Exploring the Kingsroad

Kyrkjestølen - Maristova

Facts

Duration
2-5 hours
Distance
10,7 km
Difficulty
Medium
Suitable for
Normal fit
Available periods
End of May - Start of October

Description

Between Kyrkjestølen and Maristova, you will cross the actual Filefjell and reach Kongevegen’s highest point.

The stretch across Murkløpphøgda is an exciting walk of some 10 km, with spectacular views of the Hurrungane peaks.

Here you can see what it meant to build a road according to «the French principle». It was as straight a line as possible, with great emphasis on drainage and foundation work, but without any particular consideration for the character of the terrain.

In practical terms, it was the shortest route from Gamlestøga on the eastern side to Maristova on the western side.

This characteristic road-building method is highly noticeable if you walk from west to east, i.e. from Maristova and up the hills known as «the seven disappointments».

This will most certainly get your heat rate going – it is steep.

The hills have been given this name because every time you think you have completed the climb, you realise that there is yet another hill before you reach the top.

This happens seven times. Hence, you are disappointed seven times.

 

DIRECTION WEST

The route starts in a scattered birch forest by Kyrkjestølen, approx. 7 km west of Tyinkrysset.

Kyrkjestølen, located along the E16, is signposted and offers ample parking. Food and accommodation are available.

From Kyrkjestølen, you will climb 300 metres in height before you reach the top of the road at approx. 1250 m a.s.l. The route continues towards the lush Lærdal.

Close to Kongevegen’s highest point, you will find Stiftstøtta – a marble monument that marked the old border between the dioceses of Akerhus and Bjørgvin.

The marble is from Lier, but was sent to Denmark in the early 1700s as building material for Copenhagen’s Marble Church.

There the monument was shaped in a fashionable Nordic Classicism design, comprising five cubical blocks and an inverted V-shape on top. It was then sent back to Norway and Lærdalsøyri by sea.

 

EXPENSIVE MONUMENT

The monument was expensive. Total cost of the design and shipment was 245 riksdaler, which was equivalent to a three-year maintenance budget for Kongevegen (!).

Needless to say, the officials at the treasury in Copenhagen who received the invoice were not impressed. One of the explanations given, was that one block was too heavy and had to be split in two to be transported up the mountain.

Farmer Håkon Øvre Ljøsne from Lærdal, who had taken on the assignment in 1797, claimed that even if he used a purpose-built wagon, the heavy work would injure his horses.

The monument was given a beautiful base of natural stone, and became a popular motif among artists. It was later moved to the new main road in Smeddalen, but was returned to its original location in 1973.

Sadly, one of the blocks disappeared along the way, but the "Strength and Beauty" of Kongevegen's gemstone is still there.
The area by the monument is also a beautiful picnic area.

Up in the mountain, the terrain is gentle and flat before the trail descends to Maristova at around 800 m a.s.l.

Along the way there are displays with information on interesting road-technical solutions.

For example how the skilled Road Inspector, Iwer Moss, handled various challenges, and how the labourers had to endure difficult working days and accidents with medical assistance weeks away.

 

SEVERAL ROUTES

Kongevegen across Filefjell between Vang and Lærdal was completed in 1793, and followed this route across Murkløpphøgda until 1843.

The road was then replaced by Den Bergenske Hovedvej down in Smeddalen.

Numerous redirections and improvements were made. This was also the case in the early 1900s, and after 1960 when the car became more common.

Today’s E16 – a few improvements later – still runs through Smeddalen.

The latest version of the thousands-of-year-old route across Filefjell opened in 2016/2017.