About Stalheimsfossen and Sivlefossen
Stalheimsfossen and Sivlefossen were the two giant waterfalls tumbling on opposite sides of the serpentine road known as Stalheimskleiva.
In addition to the waterfalls, we saw a lot of scenery packed into this tight area since it sat right at the head of the narrow and precipitous Nærøydal Valley.
According to the literature, Stalheimsfossen was said to be 126m tall while Sivlefossen was said to be 142m tall, which I can corroborate on Norgeskart.
Interestingly, I also saw a sign claiming that Stalheimsfossen dropped 120m while Sivlefossen dropped a whopping 240m, which I think was a typo.
While we easily saw both waterfalls on the Stalheimskleiva Road, there were also trails that allowed us to experience each waterfall on a more intimate level.
Experiencing Stalheimsfossen and Sivlefossen from Stalheimskleiva
As we descended the serpentine road, we really weren’t able to see the waterfalls in earnest until we were at about the third or fourth hairpin turn.
Once we spotted the waterfalls, we then had to figure out how to pull over and better enjoy the sights without blocking traffic.
This made me wonder if it would have been better to ride a bike (with good brakes of course) or walking the entire 1.5km stretch of road.
Regardless, when we got down to around the half-way point of Stalheimskleiva, we took advantage of a pullout that yielded perhaps our best roadside view of Sivlefossen.
In fact, on our return visit in 2019, we noticed a narrow trail of use that linked Stalheimskleiva up with a more direct footpath that ran right in front of the Sivlefossen waterfall for an even better and more intimate experience of it.
At the top of the Sivlefossen was said to be the namesake Sivle Farm where Per Sivle (one of Norway’s most dear poets and writers) once lived.
Once the road descended amongst the trees at the floor of the Nærøydal Valley, the views were no more.
However, shortly after crossing the bridge over the Stalheimselvi, we then encountered a car park area near a trail leading to the base of Stalheimsfossen.
The Short Walk to the base of Stalheimsfossen
The signs indicated at the short walk to the base of Stalheimsfossen was about 900m (in each direction).
This path was gentle and mostly flat (even wheelchair accessible) as it followed along the rushing Nærøy River (Nærøyselva).
We found this walk to be a very relaxing experience, which contrasted with the drama and white-knuckle driving on the Stalheimskleiva itself.
Most of the walk was within the shade or cover of flanking trees, but once we got into the spray zone of the falls, there was a noticeable clearing where we could view the falls on the approach to the end at the viewing area.
A sign here explained that the spray zone from the waterfalls made it difficult for trees to grow there, and hence the clearing that allowed us to get good views of Stalheimsfossen.
Julie and I spent a total of 30 minutes on this walk on our first visit in 2005.
On my second visit in 2019, I spent 25 minutes in total, but I was also racing an incoming tour bus crowd knowing that it would be a bit hectic and crowded when they would make it to the trail’s end if I didn’t beat them to the punch.
According to a sign here, Stalheimskleiva was built between 1842-1849, and it was originally part of a royal postal route connecting Copenhagen, Oslo, and Bergen.
They also refer to this route as the Kongevegen om Stalheim (the Royal Road at Stalheim) since it was an important corridor connecting at least Oslo and Bergen in otherwise very steep and rough terrain.
Given the road’s positioning between both Stalheimsfossen and Sivlefossen, I found the Stalheimskleiva experience to be similar to the Trollstigen experience, where it also had two waterfalls flanking the steep serpentine road.
That said, Stalheimskleiva was a lot shorter and steeper, and perhaps that’s why it felt like the quieter of the two roads.
As of our latest visit in 2019, it also seemed like the road was one-way as it only descended shortly after passing by the Stalheim Hotel and the vicinity of the Sivle Farm.
Apparently, this road used to accommodate uphill traffic though I’m sure the 20% grade must have made it difficult on older cars or those that lacked the horsepower to ascend such an incline.
The current location of the Stalheim Hotel (at the top of Stalheimskleiva) was the result of the owner Johann Andersen moving his hotel from Voss to Stalheim in 1885.
Since that time, one of its more prominent guests was Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who would visit every year for the 25 years from 1889 to the first World War.
Even though we took it for granted on our visits to Stalheimskleiva, it wasn’t until the 1950s when the serpentine road was improved to allow for motor vehicles.
To get to the Stalheimskleiva, we first have to get to the Stalheim Hotel.
From Flåm, we would drive about 31km west on the E16 (passing through two long tunnels in the beginning and one more at the end) before turning right onto the signposted turnoff for Stalheim on the right.
Then, we’d drive 1.3km to the Stalheim Hotel.
Soon after the hotel, we reached a fork where we kept right to go onto the Stalheimskleiva, where the switchbacks started roughly 400m later.
Overall, this drive would take a little over a half-hour.
Going in the opposite direction from Voss, we would drive north on the E16 for about 34km to the Stalheimsvegen (before the Stalheimtunnelen).
Once on the Stalheimsvegen, we then drove the remaining 1.2km to the Stalheim Hotel, and then another 400-500m or so to the start of the Stalheimskleiva.
This drive would also take a little over 30 minutes.
At the bottom of the Stalheimskleiva, there was a car park where the trail to the base of Stalheimsfossen began.
It was also possible to drive directly to the car park for the base of Stalheimsfossen without going on the Stalheimskleiva by leaving the E16 about 200m before the Stalheimstunnelen (if heading west; or after the tunnel if heading east).
For geographical context, Flåm was about 15km (about 15 minutes drive) south of Aurland, 20km (under 30 minutes drive) east of Gudvangen, 41km (over 30 minutes drive) south of Lærdal, 66km (an hour drive) northeast of Voss, about 72km (an hour drive) southwest of Årdalstangen, 284km (over 3.5 hours drive with a ferry crossing) northeast of Bergen, and 312km (over 5 hours drive) northwest of Oslo.
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