While not the biggest hike you can find in Iceland, it’s a must do. Only an hour away from Reykjavik, it is easily accessible for the perfect day trip. The four mile round trip hike to Glymur Waterfall is jam packed with fun! Hidden in the lush Botnsdalur Valley, it was once the highest waterfall in Iceland. Now in second place, at 198m (650′), it is still a sight to see!
Hike to Glymur Waterfall
Miles: 4 R/T ♦ Elevation Gain: 1,484′ ♦ Trail Type: Lollipop Loop ♦ Trail: Moderate to Hard
This truly was a highlight of the trip. I didn’t know what to expect, other than it was our first hike and we were definitely in need of one. Hiking to Glymur Waterfall is a must do. I know in Iceland, that a lot of places are put on the “must do” list for people. What makes this one different? I think it’s the highlights along the way, the challenge of getting to the top and the unique beauty along the way.
It may seem like it will be a bit crowded, but it never felt that way. People are spread out enough and focusing on the many different points along the way. It’s busiest at the beginning, but even when you run into people, we found they were the happiest people. Even towards the top, people were wanting to high five to their accomplishment. It’s a challenge and people are excited that they made it so far and that they were so close to the top.
Make your first stop the map. It provides highlights that you should stop at and a couple options on the way down.
Once you make it to the parking lot, it may seem like a dead end. All you have to do is walk to the end of the road where the gate is and walk through. There is private property back there, so make sure to stay on the trails.
The trail is very well marked the entire way up and usually has heavy traffic, so you never have to worry about wandering off trail. Or just look up and you will see the trail along the ridge.
The path is relatively flat to start, a bit rocky from the lava fields but very manageable. The first highlight of the trip is the Pvottahellir Lava Cave. Enter here:
Come out here:
Just past the cave, about a quarter mile away, is a river crossing. This river crossing is over a log with a rope the entire way. There was no point where we could just walk through or jump rocks. It will definitely test your balance, so hopefully you have good shoes!
Then starts the climb. The climb is steep and can be slippery in parts. There are ropes to help you in the steepest areas.
This is the hardest part of the hike, as you go about 1,200′ in one mile. Don’t worry if you are not in the best of shape, as there are multiple vista points where people stop to take pictures.
The first is of the valley behind you. You can see all the way to the ocean!
As you head further up, you can start to see the canyon that will lead your eyes to the waterfall. Unfortunately there is no access to walk the river through the canyon to the waterfall.
If you are deathly afraid of heights, some of the points along the way are pretty close to major drop offs. I didn’t notice it too much as I was more focused on my feet not tripping over a rock. Just be careful and pay attention. I watched a girl trip and almost fall off a ledge!
As you find the best place to take a picture along the way, it seems like the top is far. The hikers who have made it farther truly look like ants.
You will eventually make it, as it really isn’t that far. Get that picture from the one stop you look directly at the falls and continue heading up. After this last view point it will seem like a breeze to the top and it’s flat as far as the eye can see. This truly is the trickiest part of the hike. This is where it would be worth carrying some sort of water shoe with you. There are places where it looks like you can jump to the other side, but it’s not worth it as the rocks are slippery and the water is raging at the top. You can also walk down to where the water finally falls off the cliff, creating the waterfall you worked so hard to get to. I was not able to do this because of my fear of heights!
Walk just a little further where the water is slower and easier to wade through. You will get wet, this is a guarantee. So if you do not have water footwear, take your shoes off and wade through the ice cold water and it is ICE cold! It’s about 18 inches deep at the deepest, so waterproof shoes will not help.
I was fortunate enough to get half way through carrying my shoes and then I fell and there goes the dry shoes. It’s best to carry your shoes in your non dominant hand as you are less likely to brace yourself with it. That was my mistake. It’s very rocky on the bottom and the flat rocks you find are extremely slippery. It was slightly painful with the cold water and rocks, but as you can tell, doable.
After you have dried off or just decided to walk on through, you’ll have a short, gradual climb back to the top. The huge rock pile on the left is your fork in the road. Which way will you take? Either way, then the last two miles are downhill.
We chose the shorter and probably steeper trail that goes straight down near that rock pile. You continue to walk towards more rock piles, but we continued to head left and decided not go to each rock pile.
The hike is slightly steep, you’ll climbing over rocks, through tree roots and along the cliff. This is the point where we lost the trail a couple times, but all you need to do is head down and not too far to the left. There are some areas that are closed here for restoration, so be mindful of those signs.
You are back at your car in no time.
Packing MUST Haves for Glymur Waterfall Trail
I think the experienced hiker could easily do this without any additional or extra wear than a normal hike. Water is essential, but if you are not as experienced, I suggest the following:
Sturdy hiking shoes, good hiking socks, hiking poles, and a snack.
What we didn’t bring, which I kind of wished we did because of the actual river crossing at the top:
Water shoes and a compact towel, or extra pair of socks. As mentioned, the water was almost to our knees and FREEZING. Having to trudge back in wet shoes and socks is not ideal.
Of course, don’t forget your camera or phone camera. It would be worth carrying some extra camera equipment as you can get some pretty amazing shots of the waterfall and surrounding area.
Glymur Waterfall Trail Information
There is a decent amount of parking, but nothing bigger than a van or small motorhome can fit down this road. It is a dead end. You will not have to worry about large tour buses full of people in this area. There is also no overnight camping at the trail head or along the river you drive next to on the way to the trail head.
Dog Friendly: No, definitely leave Fido at home.
Family Friendly: Experienced hikers
Parking: 64.385174, -21.293551
Parking Fee: Free
Best Time: Late spring through fall.
Other Uses: N/A
Access: Year Round
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