Read on for everything you need to know in order to do the Preikestolen hike in Norway without having to be rescued (and that’s not a joke)!
Even though local travel organizations were concerned about the fact that Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible stunt at Pulpit Rock was set in India in the movie, there have been more hikers to the rock formation so far this year than ever before.
Sadly, that also means that the local rescue service is more than busy carrying hikers with broken legs or ankles down the mountain - or worse, having to call the helicopter for assistance. So, if you’re planning to do the hike to Preikestolen in Norway yourself, make sure to read the following tips first!
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS and was written in paid collaboration with SafetyWing Travel medical insurance
The Preikestolen Hike in short
Preikestolen (also known as Pulpit Rock in English) is a rock formation that sits at 600 meters above Lysefjord close to the town of Stavanger in Western Norway. The rock formation has a 1 kilometer long drop as the fjord just below is about 400 meters deep.
The trail leading up to Preikestolen might only be 4 kilometers long (one way), but it entails having to climb steep stone steps and walk on bare rocks which can be tricky to navigate when it’s wet and slippery.
As there are no fences preventing anyone from falling off the rock formation, Preikestolen is a popular spot for adventurers who get a kick out of dangling their feet into the air above the fjord. Preikestolen is unfortunately also a busy workplace for Norwegian rescue services as the hike to the top frequently attracts inexperienced hikers who have never been to Norway’s mountains before and think they can do the hike in sandals or flip flops (spoiler alert: no!).
How to get to Preikestolen
As of July 2019, you still need to hop on the ferry before taking the bus to the start of the hike. Preikestolen is situated near Jørpeland, a small town at the other side of Stavanger’s Byfjord.
The ferry departs from Fiskepirterminalen in downtown Stavanger and goes to Tau where you can change to the bus going to Pulpit Rock Mountain Lodge - the start of the hike. While there are different organised tours available, the cheapest way of getting to Preikestolen is by going there independently. You can get a return ticket on the ferry (124 NOK and you can pay with any credit/debit card when boarding the ferry) and then you should better buy single tickets for the bus later on.
While it’s, of course, also possible to buy return bus tickets, doing so means you’re stuck with one bus company and potentially having to wait a while for the next departure when coming back from the hike. By buying single tickets, you can stay as long as you want on Preikestolen without having to worry about the next bus departure and can simple hop on the next one that departs when you get back.
Currently, you can pick between Boreal (single ticket: 135 NOK), Tide (single ticket: 200 NOK, though their tour starts in Stavanger and includes the ferry) and Pelle’s Reiser (return ticket: 200 NOK, though they only offer return journeys at 2:10 pm, 4:10 pm, 5:10 pm and 7:10 pm).
From 2020 on, the new Ryfast tunnel will open which runs underneath the fjord from Stavanger to Tau and means that you’ll be able to take the bus directly from downtown Stavanger to the start of the Preikestolen hike.
Best time to go to Preikestolen
The best time to go to Preikestolen is the summer. While the hike is also open during the winter months, you shouldn’t attempt it then if you’re inexperienced with Norway’s mountains as the rocks on the trail can be extremely slippery when wet (which is also why so many people end up with broken bones).
The summer season, however, also comes with its own particular set of challenges as that’s also the time when the trail is at its most crowded. Busses full of cruise tourists arrive at Pulpit Rock Mountain Lodge each morning - many of them having never been in the mountains before and wearing absolutely inappropriate clothes and shoes.
Not only are these people a danger to themselves but they also lead to quite a queue going up Preikestolen which you might want to avoid. Most tourist busses start in Stavanger between 8.30 and 9 am, which means you’ll have a head start if you depart even earlier and take the ferry/bus between 7 and 8 am.
If you’re planning to take particular shots and worry about crowds ruining your pictures, you might be better off starting the hike past 4 pm when most tourist busses have already left the trail (or are on their way down). The sun doesn’t set before 11 pm/midnight during the summer in Stavanger, which means you’ll still have plenty of time to return before nightfall.
As the sun rises really early in Western Norway in the summer (around 4 am), you could also start the hike then to experience the morning sun at the top. Last but not least, you could also depart for the hike in the evening and set up tent in the mountains (but not on the rock formation itself as that’s prohibited).
If you’re rather inexperienced or a little nervous about the hike (or hiking solo), better stick to starting in the morning to make sure that there are people around in case you need any help.
