Want to see musk oxen in Norway? Then you are definitely in the right place because this detailed guide will tell you all you need to know about viewing musk ox in the wilderness in Norway!
Musk oxen are some of the oldest mammals on the planet, and they are native to the Arctic region. They have gone extinct once before in Norway, but several attempts to reintroduce them to their previous habitat have been successful, which is why we have them in the country today!
Where can you see them, when’s the best time to go, and everything else you need to know about viewing musk ox in Norway is covered in this detailed guide!
Central Norway’s Dovre mountains are the only place in the country where it is possible to see musk oxen. They’re the highlight of Doverfjell National Park and one of the key reasons why so many people visit the Dovre Mountains in Norway.
You don’t have to head straight to the national park – you can visit one of the many villages nearby and sign up for a guided Musk Ox tour of central Norway. The musk oxen are extremely popular among visitors, so there are plenty of operators to choose from when it comes to tours.
Oppdal Safari is one of the most popular options for a musk ox Norway safari. They’re situated in one of the largest villages near Doverfjell, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to accommodation as well.
Doverfjell National Park is situated in central Norway and it’s where you have the best chance of seeing musk oxen in the wild. The park is also home to wild reindeer, a plethora of hiking trails, and spectacular nature, so there’s definitely more to do at Doverfjell than just observing musk oxen from a distance.
Getting to this national park is pretty easy whether you prefer driving or riding public transport. The two largest airports near Doverfjell are Oslo and Trondheim, so you’ll most likely land at one of them if you’re flying to Norway. From there, you have the option of renting a car and driving to Doverfjell or relying on trains and buses to get you there.
The Dovre train line travels to Dovre, Dombås, and villages further north, and trains depart from both Oslo and Trondheim. Long-distance buses also traverse this route, so really it’s just a matter of how you prefer to travel.
Trondheim is about 3 hours away from Dovre while Oslo is around 4 hours by car. In both cases, it takes about an hour longer to travel by train. The difference isn’t that big, so it shouldn’t impact your decision about which airport to fly to in Norway.
Musk oxen are native to the Arctic, which means that there are only a few places in the world where you can see them in the wild. Norway is one of those places and the Doverfjell National Park is widely known as one of the best places in the world to see the truly historic mammal.
The animal is common in the Arctic region and they primarily live in Canada and Greenland. The musk ox population was reintroduced to Norway from Canada’s Banks Island in 1932, but that didn’t last for too long because musk oxen were hunted to extinction during the Second World War. There was another attempt to introduce the musk ox to Norway just after the war, and it was much more successful.
Musk oxen were also introduced to Svalbard, but the attempt failed. This Arctic archipelago sustains an ideal habitat for the animal, and the musk ox introduced to the area did manage to survive for a few decades. However, the herd disappeared entirely in the 1970s, and there have been no musk oxen on Svalbard since.
The musk ox is a peaceful animal, but you should keep your distance. They will attack if they feel threatened, and it’s generally best to stay at least 200 meters away from a herd of musk oxen. Bring binoculars on the hike, if you want to get a good look at the mammals without getting too close.
Musk oxen have very thick fur – it’s actually the longest fur on any animal. Their thick, dark brown coats hang almost to the ground, and they’re just one of the many features that make them so impressive to see out in the wild.
Musk oxen are herd animals. They usually move around in groups of two or three dozen, and often times they’re led by a single female. The herd will form a circle around their young if they feel threatened, so in case you see a herd of musk oxen behaving this way, you better run for your life.
Some musk oxen that were reintroduced to Norway just casually crossed the border into Sweden. They can be seen in the mountains west of village Tännäs in Härjedalen, and they are genuinely descendants of the musk oxen in Dovrefjell.
Musk oxen are common in the Arctic region, which includes northern Canada, where Woods Cree is a spoken indigenous language. The name for these majestic mammals in Woods Cree is mâthi-môs or mâthi-mostos, which translates to ugly moose/bison.
The best time to see musk oxen in Norway is the summer season. The animals don’t like the heat too much so they retreat to higher altitudes. There are a lot of different operators that organize musk ox safari experiences in the national park, and these are usually the best option.
Alternatively, you can also just go hiking in the Doverfjell national park. There are clearly marked musk ox sightseeing trails, and you should be able to get a glimpse of the majestic mammals quite easily.
Some operators organize winter excursions, but there are fewer of them. Also, it’s worth noting that the terrain where you can see musk oxen is usually inaccessible to hikers in the winter, so it’s unlikely you’d be able to see them on your own. You’ll have to join a guided tour, and because there are fewer of them, you’ll likely pay more for the experience.
Spring and fall are also good seasons to visit Norway if you want to see musk oxen. Again, it’s best to join a guided tour because then you’re pretty much guaranteed to see the majestic animals, plus you don’t have to organize anything yourself.
Doverfjell National Park is very big, so you have plenty of options where you can stay. If you would prefer to be in one of the bigger villages in the area, opt for Oppdal, Gjøra, Hjerkinn, Dombås, or Dovre. Oppdal is one of the largest villages in the area, so it’s the best choice for travelers who want to feel like they have options when it comes to accommodation, attractions, and restaurants.
On the other hand, if you want to truly get to know the Norweigan wilderness, you can set up camp almost anywhere you want. Norway’s Freedom to Roam rule means you’re allowed to pitch a tent pretty much wherever you want, as long as you’re some 150 meters away from the nearest cabin.
There are also campsites and campgrounds for RVers on the outskirts of the national park, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find at least a decent accommodation option.
The Musk Ox Trail is a network of paths in Doverfjell National Park. They were opened in 2017 and are great trails for hikers who want the opportunity to see musk oxen roaming in the wilderness and they would rather not join a guided tour.
It’s possible to choose between several circular trails that vary in length, so you’ve got options whether you want to go on a quick hike or spend some time exploring the national park. All the trails are signposted and their paths are intertwined, so you can either follow one specific route or explore as many of them as you can manage.
The loop hikes vary in length from 4.5 to 15 kilometers, with most departure/return points in either Kongsvoll or Grønbakken. The trails go through both birch forests and bare mountains, so you’ll get to see a variety of different Norweigan landscapes, in addition to the musk oxen.
The Høgsnyta vantage point is also easily accessible from the Musk Ox Trail, and it’s the best spot in the area for seeing the animals roam if you brought binoculars. You will also see musk oxen west of the E6 highway, and you might even encounter them on the trail. If you do get a bit too close to a musk ox, just keep your distance and walk around them in a curve – they won’t attach if they don’t feel threatened.
We chose to do this trail on our own as it’s a nice area to hike in anyway, and there was a small chance of seeing the musk ox. We actually managed to see them at a distance by luck, and also stumbled upon a tour that was heading that way anyway. So, we could see them a long way off with our binoculars. But getting close was too far for us to continue.
Bear in mind that there are so many trails you can spend hours out there. We spent about 5 hours in total. It is hard to get lost, but having a map, even one from an app is handy.
The musk ox can be hard to see because either they are far away, or sitting down amongst the scrub. Plus that area of the park is often in cloud and fog, so they can hike.
If you seriously want to see them we recommend taking a tour. From what we saw of the tours around that day, they know how to find them almost guaranteed.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.