About Storseterfossen, Grinddalsfossen, and Geirangerfossen
Storseterfossen (or Storsæterfossen), Grinddalsfossen, and Geirangerfossen were the prominent waterfalls in and behind the town of Geiranger.
Storseterfossen was an unusual 30m waterfall on the Vesteråselva in that it was well-hidden from the town of Geiranger while also allowing hikers to go behind it.
This aspect about going behind the falls didn’t seem to be a common trait amongst Norwegian waterfalls.
I recalled only Steinsdalsfossen was the other waterfall that we visited in Norway that let us go behind it.
“Grinddalsfossen” (on the Grinddalselva though the name of the falls seemed to be unofficial) was a long cascade that we observed tumbling towards the town of Geiranger.
We first noticed it on our first trip to Norway in 2005 when on one of the popular tourist cruises of the Geirangerfjord.
We also noticed it while hiking on the Storseterfossen Trail, which we’ll get into later in this write-up.
When we returned to Geiranger in 2019, we spent a bit more time in the area.
That was when we realized that we could view Grinddalsfossen directly from the Hotel Union as well as the Norwegian Fjordcenter across the Fv63.
Of the waterfalls in this writeup, Grinddalsfossen really acted more like a scenic backdrop as I wasn’t aware of a particular trail dedicated to experiencing it more intimately.
Finally, the Geirangerfossen rushed right through mountain-hugging town of Geiranger itself.
While river nomenclature in the Geiranger area wasn’t very clear on Norgeskart, we did notice on some local hiking maps of Geiranger that they called the falls Geirangerfossen so we’ll stick to that convention here.
This particular waterfall benefitted from the completion of a new Waterfall Walk (Fossevandring).
The well-developed trail followed alongside its nearly constant stretch of whitewater between the Hotel Union and the main part of the town of Geiranger.
It was during this waterfall walk that we better appreciated the augmented flow of Geirangerfossen thanks to the merging of the Vesteråselva, Grinddalselva, and Maråkelva rivers into this watercourse further upstream of town.
Experiencing Storseterfossen, Grinddalsfossen, and Geirangerfossen
Both Storseterfossen and Geirangerfossen were best experienced by hiking to them (Grinddalsfossen was more of a bonus waterfall in the background).
As for the hiking options, there were many ways to go about it.
You could just do the Geirangerfossen on the new trail, which was about 1km (each way) with about a 70m elevation change and could easily be done in around 15-30 minutes or longer (depending on how often you stop).
Or, you could also just go for the more vertical and more hidden Storseterfossen on a 2km trail (4km round trip) gaining 230m on its own.
But if you want to experience it all, you’ve got a couple of options for that.
Both times we’ve been to Geiranger (in July 2005 and July 2019), we’ve driven to the Storseterfossen Waterfall.
This came with its own headaches in that the limited parking situation in both the town of Geiranger as well as the Storseterfossen Trailhead (see directions below) tested my patience and increased the stress factor.
So to save on the hassles of finding parking, you could also hike the whole thing by combining Geirangerfossen and Storseterfossen.
You’d have to link the two trails with a direct hiking trail between the Hotel Union to the Vesterås Farm (i.e. the nearest Storseterfossen car park).
That linking trail was 2km long and climbed about 250m so it would likely take about 45-60 minutes in each direction.
Adding it all up, if you’re going to hike up from the fjord all the way up to Storseterfossen and back, you’re looking at about a 5-6km hike in each direction (or 10-12km round trip).
Given the total elevation gain of nearly 550m, this hike would likely require a half-day though I could easily see it taking the better part of a day.
The following detailed trail descriptions will only focus on treating the Storseterfossen Trail and the new Waterfall Trail as separate hikes since that’s how we (luckily) managed to do them.
By driving to the Storseterfossen Trailhead at Vesterås, I ended up saving that extra 4km (perhaps 90 minutes) round trip because I didn’t need to do that linking trail between Hotel Union and Vesterås.
Again, it’s a tradeoff between parking anxieties while saving 90 minutes of time and effort versus the extra hiking distance but greater piece of mind concerning the parking.
Hiking to Storseterfossen – the initial climb from Vesterås
Starting from the car park at the Vesterås Farm (see directions below), I had a choice of which trail to go up to reach Storseterfossen.
The most obvious and perhaps tamer trail involved backtracking down the unpaved road for 125m to the signed official trailhead on the left. This was the path that Julie and I took on our first visit in 2005.
Along the way, we could already see Grinddalsfossen making its tumble towards Geiranger.
Then, the trail went up a 650m stretch that climbed with an elevation gain of about 120m in a rather sweat inducing relentless uphill hike.
Over the years, they’ve turned the formerly grassy-sloped trail into one that included more big slabs of rock now acting more like steps.
Alternatively, I also managed to take a more direct but rougher uphill trail that went up from the Vesterås Farm towards the trail junction that met up with the main trail described above.
This shorter trail shaved off about 500m in each direction, but it definitely took my breath away with its steepness.
If you do choose to take directly trail from Vesterås to the merging with the main trail, I’d recommend you only do this trail in the uphill direction.
The steepness and lesser-maintained nature of this trail meant that going downhill could have a bit of unstable footing (and thus a less pleasurable walking experience).
Hiking to Storseterfossen – beyond the initial climb
From the merging of both the direct uphill trail and the main trail itself, I continued to gain another 110m of elevation as the climb finally started to flatten out.
At around 650m or so from the trail merging, I was able to get a frontal look at Storseterfossen framed by the scenic Grinddalsnibba behind it.
