The Jotunheimen hikes – Leirvassbu to Gjendebu

Last modified 18.03.2022 | Published 05.08.19891980's, Norway, Norway Hikes

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This is a hike from Leirvassbu to Gjendebu in Jotunheimen (19 km). Any mountain hiker is accustomed to walking uphill, behind the next peak there is always one more. This hike violates that convention. It goes almost entirely downhill.


This article was first published in Norwegian on Sandalsand Norge.


What to discover

The case is that we have a hundred metres increase in altitude from the mountain lodge at Leirvassbu (1,400 m) during our first two kilometres this day, but the next 17 km run steadily downhill until we arrive at our next lodge at Gjendebu (990 m).

Here is a map with all Jotunheimen hikes. This particular hike (marked green) is about 19 kms and is estimated to 5-6 hours.



The start of the hike

Not only that, the trail also largely avoids the barren rock landscape we meet so much of in Jotunheimen. Here there is also grass and heather to step on. Sometimes it’s almost like walking in a field of flowers.

It is indeed as if we are back in the lowlands at least when approaching the lake of Gjende. In the beginning there are quite large amounts of snow left from last winter, even though we are at the end of the summer season.

This was a really nice hike. To be true, the previous four days in Jotunheimen had been that to, the nature is so great here. Today’s hike would somehow be a little different and we thrived with it.

We start therefore the day on Leirvassbu, where we had arrived the day before from Spiterstulen on our six day tour of Jotunheimen, the national park in the middle of southern Norway. With a good breakfast inside we were well prepared to cross the snowdrifts from last winter going up from Leirvatnet towards the two small lakes called Høgvagltjernene, periodically also through rockslides.


The middle section

At the lowest of the lakes you will find that the trail splits. The right goes to Olavsbu (6 km), but we continue straight ahead towards and along Langavatn on the lake’s eastern side.

Langavatn means “long lake” and the name befits it. From the trail split there is another 6 km until we reach the end of the lake. Here we meet another trail split and will be able to meet up with hikers who choose to drop the lodge at Leirvassbu and prefer the direct route between Spiterstulen and Gjendebu.

Not far afterwards we meet another little lake, Hellertjønne and the weak little waterfall that flows from it. We now enter the valley of Storådalen, the one which will lead us to the lake called Gjende and the tourist lodge Gjendebu at the western end.


The final part

A short distance below the falls there is a marked trail upward, above Bukkelægret, in the direction of Memurubu (15 km from here). We continue instead straight ahead, down towards Gjendebu and are well pleased with this day’s hike.

Gjendebu is The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association‘s oldest cottage, built in 1871. Do not worry about later changes and extensions. The original had after all only 45 sqm with 12 beds. When you are here on Gjendebu you should read up on the story of Gjendine, a girl born under dramatic circumstances in 1872 and with a hundred-year life ahead of her.  The composer Edvard Grieg was greatly inspired by her and wrote “Gjendines bådnlåt” (lullaby).



Read a brief mention of this hike on (walking the opposite direction). Read about the lodges of Leirvassbu and Gjendebu på Ut.

This is the description of a 6-day round trip from lodge to lodge in beautiful Jotunheimen in the late summer of 1989. Due to the tour’s age it was never meant for publication. However, the round trip was so perfect (“Jotunheimen in a nutshell”) that I included it anyway. I think neither text or images, let alone the basic experience will be significantly different today.

The map in the beginning of this article shows the route we followed and lodges we visited or stayed at. The boat ride from Gjendebu to Memurubu is not shown. We stayed at all marked lodges except Memurubu. Almost the entire round trip runs within the borders of the Jotunheimen National Park.


All legs are described in separate articles. This is the list:

1: Gjendesheim to Glitterheim over Hestlægerhøe

2: Glitterheim to Spiterstulen over Skautflye

3: Spiterstulen to Galdhøpiggen and back

4: Spiterstulen to Leirvassbu

5: Leirvassbu to Gjendebu

6: Gjendebu to Memurubu by boat plus hike Besseggen to Gjendesheim


See photos from this particular hike below. Click for a larger size.