One of the absolute highlights from our recent trip to Norway was seeing a musk ox with our very own eyes at Dovrefjell National Park! And to think that when we first arrived in Norway that this activity wasn’t even on our radar. I didn’t even have a clue that there were musk ox residing in Norway!
But that’s the big benefit of doing a road trip with a camper! You get so much flexibility that when a part of your original plan falls through you can simply change things up. And that’s exactly what happend to us!
I had several more strenuous hikes planned but unfortunately the weather that day had other plans in mind. The forecast looked grim and wet and it wouldn’t have been the best idea to scramble up another mountain. So I started looking up alternaties online. At one point I bumped into a photograph of what I can only describe as a majestic animal. It looked like something that survived the Ice Age and when I showed it to Christof he nearly jumped through the roof form pure excitement.
Spotting wildlife is one of his favorite things to do so the decision was easy. The next day we would visit Dovrefjell National Park in the hope of seeing a musk ox with our very own eyes! And I can already tell you that it was one of the most exciting hikes that we did in Norway!
In this guide I will share all of the details from our day trip to Dovrefjell and where exactly you can see a musk ox yourself. The information out there is very limited so I am very happy to write a guide for you that I wish I had had when planning our trip around Norway!
📖 CURIOUS FOR MORE UNIQUE PLACES IN EUROPE? MAKE SURE TO READ MY GUIDE ON THE 28 HIDDEN GEMS IN EUROPE THAT I VISITED MYSELF!
Where To See The Musk Ox In Dovrefjell National Park In Norway
Dovrefjell–Sunndalsfjella National Park is a National Park in Norway and it offers many activities for outdoor recreation. It’s one of Norway’s most iconic mountain areas and is a place which has shaped Norwegian identity for thousands of years. Besides that it’s home to a lot of wildlife such as the wild reindeer, musk oxen and arctic fox.
The National park was originally established in 1974 and covers a total of 1,693 square kilometres. Needles to say, there’s a lot of ground to cover and when following the wrong trail you’ll have zero chances of spotting musk oxen.
But if you follow this guide you’re chances of seeing one will be very high!
How to reach Dovrefjell National Park
The Dovrefjell mountains are located in Eastern Norway and close to the national parks of Jotunheimen and Rondane. While there is public transportation that leads to the national park the best and easiest way to reach Dovrefjell is to travel by car or camper.
🚂 BY TRAIN
There is however the train from Oslo to Trondheim which passes through the Dovre mountains. Sometimes it’s even possible to spot one from your train window and the conductor will sometimes even make an announcement when they’re visible. This train however doesn’t stop near the start of the hiking trail.
The Dovre Railway is in total 548 km long and takes you through some of Norway’s best national parks, mountains and scenic attractions. The whole trip from Oslo to Trondheim takes about 7 hours, and the train has frequent departures throughout the day. The railway line also runs as a night train service with sleeping compartments. The train stops at Dombås. If you are completely set on traveling through Norway by train you will have to get off here and then take a taxi the musk ox trail head in Kongsvoll.
For the highest chance of spotting musk oxen you need to follow a specific hiking trail and there’s no bus stops or train station remotely close. This would mean you would also have to take a taxi but the area of Dovrefjell is so remote that it might be hard to find one. Especially when coming back from the hike.
🚘 BY CAR
If you’re coming from Oslo you’ll have to follow the E6 and then turn on road 27 and 29 respectively to reach Dovrefjell National Park. The total driving time is a little less than 5 hours but still a lot.
If you’ve read any of my other Norway guides you know that we also visited Jotunheimen National Park and that we did the Besseggen Ridge Hike and the Knøtshoe hike. From here it’s only 2 hours driving to reach Dovrefjell and the start of the musk ox hiking trail.
The musk ox hiking trail starts at Kongsvoll. There’s a small parking lot a little before the hotel where you can park your car/camper next to the road. When you cross the street you’ll see the start of the hiking trail!
