My name is Nick Pearce and for the last 5 years I’ve been living in Norway and before this I spent 6 years making summer white water pilgriming trips up to Norway. Below is a short and hopefully informative guide on how to plan your Norwegian road trip. How to keep it cheap, when to go, and what not to miss.
Getting to Norway
- Fly: if you are coming just for a few weeks then flying works well. Both SAS and Norwegian Air are great with boats, though you will need to pay a little with Norwegian. Depending on where you´re heading flying into Oslo or Bergen are often best.
- Drive: if your heading to Norway for the whole summer it´s definitely better to drive and pack your van full of food (and beer). The best option is to drive up through Sweden and into Norway (it is also worth looking into the ferries from Denmark to Norway). A top tip - there are not that many boats floating around in Norway so it’s always a good idea to post on a Norwegian Facebook group (“kjøp og salg elvepadling norge”) and see if there is anyone who needs a boat bringing out, this can bring the fuel costs down a fair bit.
Guide books and levels
There is a great Norwegian guide book written by Jens Klatt and Olaf Obsommer. This guide book is great for finding the put in and take out. But sometimes their level guides are a little off especially when compared to the new River App guides.
Is the best for levels. If you have not seen the app before then it comes with the sections marked as well as low and high water limits indicated. Just a small word of caution with this app; The high water is normally a local´s high and is definitely not the best flow for the first time down a new section.
Wild camping is completely legal in Norway and very simple to do. There are just a few important rules to follow.
- You can camp anywhere that is 200m from a house and not agricultural land.
- You can only camp in the same place for a maximum of 2 nights.
- Leave no trace that you have been there. Traveling kayakers have got a bit of the bad name in Norway for leaving their trash everywhere and generally not being that environmentally considerate, so please help us try and change this image especially for the one´s of us that call Norway home.
Norway is having a problem with Salmon parasite ( Gyrodactylus salaris ) so please rember to check if the river is infected or not and disinfect your kayak if needed you can check the rivers states hear https://www.mattilsynet.no/language/english/fish_and_aquaculture/recreationalfishing/how_to_stop_the_spread_of_gyrodactylus_salaris.10035/binary/How%20to%20stop%20the%20spread%20of%20Gyrodactylus%20salaris
Where to go
Below I have a listed the top locations to hit up in Norway. The rivers not to miss and the best time of year to go there. Along with information on boat rental and where is best to stay.
Telemark: May or if it rains. This is the first area to start running in the Norwegian spring but definitely not a warm up. It is primarily with pool drop rapids and slides.
- Camping: down at the lake by Tinn there are lots of spots running along the edge of the lake, just make sure you’re not staying in some hunter´s driveway.
- 3 rivers not to Miss
- Austbygdal: This is probably the most well-known run in Telemark and for good reason. With some beautiful bedrock slides and more rapids than you can remember. Just watch the flow, as it gets pretty full on at high flows - class 4/5
- Marr (home run): this is a short, epic little water fall run but not one to be taken lightly, it has out a few dents in kayaks over the years, just ask Rowan James - Class 4+/5
- Skogåa: this run is a little harder to catch at the right flows but if you are in Telemark and it is flowing, it is not one to miss. With endless small drops and rapids, and one hell of a slide in the middle, it´s definitely one to hit. Class 4/5
Dropping in on the upper Austbygdal
Voss: May to September but best in May and June. Voss is renowned as the home of steep creaking in Norway and is the place to get you huck on. Pack your elbow pads.
- Camping: the Raundal valley offers epic wild camping with lots of places to camp. Just make sure you don’t block any of the farmer’s roads. Pluss you have, in my opinion, the best river in Norway if not the world. You´ll find wild camping along most of the rivers.
- Boat rental: In Voss you have Kayak Voss, these guys can fit you up with anything you may need. Pluss guiding and coaching if you would like, they also have a small shop for anyone who has a habit of breaking or losing kit.
- 3 rivers not to Miss
- Raundal: as you have already read above this is probably my personal favourite river anywhere in the world. The river consists 10 different sections ranging from class 2 all the way up to full on class 5, plus several perfect waterfalls the highlight being the 12m high nose breaker. You can guess where the name comes from.
- Jordal: a little drive out from Voss and up a crazy tunnel into a high valley, you have the Jordal river. This is about as perfect creeking as you can find with epic class 4 boating. After the take out there is also a little extra for those who want the Norwegian 10m (actually 13.5m we have checked). But be aware it has a self in the landing on the left
- Myrkdal: called the dark valley in Norwegian. The lower section is one of Voss´s test piece runs. Offering solid class 4 / 5 boating the whole way down always lifts the heart rate a little no matter how many times you have run it.
Raundal the best place to be in the sun with friends.