What to bring when doing the Preikestolen hike
High quality hiking boots/shoes are key to getting up and down Preikestolen safely. The hike consists of several stretches of steep stone stairs and bare rock face that need to be conquered - all of which can be super slippery when it has rained (as it so often does in the area).
Thus, if you don’t already own a pair of hiking shoes, make sure to head to an outdoor store of your choice to test different models on different terrain. Proper outdoor stores usually have small stretches of mock wood and rock for you to test shoes on, which will definitely facilitate your journey of finding the right hiking shoe for you.
If you’ve previously hurt your ankles, think about whether a high or low cut works better for you and whether or not you should wear a bandage to prevent a new injury. When having hurt your ankle once, there’s a huge risk that you might hurt it again.
Regardless of whether you embark on the Preikestolen hike in the midst of summer or shoulder/low season, you need to bring warm clothes. The weather on top of the mountain can change quickly and the area is prone to rain and fog, meaning that even if it’s sunny and warm when you first hit the trail, by the time you reach the top it can suddenly be cloudy/rainy and chilly.
Temperatures on rainy days can easily go down to 10 degrees or less, even in the middle of July, and you should always keep in mind that the temperature at the top of the mountain is between 4 to 5 degrees lower than at the bottom, respectively in the city. Even if you embark for the hike on a day with sunshine and 20 degrees, it can easily only be 15 degrees at the top with a wind that makes it feel like even less, so keep your shorts at home.
Thus, a fleece jacket, as well as a water- and wind proof jacket and resistant (long) hiking pants should always form your outer layers. Underneath, you should wear a sports shirt - one of those long-sleeved shirts (preferably made of wool) that are breathable and absorb sweat, so that you don’t have to sit in a wet shirt when reaching Preikestolen and having a break. That would only lead you to start freezing. Women should also wear a sports bra (we all know there’s nothing more disgusting than the feeling of sweaty bra straps on your back… yuck).
If you don’t own any active wear, at least bring a change of clothes/shirts.
A scarf and hat/headband should also find the way into your backpack, as the top of the mountain can be pretty windy.
3. Other items
Other items to carry in your backpack include plenty of water and food. The little lakes about halfway up the trail do not provide suitable drinking water and there most definitely aren’t any kiosks (or toilets for that matter) around. The mountain lodge at the start of the trail is the last option to restock your supplies (and visit a proper toilet). Thus, make sure to bring at least 1 liter of water (better yet 1 1/2 as surely you know that 2-3 liters a day are the healthy goal), as well as a proper lunch and snacks.
On a chilly day, it can also pay off to bring a thermos bottle of hot coffee/tea.
An insulated sitting pad is also something that should find its way into your backpack to prevent you from getting cold when sitting on the bare rock at the plateau. It’s something I’ve been introduced to here in Norway for the first time but now bring mine on literally any hike I embark on (the good ones don’t even weigh anything).
A small first aid kit, sunglasses and sunscreen, paper tissues, hand disinfectant, a power bank and your phone charger are also handy to bring.
What to keep in mind before embarking on the hike
One thing that, as surprising as it might sound like, a lot (read: too many!) visitors to Preikestolen expect when going there is either a cable car or the option to take the bus to the top of the mountain. Neither of these two things actually exist! There is no cable car to Pulpit Rock and the only way of getting there is by hiking. The only donkeys carrying you are the folks of the Norwegian rescue service who sure as hell are glad for every day they don’t have to carry injured people down the mountain.
In short: If you’ve never been to the mountains before and usually spend your free time in front of the TV instead of out in nature, “becoming a mountain hiker” should NOT be on your list of things to do while on vacation. I can’t stress this enough.
Unfortunately, due to steep steps at the trail, the hike to Preikestolen is also not very suitable for anyone with joint issues, particularly when it comes to ankle and knee pain. Especially the way down might lead to further joint pain and it’s not worth setting fire to a previous injury just to see a fjord from above (there are other, safer ways to do this in Western Norway - scroll down for more information).
Another thing to keep in mind is the weather! As I already mentioned, the weather can change extremely quickly in the mountains and Western Norway in general is prone to lots of rain and wind anyway. There also is a good chance that Pulpit Rock might be completely covered in fog without a chance to see anything of the fjord scenery below.
