Dovrefjell - Sunndalsfjella National Park

- welcome to Norway's National Mountain!

On concluding the constitution on 17 May 1814, Norway's first parliament swore to stand "unite and true until the mountains of Dovre do crumble!". Dovrefjell, and the innumerable myths about  it, play a central role in the Norwegian national identity. Jutuler (giants or trolls) from Dovrefjell were the ancestors of the Norwegians. As a boy, Harald I, the first King of Norway, pitied a jutul captured by his father and let him loose. Harald was thus banned by his father and fled into the mountains where he was rescued and fostered by the jutul, Dovre. Harald later returned and became first king of the united Norway.

 

About the Park

Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park was established in 2002. It is an expansion of the former Dovrefjell National Park, established in 1974 on both sides of E6 and the Dovre railway, connected by a landscape protected area. With seven new landscape protected areas, two new biotope protected areas and some smaller nature reserves, the total protected area is about 437 990 hectares.

The national park shall preserve the mostly unspoiled mountain area of Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella with its landscape and geological deposits, intact alpine ecosystem and biodiversity, emphasizing the importance of the unique wild reindeer and taking care of the cultural heritage. The public may enjoy the Park on foot and skis through traditional, simple outdoor-life, without any heavy technical infrastructure.

 

Geology, topography & flora

The Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park spans 145 km from west to east, across a wide gradient of topography, geology and climate. The western parts have alpine landforms with ragged peaks, carved out by glaciers in hard and nutrient-poor gneiss, rising up to 1900 meters out of the fjords. The climate is oceanic. 

Towards the east, the land becomes gradually less rugged. In the central parts we find Snøhetta, which, with its 2286 m's, is Norway’s highest mountain outside the Jotunheimen mountains. East of Snøhetta there are rounded landforms, sedimentary bedrock rich in nutrients and consequently there is a rich flora. This area is internationally renowned by botanists for its diversity and rare species and endemisms. The climate in this part is continental.

 

Animals large and small.

The Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park constitutes an almost intact mountain ecosystem where the mountain reindeer is a key species. 4,5000 animals roam the Park. Norway is the only place in Europe where there are wild reindeer and our stock is genetically distinct from most of the other stocks. One important trait is that these animals are far more timid than other reindeers. Therefore, do not go near these sensitive animals! If they spot or smell you less than half a kilometre away, they will flee 2-4 kilometres, using valuable energy that is much needed for surviving the winter.

Man has been the a main predator on reindeer since thousands of years. Wolverines also feed on reindeer, and the leftovers of their kill become important food for the arctic fox, which has been reintroduced after being extinct for 20 years.

It is the small rodents that motor the alpine ecosystem. The four-year cycle of the Norwegian lemming used to supply predators with an abundance of food every 3-5 years, but today, this cycle has almost vanished, partly due to climate change. 

Dovrefjell is also home to golden eagles, gyrfalcons and many other birds – Fokstumyra is famous for it’s wetland birds.

Muskoxen were introduced in the area in the 1930s. Today, there is a stock of about 200 300 animals. They are easily observed, but do not get fooled by their peaceful appearance! They are swift, heavy animals, with sharp horns and will become aggressive if threatened. To maintain a distance of 200 metresmeters is recommended for your personal safety, and visitors are advised to follow a guide.

Man has been the a main predator on reindeer since thousands of years. Wolverines also feed on reindeer, and the leftovers of their kill become important food for the arctic fox, which has been reintroduced after being extinct for 20 years.

It is the small rodents that motor the alpine ecosystem. The four-year cycle of the Norwegian lemming used to supply predators with an abundance of food every 3-5 years, but today, this cycle has almost vanished, partly due to climate change.

Dovrefjell is also home to golden eagles, gyrfalcons and many other birds – Fokstumyra is famous for it’s wetland birds.

Muskoxen were introduced in the area in the 1930s. Today, there is a stock of about 200 300 animals. They are easily observed, but do not get fooled by their peaceful appearance! They are swift, heavy animals, with sharp horns and will become aggressive if threatened. To maintain a distance of 200 metresmeters is recommended for your personal safety, and visitors are advised to follow a guide.

 

Man and the mountain

10 000 year-old human artefacts prove that reindeer hunters followed the animal herds when the ice cap withdrew. Today, with melting glaciers, a lucky wanderer may still find an arrow that missed a reindeer in a time long forgotten. Do not pick it up, mark it and note coordinates, do alarm archeological authorities.
There are numerous other hunting artefacts in the area: pitfalls, bowman’s hides and shelters. While pitfalls were banned 300 years ago, some of the two latter have been used continuously by hunters from the stone age until today. Along road E6 and the railway there is a system of 1,250 pitfalls crossing Dovrefjell, proving a huge seasonal migration by reindeer across the area one thousand years ago. Today, this migration route is blocked by human infrastructure. Reindeer fells and combs made of antlers were important products exported from Norway in those times.

Our mountains has been important for providing meat, mainly form reindeer, but also from ptarmigan and willow grouse, and of course sheep, goat and cattle. Trout are found in most lakes and streams and utilized. There are very good conditions for fishing trout in lakes and rivers. Fishing licenses are available.

 

Connections and barriers

Dovrefjell used to constitute a barrier to travelers. Before the road (highway E6 today) and railway was built in the early 20th century, crossing was dangerous, especially in wintertime. The dawning of the nation made the crossing of Dovrefjell by officials necessary. The pilgrimage to St. Olav’s shrine in Trondheim from 1030 AD further increased the traffic. In the 1100s, king Magnus ordered cabins for shelter to be built at regular intervals across the mountain. Later those evolved into staffed mountain stations - two of which are still in service. Numerous other accommodations awaits the visitor around and in Dovrefjell, from high class hotels to unstaffed cabins and campsites.

The Park has virtually never been permanently  inhabited, only the valleys have been used for summer farming. Nowadays, only a few of those are still in use. Numerous old paths cross the mountains and connect settlements in the area.

 

Harsh conditions - spectacular sights

Our Park makes for spectacular hiking and skiing. Throughout the area, you will find many nice marked day-trips, bicycle routes and opportunities for using a canoe, guided tours, rafting and downhill skiing. However, due to the long distances between unstaffed huts, great areas without huts or trails, and harsh weather conditions, hiking in Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park is recommended only to experienced hikers. Also, because of the vulnerable wildlife, heavy traffic is not desirable in the park's central areas: Stay on the marked paths!

For more information, please visit the website of the Dovrefjell National Park Board.

Title by Photographer