Easy Lake Hikes Near Oslo

Now that I live in Oslo, I wanted to take advantage of the nearby hiking before the weather turned bad. You can see a lot of potential forests and lakes to explore just by glancing at Google Maps. Of course, many of these are not easy to reach for the casual hiker and/or those dependent on public transportation. After a bit of research, though, I found the following lakes that are not only easy to get to but are not demanding hikes.

Sognsvann

View of Sognsvann Lake

This is probably the most famous lake near Oslo. Sognsvann was a common recommendation from people I talked to, whereas the other lakes on this list people either hadn’t heard of or hadn’t bothered to hike yet. You can reach Sognsvann by taking the #5 subway line to the end, and then the lake is basically right there. It’s also a small enough lake that you can walk around the whole thing pretty quickly. But because of its popularity, that means the trail can get a bit crowded on the weekends.

Øyungen

View of Øyungen Lake

Øyungen was my favorite lake and is sometimes touted as a “local secret.” I don’t think it’s really a secret, just a lake that’s a little harder to get to, and so not as many people go. You take the #51 bus to the end, but then you still have about 1.5 miles of hiking to get to the actual lake. It’s an easy hike, though, and the scenery on the way there is just as pretty as the lake itself.

Maridalsvannet

View of Maridalsvannet Lake

The third and final lake I visited was Maridalsvannet. This is also the main drinking supply for Oslo, so it makes sense that you can’t actually hike to the lake. Instead, you follow a trail up the mountain that looks down on the water. To get there, you can either take the #54 bus or the #11 or #12 tram and then walk maybe ten minutes to the trailhead. You won’t always have a view of the lake on your hike, but the trails are still quite nice.

Four Days, Four Cities in Belgium

The main reason I wanted to go to Belgium was to see a concert, but I figured if we were gonna go at all, we might as well make the most of it and do other things. I’m glad we turned it into an actual vacation, though; Belgium ended up being a really fun trip. It’s a small country, so it’s easy to get around and visit multiple cities on a short stay. Trains are fast and frequent enough that we were able to keep Brussels as our home base. (Pro tip: consult the Belgian train website after buying your ticket, as it can be confusing to know which platform is the right one otherwise.) Here’s how the week went down:

Day 1: Brussels

Belgium prides itself on its history of comic strip artists, and our day in Brussels was mostly centered around that. We visited the Comics Art Museum first, which was… small and underwhelming. They have a supplemental app you can download that adds an AR experience to the museum. It’s a neat idea, but the app is pretty janky.

The best part of Brussels was simply walking around the city and trying to spot the different comic strip murals. There are 70+ murals in all, though we only sought out the ones pinned on the map provided by 203 Challenges.

Comic strip art on the side of a building in Brussels

There are probably better routes out there. The one we followed took us on a fairly long detour to see a mural that was falling apart. But this route at least ensures you see other Brussels highlights like the Manneken Pis statue and Grand Place square:

Grand Place square in the center of Brussels

Day 2: Bruges

Bruges is a more quiet and quaint city that has a canal running through it. We didn’t follow any particular route through town, nor did we visit any specific museums. There are plenty of cathedrals you can peek into, though, as you make your way to the belfry in the market square. The Church of Our Lady is probably the most famous of these cathedrals:

Back view of the Church of Our Lady in Bruges

The above picture is actually the backside of the cathedral. Bruges has lots of great, hidden photo ops like this. But the best photo op was viewing Minnewaterpark from the opposite side of the lake:

Viewing Castillo de La Faille in Bruges from across the water

Day 3: Antwerp

Antwerp was a little difficult to pull off in a day. We only had time for one museum, which was fulfilled by the Museum aan de Stroom (or MAS). And it was fine. Rubens House is another popular museum that we, unfortunately, did not get to see.

