Visit This European National Park For The Perfect Mountain Escape

The continent of Europe has around double the population of the United States, but is roughly the same size. However, there is still plenty of nature to enjoy from the Irish countryside to the Alps mountain range. Europe also boasts multiple national parks that rival those of the United States. These parks vary in landscape and are popular among tourists and locals alike.

A natural wonderland and somewhat sparsely populated European country is Norway. While travelers flock to Norway via cruise ship to see its fjords — long narrow bodies of water that create deep cuts into the coasts of land masses — there is more to be enjoyed in this Scandinavian nation. Alpine adventures await toward the center of Norway at Jotunheimen National Park. This park is popular — especially in the warmer months — for hiking, includes the highest mountain in all of the Scandinavian countries, and is free to enter year-round.

Jotunheimen National Park has hikes for beginners and advanced hikers

Jotunheimen National Park is situated in the Jotunheimen mountain range of central Norway, and the park's hikes vary in difficulty. Easier hikes go around the valleys of the mountains and near the rivers, such as the Hulderstigen trail. This hike is roughly 3.5 miles and takes hikers through lush meadows and over bridges on the pristine but rapid Sjoa River. There are also centuries old trees on this hike and perhaps some elusive reindeer. Hulderstigen starts just off of Highway 51 near the Stuttgonglia Nature Preserve.

Besseggen traverses around 8 miles of incredible alpine scenery. It is among the more difficult hikes and recommended for experienced hikers. Many tourists choose to start this hike with a boat trip from the Gjendesheim ferry dock. Buy ferry tickets online to reserve a spot on any of the multiple Besseggen trips that depart daily. Besseggen is one of Norway's most famous hikes and takes you to incredible views at the top of Vestfjellet (pictured above) overlooking the Gjende Fjord.

See the tallest mountain in Scandinavia

At 8,100 feet above sea level, Galdhøpiggen (pictured above) makes for another iconic site in Jotunheimen National Park. It is the tallest mountain in Scandinavia, but the start of the hike that goes to the summit is still accessible by road. Head to the Juvasshytta or Spiterstulen lodge and begin the ascent. However, glaciers make the trip from Juvasshytta more dangerous and requires a guide. Tours can be booked through Visit Norway.

While there are cabins within Jotunheimen National Park, the small town of Fossbergom just 40 minutes from Juvasshytta offers more lodging options and some history as well. Visit the Lom Stave Church which was likely built in 1160 or warm up from your long hikes at the Fjoset Pub located inside the Nordal Turistsenter. The Nordal Turistsenter also offers lodging in the form of hotel rooms, cabins, and camping.

Jotunheimen National Park is navigable by car and Norway uses some of the same car rental companies as the United States, such as AVIS. If driving in a foreign country sounds difficult, there are also buses that run to and from the park and nearby towns. Use Entur to see which transportation options work best.