Tjornadalsfossen (Tjørnadalsfossen; pronounced “TYURD-nuh-dahls-foss-un”) was a waterfall that we almost missed out on for we weren’t really aware of its presence.
Indeed, it took an accidental stop, which we did to improve our view of Strondsfossen (on the other side of the lake Sandvinvatnet) before this waterfall caught us by surprise!
This falls turned and twisted its way down the eastern wall of Oddadalen making it very tall.
I had some trouble trying to find a satisfyingly full contextual view, which got me to do a little exploring to see if there was a better way to experience it.
Over the years, I managed to find two very different approaches to better appreciate Tjørnadalsfossen.
Getting Closer to the bottom of Tjørnadalsfossen
The most straightforward way that I know of to get a more intimate look at Tjornadalsfossen was by getting a bottom up look at it.
To do that, I had to go up the tractor road that quickly rose up the east end of Oddadalen Valley immediately from the car park or pullout (see directions.
This road only allowed pedestrians though I’m sure the barricade may be opened only for particular local uses since the road seemed to have some degree of recent (albeit very infrequent) use.
In any case, the road switchbacked at least a couple of times with several informal paths scrambling closer to the stream that Tjornadalsfossen was on.
However, I kept ascending this road until it started to flatten out about 600m from the trailhead.
That was when I spotted a more obvious scrambling path on the left into the shaded forested area.
After a short scramble through to the opposite side of the narrow patch of woods, I then found myself at the banks of the stream responsible for Tjørnadalsfossen.
This was where I got satisfying bottom up views of Tjørnadalsfossen though getting a full photo of it either required stitching or a decent wide angle.
After having my fill of the falls, I then turned back and went back downhill to the trailhead.
Overall, this short excursion would probably take around 30 minutes total.
By the way, the road continued further to the south towards Hildal as well as Bygdeborg (the location of an old fort).
I didn’t keep going on this path so I can’t say anything more about it.
Experiencing Tjørnadalsfossen from the Saga Trail to Bygdeborg
On my second visit to this part of Norway in late June 2019, I noticed Bygdeborg signs, and I decided that I ought to take a look to see what it’s about.
I believe the word means “hillfort” and apparently Norway had quite a few of these back in the day.
According to the signs here, the Bygdeborg of Sandvin was believed to have been in use from the Iron Age to the Viking Age.
This fort took advantage of its favorable hillside position so it was easy to defend, and it blended in with the surroundings so it was well concealed.
It’s this aspect of the excursion to Bygdeborg that ultimately translated into a fairly demanding nearly vertical hike to get there.
So starting from the trailhead, I went up the tractor road, but at the first switchback, I noticed a sign and arrow pointing the way about 1km to Bygdeborg.
Taking this smaller path, it immediately disappeared right into the thicket of trees and started to climb very steeply.
The path was easy to lose because there was a combination of pine needles and moss all over the ground (concealing what would otherwise be a discernable trail of use).
Often times, I’d have to look for red Ts to assure myself that I hadn’t lost the path.
In any case, this path steeply climbed for maybe the next 200-250m, but it seemed like it was a lot longer than that.
Indeed, this Saga Trail really made me experience how difficult it was to access these hillforts.
Eventually, when the initial climb flattened out somewhat, I had a brief flat or gently climbing stretch where I started to get some partial elevated views back across Sandvinvatnet towards Strondsfossen.
However, it didn’t take long before I reached the next obstacle.
At this point, I encountered a bit of a rock wall, where further progress required scaling it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see any red Ts or cairns in the immediate area, and it wasn’t until I saw some locals who knew what they were doing unhesitatingly scaling this wall.
Whatever you do at this point, don’t make the mistake I made and follow the other trails of use that avoided this climb.
They quickly degenerated into an overgrown scramble anyways.
After scaling the rock wall, the narrow path became obvious to follow once again.
Along the way, I spotted some informal trails of use to the left, which actually afforded me some unsanctioned-but-nice views of Tjørnadalsfossen.
The Bygdeborg Trail continued onwards on a ridge before making another very steep climb.
It was only at the top of the secondary climb did I finally start to see some signs of civilization (in the form a sign as well as some kind of register (or geocache?).
Indeed, up at this small clearing, where I could get a nice angled view back towards Tjornadalsfossen, there really wasn’t much in the way of any visible evidence of the hillfort being here.
I noticed merely lots of stones since this fort focused more on blending in with the surroundings while also taking advantage of its lofty position for defense.
After having my fill of this location, I had a choice of continuing on the trail towards Hildal (another kilometer away) before backtracking on the tractor road for 2km back to the trailhead (for a 4km loop).
However, I opted to go back the way I came, which meant having to go back through the rough terrain to regain the first switchback near the trailhead.
Overall, this hike was said to be 2km round trip, but it took me a little over 90 minutes to do it given the rough hiking conditions.
Unlike most of the waterfalls in Oddadalen, Tjornadalsfossen was not easily spotted from the road.
You basically need to find the Bygdeborg Hillfort car park or pullout, which was right at the bottom of a closed off tractor road.
To get there, you can take the Rv13 south from the Odda sentrum for roughly a little over 5km.
The car park and trailhead will be on the left, which seemed to have enough space for at least a half-dozen cars or so.
Coming from the other direction, it was about 9km north of the kiosk at the Låtefoss Waterfall.
For some geographical context, Odda is 17km (under 30 minutes drive) north of Skare, 42km (about 45 minutes drive) north of Røldal, 72km (about 1 hour drive) northeast of Etne, 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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