For Antwerp, we consulted a walking tour again, this time by Full Suitcase. Their recommendations were good, but we had to cut a lot of things from it, like the zoo and everything north of MAS. I’m glad the tour mentioned Stadspark, though, because it’s a very pretty park:

Stadspark in Antwerp

And I think Antwerp’s town square, the “Grote Markt,” might be my favorite of the cities we visited:

Brabo's Monument in Antwerp

Day 4: Ghent

Every city was worth visiting and had something unique in it, but I liked Ghent the most overall. We used I Am Aileen’s walking tour map, which was probably the most efficient map we had. Aileen does not waste time. My favorite spot was Gravensteen:

Back view of Gravensteen in Ghent

The Gravensteen castle is beautiful inside and out, and the complimentary audio tour is fairly amusing. Saint Nicholas’ Church was another Ghent highlight. Not that the inside of this cathedral was spectacularly different than others, but the size of the building is friggin’ huge. Just look at this view as you approach it from the bridge:

Looking down the road on Sint-Michielsbrug Bridge

And that’s Belgium for ‘ya.

Three Days in (East) Glacier National Park

Alternate titles I was considering: What to Do in Glacier When the Going-to-the-Sun Road is Closed, What to Do When You Don’t Have a Vehicle Reservation, Glacier Hikes That are Actually Doable, etc. This is simply not an easy national park to visit. You have a very small window in the summer when everything is open, and even that’s a gamble with flooding and forest fires possible at the season bookends. Plus, the required vehicle reservations for the main road fill up super fast.

For us, we were able to get a reservation for June 26th, but the Going-to-the-Sun Road still wasn’t fully open. We knew that might be the case, though, which is why we chose to stay on the east side of the park where there are more entry points. In the east, you have the Two Medicine area, Many Glacier, and St. Mary that’s only partway into the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The other issue with trying to visit Glacier is that this is not a park fit for the casual hiker. Most of the iconic hikes are at least six miles and range from moderate to strenuous. I was traveling with my elderly parents and have a bad knee myself, so we needed to keep it as light as possible. We basically tried to do everything on the Enjoy Your Parks website’s list of best easy hikes, notwithstanding the hikes that were closed. Here’s how it went down:

Day 1: Two Medicine

The Two Medicine area was a good starting point for our trip. It had some of the shorter and easier hikes, and the scenery, while pretty, was not nearly as impressive as the next two days. Our first stop was Trick Falls, also known as Running Eagle Falls:

The Trick Falls waterfall

Afterwards, we hit the South Shore Trail towards Astor Falls. The walk to the falls is very nice, especially as you get into the valley and can see the mountains surrounding you. From the falls, you can continue up to the Astor Park Viewpoint, though be warned that this additional stretch is much steeper. The view isn’t bad, though:

Looking down at Two Medicine from the Astor Park Viewpoint

Unfortunately, many of the trees in Glacier are dead or dying, so viewpoints like this are not going to look as beautiful as pictures you’ve seen before. Alas, it’s just one more way the park is being affected by climate change.

Day 2: Many Glacier

Now this is more what I had in mind. The Many Glacier area was easily our favorite part of the trip and could have been the national park on its own. There are so many great hikes here, but of course we needed to keep it simple. Thus, we chose the Grinnell Lake hike. It’s still seven miles roundtrip, but it’s mostly flat and absolutely beautiful the entire way:

Mountain views on the way to Grinnell Lake

On the hike to Grinnell Lake, you pass by two other lakes: Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. You can walk along the northern or southern shore of each, and can switch sides going back, but we found that the most scenic route was the south side of Swiftcurrent mixed with the north side of Josephine.

To end the day, we did the almost four-mile roundtrip hike to the Red Rock Falls:

The Red Rock waterfalls

It was pretty tough to follow up a seven-mile hike with another four miles, despite the Red Rock Falls trail being just as easy. If you know you’ll have the stamina to do both, I think it would be better to start the day with Red Rock Falls and end with Grinnell Lake. Moose are supposedly very active near Red Rock Falls in the morning.

Day 3: St. Mary

For our final day in Glacier, we drove as far into the Going-to-the-Sun Road as we could. As of June 26th, the stopping point was the Jackson Glacier Overlook. There is still a lot to see on this eastern side of the road, though. The hike to St. Mary and Virginia Falls, for instance, was well worth the effort:

There are also some great quick-stop overlooks on the road to take in the lake and surrounding mountains, such as the Sun Point Nature Trail:

Viewing St. Mary Lake from Sun Point

Overall, this was a fun trip and probably puts Glacier in my Top 5 favorite national parks. It just saddens me to know the park is changing for the worse, and the glaciers and even the trees might all be gone soon.