Hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River 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 to hike? Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River is conveniently located in West Iceland about 50 km’s outside of Reykjavik, making it very accessible and a favorite among locals. Nestled amidst stunning landscapes, this trail leads adventurers to a natural geothermal river where they can soak in warm, mineral-rich waters while surrounded by breathtaking views of the Icelandic wilderness. The combination of a scenic hike and a relaxing hot spring bath makes Reykjadalur an ideal destination for nature lovers seeking both adventure and relaxation. But does this hike live up to the hype? Keep reading to learn more about hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River in Iceland.

Overview of Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River in Iceland

Conveniently located near Reykjavik, Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River is a local favorite because of it’s naturally heated geothermal river. In this section, I’ll review all the important things you need to know about hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River.

Hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River in Iceland Route Map

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

Where to Park

Getting to the parking lot was by far the craziest part of this hike, it was an adventure in itself! However, my Google map definitely took me to the incorrect parking place, starting me Northwest of the hot springs instead of South (where the vast majority of people park). The good news about my parking area was that there was no cost to park. The bad news, the road leading up to the parking area was 3 km’s of rugged, bumpy, sometimes scary road. I highly recommend finding the parking lot most people use and pay the ~1000 ISK (around $7 USD), which I’ve included below:

Here is the address: Car Park for Thermal River

While I heard the road is kind of rough to get to this parking lot, it can not be even close to what I drove on for over 3 km’s to get to the northern side of this hike.

Distance Traveled

According to Alltrails.com, I traveled over 5 miles from my starting point to where I stopped (Djúpagilsfoss Waterfall). However, if you start at the recommended starting point (which I outlined above), you’ll hike closer to 6 miles. I’d recommend you go further than what Alltrails.com recommends on their hike, because there is a really cool valley with tons of steam that is beyond the geothermal river. This area is called Klambragil Gorge. I’ll highlight more about this below under my favorite parts of the hike.

How Long Does it Take to Hike?

This hike won’t take you too long to do. I did it in around 2.5 hours, but I also didn’t swim in the hot springs, which looked amazing (I had come straight from the airport so I wasn’t prepared for a swim). I’d plan for at least 3 to 4 hours to hike this one.

Elevation Change

According to Alltrails.com, I climbed over 1000 feet of elevation. The steepest part of the elevation occurred near the Klambragil Gorge, and it was quite a workout. Of course there are other areas of elevation, but this is the area that really stuck out to me. 

Hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River in Iceland Elevation Map

Car Park for Thermal River to Klambragil Gorge (via alltrails.com)

Difficulty

If you exercise regularly this hike is not too difficult. However, don’t underestimate it. Some portions of this trail are big challenges and will test your cardio, especially if you don’t hike often.

Overall, I’d give this hike a 6.5 / 10 in difficulty.

Permits

There are no permits for this hike.

Cost

If you park at the recommended spot above, you’ll need to pay for parking, around 250 ISK per hour, which is almost $2 per hour USD.

When to Go

I went in May and it was perfect for enjoying the geothermal water (even if only my hands went in). I imagine this would be a great hike year round, but you’ll want to bring some microspikes if there is snow and ice on the trail. Even in May, there were a few areas with snow near the Klambragil Gorge.

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. If anything, you can take a layer off if you get too warm, so it’s better to wear layers.
  • Towel: If you plan on jumping in the warm water, you’ll want to bring a towel with you to dry off once you exit the warm geothermal waters.
  • Swimsuit: If you plan on getting into the water, you’ll want to bring a swimsuit. You could even wear it under your clothes, as long as it dries quickly.
  • 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 40% 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 Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

So what’s it like hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River? Read my hiking guide play by play below:

Djúpagilsfoss Waterfall

After heading North from the parking lot, one of the first major things to see on this hike is the Djúpagilsfoss Waterfall. Although seen from a distance down below in the valley, this waterfall is quite beautiful as it cascades down several smaller waterfalls into the the larger falls.

