likely to share this place with hundreds or perhaps thousands of people from around the world), it’s worth seeing what all the fuss is about.
Of course, to earn a sighting in person of this Instagram favorite, it involves hiking for 28km in the worst case or as little as 20km at a minimum.
Hiking to Trolltunga
The Trolltunga hike is essentially a very long out-and-back hike covering 10km in each direction with almost a 400m elevation gain from the official trailhead near the plateau at Mågelitopp.
If you don’t start your hike from there, you’re looking at hiking the 4km (or 4.3km according to the signs) switchbacking road climbing about 400m in elevation from the P2 car park at Skjeggedal to the official trailhead at Mågelitopp.
That would bring the grand total to 28km with nearly an 800m gain in elevation.
I noticed that it was possible to pay for a shuttle to take the bite out of hiking the switchbacks.
For RVs or other oversized vehicles, there’s also a P1 car park, where you’d have to ride a shuttle to get from there to the P2 car park at Skjeggedal.
I view this as primarily a Summer hike since the daylight hours are longer (it doesn’t properly get dark around the Summer Solstice), and the threat of snow is less.
While it’s possible to hike in the off-season between October 1 and May 31, you had better come prepared, get an early start, and arrange for a guide who knows the terrain and the hazards better than you do.
Anyways, the signs here say the trail requires most people about 10-12 hours to finish.
I wound up doing it in 7.5 hours (including a long rest break), but keep in mind that I started from the official trailhead at Mågelitopp and not from the P2 car park (so I had saved myself around 90 minutes of additional hiking in each direction!).
Hiking to Trolltunga: From Mågelitopp to the Top of the Climb
From the official trailhead at Mågelitopp, I followed a fairly straightforward path that was a combination of dirt trail and granite sections with poles or red Ts helping to keep me oriented.
Most of the poles have progress indicators on the signs telling you have far you’ve come and how much more you have to go for the remaining 10km from Mågelitopp.
The initial 1.75km pretty much followed fairly featureless terrain as it passed between remote mountain cabins and offered distant teases of both the Hardangervidda snowfields as well as the Folgefonna Glacier.
Shortly beyond the last of the cabins at a part the maps called Gryteskar, the trail then started a brutally long and steep ascent.
This stretch climbed almost the remaining 400m of total elevation gain (relative to the P2 car park’s elevation), and it did this in a distance of about 1.25km or so.
While the trail did have some potentially hazardous loose rock sections, I found the rock steps and general path to be easily followed.
Towards the top of the climb, the ascent degenerated into more of a granite friction pitch, where I then had to rely on cairns and spray-painted red Ts.
I felt that some of this friction pitch had enough steepness to make things quite uncomfortably dangerous if the granite became wet from precipitation.
Indeed, you definitely need good hiking boots for these kinds of parts.
Eventually, at the top of the climb, I soon reached the sign at the 3km point, where the worst of the climbing was now behind me.
Hiking to Trolltunga: From Trombeskar to the Second Rescue Cabin
Beyond the 3km pole at the top of that brutal initial climb, the trail then undulated on mostly “flat” plateau dotted with tarns.
Barely another kilometer or two, the trail then reached a trail junction at what the topographic maps called Trombeskar.
The signs clearly stated to keep right to continue to Trolltunga, but if you’re curious, the trail on the left ultimately went towards Tyssevassbu and the reservoir resulting from the dam regulating the flow of Tysso (the stream responsible for Tyssestrengene).
Beyond the junction at Trombeskar, the plateau scenery continued skirting between and around more alpine tarns while approaching the rim of the cliffs overlooking Ringedalsvatnet.
It was during this stretch that I started to get partial views of Ringedalsfossen way in the distance.
Towards the end of this flat region (which the topo map calls Store Floren), I noticed some cabins as well as a signposted Rescue Cabin and Mountain Guard.
This was around 2km beyond the pole at the top of the brutal climb near Trombeskar.
Beyond the mountain cabin, the trail did some more climbing, but it had neither the length nor the severity of what I had experienced earlier on.
As the trail continued to skirt alongside the rim of the valley, I kept getting more views of Ringedalsfossen as the angle became increasingly direct.
This was where the stretch where the picture you see at the top of this page was taken from.
In the mean time, the trail also skirted by some smaller cascades and streams, including a section where the course of a rocky stream actually coincided with the Trolltunga Trail itself!
This was one spot where having Gore-tex boots would come in handy, especially if this stream happened to have high flow.
