The Pulpit Rock hike is one of the most famous hikes in Norway. This iconic rock formation, known as Preikestolen in Norwegian, juts out over the Lysefjord and is one of the top hiking destinations in Norway. I knew I wanted to get out onto the trails during my cruise there, so I jumped at the chance to take the hike since it was offered as an excursion. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favor the day we were in Stavanger, so it ended up being kind of a miserable slog in pouring rain, but I’m still very glad I made it for the sense of pride. Hopefully you’ll have better luck with the weather if you decide to try the Preikestolen hike in Norway because it really is a great experience!
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The Pulpit Rock Hike
The Pulpit Rock trail starts from a parking area about an hour and a half from Stavanger (depending on how your timing works out with the ferry). Check the FAQ for more detailed info on how to get from Stavanger to Pulpit Rock. The first section is a steady uphill climb along a gravel pathway, but it levels off a bit after that. There were good guides posted at the bottom and a couple places along the way that showed the elevation gain as you went so you knew what you were getting into.
After a short, more level stretch, the real climb began. Most of the uphill portion of the Preikestolen hike is via stairs made by rough cut rocks. They are mostly uneven and taller than your average step. If you’re a regular reader who enjoyed my struggles on the Gem Lake Trail in Colorado, you’ll know how much my short little legs appreciate giant stairs. At least this time my boyfriend wasn’t there to show me up with his long legs.
Around the midway point of the trail, you’ll have a bit of a breather with a fairly level stroll across boardwalks spanning a marshy area. It was definitely a welcome break from all the climbing and my legs definitely appreciated the rest. As you’re hiking, you’ll see small waterfalls all over, and the path may even have a little bit of flowing water on it. Once I returned to the restaurant at the end, one of the the other people on our cruise excursion joked that he’d never hiked a trail that was also a waterfall before, but the flowing water really wasn’t deep at all.
Right after that brief respite, you’ll begin what was the hardest part of the hike for me. It was the longest stretch of steep stairs on the whole trail and there were a lot of people struggling. If you take your time and step off to the side to let others pass, it’s not too terrible, but you’ll be gaining a decent amount of elevation through this stretch.
Once you make it through that portion, you’ll be in good shape for the rest of the hike. There’s still some climbing left, but you’re through the worst of it. The trail levels off for a bit and you’ll get to see some mountain lakes, but you do unfortunately lose a little elevation that you’ll have to reclimb. There’s also a fun/slightly challenging spot in this area where you kind of have to walk down a narrow ridge just wide enough for your boots along the side of a huge chunk of rock – but don’t worry, it’s only a few feet down so nothing too scary or intimidating.
When you pass the tiny little cabin for rentals, you’ll know you’re about to hit the final stretch. There was a wide, fairly smooth slope of granite to walk up, and in the pouring rain the day I was there, it had about a quarter inch of flowing water rushing downward so I felt a bit like I was climbing a waterfall. Once you’re up that, you’re so, so close though.
As you approach Pulpit Rock along the trail, there are a couple spots where the pathway passes pretty close to a large drop off. I waited for people going the other direction to pass so that there was no need to shuffle around each other on the narrow stretches.
Your first real view of Pulpit Rock will be along here, from the vantage point that so many people use to take those dramatic shots of them standing seemingly atop an endless abyss. I was alone, so there was no one to snap one for me, but I did take this lovely silhouetted shot of a stranger on my way out that I’m quite fond of.
Even on the miserable, rainy day I visited, Pulpit Rock was pretty crowded. I’ve seen photos of nice summer days up there and it’s absolutely packed, so be prepared to not exactly enjoy solitude at the end of your hike. I’m told that if you go early in the morning you’ll have fewer people around you.
The views are supposed to be spectacular, but I’ll have to take your word for it because we could barely see anything. I was lucky and arrived during a brief clearer stretch where you could actually see a little bit down the Lysefjord to the left and a little farm to the right. While I was waiting for one group to take their 60th picture at the best overlook, it started pouring again and the fog/clouds rolled back in before I got a good one though.
