Our heroes

The Norwegian Trekking Association

Bringing nature to everyone

For almost 150 years The Norwegian Trekking Association has made Norway’s beautiful nature accessible to everyone.

They had a dream. In 1866 a few men had a meeting. Led by Norwegian banker and philanthropist Thomas Heftye the dream was to facilitate and develop tourism in Norway. Two years later, on 21. January 1868, The Norwegian Trekking Association (in short DNT ) was founded.

The purpose of DNT was, much like the foreign Alpine associations around in Europe, to make the beautiful nature accessible for every man and woman.

Photo: DNT / Sarabråten

Okay, this was a grand idea. But what did it actually take to make it happen?

Well, you surely needed a lot of enthusiasm. And experienced volunteers. Men and women who loved nature, who knew their countryside, knew their mountains, knew the lakes. You needed volunteers to make paths, to mark the paths, and to keep them open – all year round. To put signs up telling people where to go, how far it is to reach the goal. To make the trek both safe and enjoyable. And for this, you needed experienced guides. These people were basically mountain farmers and they had a tremendous impact in developing the Norwegian mountain sports.

For the first forty years, skiing was not part of DNT’s agenda. It was too complicated accessing the mountains during winter time, and the interest in skiing was in its early stages. But that changed around 1907 much to the success of famous explorers like Nansen and Amundsen who were great skiers and of course the extension of the railway system throughout the country.

In the beginning, DNT started their work in the woods in the low land, but it was the mountains, especially Jotunheimen, that was the real attraction. Soon DNT started building cabins: Memurubu, and Gjendebu, Leirvassbu, Gjendesheim and Krækkja – all of the famous trekking destinations today. In the run of 50 years, DNT built 16 cabins in Jotunheimen and Hardangervidda. When Glitterheim opened its winter service in winter 1907, it marked the beginning of a new area: Norway as a great outdoor destination, all year round, summer and winter.

Picture: DNT/Gjendebu

DNT was early nature conservationists. They realised that bringing a lot of people into nature has a price. One way of securing nature is defining vast areas as National Parks, but it wasn’t until 1962 that Rondane was defined as the first National Park, followed by Jotunheimen in 1980. DNT was also involved in the fighting against Gjende being exploited as watercourses in 1973.

One of the really unique things about DNT is the cabins. There are over 500 cabins spread around Norway. And as a member, you get a key. The key gives you access to these cabins, whether it is in Jotunheimen, in Rondane or Lofoten or Senja. Some of the cabins are operated, most of them are not. So ­– make your plan, find a route, get out, go trekking, get exhausted, get overwhelmed – and before the sun sets, find your cabin. You open the door, its clean inside, there are matches, you light the fire, there is food, you eat, there is water to drink. There are mattresses, there are beds, you sleep, you wake up, you make your breakfast. When you leave, you leave it like you found it, you pay for what you have eaten and been drinking. And there you go – travel new paths, enjoy the feeling of being alone in vast open spaces. Enter a new cabin, at a new spectacular place. With thousands of volunteers spending their holidays for the purpose of making your holiday memorable and great. To mark the paths, keep them open, to tidy up in nature.

It is a dream. The Dream.

So get your key, and you can explore our country from Kristiansand in the south to the North Cape in the north. Total freedom within a key. Wow!

There is a lot of strong fellowship and love of nature in those three letters, DNT.

Photo: DNT


Facts: The Norwegian Trekking Association

  • The Norwegian Trekking Association (in short DNT) Established 21. January 1868
  • DNT is Norway's biggest outdoor activities organisation. For close to 150 years DNT has been working to promote trekking and to improve conditions for all who enjoy Norway’s outdoor attractions.
  • With close to 300 000 members, 500 cabins, 20 000 km of marked paths, DNT has stayed on as a strong, vital and important association for almost 150 years. 
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