The views of Ringedalsfossen would continue throughout this stretch until I went about 4km from the pole near Trombeskar (or 7km from the official trailhead).
That was where I encountered the second rescue cabin perched atop a hill overlooking the Trolltunga Trail, which did another moderate climb at this point.
Hiking to Trolltunga: The Last Third
Beyond the second mountain cabin, the trail briefly followed some power lines before undulating some more.
By this time, Ringedalsfossen starts to hide behind some of the foreground cliffs (one of which I believe belonged to a plateau called Endanut on the topo maps).
After passing by a not-so-obvious spur onto the Endanut Plateau (I’m still kicking myself for not exploring it and possibly getting a better look at Tyssestrengene), the trail descended into and ascended out of a couple steep gullies with mild dropoffs.
Beyond the gullies (which I believe belonged to part of the Tysso system), the trail then skirted by tarns as well as the walls holding up the stream and causing the Tyssehylen (which I believe the maps identify this reservoir with).
Parts of the trail even goes over or in front of such dam walls.
At this point, I still had one more kilometer to go.
The plateau trail at this point kind of degerated into a granite route-finding scramble.
It was quite easy to lose the trail, especially given the presence of some false paths or some mini-detours that still took you to the same place.
But eventually after going 10km or roughly 4-5 hours or so from the official start, I finally reached both the vista as well as the access to the Trolltunga protrusion.
You’ll know when you made it because there was always a crowd of people here, which got worse the later in the day it became (yet another reason why you’d want an early start).
I found it fairly straightforward to get that signature view of the Trolltunga perched over Ringedalsvatnet, but some people did do some daring cliff scrambling to get even lower down for a slightly more “improved” perspective.
As for getting your picture taken on the tongue itself, generally people pre-coordinate with others in their own group or even with strangers.
The way it goes is that you leave your camera with someone who hopefully won’t run off with it, and then you go line up in the queue to get onto the tongue.
Once you’ve had your turn and vacate so someone else can get on, then you can go back and pick up said camera from the person who did you the favor.
Although I did a little more exploring to see what other ways I could experience Trolltunga, I pretty much turned back from this point.
Apparently, it was possible to keep going to the top of Ringedalsfossen, but I didn’t bother.
At least with the return hike, it was primarily downhill with a few short uphill stretches.
In general, I spent far less time on the return hike (around 3 hours) versus on the way there (nearly 4 hours).
Brief History of Ringedalsfossen and Tyssestrengene
Much of this history part is a cliff-notes version of what you can read on the Kraft Museet site. I’m just going to summarize how things became what they are today.
While both Ringedalsfossen and Tyssestrengene were both technically still present, they only put on a show in special circumstances (i.e. significant rain and/or heavy snowmelt without clouds getting in the way to block the views).
It used to not be that way as both waterfalls were tourist attractions since the 1820s when British visitors first made their visits.
Inevitably though, the Industrial Revolution was in full effect at the time, and the freeflow of the waters (including the waterfalls) were perceived as being “wasted”.
Despite efforts by the Den Norske Turistforeningen (DNT), which was kind of the Norwegian Sierra Club, to preserve these waterfalls, the temptation was too great by speculators and industrial interests to overcome.
Ultimately, the rights were sold, and Tyssedal made a dramatic transformation into one of the key power generating areas to aid in carbide production in the neighboring town of Odda.
In any case, the power stations erected from Tyssedal to Skjeggedal Valley were credited in being instrumental in Norway’s transformation into a formidable industrial power.
Although DNT wasn’t able to successfully save these waterfalls, they did manage to save the waterfalls in Utladalen from regulation, and this included Vettisfossen.
These days, both Tyssedal and Skjeggedal exemplified how Norwegians have taken advantage of their geologically favorable circumstances to their advantage to advance industry and hence lift itself out from being a poor country.
Given this historical perspective, it now made total sense why we noticed so many ugly power hungry factories and quarries all over Odda.
As far as the waterfalls are concerned, both Ringedalsfossen and Tyssestrengene would only flow if there had been significant precipitation and/or at least heavy snowmelt to overflow the dams.
Of course, even if such favorable waterfalling conditions occurred, you still have to be able to see them without clouds getting in the way.
Plus, the hiking conditions can’t be too dangerous either.
Indeed, even just seeing either of these waterfalls flow would be a feat onto itself, and that’s why I tended to cap the scenery score to a 3 when they easily could have been strong 4s.