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A little history and facts about the musk ox
Dovrefjell National Park is the only place in Norway, and one of few places in the world, where you can experience the majestic musk ox. The musk ox is a truly historic mammal and is one of the oldest mammals to walk our planet. Dating back to about 187,000 to 129,000 years ago, muskoxen are known as the shaggy survivors of the Ice Age.
Today musk oxen are found in northern Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Alaska. Unfortunately in Norway the musk ox became extinct during the second world war due to hunting. They were reintroduced to Norway in 1947. But some of the musk ox introduced to Norway’s Dovrefjell evend found their way to Sweden in 1971 and established themselves there.
A full grown musk ox can weigh up to 450 kilograms and in spite of what their weight may imply they can run fast as hell. A musk ox can reach a speed of 60km/h and they live for 12 to 20 years. The musk ox is a peaceful animal and will only attack when it’s feeling threatened. Still, it’s advises to keep a safe distance of 200 meters at all times.
🏨 Where to stay near Dovrefjell National Park
The closest campsite to the musk ox trail head is the Magalaupe Camping in Oppdal. From here it’s only 5 minutes driving to the parking lot and you’re good to go and spot some musk oxen!
If camping is not your cup of tea you can find the best hotels in the area below.
🗓 When is the best time to see musk oxen in Norway
The musk ox can be found in Dovrefjell National Park year round but during fall this place just gets a little more magical. We visited in September and by then fall season was already getting started in Norway. Trees were turning yellow and the Dovrefjell mountains truly were covered in a hue of autumnal colors. During this month the temperature is still nice and at one point I was even hiking in my t-shirt.
Another favorite amongst photographers is to take photos of the musk ox surrounded by a white carpet of snow. His low hanging fur gets covered in small icicles and makes a stunning contrast against the white snow. The Dovrefjell mountains usually receive their first batch of snow around October and well the later you go in the winter season the higher the chances of seeing a musk ox in the snow.
When it comes to spotting wildlife your chances are usually the highest in the early morning or around dawn.
We arrived a little after sunrise and within our first 30 minutes of hiking we spotted our first musk ox!
🥾 Musk Ox Hiking Trail Details
Starting Point – Kongsvoll or Grønbakken
Distance – Your hike in Dovrefjell National Park can be as long or as short as you want. We started at the red dot and hiked up to Høgsnyta vantage point (1,320 meters above sea level) and then back to our camper. You can choose circular trips of varying lengths, from 4.5 to 15 kilometers.
Duration – We spent a total of 4 hours exploring the Dovrefjell mountains.
Elevation – The first part of the hike takes up through the tree line but it’s not a steep incline and can also be easily done with children.
The Musk Ox Trail – a network of paths designed to give you good chances of spotting musk oxen – opened in the summer of 2017.
You can encounter musk oxen along the entire trail on the west side of the E6 highway, but musk oxen are a common sight particularly from Høgsnyta. In early summer, musk oxen will sometimes go down to the birch forests, so stay alert.
By staying on the Musk Ox Trail, you also help protect the wild reindeer in the area. It is important to restrict hiking across Stroplsjødalen valley, where wild reindeer roam. The trail is marked with wooden posts with a national park logo, and wherever paths intersect you will find an information sign with a map.
🙋🏼♀️Our Personal Experience on the Musk Ox Trail in Norway
I’ve never seen anyone jump out of bed that eagerly as Christof did that very morning. The day before we had discovered that you could spot a real life musk ox at a national park close by so off we went!
After parking our camper we crossed the street ready to start this wonderful adventure! We first came across a sign which explained how to behave if you would encounter a musk ox:
- Always keep a safe distance of 200 meters. You don’t want to scare him/her which could lead into a possible attack.
- If there’s a musk ox on the trail itself, try to find a way around it.
- In the summer months they tend to come below the tree line so always be cautious, even at the start of your hike!
The first part of the trail lead us through the forest and after a while I saw a giant poop on the ground. Something very big definitely came by here and looking at its freshness it hadn’t been too long ago. We decided to hike in silence and tried to keep our footsteps as light as possible.