This happens quite often in the summer and there is no way to predict it. Most pictures you see in this article were taken on a day the weather forecast predicted “cloudy with a chance of sunshine” - alas, that wasn’t quite the case. If you only got one day to do the Preikestolen hike, however, make sure not to book an organised tour and rather embark on the hike on your own. That way you can spend as long as you like at the top waiting for the fog to clear, instead of having to rush down again after 30 minutes to 1 hour as is the case with many tours.
By the way, just because the weather is fine upon embarking on the hike doesn’t mean that it won’t be foggy once you’ve reached the top. Vice versa, just because it’s already foggy when you start the hike doesn’t mean the fog won’t lift all day (though sadly, that was the case when the pictures of this article were taken).
And once more: Keep in mind that there are no toilets, kiosks or water filling stations on the trail, so make sure to visit Pulpit Rock Mountain Lodge before embarking on the hike to fulfil any of these needs.
And, if you’re unsure whether you’re really up for the hike or not, watch a timelapse of the entire hike here:
How to prevent getting injured (and what to do if it happens anyway)
The first step in preventing an injury when doing the hike to Preikestolen is good footwear. High-quality hiking boots/shoes really are a must for the hike as the terrain is uneven at best. The second step would be prior training if you’ve never been to the mountains before and just sit in your office/on the couch all day.
If you’ve suffered a previous ankle/knee injury, think twice about whether the hike is worth it - especially if the injury still hasn’t healed completely. When embarking on the Preikestolen hike anyway, make sure to at least wear a bandage to prevent further injuries/pain.
The cruel thing about the Preikestolen hike, and indeed any hike in the Norwegian mountains, is that no matter how well you are prepared, things can still go wrong and it doesn’t even have to be your fault. You might simply miss a step or loose your balance on the slippery trail after a rain shower. Things just happen and if they do, it’s best to come prepared.
Save the local number of the Norwegian ambulance to your phone (113) or simply call 112 if it’s super urgent and/or you don’t have a great network coverage on the mountain. 112 is the Norwegian police number but generally works best with foreign SIM cards as it’s a widely accepted emergency number.
Carry your passport/driving license/other form of ID with you in case you have to get to the hospital. As a EU citizen, you should also carry your European Health Insurance Card (the blue one) that states that you have health insurance in your home country. You’ll have to pay the local fee for treatment anyway, but at least you’ll be refunded when you come back home.
Regardless of whether you’re a EU citizen or from another continent, another thing you should definitely have is travel insurance - or more specifically travel medical insurance that covers any costs related to injuries when you’re abroad. Worst case scenario when breaking your leg at Pulpit Rock? You’ll have to be transported to the hospital by helicopter. Do you want to know how much that costs? No? Well, lucky for you if you do happen to break your leg, you at least don’t have to think about paying the helicopter bill yourself. The Norwegian state covers all rescue missions - even if they could have easily been prevented.
Nonetheless, with a broken leg, you might be unable to continue your vacation and have to return home sooner than you thought. In that case, it’s great to have travel medical insurance to not only refund the hospital bill, but also the journey back home.
SafetyWing Travel Medical Insurance
SafetyWing provides such travel medical insurance and is a great option for those who are constantly travelling or for you already in Norway about to hike to Pulpit Rock, as you can sign up for SafetyWing’s insurance scheme even if your holiday has already started .
At $37/4 weeks for travels outside the US, SafetyWing’s travel medical insurance works almost like a subscription service. You sign up and benefit from it for 4 weeks and if you’re happy with it and your travels last for several months, you don’t even have to do anything as the insurance automatically renews for another 4 weeks if you don’t cancel - easy peasy! If you need it for a shorter trip, no problem: you can also sign up for a fixed duration starting from 5 days, at $1.32 per day.
Included in SafetyWing’s travel medical insurance are hospital, ambulance, intensive and urgent care costs, as well as emergency dental treatments up to $1000. You’re furthermore covered in case of delays and trip interruptions, lost luggage (except for electronics - you should always carry those in your hand luggage), as well as natural disasters and evacuations due to political or medical reasons. The medical coverage is even valid for 30 days in your home country within every 90-day period (or 15 days if you're from the US), so you're covered when visiting in between longer trips abroad.
