Hemsedal – Loen

Mountains and fjords

The Skaala Tower (Skålatårnet) was the hiking destination of this weekend. I peaked the trip with a fantastic motorcycle ride over mountains, through valleys and along fjords to get to Loen.

The Skaala Tower is our destination and the highest point for the weekend, and we have booked a room at Hotel Loenfjord. But first I will enjoy some miles on asphalt. I have taken out some time in liu and come away from Oslo at one o’clock. The goal is to reach the hotel while dinner is served, that is before nine o’clock.Choosing the route was strait forward; road 7 to Gold, the on road 52 to Hemsedal, over the mountains to Borlaug, E16 down to Laerdal, road 5 to Fodnes and the ferry to Mannheller, then Sogndal and Fjaerland, E39 from Skei to Byrkjelo and the last stage on road 60 over Utvikfjellet to the Innvikfjord past Olden to Loen. 445 km and according to the navigator about 7 hours ride. With a stop for refuelling, some photography and a rest to have a small bite to eat I should be in time for the dinner at the hotel i Loen.

My wife is ahead in the car and bringing the dog. I am looking forward to this motorcycle ride like a child in the candy store. I prepared everything yesterday the night and after the bicycle ride home from work I walk through the shower and right into the motorcycle clothes. Cameras are mounted and ready, what I need for the trip is the tank bag and some extra clothes in the Oxford bag on the back seat. The weather is just as deserved, partly cloudy and pleasant temperature.

I have a relaxed pace to Hemsedal. I stop at a grocery store to stock up some food for a picnic in Hemsedalsfjellet. Moerkedalen, the gateway to the mountains, and the name is actually the same on both sides of the mountain, shows itself from its best side and the feeling of being on tour is seeping in earnest. It is not particularly demanding riding the mountain but it feels so good and I find the flow and enjoy the long open stretches. On the way west – with the beautiful view and good things in store on the other side – I have no problem with the long straights I’m not bored with it does not matter to that much straight. I am disappointed that there are no goats in the mountains this year, but the curves down towards Borlaug never disappoints.

I arrive at Fodnes in time to see the ferry leaving. It’s half an hour until the next ferry leaves. I am not the only one to wait; there are several cars in front of me.

At Mannhelleren I am lucky and let off the ferry ahead of the cars. The weather stays the same, and it is a wonderful ride to Sogndal. Traffic diminishes all the time the same, and after Sogndal I have the road almost to myself. It’s great to be on tour again. In the 80s I was over the mountains west bound 4 to 5 times during the summer this year it will be this one ride and I am enjoying to the full as road takes me in soft bends along the Dalavatnet lake up Frudalen into the Frudal tunnel.

As I exit the Frudal tunnel I get a glimpse of the Fjaerland fjord before I ride into the Berg tunnel. When I come out of the tunnel I am down by the fjord and Fjaerland lays in front of me. The Glacier Museum (Norsk Bremuseum) is on my left as I head for the Boeya valley.

For some reason the grass is impressively green her. There is green grass elsewhere to, but the grass in Fjaerland is so unussualy green. Maybe it’s the glacier water contributing. I follow the river into Boeya valley. Boeyabreen now hangs high on the mountain. The first time I rode through here, the glacier was resting at the foot of the mountain. But it is still fascinating to see the glacier and for a second I have it right in front of me, then the road turn left into the Fjaerland tunnel.

As I exit the tunnel I have a perfect view over the green Kjoesnes fjord. It lays in the bottom of the valley stretching towards the lake Joelstra. Down by the fjord, after the Stylsnes tunnel, the gentle curves along the fjord is waiting for me. These curves are worth the trip alone; and I just had to do them twice. And finally I meet the goats too. In Skei, at the end the Joelstra lake, I turn north on E39 and ride the beautiful Vote valley towards Byrkjelo.

In Byrkjelo I turn right on to road 60 north. The road is bumpy over the Utvik mountain, but the view, backwards on the way up the mountain and to the Innvik fjord ahead on the north side, is fantastic and makes up for the bad road conditions. The ride along the fjord passing Olden and entering Loen is a stunning finish. I get a glimpse of tomorrow’s hiking destination Skaala and can make out the tower on top.

Things to do in Loen:

The Skaala tower
Our trip up to the Skaala tower (1843 masl) was a home run, even though the weather was not quite on our side. The walk up is also called “Norway’s longest uphill”. Steep and long it is, and the view from the top is breath taking and must be experienced. It is possible to stay over in the tower, but on the busiest days you should be there early to make sure you get one of the 20 beds.

Via Ferrata Loen
Loen has more than Skålatårnet to offer. Loen Active offers several activities and one of the most popular is the Via Ferrata Loen, or the Iron Trail. This is a climbing route that is topped by passing over the 120 meters long Gjoelmunnebrua at 760 masl.  The Iron Trail ends at 880 masl, while the highest point is Hoegd Hoven at 1010 masl. This is a trip recommended for those with a strong head for heights.

On road activities
Loen is also a great base for day trips. A trip to Briksdalbreen is certainly within reach, and if you like to take a motorcycle ride and enjoy the nature you can hike to Stryn and old Strynefjellsveien Route recommended. And you take advantage of the day may also prefer a trip to Geiranger and Dalsnibba and still be back for dinner at the hotel

Useful links:

Hotel Loenfjord
Hotel Alexandra
Sande Camping
Tjugen Camping
The Skaala tower
Norsk Bremuseum, Fjærland
Loen Active
Briksdal Adventure
Via Ferrata Loen
Gamle Strynefjellsvegen

NB! Google Maps may change a route if it includes a road that is closed (e.g. closed during the winter) at the time you are viewing the route.