You’ll have an opportunity to get some good photos here on some of the cliffs that overhang the waterfall.

Hot Spring Thermal River

The Hot Spring Thermal River is really the main attraction for this hike, and rightly so. The Hot Spring Thermal River attracts both local and tourists alike with its naturally hot flowing waters, making it an epic natural hot tub. There are several changing areas will wooden walls set up along the river, and several areas you can walk into the river via steps down. On a cold day, the warm to hot water truly makes this destination a magical place.

As you can see in the video above, the hike takes you directly next to the hot spring thermal river for what seems like a few hundred meters. this is the very first natural hot spring I encountered, so it was quite exciting for me to see and put my hands and feet in. Just a side note, you may want to bring some waterproof shoes to walk around in this water, although not required.

Klambragil Gorge

On alltrails.com’s guide for this hike, they completely skip Klambragil Gorge. In my opinion, it’s a mistake. This was one of my favorite areas of the hike and is only a 5-10 minute walk past the hot spring thermal river. Here’s what you can find in the lower part of the gorge:

If you decide to climb up to the top of Klambragil Gorge, you can expect a vigorous, steep ascent. I think it’s worth it to get a view of the deep gorge and valley below:

After Hike Dinner

After hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River, I was in need of something substantial. I landed on a Reindeer Burger from Íslenski Barinn in downtown Reykjavik with fresh sweet potato fries, and a large Icelandic beer. Everything in Iceland is expensive, so be prepared to spend around 5000 to 6000 ISK, or $40.00 for a meal like this (with a beer):

Reindeer Burger from Íslenski Barinn in Downtown Reykjavik

About My Experience Hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Overall, hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River was great first Icelandic hike. While there are certainly better hikes as you head further East, this is a good starter hike that is located near the airport and downtown Reykjavik. In this section, I highlight my favorite parts, as well as a few of my least favorite parts of this hike.

Favorite Parts

Here are a few of my favorite parts of hiking Reykjadalur Hot Springs Thermal River:

Hot Spring Thermal River

This is obviously the main attraction of this hike, and for good reason. It’s crazy how warm this water feels on a cold day! I saw hundreds of people partaking in this natural phenomenon, and why not? I highly recommend that you prepare better than I did and bring a bathing suit to jump in and relax in nature’s hot tub.

Klambragil Gorge

An underrated (and not even mentioned on alltrails.com’s guide) part of this hike was the Klambragil Gorge. I thought this area was beautiful, and the climb up to the top was beautifully painful. Be sure not to overlook the Klambragil Gorge.

Djúpagilsfoss Waterfall

While not one of the more famous waterfalls in Iceland, the Djúpagilsfoss Waterfall is certainly no slouch. While I wouldn’t necessarily do this hike just to see this waterfall, it’s a great addition on top of the hot spring thermal river and the Klambragil Gorge. 

Least Favorite Parts

Here is my least favorite part of this hike:

Parking

For me, the parking situation was the worst part about this hike. Maybe you’ll have better luck with the recommended parking lot I mentioned above? Although it was quite fun to drive more than 3 km’s offroad on some rough terrain, I had several thoughts of turning back because I was in a rental and I didn’t know just how rough the road was going to get (it was pretty rough). I have heard that the main parking area is quite busy, so prepare accordingly.

Busy in the Hot Spring Thermal River

This isn’t a huge deal, but I prefer more secluded locations with less people. It seemed like people were occupying most of the good spots in the river, and it will probably get much busier in peak summer season.

Overall Score

Overall I had a great time on this trail. This was my very fist hike in Iceland so I didn’t know what to expect. The geothermal river and the hot water vapor shooting out throughout the hike gave this hike a unique Icelandic feel to it. I give this trail a 8.5 / 10.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River in Iceland

If you are looking for a hike near Reykjavik when you first arrive or while in the area, this is a great option to get your feet wet (literally). Hiking Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River was a great time, and I certainly think you’ll enjoy your experience.

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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