Hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon in Iceland: Complete Guide

Note to my fellow wanderers: This guide was written from my first-hand experiences. I try my best not to over-glamorize any location I travel to because I want HappyWander’s content to be as authentic as possible. My goal is to provide you real information so that you can have the best possible adventures wandering the world. Enjoy!

Are you ready for one of the most epic hikes in Iceland? You need to navigate your way to Múlagljúfur Canyon. Located between Vik and Hofn in Southeast Iceland, Múlagljúfur Canyon is one of the hidden gems of Iceland. This hike alone made my travels to Iceland worth it. Keep reading to get insights into hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon, one of the best hikes in Iceland.

Overview of Múlagljúfur Canyon in Iceland

Múlagljúfur Canyon in Iceland is a breathtaking natural wonder featuring dramatic cliffs, lush green landscapes, and cascading waterfalls, offering stunning views and a serene atmosphere for hikers and nature enthusiasts. In this section, I review all the things you will need to know for hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon.

Hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon Map

This is a map of Múlagljúfur Canyon (via alltrails.com) of the route I did

Hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon 3D Map

This is a 3D map of Múlagljúfur Canyon (via Google), with the car representing where you park, and the person at the top the ending point of the hike.

Where to Park

After reading reviews online, I was hesitant about the parking situation in my non 4×4 rental car. But compared to the drive to Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River, this one was easy. The road is gravel, but is pretty smooth most of the way to the parking lot. The drive from Route 1 to the parking lot is over 1 mile (2+ km’s) in length, and the few people I saw driving in were driving about 20  to 25 km’s per hour on this gravel road.

Here is the address: Múlagljúfur Canyon Parking Lot

The actual parking “lot” is small, probably enough for 30 cars maximum by my estimate. I was lucky at around 11 AM to find a spot (but it was quite cold and there was a high chance of rain). Here’s what the parking lot looks like (There are a few parallel parking spots behind me where I parked):

Múlagljúfur Canyon Parking Lot

The parking lot is smaller than it looks, and kind of a free for all as far as the direction of how cars are parked. A major perk of this parking lot is that it costs nothing to park, unlike many other areas in Iceland.

Distance Traveled

According to Alltrails.com, I traveled slightly less than 4 miles, which felt shorter than what I actually hiked. But it’s probably correct, because I stopped a ton to take pictures and videos along this EPIC adventure.

How Long Does it Take to Hike?

If you hiked this one without stopping, it could be done in maybe 2 hours. Having stopped at least 4-5 times for photos and video taking, I spent about 3 to 3.5 hours hiking and chatting with fellow hikers.

Elevation Change

According to Alltrails.com, I climbed over 1200 feet of elevation.

Hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon Elevation Map

Múlagljúfur Canyon Elevation Map (via alltrails.com)

Difficulty

If you exercise regularly this hike isn’t crazy hard. However, there are steep climbs and steep descents, which caused me to fall on my butt once and almost a couple more times. There are also narrow areas with steep drop-offs on 1 or both sides of the path, so be careful. Finally, I had the fun of getting hailed on on the way down, which added a new element of difficulty to the hike.

Overall, I’d give this hike a 8 / 10 in difficulty. If this hike were longer I’d rate it more difficult.

Permits

There are no permits for this hike.

Cost

There is no cost to park at Múlagljúfur Canyon, it is free of charge!

When to Go

I went in May, which was a very cool to time to go because there was plenty of snow in my surrounding views, but warm enough to not have to deal with ice. Towards the top of the hike, it was quite cold. I imagine you can do this hike year-round, but best months would be when the weather is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Recommended Gear

Hiking in Iceland is a pretty wild hiking experience. One moment it can be sunny and 2 minutes later you might get hit with a massive hail storm. Preparing accordingly will help you maximize your hiking experience. I’ll highlight the gear that I brought in May, as well as additional gear that might benefit you:

