As the rain came down, I looked up the steep rock face and wondered just how high it went past the fog ceiling. I felt like Jack and the Beanstalk climbing into the unknown, dodging mythical trolls and wondering if I would ever make it back down. But this was one of the main reasons I wanted to do a Norway road trip, to drive this road of trolls.
According to Norwegian folk legend, trolls roam through the mountains of Trollstigen every night, but change to stone when they are hit by sunlight each morning. Clouded in a veil of mist, their stone bodies create an unbelievable mass of cliffs and winding beauty that mesmerize visitors.
See our Trollstigen Road Adventure in the Fog and Rain:
Trollstigen Road Video
Trollstigen Road Construction
Known as the Troll’s Ladder, Trollstigen road is more like the crazy person’s ladder with its 11 hair-raising switchbacks, a steep 10% gradient, and nearly one lane to navigate on. The road took eight years to build due to the long winters without any possibility to get any work done. Trollstigen was also built by hand, one team for each hairpin – the name of the team is shown on a sign. Originally Trollstigen was designed for cars, small cars! The road today is really only 1 ½ lanes at best which means all drivers need a lot of patience. The hairpin turns have been widened somewhat to allow longer buses. And even now the buses have to make 3-point turns to get around some of the curves. Meeting buses was by far the most harrowing part of the journey up.
Yet despite the dangers of this narrow road, it’s one of the most popular driving routes in the world. The route is at its most dangerous in the dark and wet which make it incredibly challenging to navigate. Ummm – who would drive this in the dark? Oh, and don’t forget the trolls who are out roaming at night too! No thank you!
Drive Through a Waterfall
The road is an engineering marvel that left our mouth gaping at every turn. It was designed so that it blends in with the surroundings; some parts are carved into the rock, while other parts are built on stone walls. A highlight was the impressive bridge in natural stone going across the Stigfossen waterfall. If you get lucky and timing is right, you may be able to pull over at the small viewpoint by the bridge like we did. It’s then when you hear and feel the power of the waterfall that you realize how incredible this road intertwined in nature is.
At the top of the pass there is a viewpoint, restaurant, giftshop, and the Trollstigen Road Museum exhibiting photos, models and hand tools from its construction. The viewing platforms and visitor center are also architectural wonders. They complimented the surrounding landscape and fit in seamlessly as if it were camouflaged. One thing I noticed was the river that runs through the valley at the top flows down through the visitor center and then forms the Stigfossen waterfall. They did a great job of taking the rugged river and banks and building a modern basin as it passed through the visitor center section. The water winds through the visitor center with manmade water steps, and then resumes it’s rugged path falling off the side of the cliff forming the Stigfossen falls.
The nail-biting viewpoints made of steel and glass look out over the Isterdalen Valley. If you are scared of heights, these viewpoints will test your resolve; they did for me. But it’s the best way to really take in the entire road and see how it was designed and marvel at it’s engineering beauty.
The national tourist route goes on from the visitor center and continues to be stunning winding through mountain passes, valleys, and small communities all the way down to Geiranger Fjord (another impressive route of switchbacks and viewpoints).
Slow Down and Experience Trollstigen on Bike or Hike
I thought is was hard enough for our car to make is up the road, but there are plenty of avid bikers using their pedal power to make it up this famous road. And as a driver, it’s just one more thing to be aware of! We actually met a pair of bikers at the bottom before we started the drive. They asked us to transport one of their backpacks for them. I still wonder to this day if we were drug mules! See how it went.
Biking Trollstigen Video
I love driving, but I must admit, I was salivating every time the hiking path crossed the road as I think it would be a phenomenal trail to hike. I love hiking because you can go slow and really experience the landscape. There is a restored hiking path to climb for those who wish to experience Trollstigen by foot. If you want to walk along the Trollstigen, you can use the old mountain path, which has been renovated in recent years.
Trollstigen Road Opening Dates
Because of deep snow and avalanches most of the route is available only from late May until November. The date changes every year based on snow/road conditions. Average opening date is May 25th, but it can sometimes be as late as early June.
Just see how incredible it is to open the snow covered road for the season in this video. And note that this is the flat valley part, not the Trollstigen hairpin turns!
Contact Visit Norway or check travel news boards to find out if it’s open for your visit.
Are you ready to take on Trollstigen? Just make sure you do it before nightfall else you’ll be dodging trolls!
Trollstigen by the numbers:
Road opened on 31 July 1936 and took 8 years to build
There are 11 hairpin turns
It’s a steep 9% gradient
Total distance of 12.2 km
Highest point is 2,800 feet
Aproximately 3,000 vehicles pass daily
Named a national tourist route June 16, 2012
Visitor center opened in June 2012
My trip was hosted by Visit Norway, however all opinions expressed here are my own!