On each of our visits, I easily got this view directly from the main trail, but on my first visit, I recalled there was an additional scrambling path slightly off the main trail to get a similar view.
In any case, after about 800m from the trail junction (or 1.5km from the trailhead), I reached another trail junction, which was a little further upstream of the falls.
I had a choice of continuing into the Vesterås Valley to the left, but instead, I kept right to backtrack towards the brink of Storseterfossen.
That was where I saw a bit of an informal resting area where people were basking in the sun or having a picnic.
In this spot, I also noticed a side trail that descended around the hill before hugging a cliff ledge (with fencing) that ultimately arrived behind the cool and moist backside of Storseterfossen.
Hiking to Storseterfossen – behind the waterfall
The sloping cliff-hugging stretch of trail probably was about 100m long.
Most of this part of the trail was beneath the overhanging cliff walls, and in one part, it was deep enough to house a couple of interpretive signs.
Towards the bottom, I had to really bend over due to the overhang creeping lower and lower onto the trail from above.
Once behind the falls, I noticeably felt the change in temperatures thanks to the falls spraying or at least providing a cool, comfortable mist that contrasted with the warm weather (both times I’ve done this hike were on warm days).
Throughout the descent and the backside of the falls, there were railings or fencing to keep visitors back from the dropoffs (and minimize the chances of having a repeat occurence of a person who fell and died here prior to our 2005 visit).
When Julie and I first came here, we noticed there appeared to be artifacts of what might have been an old path coming down here from the other side of the falls, but that looked dangerous and unprotected.
I’d imagine that it might have had something to do with the past fatalities here.
Anyhow, when I came back here in 2019, I didn’t see such artifacts anymore. In fact, they even had fencing put up at the very brink of the falls up above so one would not even entertain attempting that route.
After having my fill of the backside of Storseterfossen, I then turned back and enjoyed the resting area atop the falls where I got expansive views looking downstream over the brink of the falls as well as upstream deeper into the Vesterådalen.
When I had my fill of this resting area (rasteplass), I then looked forward to the all downhill trail to return to the trailhead.
Overall, this hike took me 90 minutes covering a round-trip distance of about 4km. On our first visit, it took Julie and I closer to two hours to do this hike.
If you’re walking up from say the Hotel Union or Norwegian Fjordcenter, then this distance increases to 8km round trip, which would add an additional 45-60 minutes in each direction.
The Waterfall Trail alongside Geirangerfossen”
This hike (actually more of a stroll) describes the new Waterfall Trail, which pretty much followed along the Geirangerfossen part of the Grinddalselva.
It was actually the key trail that linked both the Hotel Union and the Norwegian Fjordcenter (basically an interpretive museum and visitor center) with the main part of Geiranger down by the Geirangerfjord.
The 1km walk itself was very well-developed and had steps as well as metal catwalks, lookouts, and quite a few interpretive signs.
The walk would take around 15-20 minutes without stops, but given how scenic it was, I know we wound up spending more time than that.
As we followed the footpath downwards from the Norwegian Fjordcenter, we could already see that there was a convergence of two rivers adjacent to the Hotel Union.
I believe that other river came from Vesteråselva (the same stream that Storseterfossen was on), and it made me wonder if this confluence of the two rivers had something to do with the name of the Hotel Union.
Further below, the footpath curved and descended around a vertical drop on the Geirangerfossen before following along more steps that descended alongside a long sloping section of the river.
At the bottom of the descent, the footpath then skirted around the edge of a camping and parking area before reaching a small commercial area lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Eventually, we wound up at the main dock area where there were more restaurants as well as a visitor center where you can book Geirangerfjord Cruises or other excursions.
Since we managed to do both the Waterfall Trail alongside Geirangerfossen and the Storseterfossen Trail as separate excursions, I’ll describe the driving directions to each separately using Geiranger as a base.
You can see Grinddalsfossen as a backdrop waterfall from either of the excursions (albeit in very different ways).
Geiranger is a well-known destination and you can easily use route to the town using an assortment of mapping software from GoogleMaps to AppleMaps to whatever…
Directions to the Waterfall Trail
Because we were staying at the Hotel Union, our preferred parking location was the hotel’s own car park.
There was also public street parking right across the Fv63 by the Norwegian Fjordcenter.
This was basically 1.2km south of the Geiranger wharf and the center of town, or 2.8km north of the Flydalsjuvet Overlook.
Of course, it was also possible to start the Waterfall Trail from the town of Geiranger itself, where you can try your luck at finding street parking.
We also saw people parking in a lot by the Geiranger Camping, which was also in town.
Directions to the Storseterfossen Trailhead
The closest car park for the Storseterfossen waterfall was at the Vesterås Farm and Cafe.
We managed to drive there from the town center of Geiranger by going south on the Fv63 for about 3.3km (or 2.1km from the Hotel Union) before turning left near the Hole Hyttas.
After hanging that left turn, we then found ourselves on a very narrow single-lane road (often shared with hikers) leading all the way to the Vesterås Restaurant.
There was limited parking there as most of the parking spaces were for customers only.
This drive typically took me about 15-20 minutes though most of the time spent was due to traffic (both slower cars and pedestrians) as well as trying to find parking.
For context, Geiranger was 75km (90 minutes drive) northeast of Stryn, 448km (6 hours drive) northwest of Oslo, 371km (6.5 hours drive with some ferry crossings) northeast of Bergen, and 376km (5.5 hours drive) southwest of Trondheim.
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