  • Layers: Depending on the weather, I’d recommend wearing layers and a light, waterproof jacket. I wore long paints over my shorts, which ended up being perfect for this hike in May. It was quite cold as you ascended towards the top. If anything, you can take a layer off if you get too warm, so it’s better to wear layers.
  • Hiking backpack with straps: If you don’t have a backpack with straps, I recommend you get one. They aren’t too expensive on Amazon. Your shoulders and back will thank you later. This hike is pretty tough depending on the speed you go up it, which can pay your body a toll without the proper gear.
  • Portable charger: If you take a lot of photos / videos like me, you’ll want to bring a portable charger for your phone. I also use the alltrails.com app to navigate so having enough battery is important.
  • Water bladder: If you want to save on weight and also help your backpack be more balanced than carrying a big bottle of water in your bag, a water bladder is important. I personally use a 3L water bladder and I drank about 50% of it on this hike.
  • Hiking shoes: Hiking shoes that are waterproof will benefit you if you go in on this trail. There are plenty of muddy, snowy, wet sections of the hike, so having the right hiking shoes is important.
  • Snacks: Who doesn’t like snacks? While hiking, even on a medium-length hike like this, you burn lots of calories. My personal go-to’s on this hike were: Honey roasted peanuts, gummy bears, protein shakes, and protein bars.
  • Bug spray: I didn’t experience bugs on this hike, so this wasn’t really needed.
  • First aid kit: It’s a good idea to bring Band-Aids, a bandage, and some cut cleaning items. I have needed band-aids in the past from slipping on rocks, but I did not on this hike.
  • Sunscreen: You never know with Iceland. Some days it’s very sunny and many other days it’s rainy and cloudy. It would be a good idea to put on some sunscreen before this hike.
  • Flashlight: If you go anytime near sunrise or sunset, I’d recommend having a flashlight. However, in May, it was light 18+ hours in the day so a flashlight was not so needed.

Nice to Have Gear:

Here are a few items that would make your hiking experience even better:

  • Shoe impact insoles: These can help as you traverse hard rocks along the way.
  • Phone tripod: If you go alone or with a group and want great pictures, a phone tripod is key. I use one on every hike I go on. You may not need to use one very often because there were quite a few people on this trail that you could ask to take a picture for you.
  • Water shoes: While not necessary, water shoes could help you walk around the hot spring thermal river better, as it is natural with rocks and other rough features on the bottom.

The Play By Play: My Route Hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon

Want to know what it’s really like hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon? Read my hiking guide play by play below:

Parking Lot

Getting to the parking lot off of Route 1 is a bit of a mini adventure as you traverse across a few km’s of gravel road. Fortunately the road is 2 lanes wide, which allows you to drive around any larger holes or rocks. Once you get to the parking area, you’ll notice that it’s not that large. When I arrived, it was about 3/4 full. As soon as you’re ready to start the hike, you’ll walk to the left of the parking lot and start climbing up a trail marked by yellow markers:

The terrain will look pretty similar to start the hike, until you reach the river crossing.

River Crossing

After a while on the trail, you’ll see first notice the gigantic Hangandifoss waterfall off in the view and the wonderful mountains to the left of the waterfall. This is right around the area you’ll most likely also notice a dip in the terrain, causing you to think that you may have to go down into this small canyon and out the other side:

This would be a correct assessment, you will be required to walk down to the river and cross it, and back up again. Don’t underestimate this hike down and back up, as you can see by me slipping on my way down:

The actual river itself, at least when I went, was not too difficult to cross. However, it requires balance and finding the right footing, or else you might just fall the shallow river:

At this point of the hike, you’ll be excited to be heading towards Hangandifoss Waterfall, as it will be in your view most of the way until you reach it:

Hangandifoss Waterfall

Hangandifoss Waterfall is over 400 feet tall, and it’s quite impressive when you finally see it up close:

On many hikes, this waterfall would be the signature focal point, but not on this hike. While it certainly is beautiful, your eyes will certainly be taken to the unbelievable, amazing, incredible Múlagljúfur Canyon.

Múlagljúfur Canyon

Múlagljúfur Canyon may just be one of the top 3 views I’ve ever seen. In my mind, the only view that rivals this one so far that I’ve seen is on the Kalepa Ridge hike in Hawaii. The sheer depth, size, and detail in the canyon is mind-blowing. There are so many great spots to view the canyon along this hike, but probably the best is right around where you stand across from Hangandifoss Waterfall. Take a look at this view, which faces Múlafoss waterfall (a waterfall over 300 feet tall!) at the end of the canyon head on:

When you see this view in person, you will probably use the most beautiful describing words you’ve learned to describe it such as “stunning”, “unbelievable”, “magical”, and these won’t do the view justice. You’ll have some variation of this view for a good portion of the remainder of the hike as you continue to climb higher:

At the top of the hill in the above video is where about 90% of hikers stopped, rested, and turned around it seemed. I’d recommend continuing forward towards the summit of this hike for great views and solitude as you face the snow-covered mountains.  You’ll notice quite a few side waterfalls as you continue hiking up:

Once you get to the “top” of the hill from the above two videos, this is where quite a few people rest and take photos. I’d recommend taking a minute to turn around and look at the views from the other side:

Ocean View Photo from Múlagljúfur Canyon

As you continue climbing up towards the peak, the view from behind gets better and better:

As mentioned above, there’s a point when most of the hikers I saw on the trail stopped. This is the exact part of the hike that most don’t go beyond:

I only passed 2 other hikers for the remainder of the hike to the top. You may ask “am I even on the trail anymore?” as you head to the top because the trail kind of loses its trail feel.

