One of Norway’s most famous hikes attracted a record of 309,956 visitors in its 2019 summer season, up from 288,839 in 2018. But not everyone is happy with the increasing crowds.
The number–equivalent to almost 6% of Norway’s population–is all the more remarkable considering most people take the 3.7-mile hike during June, July and August. It’s a new all-time record, but also a continuation of an upward trend that’s lasted ten years. Since 2008, the number of visitors hiking to the Pulpit has climbed ever upwards, increasing by a total of 61%.A new all-time record was also set for daily visitors on July 17 when 5,342 people made the trip. The daily average during the month was 3,410.
A world-famous attraction
The Pulpit Rock–Preikestolen in Norwegian–is an 82x82 foot square clifftop that stands almost 2,000 feet above the Lysefjord, one of Norway’s most attractive fjords.
It’s been made famous around the world thanks in part to social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Last year, the clifftop was featured in the sixth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise. The fact the movie’s producers chose to portray the scene as being in India didn’t seem to stop the fascination as movie fans flocked to see the site for themselves.
Emphasizing the site’s international appeal is the fact that Germans were the most frequent visitors during the season, outnumbering even Norwegians.
Helge Kjellevold, Managing Director of the Preikestolen Foundation told Norwegian broadcaster NRK he was very happy with the record numbers, especially as numbers in the off-season also showed growth. “It shows that we have managed to spread the traffic a bit, and that is what we are working for,” he said.
Record numbers of rescues, too
Those comments do however highlight the problem facing the Foundation. The amount of people hiking the trail in June, July and August has become difficult to manage. In only the second week of July, Norsk Folkehjelp (Norwegian People's Aid) said they had conducted more rescues from the trail than in the whole previous year.
Many tourists unfamiliar with Norway don't realize that to reach Pulpit Rock, a four-hour hike is required to get there and back from the parking lot. For those inexperienced with hiking, that’s a challenge. Many come unprepared for walking on rocky and sometimes slippy ground and/or without adequate food and water.
In a survey of visitors earlier this summer, almost one-in-four said that too many people are allowed to make the hike at any one time. Despite that, 85% described their experience as good or very good.
One area the Foundation has identified to improve for next year is the number of buses arriving at the parking lot. Kjellevold said they will look to spread out their arrival times so as not to overwhelm the trail.