About Stigfossen and Tverrdalsfossen (Trollstigen)
Stigfossen and Tverrdalsfossen were the pair of waterfalls framing the famous 11-turn serpentine road called Trollstigen (“the troll ladder”).
This memorable drive up (or down) the steep switchbacking road while seeing at least one of the two waterfalls at all times was a sight to behold.
It also felt like deja vu because we had a similar experience on a different serpentine road (also featuring a pair of waterfalls flanking it) at the Stalheimskleiva at the head of the Nærøydal Valley in Stalheim.
Having gone through that other serpentine road, we knew what to expect in terms of taking it slow while also looking for opportunities to pull over and relish in the glorious scenery around us.
In the 14 years since our first visit in early July 2005, we noticed on our return visit quite a few changes at Trollstigen.
For starters, this place has grown in popularity (even though it was already pretty popular back then)!
Second, we noticed that they have a pretty modern visitor center and cafe with some degree of intervention on the stream responsible for Stigfossen.
Finally, we noticed at least three official lookouts where overhanging platforms with see-through floors were featured.
We definitely didn’t recall seeing these before on our first visit.
So while these changes may have better accommodated the increased visitation, it definitely changed the overall experience as a whole.
One could argue the merits of these changes, but in my mind, we had a better experience on our second visit than on our first visit.
Even though the clouds kind of impacted the views from time-to-time on that second visit, at least they weren’t so persistent that we couldn’t see anything at all, especially since the weather was starting to clear up!
Stigfossen from Trollstigen
The larger waterfall that we noticed as we approached Trollstigen was Stigfossen, which we thought was the main waterfall.
We were able to see this 180m waterfall from various angles at several parts of the serpentine road.
The progression for us started with a full frontal view near the bottom of the road just after the Trollstigen’s first two switchbacks.
More than two-thirds the way up the road we then approached the bridge Stigfossbrua where we got a little sprayed by the mist of Stigfossen’s uppermost sections of its cascade.
Ultimately, when we reached the very top of Trollstigen at Stigrøra, we would get to experience Stigfossen once again but this time from the top down with the Isterdal Valley acting as a backdrop.
Tverrdalsfossen from Trollstigen
Tverrdalsfossen was the other waterfall tumbling opposite Trollstigen of Stigfossen, and it seemed to have a more vertical drop than Stigfossen.
It even seemed to be taller than Stigfossen as well, which we noticed quite readily when we viewed both waterfalls from higher vantage points.
We actually were quite surprised that this falls didn’t have an official name like Stigfossen did (at least according to Norgeskart).
That said, the falls did tumble on the Tverrelva so it could be why our Adventure Roads in Norway book called it Tverrdalsfossen.
In any case, we used to informally call this waterfall “Trollfossen”.
Unlike with Stigfossen, there seemed to be fewer pullouts or opportunities (if any) to better enjoy this waterfall outside of the car while on the Trollstigen serpentine road.
Both waterfalls had good volume though Stigfossen’s volume was much more significant and probably most likely to be year-round.
Finally, to not get confused about which waterfall was which, as you face Trollstigen on the ascent, Stigfossen would be the waterfall on the right while Tverrdalsfossen would be the waterfall next to the switchbacks on the left.
Ongoing work on Trollstigen
During our first visit in early July 2005, there was quite a bit of construction work going on, especially near the bottom of the road.
Julie and I had read a sign there talking about how the work sought to re-route a 600m stretch of road covering a pair of switchbacks due to its vulnerability to rockfalls.
From looking at the top down photo shown on the sign, a combination of the steep walls of Trollstigen combined with the water from Tverrdalsfossen seemed to present this engineering challenge.
When we returned to Trollstigen in July 2019, the construction work seemed to be completed as we saw no signs of construction while the road seemed to feature longer switchbacks than what we remembered.
As I looked back at our trip photos, I couldn’t help but notice there were now unused remnants of Trollstigen paralleling the current road though you’d have to really pay attention to notice them.
The Trollstigen Panoramas
While driving the Trollstigen presented a big part of the overall experience, the other involved getting out of the car to experience the panoramas at the very top of Isterdalen’s headwall.
When we first visited in early July 2005, there were semi-formal trails that led from the car park on the right (west) side of the Fv63 to views looking back into the Isterdal Valley.
It was tricky to get an all-encompassing view simply because the panorama was too expansive to capture it all (the serpentine road and the valley with waterfalls) in a single camera frame.
In order to bring more into the frame, we needed some additional aids like a wide angle lens.
I never recalled there being guardrails nor viewing platforms, and we basically went as far down the cliffs as we were willing to risk before the dropoffs became too steep in order to improve our views.
When we returned to Trollstigen in mid-July 2019, the area was completely redone.