As you continue on towards the peak, it gets somewhat steep, but nothing you can’t handle.

 

Peak

So what does the view from the top of Múlagljúfur Canyon hike look like? Check this out:

You can expect to be surrounded by a dramatic canyon on 2 sides of you full of waterfalls not seen from any other part of the hike. If you turn around, you’ll see snow covered mountains and then you’ll see the beautifully blue ocean. While not as jaw-dropping as the first full view of Múlagljúfur Canyon, it’s still a very impressive view 90% of hikers don’t go to. I stayed up on top for about 25 minutes and didn’t see anyone else. The solitude and quiet void was quite beautiful (and cold).

Hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon View from the Top

After Hike Dinner

After hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon, I was pretty dang hungry and needed to refill the tank to get ready for the next day of hikes. I decided to go to Ishusid Pizzeria Restaurant near my hotel in Höfn. I ordered the Alti Special, which has white sauce, cheese, chicken, mushrooms, bacon, and spicy mayo on top. Quite good, don’t overlook Ishusid Pizzeria if you’re in the area!

Ishusid Pizzeria Restaurant in Höfn, Iceland - Alti Special

Ishusid Pizzeria Restaurant is a lovely establishment located in the heart of Höfn. Take a look at this place:

Ishusid Pizzeria Restaurant in Höfn, Iceland

About My Experience Hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon

Overall, hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon was one of my top 3 hike experiences ever. In this section, I’ll highlight why and if there were any negative aspects to this hike.

Favorite Parts

Here are a few of my favorite parts of hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon:

The Canyon Views

Múlagljúfur Canyon is truly an epic sight. You will be absolutely shocked when you see it. You may even drop your mouth as your eyes try to make sense of what you’re seeing. This view alone was worth my entire trip to Iceland.

The Different Types of Terrain

One of the great things about this hike is that it has almost everything you’d want to see while hiking: Deep canyons, rivers, waterfalls, ocean, glaciers, mountains, you name it! Your eyes won’t be bored.

The Waterfalls

While Hangandifoss gets most of the glory, there are tons of other waterfall along this hike in the canyon and on the sides of the trail as you ascend. At the very end of the trail, I was able to spot quite a few waterfalls falling deep in to the canyon. While not as many waterfalls as Waterfall Way, this hike was more epic in my opinion (with less fanfare).

Least Favorite Parts

On this hike, I struggle to recollect any negative parts of the hike. The drive in wasn’t nearly as bad as reviews online made it out to be. Okay it is not paved, it’s about as nice as you can get for a gravel road. I have no complaints on this hike. I got hailed on twice on this hike, but I quite enjoyed that experience! It added to the wild beautiful adventure that is Múlagljúfur Canyon.

Overall Score

Overall this may have been my favorite hike of all time. I loved the diversity of this hike, and the views rival anything I’ve ever seen.

I give this trail a 9.9 / 10. I’m not giving it a perfect score just because there one day might be a hike I like better.

Hiking Tips for Múlagljúfur Canyon After the Fact

Here are some hiking tips for Múlagljúfur Canyon that I learned after the fact that can help you have the very best adventure:

  • Be careful as you cross down into the river canyon and on the way back up, it’s quite steep and slippery, even when not wet.
  • Keep going past where most people stop (see above videos). Hike to the very end to the top, you won’t be disappointed.
  • There were 2 general spots with the best view of the canyon, but you’ll have to get off the trail a bit to get to them. You’ll find them across from Hangandifoss waterfall (and on the stones in the next section over) as seen from this video:

Final Thoughts on Hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon in Iceland

Thanks for reading my complete guide on hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon! This hike absolutely deserves a place on your Iceland itinerary. In fact, I’d recommend going out of your way to hike it. I loved how rugged the terrain was, as well as the relatively few people on the trail when I went. If you’re looking for perhaps the best hike in Iceland, this is the hike for you.

Happy wandering to you!

Anthony Bart
Author: Anthony Bart

Hello! Welcome to HappyWanders! My name is Anthony, I'm on a mission to live a life full of adventure and to help you to do the same. As an ex-corporate worker and current entrepreneur, I've been working to design a life with more time for adventure and less time for the 9-5 grind. If you're ready for an adventure, you're my type of person!

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