Pulpit rock is probably one of the most iconic destinations in Norway. On par with Munch’s “Scream”, Grieg’s “Morning Song”, the northern lights, Lofoten and that match winning score by Ole Gunnar Solskjær. A sheer rock face stretching 604 metres (1981 feet) from the Lysefjord and straight up towards the heavens. Seeing the rock from the fjord makes you realize why it got the name Pulpit rock, logically, it looks like a pulpit jutting out from the rock face. It is an awesome site, and it makes for some of the most spectacular SoMe photos in the world. Pulpit rock ranks as one of the world’s most jawdropping sights, and the hike to get to it is an adventure on its own.
How to get there
Pulpit rock is in Rogaland county, just outside Stavanger (a nice city to visit before or after your adventure). From Stavanger you drive through the brand spanking new 14.4 kilometres (9 miles) underwater tunnel from Stavanger to Tau and Jørpeland, from the tunnel exit it is signed with brown tourist/attraction signs to “Preikestolen” which is Pulpit rock in Norwegian. Past Jørpeland you take a left and begin the incline and drive to the parking on the start of the hike to Pulpit rock. The parking costs (per 2020) 250 NOK per car and has a 24 hours’ time limit. There is no free parking unless you want to walk all the way from Jørpeland (this is possible but not recommended). Preikestolen Camping is on the way between the turnoff from the main road and the parking but offers good camping facilities. At the parking area at the end of the road there is also a very nice camping option, the Preikestolen Base Camp, they have cool pods to sleep in, sauna boats and you can rent SUPs, kayaks and other stuff there to frolic in the large lake at the camp. At the parking there are also shops where you can purchase extra clothes and such if you need it for the hike. It is also the last toilet facilities you will see for a while. Visit the official website for updates on parking and weather at Preikestolen 365.
If you think that Norwegians build their attractions with easy access for cars and campervans, you are mistaken. Norwegians pride themselves in being outdoorsy people, so driving and parking by attractions are considered cowardly. So, if you want to see Pulpit rock in all its glory, you need to put the work in. There are stories about tourists heading off in ballerina shoes and miniskirts thinking that all attractions are easy to reach. And there have been rescue operations when people have not heeded local advice and dressed appropriately.
The hike itself is about 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) and has a total incline of 500 metres (1640 feet). This is a slightly tough hike and there will be sweat and need for breaks along the way. We walked in good running/walking sneakers, so either that or good mountain shoes are recommended. Bring water and snacks and/or food for lunch – you will have the possibility to eat al fresco at the most spectacular location. We would recommend starting up at between 8 and 9 am to have a nice start before the throngs of people arrive (there are about 300 000 visitors a year, and most of those will visit from May to September). Some start earlier to catch the sunrise, and this is not a bad idea, just keep in mind that sunrise is around 4am in summer. You can bring a tent and stay for the night, the right to roam act of Norway makes it legal to camp anywhere you like as long as you are not closer than 150 metres (500 feet) of buildings. Since there are no buildings around Pulpit rock, it is a possibility for the adventurous. Keep in mind it is not allowed to camp at the rock shelf itself, so the plateau before you get to the front of the mountain is the best option.
Depending on your physical fitness you will use between 1 and 2 hours for the hike up. We are average people fitness wise and we used 1 ½ hours up and a little less back again. The path itself starts off with a brutal incline, so be ready. On the pathways going to Pulpit rock Sherpas from Nepal have laid down tons of rocks to make stairs and paths. And the stairs are not what you call normal, they are natural stairs with different heights and steps all the way. So, it takes a bit of your mind as well to concentrate on the path as you walk it. Underway you will cross bogs, climb and climb some more on stairs, you will have epic views back over the fjord to Stavanger, and you will about halfway begin to see into the Lysefjord ahead. Approaching the last stretch you will walk across a plateau, where there are some nice small lakes you can swim in on the way back if you feel like it. After the plateau you walk on a wooden pathway hanging over the valley, this has just recently been installed, in the olden days you had to hug the mountain and hold on for dear life to a chain.
The last metres of the hike are on a ledge with the fjord at your left, and the rockface on your right. If you like Ørjan suffer slightly from vertigo, this is where you will start to feel the effect of being this close to the abyss.
Entering the Pulpit rock itself is jaw-droppingly awesome. There is nothing else like it, and the feeling of being at an almost freestanding piece of rock 604 metres above the fjord is just mind-bending. Walking around the almost flat face, and doing what everyone is doing, taking selfies and content for SoMe, it is recommended to sit down and just take it all in. We ate our lunch a few feet from the edge, looking at other people daring the drop and dangling their feet over the edge.
We are not daredevils, so we kind of dared to stand a few feet from the edge for photos but even then we had knots in our stomachs, and quickly retreated to the relative safety of a couple of more feet from the abyss. Just sitting there and looking into the Lysefjord towards Lysebotn and the Kjerag massive (known for BASE jumping and the Kjerag bolt) on the other side of the fjord was amazing.
The walk back down again was hard on the knees and both Tanja and Charlotte were glad they brought their Nordic walking sticks for support.
Pulpit rock stands among the giants of the natural wonders of the world. The fact that it sits in our backyard, a few hours drive from our house, makes it even more special. This was our first ever visit, and the biggest surprise was the challenge of the hike but this made it even more rewarding, the fact that you had to put in some sweat and some swearing on the way to see one of Norway’s most famous rocks, the Pulpit rock. By the way, check out Tom Cruise hanging off the rockface in this behind the scenes movie from Mission Impossible: Fallout. Irony is that the place itself was cast as somewhere in India in the movie, not Norway.
Pulpit rock should be on the bucketlist of anyone coming to Norway, and all Norwegians for that matter. And if you make it back alive, there will be icecream for everyone!