But will the coverage still apply if you decide to hike Pulpit Rock or any other mountain in Norway? Yes! SafetyWing covers a wide range of non-professional activities, so that you can go hiking (up to 4500 metres above sea level), camping, kayaking, mountain-biking, glacier-walking and even ice-climbing (again, only below 4500 metres) without having to worry about going broke if something happens.
Does this sound like the travel medical insurance you’ve been looking for? Find more information and sign up for coverage here.
Alternatives to the Preikestolen hike
The good thing about visiting the Stavanger region is that you don’t necessarily have to hike Pulpit Rock if the crowds aren’t quite your thing or you’d rather go on an easier hike with equally nice views. Here in South-West Norway, we have beautiful hiking trails all over the region, so please do have a look at some of the alternatives to Preikestolen:
1. Flørli 4444
Flørli 4444 is 4444 wooden steps of what is described to be the longest wooden staircase of the world, just a stone’s throw away from Pulpit Rock at Lysefjord. You have to take the ferry to this village that used to be thriving thanks to its hydropower station but has become a ghost village after machines took over and manual workforce was no longer needed.
Today the village is almost exclusively used by visitors hiking up the staircase and staying in the local guesthouse and by heading there, you even pass Pulpit Rock on the ferry and can admire the rock formation from below! Here’s more information on the hike.
Dalsnuten is a mountain in Stavanger’s neighbouring community Sandnes that, at 300 metres above sea level, provides a stunning view of the area from above - fjords included!
While the trail is equally long as the one to Preikestolen, it’s way less steep and only takes 1 1/2 hours each way. In order to get to the starting point of the trail, it’s best to have a car available, though you can also take bus 29 from Sandnes to Gramstad to start the hike there (this however means adding a further 1,5 km to the hike). Here’s more information.
Månafossen is the tallest waterfall in the Stavanger region and the trail to see the waterfall from up close is super easy (unless you have joint issues). The trail literally consists of just a stone staircase, which arguably can be super slippery when wet and involves a few stretches that need to be climbed - however, it’s definitely manageable even if you’re a couch potato as it really only takes 20-30 minutes to get to the top.
If that’s not enough of a hike for you, there’s also the option to continue further into the valley to an old farm to have lunch there. Read more about the hike to Månafossen here.
Gloppedalsura is accessible by car, meaning that even if you have injuries or health issues that prevent you from going for a hike at all, you can still take in the magnificent view of these huge boulders against the backdrop of Lake Vinjavatnet.
This boulder field came into being at the end of the last Ice Age when a frost heave caused the mountainside to collapse, which resulted in a 100 meter long boulder field at the end moraine of a former glacier. The boulder field is part of Magma Geopark - an almost moon-like landscape here in South-West Norway that should totally be on your itinerary!
Trollpikken - the troll’s penis as this rock formation is called - is also part of the stunning landscape of Magma Geopark and situated just a 10-minute drive from Egersund.
The trail is pretty easy and although is a little rocky and hilly, it’s nothing compared to Preikestolen and only takes about an hour to get there. The trail can even be done if the weather isn’t that great as you don’t have to climb any stone stairs. Just be careful should you decide to climb the actual rock formation itself for a picture - regardless of the weather!
Himakånå is very similar to Preikestolen in that it’s also a rock formation with great views of the surrounding fjord and lake. However, in contrast to the Preikestolen hike, Himakånå is a much easier trail that only requires you to get up to 300 metres above sea level. The start of the trail is quite steep, but it leads you on a trail through the forest instead of up stone steps, which is a little gentler on the joints.
Himakånå is situated close to Haugesund, about 2 hours north of Stavanger. Getting there by car is definitely the easiest way, but you can also get there by taking bus 246 from Haugesund. Find more information here.
More Hiking and Adventures in Norway:
Norway in summer: Where to go to avoid the crowds
Western Norway's Secret Island: Utsira
27 day trips from Stavanger you don't want to miss
7 Things NOT to do when visiting Stavanger
Why Vennesla should totally be on your Southern Norway Itinerary - The Log Flume Trail of Tømmerrenna
A Snowy Adventure in the Middle of June – Hiking the Mountains of Longyearbyen, Svalbard
Being a Musher for a Day – Summer Dog-Sledding in Arctic Svalbard
5 Things to Do in Norway During the Winter for the Adventurous Spirit
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