Stavanger, the Norwegian city closest to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), is one of the rainiest places in Europe. Unfortunately, this means the chances of encountering rain at some point on your hiking adventure is rather high. So should you go through with it? Will it be safe in the rain? Will you even be able to see anything? I found myself asking these questions when I set out to do the hike for the first time this spring.
What I quickly learnt was that the weather in this area is extremely unpredictable and fast-changing. While this might seem like a drawback, it can also work very much in your favor. Even if your hike starts off foggy and wet, there’s every chance you could be greeted with clear skies by the time you make it to the top. Now of course this won’t always be the case and some days you’ll sadly brave the rain for little reward. However, just because the day looks like doom and gloom from the get go, don’t give up all hope just yet.
How do I get to Preikestolen?
Preikestolen is easily accessible from Stavanger. A ferry takes you from Stavanger port to the small town of Tau in approximately 40 minutes. The ferry has good facilities, including a café and bar. As soon as you disembark, you’ll see coaches waiting in the parking lot to transfer you to the base of the hiking trail.
You can purchase a transfer package at the terminal in Stavanger for NOK 400 (approx. £35) from the Go Fjords stall which covers the cost of the return ferry and bus tickets. Otherwise, you can purchase your tickets separately onboard the ferry and bus without any problems (though it will be slightly more expensive). Make sure to read the ferry timetables clearly so you can plan your day. In the shoulder seasons, the ferry’s run less frequently so don’t get stuck in Tau for the night.
How difficult is the trail?
There are many mixed reviews online regarding the difficulty of the Preikestolen trail – some people say it’s easy, some people say it’s difficult. The facts are that the hike is an 8km round trip and the terrain varies from flat ground and wooden paths, to large boulders and steep stone steps. If you’re fit and wearing appropriate footwear, you can do the hike from anywhere between 1 and 2 hours (2 hours being the official advised time). Setting a quick pace and with a good fitness level, it took me approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes each way. This hike would not be well suited to people with bad knees or ankles.
What else do I need to know?
If you’ve committed to setting off on a wet Preikestolen adventure, remember these 5 essential things for a successful day:
1. Don’t take the weather report as gospel – it’s as accurate as it is inaccurate
The forecast on the day I was setting off on the hike stated torrential rain and low visibility all day. The entire way to the base of the Preikestolen trail I was uncertain whether I had made the right decision to go through with the hike. Even if the rain didn’t bother me, the chances of seeing the fjord would be slim. Would I have endured the cold and wet for nothing? Would the entire day be a big flop? Well, in my case, it ended up the forecasted “heavy rain” was nothing more than a mere intermittent drizzle. That’s it! And even though the entire trail was covered in a thick fog, dashing my hopes for a view at the top, I was still able to see most of the fjord when I reached the rock (so much for that forecast). The clouds move quickly, so even if you don’t have a fjord view right away when you get to the top, it’s worth sticking around a while to see if it clears for a minute.
2. Wear proper waterproof hiking shoes OR, if you don’t mind wet socks, walk very carefully
Not everyone has a set of waterproof hiking shoes laying around. However, having a pair will make a huge difference to your balance (and to your warmth)! Having no other choice, I hiked the trail in my Nike trainers. Needless to say, even in drizzle, my feet were soaked within the first 10 minutes of the hike (not ideal, but bearable thankfully). Given my shoes had no grip, I also caught myself slipping countless times on the wet rocks – one time I even fell over completely. There are jagged rocks everywhere on this hike – one bad fall is enough to cause a nasty injury and ruin your day.
3. Dress appropriately – wear something waterproof
Knitted sweaters, jeans and wool coats – not something you’d expect people to be wearing along a rainy hike. Yet I did, astonishingly! Even if it’s not raining, given the unpredictable weather, you should wear (or at least pack) something waterproof – whether that’s a proper jacket, a raincoat or just a plastic poncho. Keep yourself dry. Ideally wear something with a hood, there’s nothing worse than a constant stream of water in your eyes. Also wear sportswear that’s made of breathable material. Parts of the hike are intense and you will work up a sweat – it’s important to wear something that will regulate your body temperature.
4. Be prepared and be sensible
The most important thing about hiking in bad weather is to be prepare for the worst, just in case! Here’s my list of suggested simple must-haves in your backpack to ensure a smooth (and warm!) journey:
- Plenty of water
- Energy snacks (lots of them!)
- A small thermos of something warm to drink
- 100% battery on your phone (or a spare battery pack)
- Spare warm socks and comfy sweat pants (to wear on the journey home)
- Warm hat (in case of high winds)
It goes without saying – be sensible. One person I met on his way back down the trail told me he’d stayed up on Preikstolen too long the night before and then was unable to find the trail back in the dark! Fortunately for him, some other hikers who were camping the night kindly gave him shelter. Try avoiding finding yourself in the same situation.
5. Enjoy the experience – even if there’s no view at the top!
The hike itself is beautiful, through lush Norwegian forest, passing small lakes and gorges, along large boulders and well-laid stone paths. The low hanging clouds that usually come with the rainy weather are mysterious and majestic. The hike is breathtaking at every corner, no matter what the conditions are. If you’re greeted with a view of the fjord at the top that’s just a bonus! Walk away knowing you’ve hiked one of the most famous trails in the world.