Sometimes we pass up opportunities. Then if we get them again, we grab on. I grew up in Stavanger, Norway. It afforded me many opportunities I would not have otherwise had. I took advantage of most — from summer camp in Switzerland and Wales to the independence of riding bikes and taking pulic transportation to downtown to hang out with friends. But the one opportunity I passed up as a teen was a chance to hike to Preikestolen, also known as Pulpit Rock. I have always regretted that.
So, upon planning a return to Norway after thirty-five years, a hike to Preikestolen became an important stop in a truly spectacular Norway itinerary. Our trip began in Bergen, then a couple of nights in Flam. Then we traveled south to Stavanger to visit the town where I grew up.
Getting to Preikestolen
We rented a car in Stavanger as our itinerary included many sights different and more spread out than what a typical visitor would want to see. And a car was helpful in getting to Preikestolen about a forty minute drive from our AirBnb in Stavanger via Ryfast tunnel.
There are other ways to get there. Both the bus and ferry (car still needed) are options. Having a car allowed us the flexibility to decide at the last minute which day we would hike, and to make our own schedule. We ended up taking the hike on our first day in Stavanger because it was the day with beautiful weather. It was also a holiday, so we got out as early as we could in an attempt to beat the crowds.
About 300,000 people hike to Pulpit Rock each year and we chose a busy day. An early start will be helpful if you also chose a busy day.
There are a couple of parking lots and we were able to park in the first one that we came to, which ended up being the upper lot. Attendants work the lot. But you put your license plate in the machine to pay, which seems to be the way that parking works pretty much everywhere in Norway.
How Difficult is the Hike to Preikestolen
We live in the mountains of Colorado and are surrounded by many beautiful and difficult hikes. Preikestolen, also know as Pulpit Rock, is one of the more difficult hikes that I have climbed in recent years. It is not a 14er. But it is much more difficult than my favorite Colorado hike, Hanging Lake.
The trailhead is not much higher than sea level. So the altitude shouldn’t be too much of a problem. There is an elevation gain of just over 1600 feet, and it is five miles round trip. Just like Hanging Lake, there will be the people trail running it and passing you by. And, then there were also the people not in good hiking shoes (may have included at least one member of my family) slowly trekking up.
Hiking shoes, water and snacks will make the experience better.
If you don’t want to, or aren’t able to make a strenuous hike, don’t fret. You can also take a boat tour and view this famous rock from Lysefjord below.
How Dangerous is Preikestolen
Prior to our departure, my husband found this hike on a list of the most dangerous tourist attractions in the world. There is no fencing on the edge of this famous rock that juts out almost 2000 feet above Lysefjord. So, there have been fatalities. In Norwegian culture there seems to be a very strong sense of self responsibility. On our Norway in a Nutshell tour on the bus between Bergen and Flam, the driver was very clear when we stopped at the Stalheim Hotel for a photo break, that the bus would leave in 15 minutes precisely with or without us. Yet, accidents do happen.
The biggest risk may actually be being unprepared for possible inclement weather. Multiple rescues are performed every year to bring down unprepared visitors. Winter months are certainly more dangerous than hiking it during the summer months when the trails are clear.
We didn’t find the hike up dangerous. But we had sunny, dry weather. Of course, it is always important to follow basic hiking common sense by bringing lots of water, snacks, layers and wearing sturdy hiking shoes.
But, yes, that edge at the top is scary. I only went close enough to take my own selfie from where the selfie line started. I had no desire to go anywhere near that edge.
Of course, as someone who loves hiking, this was on my bucket list. But I also wanted to redeem that lost opportunity from my childhood. And, this is an iconic place that may not exist forever. There is a small possibility that at some point Pulpit Rock will wind up deep in the fjord below.
What to Do After a Hike to Preikestolen
Go get a hearty meal! Having arrived to Stavanger on a Sunday and then heading out for this hike on a Monday morning that happened to be a holiday our groceries were limited. And, we were starving.
There are a few pizza restaurants in the Rogaland area near Preikestolen. But we opted to head into Stavanger to enjoy a combination of lunch and dinner at a fancy restaurant in Stavanger harbor. The beautiful day also lent itself to dining out on the deck at Sumo Restaurant. It was the most expensive meal of our trip. But was a wonderful way to end the day.