A Scenic Hike Is The Only Way To Access One Of Europe's Tallest Free-Falling Waterfalls

One of Norway's tallest and most enchanting waterfalls, Vettisfossen may be the queen of them all, according to writer and photographer Jan Schwarzott. In his book "Under Storen," Schwarzott described his captivation with the cascade, remarking that "once the queen gets to you, she will never leave your heart." Vettisfossen is located at the lower end of verdant Utladalen, the country's deepest valley,  and boasts an impressive plunge of about 900 feet. At times, the force of the falls hitting the pool below is so great that it generates clouds of mist that can be seen from over ½ mile away. Dramatic 1,000-foot cliffs surround the pool, adding to the insane beauty of the location. 

But to discover the source of this natural phenomenon, visitors must do a little huffing and puffing, as the only way to reach it is on foot. The round-trip journey to Vettisflossen, probably one of the world's coolest hidden waterfalls, is 8 miles long and takes about 4.5 hours to complete. The good news is that the route to the falls may be as magical as the waterfall itself. It travels through a lush and peaceful valley, passing several other magnificent waterfalls on the way to the grand finale. 

Hiking to Vettisfossen

The optimal time to hike to Vettisflossen is between May and October when the trail is free of snow. For safety and comfort, wear sturdy footwear with good traction and bring food, water, and rain gear just in case, even if the weather forecast is good. Begin your journey at the Hjelle parking lot, which is about a 10-minute drive from the town of Øvre Årdal, around 185 miles northwest of Oslo. From Hjelle, follow the narrow gravel road called Folkevegen to the Vetti farm, passing the gorgeous Avadalsfossen waterfall along the way, whose drop is a dizzying 575 feet. A narrow footpath leads from the farm to the falls, following the Utla River. The trail becomes much narrower and steeper at the end and may be slippery in some sections, so be mindful about footing. 

When you see the spray and hear the thunderous roar, you'll know you're nearing Vettisflossen. To admire the falls from top to bottom, take advantage of the viewing platform, which was installed above the gorge in the summer of 2023. In the interest of safety and preserving the natural environment, stay on the marked path that leads to the platform and don't stray outside the fence.

Exploring nature around Vettisflossen

After experiencing the magic of Vettisflossen, explore more spectacular nature in the surrounding area. Nearby Jotunheimen National Park, whose name means "home of the giants," boasts more than 250 mountains that rise to 6,000 feet and higher, including 8,100-foot tall Galdhøpiggen. The park is a perfect escape for mountain lovers and hikers, offering some of the finest trails in Norway. These range from easy walks to challenging summit climbs and a spine-tingling via ferrata path, where you traverse ladders and ledges while clipped into a harness attached to a fixed cable along the route. 

There's a multitude of other things to do in the park besides hiking, such as biking, river rafting, horseback riding, and even caving. Accommodations from cabins to hotels are available to suit a range of preferences and budgets. For a total wilderness immersion, pitch a tent in the mountains, where your only company will be birds of prey, wolverines, reindeer, Arctic foxes, and lynxes. And if the Norse gods are on your side, maybe you'll spot a few mythical giants or even an elusive troll.