There were some brave/reckless people who were walking right up to the edge to look over, but I wanted no part of that. There are no guard rails anywhere at Pulpit Rock and it’s a lonnnnnng fall so be careful. I wanted to see down to the fjord below, so I laid down on my stomach and peeked over the edge. I was already absolutely drenched, so I wasn’t worried about getting wet. Afterward, I was curious and searched for records of tourist deaths there and could only find reports of one accidental death at Pulpit Rock, so please don’t add to the list.
Heading back down the Pulpit Rock Trail was just as challenging as the way up, but for different reasons. Though I was no longer out of breath from steep climbs up steps, the wet surfaces made everything slippery. I saw one woman completely wipe out on one of the downhill stretches and while she was fine, I’m sure she was bruised and sore the next day. I almost slipped off of a rounded area while I was trying to hop down a couple feet, but barely caught myself by dropping into a squat when I felt my boots start to skid.
Even where steps were cut, it was slow going. Almost none of the rocks that made up the stairs were slippery, but you had to treat each one as though it was to avoid falling. My legs were definitely burning from lowering myself down gently to test the rock surface before putting my full weight on it most of the way down.
Despite being slowed by the rain, I made it back to the parking lot in just an hour and twenty minutes, including a few stops to gobble some roasted almonds in a really undignified manner because I was starving but also trying to keep them out of the rain so I didn’t end up with sugar nut soup.
Hiking Pulpit Rock in rain (or snow) is definitely not for everyone. If I hadn’t been tied to a cruise schedule, I would’ve been more selective with my timing to avoid the rain – as our ship was pulling away from the dock, the clouds cleared and I’ve never been so angry to see the sun before – but it’s a worthwhile experience regardless as long as the weather conditions aren’t dangerous.
Amenities at Pulpit Rock
There are no amenities on the trail to Pulpit Rock – this includes bathrooms. However, at the parking lot where the trail starts and ends, you’ll find some nice options.
There is a café and gift shop, which is what I came to first on my return. I selected the largest, most ridiculous pastry available because as I mentioned previously, I was utterly starving. It was also called the Preikestolen roll, so it was even themed. I only managed half of it though, so maybe skip it unless you’re with a group. There were a variety of bottled drinks and light snacks available there, as well as a selection of souvenirs. Had I stopped in there at the beginning, I would’ve happily paid for a poncho and kept some of my stuff dry.
For a little more substantial food, head up the stairs to the hostel/restaurant. You can get cakes, soup, hot food, alcoholic beverages, coffee, and more there in a counter service style.
The hostel offers small rooms with shared bathrooms and a breakfast buffet. Staying here would be a great way to get a jump on the trail early in the morning before the crowds hit. Visitors can also rent hiking equipment like boots and poles here if they arrive unprepared. If you’re planning a longer stay, items like kayaks and stand up paddle boards can be rented during the summer as well.
You’ll also find bathrooms available in the parking lot.
Tips for making the Pulpit Rock hike
- Do not attempt this hike without sturdy shoes. Our guide told us about seeing hikers on the trail in flip flops on multiple occasions and I don’t even want to imagine trying it like that.
- Check the weather before you go. The rain I hiked through was unpleasant, but I wouldn’t want to be up there if it was lightning, snowy, or icy.
- The trail is technically open year round, but it’s not advised to attempt the hike during winter or early spring.
- Our guide told us that early April was the earliest in the year she’d done the hike and that they needed to wear crampons because there was still snow on the trail. Be very careful if you choose to hike with snow on the ground because the highest elevations, where you’re most likely to encounter snow in spring, are also where the trail passes closest to sharp drops.
- Hiking is free. Parking is not.
- Don’t be afraid to turn around if you find yourself struggling too much. It’s a much better choice than continuing on and risking injury and/or medical problems.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Pulpit Rock Trail
How long is the Pulpit Rock hike?
