My first trip to Utah was in 1999, and although there were already plenty of internet sites back then information on even popular hikes was pretty hard to find. As a result my brother and I got to do some of the classic hikes like the Zion Narrows and Angels Landing with only a vague idea of what to expect. That kind of experience is rarer now, when searches for even obscure trails in the US return hundreds of photos, but there’s plenty of wilderness elsewhere with less of an internet presence! Planning a trip to Bodo in arctic Norway last summer – primarily as a base to visit the Lofoten Islands – we noticed that Rago National Park was just a short drive from the town. Rago has one famous sight, the incredible Litlverivassfossen waterfall, and it looked like one could combine the two front-country trails to make a long day hike that looped past the falls. We couldn’t find any web pages that described the loop in detail, so we turned up at the trail head in late July with a map but only a rough idea of the length or difficulty of the hike. It turned out to be one of the best day hikes we’ve done.
The hike starts at the end of the road at the Lakshola trail head, reached by following the E6 north from Fauske and then taking the turn toward Nordfjord which comes immediately after a short tunnel. The road is paved all the way and the trail head is notable for having the fanciest restroom, by far, that I’ve ever seen gracing a wilderness! The first two miles follow the Storskogdalen along a peaceful and surprisingly lush forest. On a pleasant summer Sunday we encountered a pair of locals on this stretch of trail, the only other hikers we met or saw all day. At a bend in the valley the trail crosses a creek (at a spot that’s not entirely obvious on the ground… we went wrong here) and climbs steeply through trees to an overlook of the canyon. The picture above was taken looking back from the top.
Once out of the lower valley the trail dips through forested sections but largely crosses sparsely vegetated and sometimes rocky ground. The landscape is one of lakes, waterfalls and granite cliffs, somewhat reminiscent of Wyoming’s Wind Rivers. It takes about six miles to reach the sole junction you encounter, where a trail takes off into the interior of the park and eventually across the border into wilderness on the Swedish side. Continuing around the loop, the trail stays high, with numerous small climbs and descents and excellent views of the park’s mountains. The main rivers are all crossed via suspension bridges, but there’s one creek at the outlet of a lake that’s unbridged. We waded across without difficulty, but I can imagine this might be an obstacle if the water level was higher. Conceivably one might need to turn back.
Hiking the loop clockwise (much the better direction) the highlight is saved for last. At about the ten mile mark the trail crosses the brink of the Litlverivassfossen, before climbing to a great overlook of the falls. The 250 meter high falls, draining a large lake ringed by mountains, are an amazing sight. Once past the falls, it’s an alternately steep and boggy descent, partly on a jeep road, to the finish at the Nordfjord gravel pit. A short road walk closes the loop.
The loop turned out to be about 15 miles, with 3,000+ feet of elevation gain along the way. In the summer you have 24 hours of daylight, so the hike can be done in a day without needing to rush. I’d rate it as moderately challenging. Neither the distance nor the amount of climbing is extreme, but this is a sparsely frequented trail where you need to pay attention rather than mindlessly plodding along. There’s at least one spot where the route, marked by paint on the rocks, traverses a boulder field, and plenty of places where you need to be on the lookout for the next cairn. And it might not be much fun in bad weather, as the most interesting parts are above tree line and fully exposed to the elements.
Rago is a pocket-sized park, and the loop we did is the only long day hike. It’s possible though to continue further and camp in the back country, or to hike into a much larger area of adjoining wilderness on the Swedish side of the border. Based on our experience, Padjelanta, Sarek and Stora Sjöfallet National Parks in Sweden are all places well worth checking out.