Ringedalsfossen and Tyssestrengene (as well as the Trolltunga itself) sat in the Odda Municipality in Hordaland County. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit the local government website. There is also a Facebook page set up where the Mountain Guards provide updates.
The way I did this excursion was by basing myself in the town of Odda, then doing the drive all the way to the last car park P3.
From this town, I drove for about 6km north on the Rv13 before entering the town of Tyssedal.
Once at Tyssedal, I then followed the signs for Trolltunga, which left the Rv13 and went up the Skjeggedalsvegen, which climbed steeply through town.
At about 1.4km from the Rv13, I reached a fork in the road where the turn on the right ended up at the Tyssohallen, which was also the Trolltunga P1 car park.
Keeping left to continue on Skjeggedalsvegen, I then drove a nearly single-lane road for nearly 5km, which brought me to the Trolltunga P2 car park.
Then, I was able to go on the restricted toll road to access the Trolltunga P3 car park, which was nearly another 4km further and was the last of the parking spots.
It would take me under 30 minutes to cover the nearly 13km stretch of this drive.
For some geographical context, Odda is 32km (over 30 minutes drive) south of Lofthus, 41km (about 45 minutes drive) south of Kinsarvik, 42km (about 45 minutes drive) north of Røldal, 72km (about 90 minutes drive) south of Eidfjord, 134km (about 3 hours drive with a ferry crossing) east of Bergen, 179km (over 3 hours drive with some ferry crossings) north of Stavanger, and 323km (about 5 hours drive) west of Oslo.
Now that you have an idea of how I drove here and where it relative to other towns and cities, I’ll then go into some more detail about the three different car parks that are available as of when I did this excursion in late June 2019.
Trolltunga Car Park P3: Mågelitopp
Of all the car parks to do the Trolltunga hike, this was by far the most preferred one to start from.
That’s because if you start from here, you’re looking at hiking about 20km round trip.
Of course, this comes with a catch.
First, the P3 car park only had 30 parking spots.
The gate to Mågelitopp (which was right at the upper end of the P2 car park complex; see below) didn’t even open until around 6am.
At least that was the scheduled and official opening time. That said, they started a few minutes earlier when I did it on my trip, and I actually made it up to the P3 car park before 6am.
In any case, the official scheduled time meant that I showed up at least an hour earlier to ensure that I was one of the 30 cars able to snag a spot.
Second of all, it costed me a whopping 600 NOK (this is equivalent around $75 USD) to use the toll road and the parking space!
Once I went past the boom barricade, I then went up the switchbacking 4km road.
This was a typical single-lane mountain road, where you have to be comfortable with steep inclines and tight turns while paying attention to any possible oncoming traffic.
Room for passing (or at least scooting around oncoming traffic) occurred at each of the very wide turns at each switchback.
After parking the car in the limited parking space at P3, then I had to walk downhill for 250m before I can finally start the Trolltunga hike.
Trolltunga Car Park P2: Skjeggedal
This seemed to be like the headquarters of all things Trolltunga.
Not only did the P2 car park accommodate about 180 cars, it also had a small cafe, some fairly-sized WC facility, and even a cable car that wasn’t working.
Unlike with the P3 car park, there were no strings attached to come here in terms of tolls and gates.
You just pretty much drive up here and hope there’s a parking space for you.
If you do snag a parking spot, the pay-and-display cost was a whopping 500 NOK.
From here, I did notice that there was a shuttle to knock out the pain of walking up the 4km switchbacks, which would take about 90 minutes or so.
Since I didn’t do this shuttle, I can’t advise about the experience, but as of when I was here in 2019, it costed 100 NOK per person to go up. There could be a discounted rate to go back down.
Trolltunga Car Park P1: Tyssedal
For people shut out of the P2 car park or who can’t take the narrow mountain roads further up the valley due to being oversized (i.e. RVs, trailers, campervans, etc.), this would be the car park for you.
This car park sits right at the top end of the town of Tyssedal at some kind of sports hall (idrettsplass), and can accommodate 220 cars.
The cost to park here is 300 NOK.
I’m not sure if this includes the cost of the shuttle to go the extra 5km or so to the P2 car park.
And if you want to go all the way to the actual trailhead at Mågelitopp, then that’s an additional cost for sure as mentioned earlier at the P2 section.
I’ve also noticed that it’s possible to shuttle to Trolltunga from Odda as well as from as far away as Bergen.
I didn’t exercise those options so I can’t say more about them.
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