About Skrikjofossen and Opofossen
Skrikjofossen and Opofossen were a waterfall pair that made their plunge and tumble from the highlands of the Hardanger Plateau (Hardangervidda) towards the South Fjord (Sørfjorden) by the town of Lofthus in the Ullensvang municipality.
Actually, it was Skrikjofossen (I’ve also seen it spelled Krikjofossen) that was much more visible during our visit in June 2005 as well as in Summer of 2019.
It made a pair of dramatic plunges, where the literature varies on its height which ranges from as little as 300m high or as much as 455m tall.
Thus, we were easily able to see it (especially if you’re heading south) from the main road through the center of Lofthus.
However, its lower sections were obstructed by a sloping cliff so it beckoned us to find a way to get closer for a better view.
That said, seeking out that better view was less straightforward than we thought, which we’ll get into later in this write-up.
Conversely, the other main waterfall was the cascading Opofossen.
This waterfall was the more forceful and northerly one across the head of the valley from Skrikjofossen.
Unfortunately, it was mostly hidden from us as it was almost exclusively facing Skrikjofossen before finally revealing a small glimpse of itself at its bottommost drop.
Opofossen was really a series of plunges and cascades that reportedly possessed a cumulative height of 650m though we can’t substantiate that until actually witnessing it better in the field.
According to Norgeskart, the hidden uppermost tiers was called Rjukande (or Rjukandefossen meaning the “Smoke Falls”) while the barely-visible lowermost drops were called Bjørnabykset (“bear’s leap”).
It wouldn’t surprise me if there were many other names or understandings revolving around this system of cascades.
Experiencing the Skrikjofossen and Opofossen Waterfalls
While it may be possible to experience these waterfalls in a few different ways, the only ways that I’ve done it was either from seeing it within the town of Lofthus, or from further up the hill towards a car park at Elvedalen (see directions below).
On our first visit in late June 2005, Julie and I actually did a short hike in Elvedalen that took us to a bridge over the Opo River though I felt as if the views of the falls weren’t any better than the car park.
That said, the trail was somewhat easy and straightforward as we passed by the school and walked alongside the northern bank of the Opo River deeper into Elvedalen.
According to our rough GPS track marks on our log, we walked about 1.2km in each direction to a bridge that crossed the Opo River.
Throughout the walk, we saw that Skrikjofossen’s two main tiers were separating from each other as it appeared more angled to us.
Meanwhile, Opofossen remained frustratingly elusive as the trail didn’t really reveal much more about itself other than some intermediate cascades between the bridge and the lowermost tiers of Bjørnabykset.
We had found an informal trail that continued scrambling alongside the northern bank of the Opo River hoping it might get us to better views of Opofossen.
However, it eventually ended with a direct view of the outflow of the creek Skrikjo as well as a slightly more angled view of Skrikjofossen itself.
According to our maps, the track on the other side of the bridge only curved back around and followed the southern banks of Opoelva back towards Lofthus so we decided to turn back to the trailhead in Elvedalen from this point.
Overall, it took us around an hour to do this hike, which behaved more like a leisurely stroll except for those moments we had scrambled to improve the views.
Speculating on improving the Opofossen Experience
So based on this experience, I’m thinking that in order to get any decent glimpse of Opofossen (I recalled I saw one obscure partial photo from near its top on the interwebs), it would require a hike up one of the strenuous trails that would climb above Lofthus and Elvedalen towards Hardangervidda.
One such trail was said to contain the Monk Stairs or Munkestreppene.
We weren’t about to try these trails during our late evening visits (each time we’ve started after 9pm) so I personally can’t guarantee that it would yield a better view of it.
Besides, I’m on the fence about trying such a hike, but I’ll need to do more research before I decide to give it a go on a future Norway trip (if it happens).
Why Skrikjofossen Lacked Fanfare
The first two times that I had witnessed Skrikjofossen, I thought it was legitimate and ought to get more recognition than it did.
However, on a recent visit in 2019, we got to see this waterfall a month after our repeat June visit in late July.
When we came back to see it, we couldn’t help but notice how much lighter flowing the waterfall was.
So that made us believe that perhaps it wasn’t as significant as other named waterfalls in the country.
Indeed, in general, we tend to realize that named waterfalls in Norway tended to be more permanent or on major rivers and streams.
Perhaps Skrikjofossen was a borderline case, but our observations in 2019 certainly didn’t help its status in our minds.
While Skrikjofossen can be seen from the Rv13 in the town of Lofthus, I’m going to describe the driving directions to get to the Elvedalen Trailhead.
I singled out Elvedalen because that’s where we noticed hiking options from the stroll deeper into Elvedalen to the possibility of much harder and vertical hikes scaling the cliff walls towards Hardangervidda.
So we’re assuming that you’re either driving north on the Rv13 towards the southern end of Lofthus, or driving through Lofthus from the north along the same main road.
At the southern end of Lofthus, we then turned inland (east; away from the fjord) at a signs for Hardanger Folkehøgskule and Hordatun Idrettspark.
We then followed this narrow road up the hill (eventually following signs for Elvedalen) for about 1.3km before reaching the public car park just on the other side of a bridge.
For some geographical context, Odda is 32km (over 30 minutes drive) south of Lofthus, 41km (about 45 minutes drive) south of Kinsarvik, 42km (about 45 minutes drive) north of Røldal, 72km (about 90 minutes drive) south of Eidfjord, 134km (about 3 hours drive with a ferry crossing) east of Bergen, 179km (over 3 hours drive with some ferry crossings) north of Stavanger, and 323km (about 5 hours drive) west of Oslo.
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