Once we were above the trees Christof was walking a few meters in front of me and suddenly I see him stop and stare. I could hear him whisper “I think I see something”. Since I am a lot shorter than him I of course still couldn’t see a thing. Slowly we walked up the small hill in front of us and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
In front of us was a giant brown rock. Only it wasn’t actually a rock cause it was moving and it had long brown and threaded hair. We stood there, completely frozen and constantly blinking cause neither of us could believe we were actually standing there, eye to eye with an enormous musk ox.
I immediately took out my camera but it was still a little dark outside. I was shooting from my hand and with the biggest zoom lens that I have bu unfortunately all of these photos turned out blurry.
By the time that I realized what had happened the musk ox started walking away from us. We tried to keep up with him while still remaining at a safe distance and following the trail but it was no use. He was too damn fast and after a while he even disappeared into the mist.
I felt so sad. I hadn’t been able to take one decent photo where the musk ox wasn’t all blurry. We decided to keep on following the trail upwards to theHøgsnyta vantage point. At times I thought I spotted a second musk ox but in the end it always turned out to be a rock.
I felt a little defeated hiking back down but then all of a sudden I saw something big moving through the valley below us. We had spotted a second musk ox!!!
He was still far away but I couldn’t contain myself and started running. Before you think, this girl is bonkers and has completely lost her mind, we were still several hundred meters away from him. And yes, this time I managed to take a couple of amazing photos! It wasn’t the exact photo that I was going or hoping for but I am still very happy with them!
After this small detour we made our way back to our camper. The entire time we had been the only ones here but now more people started to arrive.
I do think that the earlier you come, the higher your chances will be of spotting a musk ox. The later it gets the more people there are and they might scare them away.
🧳 Norway Hiking Packing List
Hiking shoes – You will definitely need a pair of these. Even that some attractions are located right next to a parking lot you’ll pretty much always have to hike over a rocky terrain. I love my Meindl Mountain Trail Boots for longer hikes and my Danner Mountain Light Boots for daily wear and shorter distances.
Trekking poles – These will especially come in handy cause a lot of the hikes in these guide can be rather strenuous on the joints. I used the Leki Adventure Light trekking poles for all of my hikes in Norway!
Back Pack – You’ll want to bring a back pack with you to carry your camera, some snacks and your refillable water bottle. I love the Kanken No. 2 back pack from Fjallraven and pretty much take it with me everywhere I go.
Refillable Water Bottle – The water in Norway is some of the freshet in the entire world so there’s no need at all to buy plastic bottles. Simply find the nearest stream to fill up your bottle and you’re good to go.
Another option is to use a back pack which has a water reservoir built inside of it. For instance this 3L Hydration Bladder is leak proof and can be stored inside a back pack.
Trail Leggings – I love hiking in leggings and have lately been loving the Abisko Trail Tights from Fjallraven.
Fast Drying Shirt – When hiking you tend to sweat, especially when climbing a mountain. One of the best things to wear is a shirt that quickly dries so you don’t get cold high up the mountain.
Insulating Jacket – Depending on the temperature you’ll either want a thicker or lighter jacket. If it’s pretty cold outside I always go for my Fjallraven Vidda Jacket. Otherwise I go for their High Coast Light Jacket which is super light weight.
Woolen cap – The perfect accessory to protect your ears from the cold and to cover your hair after a few days without a shower.
Protein Bars – Make sure you have a couple of these stowed a way in your back pack to boost up your energy level during the hike.
Sunscreen – Make sure to re apply to your face regularly cause pretty much all of the hikes that we did in Norway were exposed most of the time. I love this one by Neutrogena which feels like a face mist but also provides SPF 50 protection!
Merino Wool Socks – My go to brand has always been Falke and I love how fast they drive after a long day of hiking. Plus since they’re made of merino wool they don’t smell and can be worn for a couple of days.
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