The trail to Pulpit Rock is approximately 5.5 miles or 9 kilometers long round trip.
How difficult is the Pulpit Rock trail?
The Preikestolen hike is considered moderately strenuous and shouldn’t be attempted by anyone not fit enough to handle the climb. Over the course of the 5.5 mile trail, you gain approximately 1650 feet in elevation or 500 meters. Most of the elevation gain is via roughly cut stairs, many of which are much taller than your average step so it can be hard on the knees.
How long does it take to hike to Pulpit Rock?
I would plan on spending about 2 hours hiking in each direction and 30-60 minutes up at the top. Depending on your pace, you may need more or less time. I’m not in particularly great shape, but I did the hike in about 1:40 on the way up (with plenty of stops to catch my breath) and slightly less than that on the way down. I’d planned on sitting on Pulpit Rock and eating the snacks I’d brought with me, but it was windy and raining when I got there, so I took my photos and headed back down pretty quickly. In nicer weather, I’d plan on taking a picnic up there to enjoy the view while you eat, so you’d want to plan a bit more time in that case.
How do you get from Stavanger to Pulpit Rock?
If you’re wondering how to get to Pulpit Rock, you have a few different options depending on your mode of transportation and time limit. The nearest large city is Stavanger, which has an airport, cruise terminal, and highway access. From there, you’ll need to travel about an hour and a half via roads and a car ferry.
One option is to head south out of Stavanger on E39 and then head east on Rv13. This road will dead end at the ramp for a car ferry to Oanes. It’s a short ride across, and the ferry runs every 30 minutes for most of the day. Once you’re off the boat, continue on Rv13 until you get to the Preikestolvegen turn off on the right. It’ll be about a 10 minute drive from the ferry. This road leads you to the parking lot for the start of the hike.
Your other option would be to hop the car ferry in Stavanger from Stavanger-Tau. This is a much longer boat ride, but shorter driving overall. This ferry departs approximately every 45 minutes during the day. From the dock in Tau, continue straight for about a kilometer and then turn right onto RV13/Ryfylkevegen. You’ll head southeast on this for about 5 kilometers and then make a left onto the Prekestolvegen turn off.
If you don’t have a car, you can take the Stavanger-Tau ferry and catch a bus from there to Preikestolen.
Check timetables and fees for both ferries here.
It’s also possible to combine the Pulpit Rock hike with a Lysefjord cruise if you have more time. This sounds like an awesome approach because you’d get to see the cliff from below before beginning the climb. There is a stop nearby in Bratteli, but beginning there will make for a much longer and more difficult hike.
Even if you’re not on a cruise, you can still book a guided excursion. Here are some options:
What should I bring for the Pulpit Rock hike?
Sturdy shoes and water are the most important things to bring to Pulpit Rock. There are a few other items you should bring as well.
- The trail is uneven and my trusty ankle-high hiking boots saved me from a sprain at one point when I slipped off a step.
- You’ll also want a lot of water to drink along the way up because it’s a long way uphill and there’s nowhere to refill your bottle on the trail. I’d recommend at least a large bottle like this or a bladder in a hydration pack.
- Snacks – Whether you pack a full lunch or just some trail snacks, you’ll want to bring something to eat along the way.
- Tripod – I love my little Gorillapod for hikes like this because it’s small and rugged. You’ll almost certainly be surrounded by other hikers who can snap your photo at the top, but it’s nice to be able to line up your own shot.
- Full rain gear (if it’s rainy) – If you still want to hike in the rain, you’ll want rain pants, a waterproof rain jacket, and a waterproof cover for your backpack. I also took a waterproof pouch for my phone and a plastic sleeve for my camera.
- Breathable layered clothing – Temperatures can vary greatly between elevations and with change rapidly throughout the day. Plan on packing some layers you can remove or add as needed. I went with these leggings under these wind pants and a couple layers on top.