Not only did they move the car park to the left (east) side, they redid the visitor center as well as created a boardwalk that skirted along the stream responsible for Stigfossen before branching off to different viewing platforms.
During the boardwalk, we noticed there was some degree of intervention on the stream in the form of calm pools as well as man-made channels to keep the water funneled towards Stigfossen, especially in times of flood.
The boardwalk then branched off into a pair of spurs, where the left fork went right to the brink of Stigfossen.
Meanwhile, the path on the right followed along the cliff top before reaching a pair of sanctioned overlooks with the very last one featuring a gratings to allow you to see through to the dropoff below.
These overlooks provided a more direct look into the Isterdal Valley while also providing opportunities to get elevated views of the front of both Stigfossen as well as Tverrdalsfossen (though not at the same time).
In fact, the extent of these viewing decks allowed us the ability to get better looks at the Trollstigen switchbacks together with the Isterdal Valley in ways we never could have done the first time around when this infrastructure didn’t occur.
Although it would probably take no more than an hour to properly experience all the overlooks, I’d imagine you’d want to take your time due to the sheer amount of tourist traffic here as well as to just enjoy the landscape.
We also noticed some people forsake the main trails to each of the overlooks in favor of longer trails climbing even higher to more elevated and lesser-developed vantage points.
The maps even suggested that one of these trails ultimately would lead to the Trollveggen (the “Troll Wall”) overlooking Romsdal Valley.
For the record, on our second visit in 2019, it took us about 90 minutes away from the car (not counting an hour-long lunch) before we then moved on.
Origins and Plans for Trollstigen
As Julie and I read more about Trollstigen, we learned that it opened in July 1936 after eight years of construction under the reign of King Haakon VII.
Given its dramatic scenery that I’ve been waxing poetic about throughout this page, it was said that Trollstigen was the most traveled tourist road in Norway.
We can anecdotally corroborate this claim given how many people we had to share the narrow serpentine road (as well as the overlooks) with on our both of our visits.
Supposedly, the Norwegian road authority, Statens Vegvesen, had big plans for the stretch of road Fv63 that included Geiranger and Trollstigen back when we made our first visit in early July 2005.
They wanted to make the so-called Atlantic Ocean Road (Atlantershavsveien) as part of the National Tourist Road system to further establish Norway as a self-driving destination, which seemed to make a lot of sense.
We’re not sure if these big plans have been completely executed or not since we didn’t see any specific designation on the roads making this connection (though I’m sure they’re in the literature).
When we made our drive doing a similar connection in 2019, it started from Sunndalsøra, went through Kristiansund and the Atlantic Road, then went through Åndalsnes to ascend the Trollstigen en route to Ålesund.
Beyond Trollstigen and the Valldal Plateau
Although Trollstigen deservedly gets the notoriety and the accompanying traffic, the hits didn’t end there.
As we continued further south on the Fv63, we encountered more sights including waterfalls, lakes, mountains, and a wide valley called Valldalen.
Although technically this wasn’t part of the Trollstigen experience, I tended to think of them together considering that they were close enough to not want to miss out (especially when driving across the plateau).
Among the waterfalls in or near the Valldalen Plateau included the cascade called Strupen as well as the high volume Slufsafossen in Valldalen.
We also witnessed more alpine lakes and tarns backed by more nameless cascades as well as tall peaks.
Indeed, it seemed like people in the know used this area as a more laid back scenic alternative to the crowds at Trollstigen (or perhaps they already did Trollstigen earlier and wanted a place to unwind a bit).
As far as I was concerned, the waterfalls and the scenery reached as far as the municipality boundary between Rauma and Norddal.
There were large pullouts in the area both around Strupen as well as by the municipality boundary sign to better take in the scenery.
I recalled when we first passed through Valldalen in early July 2005, the entire plateau was covered in snow except for where the road was.
When we returned in July 2019, the snow was mostly gone, which made the waterfalls here (especially Slufsafossen) stand out against the rocks and moss.
I guess that kind of gives you an idea of how the experiences can differ from year to year.
From the junction of the E136 and Fv64 in the town of Åndalsnes, we drove southeast along the E136 for about 4.3km to the junction with the Fv63 to our right.
We then crossed the bridge over the Rauma River and followed the Fv63 for the next 10.5km to a fairly well-defined viewing area for Stigfossen. This was just past the first two switchbacks on the Trollstigen Road.
The car park area for the Trollstigen Visitor Center and Cafe was another 4.5km up the serpentine road.
Overall, this drive should take no more than 30 minutes.
Going in the other direction from the town of Valldal, we would drive about 34km north on the Fv63 to the Trollstigen Visitor Center parking.
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.
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