After having visited the national parks of Rondane, Dovre and Jotunheimen, we continue our road trip south of Norway to Geilo. This ski resort, is located 200 kilometers north west of Oslo, at the foot of the imposing Hallingskarvet National Park.
As we move away from the Jotunheimen mountains, the dark landscape of coniferous forests gives way to green pastures.
In this post of our travel blog Heulys, we describe Geilo, the gateway to the Hallingskarvet National Park, as well as the iconic hike of the park: the Prestholt Round.
1. Discovering Geilo
From Gol, a town located in the Buskerud County, the Rv7 road follows the Hallingdaselva River and winds its way through a beautiful valley dotted with hamlets. Between Gol and Geilo, a stop is needed in the town of Torpo to visit its stave church (stavkirke), one of the remarkable medieval buildings that belongs to the exceptional architectural tradition of Norway.
Then, continuing our journey on road Rv7, we arrive at Geilo, ski resort located 800 meters above sea level. It is very popular with Norwegians in winter. In summer, the resort becomes the gateway to Hallingskarvet Park to the north and to Hardangervidda National Park to the south. These two wild and almost inhospitable mountains are perfect playgrounds for hikers and other nature lovers. Indeed, many hikes can be made from Geilo or in the vicinity.
To better understand the geographical position of Geilo, situated in the heart of several mountains and lakesides, have a look at the dynamic map of the city.
Discover Geilo from the top
Geilo is the starting point to many hikes shown on this map.
In Summer, some of the lifts are in use. So, as soon as we arrive in town, we take the Vestliheisen lift situated in the south of Geilo. At the top of the climb, we have a excellent panoramic view on Geilo, the lakes Ustedalsfjorden, Veslefjorden and on the Hallingskarvet mountains.
“Seaside atmosphere” in Geilo
In the afternoon, we walk around the lakes bordering Geilo. Accessible on foot from the city center, two loop trails run around the Ustedalsfjorden (10-kilometer loop called Ustedalsfjorden Round) and Lake Veslefjorden (smaller loop inside the Ustedalsfjorden Round).
This quiet and easy walk in the heart of Geilo let us discover landscapes of total tranquility such as small protected beaches, rest areas with barbecues facilities, creeks and fishing spots. This “seaside” atmosphere is quite unexpected in the heart of this mountain range.
2. Hallingskarvet National Park
The weather is beautiful. It is a perfect day to hike through the impressive mountains of Hallingskarvet National Park overlooking Geilo.
This mountain hike, called Prestholt Round, is located at the foot of the impressive Prestholtkervet mountain. It is very popular with hikers in search of exceptional panoramas.
In addition, Hallingskarvet National Park is a habitat for wild reindeers. Unfortunatly, we have not observed any, but you may have more chance! 😉
The Prestholt Round, scenic hike
Thus, on the advice of our host we left early in the morning to enjoy the sunny weather. “It gets overcast in the late afternoon,” he says. This day was no exception to the rule.
We arrive at Prestholtseter (1248 m) at the foot of the mighty Hallingskarvet mountains and starting point for many hikes.
We buy a few sandwiches at the Prestholtseter cafe, and take the path towards Prestholtskarvet, the highest point of the massif. According to the guides, “Skarvet” means “bare rock”. We will quickly understand why.
2,000 stone steps built by Nepalese Sherpas
The path crosses a wet meadow of heather and lichens, devoid of trees. Covered with snow a good part of the year, it is difficult for plants to grow. In Summer, many streams run on the slopes of the mountains.
The Prestholtskardet ridge overlooking the valley is the goal of our ascent. It offers a rough silhouette somewhat impressive.
After a quarter of an hour’s walk, the path goes to the right towards 2000 steps made of stones. They lead in a straight line to the top of the ridge. This construction was laid by Nepalese Sherpas, experts in high mountain constructions.
As we ascend, the panorama gets more and more striking. Some remains of old houses are visible in the meadows. But, no reindeer in sight!
As we approach the steep side of the rocky plateau, the greenery carpet suddenly gives way to a mineral and rugged environment. As the ridge gets nearer, the weather suddenly deteriorates, the temperature drops and snowflakes whirl in the icy wind!
Hallingskarvet is a wild mineral environment but it is so beautiful!
We finally reach the summit of the ridge, from the point of view called Prestholtskardet (1659 m).
The last meters of the ascent are steep and engaging but what a panorama when we arrive at the summit!
– on the valley side, the panorama on Lake Ustevatn is striking. On a clear day, it is even possible to make out the silhouette of Mount Gaustastoppen.
– on the Prestholskardet side, the glacial landscape, dark and shrouded in mist offers an unreal atmosphere. Here, the “skarvet” aspect dominates.
On the left, the gently sloping path leads to the summit of Prestholskardet (1 hour distance, 1859 m), the highest point on the plateau.
We prefer to take the path that runs along the ridge and down to the road from where we arrived.
After an area of rough terrain (large stones), we walk again through a very wet ground, crossed by streams and peat.
Back at the Prestholtseter cafe, we rest a bit and take a comforting hot tea and pastry to reinvigorate us.
Finally, we spend the rest of the day walking on the surrounding paths.
Geilo and the Hallingskarvet National Park offers a great variety of experiences.
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