How to Walk to Pulpit Rock in Early Winter
Updated: Jan 19
When I was younger, I had a poster of a skydiver jumping off of a cliff with the words “believe in yourself” written on the bottom. It was strategically stuck on my bedroom wall so that I would see it every day before I went to school, giving me the courage to seize the day. As cringeworthy as this story is, I think that cliff was Pulpit Rock. I binned the poster once I started university, so I have no way of finding out if that’s actually true, and it probably wasn’t, but in my head it was. It was the universe's way of telling me that in 7 years, I too would stand on top of that cliff.
Hopefully not jumping off of it though...
Anyway, if you’d like to find out what it’s like to walk to Pulpit Rock in early Winter, read on!
The rock itself is actually a cliff and stands 1,982 ft above Lysefjord, a fjord in southwestern Norway that stretches from Stavanger to Sandnes. The plateau is fairly flat, caused by a glacier breaking off in large angular chunks during the ice age. Because of this it sticks out into the fjord in a very unique way, and attracts roughly 300,000 visitors each year to marvel at its appearance, and take a snap of it for the gram. Even if you aren’t aware of Pulpit Rock, you’ve probably seen it in travel videos or stock photos of cliffs online (it is number 5 on Google Images if you search “cliff” – you will also find a few other images similar to the photo I took on top of it.)
Mine is number 1.
Great minds clearly think alike.
From the car park, it is 2.4 miles to the top, ascending through a forest, into a swamp and finally up the cliff. The entire hike takes about 4-5 hours.
While I was researching this blog post I found out that one day the plateau will eventually break off and fall into the fjord… So best visit it before that fateful day!
What to Bring and Getting There
Though I was prepared with a Boots first aid kit (which included an emergency foil blanket, just in case we got stuck up there), and enough food and water, my boyfriend and I did not dress properly for the hike. I wore my Dr. Martens, and he wore £10 trainers from NEXT, which did not help us when the ground became icier.
So, I will defer you to the Norwegian Trekking Association, but to summarise, lots of wool and hiking boots! There is a shop by the car park where you can buy or rent hiking gear at the start of your trek.
It is also worth writing down the emergency rescue service numbers in Norway:
51 51 70 00 – JRCC Southern Norway
75 55 90 00 – JRCC Northern Norway
Another app which is particularly useful when hiking in the wilderness is What3Words. It gives you a combination of three words unique to your location which you can relay back to emergency services if you ever get lost.
One of the great things about Pulpit Rock is that it's completely reachable by public transport. However,I scoured the internet looking for information on the route we took when we visited Stavanger in 2019, and I couldn’t find anything! It turns out the route we took, which was a ferry from Stavanger to Tau and then a coach to the car park at Pulpit Rock is no longer operating. According to Earth Trekkers, in late 2019 a tunnel opened that connects Stavanger and Tau, the Ryfast, which is the longest and deepest undersea road tunnel in the world.
Earth Trekkers now recommends an all-round bus journey from Stavanger to Pulpit Rock from either Go Fjords (329 NOK, £27.83) or Pulpit Rock Tours (325 NOK, £27.49). Sadly though, both of these buses seem to stop in September. After researching more, it seems that in order to get to Pulpit Rock without a car in 2020 and beyond in Autumn and Winter, you will have to buy tickets for a guided tour. These are a bit more expensive than doing it all yourself, but you’ll learn more about the cliff, and most of them seem to provide equipment for Winter hikes:
Lysefjorden Adventure (1000 NOK, £84.78)
Outdoor Life Norway (1,290 NOK, £109.36)
Up Norway (£101)
Whichever way you get to Pulpit Rock, I’d recommend listening to some instrumental fantasy music on the way, to get you pumped and ready to conquer the cliff.
The hiking trail is fairly straightforward and starts from the corner of the car park. The first leg of the journey is through a forest, and leads you to a nice view of the lake by the car park. We started our hike at about 10am, and there was practically no one on the trail. I have read that in Summer the trail can get busy, so my advice is to start earlier rather than later. This also goes for Winter, as there are less hours of sunlight.
After the forest, the trail leads through a swamp of sorts. There are some wooden planks to walk on to avoid your feet getting wet. This then leads to a very steep stone staircase. Up until this point, we foolishly thought that the trail would be easy. But after reaching the top of the staircase, we understood why it's classed as a 'moderate' hike.
The next part of the trail is the cliff itself. The first part is flat, and halfway along you will see a cabin, which is an emergency cabin for anyone stuck on the trail overnight or in a storm. Behind it there’s a bench sheltered from the wind where you can stop to have some food and water, or huddle with your hiking partner for 15 minutes for warmth, like we did.
The next part of the hike is hard because it gets a lot colder and a lot windier. However, on a particularly perilous part of the path there is a handrail with cute locks attached along it, which makes you temporarily forget about the icicles forming around your body.
With the summit in sight, this part of the trail gets slippery with ice in early Winter. If you haven’t got proper gear, like we didn’t, stay close to the cliff and away from the edge. Better to fall on a rock than into a fjord 1,982 ft below. We found it easier to walk on the grass, which wasn’t as icy as the ground.
In all seriousness, we walked the trail on November 4th, which was when it was just starting to get colder. If you plan to hike later in Winter, please wear appropriate gear.
After walking up the slip n slide, you’ll be at the top!
The view is one of, if not the best, views I’ve seen in my entire life. If you’re feeling adventurous, I noticed some walkers climbing up the side of the plateau to get a better view of the cliff. Sadly, we only lasted 10 minutes at the top, because our limbs were starting to freeze. If I ever do it again, thermals are a must.
My last piece of advice is to try not to get too caught up with capturing the moment when walking up Pulpit Rock. Something I struggle to do in my everyday life is be present, I have a hundred and one useless things going on in my mind at once, but walking in nature definitely grounds me. Put the phone, or the camera, away and just look at the magnificence all around you.
(But of course get a photo on top.)
If you’re not pressed for time, reward yourself with a coffee or hot chocolate at the café in the car park. It is delightfully warm and cosy in there. If you’ve still got time before you leave, and you’re longing for a photo of a red Norwegian cabin, there’s one nestled away in the trees down by the lake next to the car park.
I plan to move in one day.
For my photography friends, if you’re planning to walk up Pulpit Rock in Winter, either lower your aperture / shutter speed or increase your ISO. I had to bump up the brightness and shadows significantly in the photos I posted here, and the reason I didn't post that many photos is because a lot of them weren't salvageable. Norway is dark in Winter, if it’s not sunny, and my DSLR screen tricked me into thinking things were brighter than they actually were. If you’re taking photos with a film camera, I would recommend bringing film with an ISO of at least 400. I sadly brought a Kodak Colour Plus 200 roll of film with me and… It did not work well.
But there’s always next time!