Last week I was going on and on about why the little town of Fauske, close to Bodø in Northern Norway, is the perfect place to escape the summer crowds in Norway's tourist hotspots Bergen, Stavanger and Lofoten. I basically called Fauske the most boring town of Norway cause really, there just isn't much to do.
Except, there actually is a lot to do - or rather to hike - if you're a fan of the outdoors. Nestled in between two gorgeous national parks, Sjunkhatten and Rago, Fauske has a lot to offer to those who brave the Arctic weather and want to embark on a trek in the middle of nowhere.
In this post I'll therefore present you the trail that led us to the area where the reindeer herd of my partner Simon's family is being gathered each summer and give you some detailed info on what you need to keep in mind when going hiking in Sjunkhatten National Park.
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Sjunkhatten National Park in a nutshell
Sjunkhatten National Park is a 400 km² big area stretching from the peninsula Kjerringøy at the coast near Bodø to the little town of Røsvik close to Straumen and Fauske ca. 40 km inland.
It was established in 2010 and is also called "the children's national park" as most trails are fairly accessible and easy to hike for children as well. The area is full of steep mountaintops, cliffs, fjords, rivers, rocks and extremely lush forests. There's also plenty of wildlife in the area and besides grazing sheep and reindeer, you might be able to spot a sea eagle or two.
How to get there
The nearest airport is in Bodø which can be reached with Norwegian from Oslo, or with SAS/Widerøe from Tromsø, Trondheim and Bergen. You can also take the train from Oslo to Trondheim and then go on to Bodø from there - many people claim this to be one of Europe's most beautiful train journeys.
Once you've reached Bodø, you've got to rent a car as there is no public transport to the national park available. The four main entrances to Sjunkhatten are at Skau and Heggmoen close to Bodø, or further inland near Røsvik and near Valnesfjord.
Where to stay
Keep in mind that there are no cabins you could stay in at Sjunkhatten national park so if you want to embark on a long trek, you've got to bring a tent. Camping is allowed as long as you don't leave any traces and make sure to protect the park from wildfire.
There is cheap accommodation close to the main entrances in Bodø and Valnesfjord/Fauske.
When to visit
The best months to hike in Sjunkhatten are July and August when most of the snow has melted. June can still be really icy and slippery, and the rivers can be quite deep and large with all the snow melting in the mountains.
September often comes with bad weather and the first snow on the mountain tops making for a rather unpleasant and unsafe hike if you're not familiar with the conditions and environment.
The trail up to Midtiskar
One of the most stunning, yet easily accessible trails is the one leading up to Midtiskar valley. It was certainly one of the most strenuous hikes I've ever been on and definitely beats Plateau Mountain in Svalbard, but it's still doable.
I mean, I'm not an experienced hiker whatsoever and if I can make it up there, you can!
As you can see in the video, the trail covers everything from rivers and waterfalls, to lush forests and steep mountaintops. It starts off at the parking lot at Valnesfjord (see the map at the end of the post for further details) with a wooden trail and a staircase leading you up into the forest.
Your first obstacle there will be the river that was ankle-deep when we crossed it in late July - and which might even be deeper if you go in June. Right after that's done, the steepest part of the hike awaits you, deep deep deeper into the forest.
For the entire hike, you follow the river to your left and the trail is also very obvious for the most part. Once you come out of the forest, it's marshland all the way up the mountain which means that the trail will be extremely muddy and slippery right after it's rained.
The last stretch of the hike is very rocky so make sure to have boots with good ankle support. There's several more rivers to cross so be careful as the rocks in the water are really slippery. When you've finally reached Midtiskar valley, you might feel like you're in troll county - that's how big some of those rocks are!
When we were marking the reindeer in the valley (well, I was just watching to be fair), we suddenly heard the mountain rumble and a huge chunk of snow fell of the cliff. I've never seen an avalanche before but this experience still makes me shudder. I guess it goes to show how incredible powerful and mighty this national park really is and it likes to remind you of how small you are compared to it.
What to keep in mind when hiking to Midtiskar
Aside from the obvious not to go for the hike in bad weather conditions and in off-season, here's what you need to know about this particular trail:
It took me 3 hours to hike up (not counting lunch break) and 1 1/2 hours to hike down. As I said I'm not an experienced (nor very fit) hiker though so you might be faster.
The area is used for the annual marking of the reindeer at the end of July but that doesn't mean that you're not allowed to hike up there at that time of year. Feel free to come and have a look BUT if someone tells you not to go further/stop and wait - listen! You don't want to be the person who causes the whole herd to scatter to the four winds when the herders have just spend 3 days gathering all animals.
It's a national park so leave the place as you found it. Collect your trash and make sure to completely put out the blaze after you make a bonfire. There are no toilets so if nature calls, grab a stone and put it over your toilet paper so that animals can't get hold of it.
The water from the river is safe to drink.
If you bring a dog, it needs to be on the leash at all times so that it doesn't run off to hunt after animals.
What to bring
High-quality and waterproof hiking boots, preferably high-ankle ones as otherwise you'd need to take them off to cross the rivers if you don't want to get soaked wet. A little side note: the water is ice-cold.
A backpack with straps around your waist so that you carry the weight on your hips, making it easier for your back on the steep parts of the trail.
Toilet paper / sun screen / a water bottle / plenty of food and snacks / a camera and binoculars to enjoy the view / a hiking stick (or two if you prefer) / a pad or blanket to sit on / matches / a sharp knife / camping gear if you're staying for the night / tea or coffee and a kettle or a thermos flask / hand sanitizer / extra set of socks / warm clothes / rain jacket / hat / scarf / gloves
The route of the trail
Find the detailed trail on the map below and don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any further questions about the trek!
Have you ever hiked a National Park before?
Leave a comment below!
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PS: Check out this article I wrote for Routes North, if you'd like to learn more about the area around Fauske and Sami reindeer herding!
More FROM AND ABOUT FAUSKE:
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