Sjoa: runs best from June to august and is best known for its friendlier big water and really classic river runs
- Camping: In Sjoa you have the Sjoa kayak camp, this is not free but is very cheap at 50kr a night. Offers a nice place to stay, places to hang out and cook in the dry, and a sauna. It is right on the banks of the Sjoa river with one of the best class 4 sections of Norwegian white water just down stream
- Boat rental: in Sjoa you have the kayak shop Strie Strømmer. They have a range of boats for rental and anything else you may need.
- 3 rivers not to Miss
- The Sjoa: this is probably one of the most diverse rivers in Norway with sections from class 2 till class 5 and everything in-between.
- Finna: epic and committing class 4 / 4+ boxed-in canyon just white water perfection.
- Ula: the classic slides that pop up in lots of classic Norway photos. Runs early in the session or after rain. Class 3 / 4.
One of the few chilled spots on the classic lower canyon of sjoa
Valldal and Rauma: Runs from June to August. A mix of lovely low volume creaking and some of the biggest scariest things you may ever run.
- Camping: the top of Valldal valley and lovely open alpine valley with amazingly pretty mountains rising all around you and there are plenty of wild camping spots right by the road.
- 3 rivers not to Miss
- Rauma: this river is split into 2 section the upper which is classic Norwegian class 4 creaking, and the lower which is possible the biggest day out you can have in Norway consisting of 8 big class 4+/5 rapids but there is always a line. And if you’re not done there is always Flemingsfossen at the end.
- Valldøla: super pretty and epic class 3/4 pool drop creeking, it does not get much better or cleaner than this.
- Langerdalsselvie: this run is pretty hard to get as it now has a dam at the top; it only runs after heavy rain but if it's running it's not one to miss, providing amazing class 3 /4+ creeking the whole way down.
The entrance to the lower rauma and this is just the warm up (photo Lee Royle)
Sogndal: best from June to August. There is really only one run in Sogndal and that is the Songdalselvie but the river is so good I just had to put it in here.
- Camping: if you drive up the valley a little higher than the upper put on there are several large parking sites that work really well for camping in.
- The river: Songdalelve can be split into 2 sections the upper and the lower. The upper gives you fast and continuous alpine style white water class 4/4+. The lower is a more pool drop style and hiding in the middle is the triple combo, a perfect three waterfall combination, class 4/5. Or hook up with some of the locals and do a Total Sogndal run. A pretty epic day on the water.
Number 3 on the Sogndal triple one of the best drop ever (photo: Matt Price)
Trøndelag: The area around Støren runs early may with spring melt or if it rains. Oppdal runs May to Aug with the best flows normally around June
- Camping: there is nice wild camping to be found up around the put in for the Gråura section on driva.
- 3 rivers not to Miss
- Bua canyon: In Støren area. Is a Norwegian classic but because of the location further North is less often paddled. If it is on good level it´s worth the drive though. Read and run 12k of class 4 big water. Level can go up fast so check at the put-in bridge before getting on. If the canyon is too high normally the lower section will be at fun level.
- Driva: There are few different sections of white water between 2-4 on Driva with Gråura being the classic 4/4+(5 on high water) long and committing run. Driva is infected so rember to disinfect
- Grøvu: Tributary to Driva with two sections. The lower section has the most gorgeous put-in and continuous white water, 4-5 depending on the water level. No online gauge so one need to drive to check out the hidden gauge (62°31’42.3”N 9°05’00.9”E). The lower Grøvu normally runs when Gråura is on the high side (40-70 cubics).
Trøndelag contribution by: Eveliina kallioniemi
One of the many fun runs around Trøndelag to be discovered
Northern Norway (Hatfjelldal): Mid-June to August. If it's a dry summer with a poor snowpack Northern Norway is often the best bet for finding good flows and fantastic rivers. From 30-minute blasts to week long multi-day missions, and everything in-between.
- Camping: there are lots of amazing places to camp up in Susnadal with Unkervatnet being my personal
- Boat rental: River north rafting based in Trofors have a good range of boats as well as offering guiding and coaching sources. They are also the best people to contact for information on the area.
- 3 rivers not to Miss
- Vefsna: from Hattfjelldal down to Trofors you have 40km of world class white water. The end of this makes up the Rafting sections, a good warm up for the area.
- Susna: an absolute classic made up primarily of two sections; an upper and a lower. The upper is pool drop slides and boofs, with the shower boof being the highlight. Class 4. The lower is more gorged in, requires low flows. Be aware there are plenty of syphons and a portage at the beginning. Class 4/5
- Fiplingdal: super clean boofs, big slides, and epic class 3 boogie water. This is an absolute classic and one of my all time favorites. It flows into the Vefsna and can be paddled all the way into Trofors. Drive to the take out to check the flows and look at the last drop, if that drop looks like fun to you then you are in for the best day ever, if it looks like a portage then don´t get on.
Northern Norway contribution by: Rowan James
The classic northern Norway dosh-boof and every kayaker normally needs a wash!! (photo Nini Bondhus)