Hiking in the Autumn

Hiking in Iceland During the Fall/Autumn

Hiking Iceland in the fall is an absolute treat, with the fantastic colours making one final blaze before the winter. Read on to learn about hiking through the spectacular and dramatic fall.

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James Taylor

21. September 2018

Why is Hiking in Iceland so Popular?

Shortly after landing in Iceland, travellers are blown away by just how incredible and unique the nature is in the country. Thanks to its position over the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and a hot spot in the earth’s mantle, Iceland is highly volcanic country and, geologically speaking, one of the youngest land masses on the planet. Seeing a country literally in the process of being moulded by explosive volcanoes awakens something in most visitors; a desire to explore every inch of this wildly beautiful country and experience as much of the primitive landscapes as possible.

All of this and more is the reason why Iceland has drawn millions of travellers looking to experience the best of the country by hiking through the numerous trails sprinkled generously throughout the small island.

A man standing on the Dyrholaey Peninsula, South IcelandPhoto courtesy of Unsplash.com.

Getting Prepared

The Icelandic summer is swept away from us without much warning; one minute we’re enjoying mostly fine days with reasonable temperatures, but before we know it’s windy, rainy and cold. But for many, fall is their favourite time of year. The weather encourages cosy activities again, and many welcome the return of dark nights, lit up only by the glowing aurora borealis. The unpredictable weather cloaks the magical Icelandic landscapes by day in a moody beauty and help the already astounding sub-arctic light conditions come to the fore. The summer hordes of tourists have also gone home, so the trails are much quieter and easier to enjoy. But preparation for hikes is much more important

Here are some essentials to pack for some hikes in Iceland:

•    Waterproof jacket and pants
•    Sturdy and waterproof walking boots/shoes.
•    Beanie, gloves, and a pair of warm socks
•    A GPS if you’re undertaking a longer multi-day trek.
•    Walking sticks if you need as the conditions will be slipperier than usual.

Related: What to Wear in Reykjavik During Autumn and Winter

So what hikes will be suitable in the Icelandic fall? Read on to see our chosen selection of ideal trails, made up of an ideal mix of routes easily accessible from Reykjavik, a handful of off the beaten path trails, and some multi day treks.

Hiking in Asbyrgi Canyon, North IcelandPhoto by James Taylor/Wonderguide.

Fall Hikes for Reykjavik Stopovers

Keflavik International Airport has now turned into a travel hub for millions of people flying between Europe and North America, many of those travellers breaking up their trip to enjoy a few days in the Icelandic capital. The following hikes are ideal options if you don’t have a lot of time to spare but still want to get out of the city and hit the trails.

Glymur Waterfall

4 hours round trip. Moderately difficult with some challenging slopes.

Over recent years the hike to Glymur waterfall has become more popular, and now the summertime brings crowds of people making their way up to the tall falls. Instead, opt to do this hike during the fall when the colours are changing, and the number of tourists is fewer.

It’s a fun and challenging hike that gives spectacular views out over Hvalfjörður fjord just north of Reykjavik, and the waterfall itself is one of Iceland’s tallest. The autumn colours blazing all along the trail head are incredible.

Read: The Glimmering Glory of Glymur

Glymur waterfall in West IcelandPhoto by James Taylor/Wonderguide.

Arnarstapi to Hellnar

1.5 hours round trip. Ideal for people of all fitness levels, flat for most of the trail.

You’ll find these two lonely little coastal villages in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which juts out into the ocean a couple hours north of Reykjavik. A spectacular coast line has made a short hiking trail that connects the two villages very popular, taking you past black sand beaches, basalt sea stacks and through a mossy lava field. Naturally Arnarstapi will be the first town you come across, so it’s easiest to park there and then walk towards Hellnar.

Read: 12 Amazing Spots in Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Iceland in a Nutshell

Amazing coast line between Arnarstapi and HellnarPhoto by James Taylor/Wonderguide.

Reykjadalur Hot Spring River

2 hours round trip, not including time spent soaking in the river. Ideal for all fitness levels.

Having hit the big time in recent years, the hike to the Reykjadalur Valley is incredibly popular during the summer time, making the quieter fall the perfect time to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and geothermal river. For even less crowds, go early in the morning or late in the evening – a late night soak always comes with the chance of catching the northern lights.

Read: The Reykjadalur Hot Spring Hike On Your Own

The Reykjadalur hot spring river in IcelandPhoto by James Taylor/Wonderguide.

Some ‘Under the Radar’ Fall Hikes

There aren’t a lot of places in Iceland nowadays that are devoid of tourists, but there are a few that most do overlook. Here are a few suggestions if you’re looking to fly under the radar with some fall hikes in the country.

Underrated hikes in IcelandPhoto by James Taylor/Wonderguide.

Húsafell Area

Routes vary from short to long hikes, suitable for everybody.

The innermost farm in Western Iceland, Húsafell is both a historic place to visit and a great destination for some autumn hikes. The area used to be on the old road between Akureyri and Reykjavik and served as a resting place between the two cities for travellers. Nowadays, although popular with Icelanders, it does lie a way off the ring road so is often overlooked by international tourists.

Wanderlist: What to See and Do in West Iceland

Mt. Keilir

2-2.5 hours return hike, moderately challenging slope towards the second half of the trail.

Attractively close to Reykjavik is perhaps the most recognisable landmark on the Reykjanes Peninsula, Mt. Keilir. The perfect cone-shaped mountain is believed to act as somewhat of a ‘plug’ for a crater below and makes for a great hike up to the peak to admire the views of the surrounding lava fields in their muted autumn tones.

Read: Hiking Keilir: A Peaceful Escape On A Volcano

The Best Multi-Day Fall Treks

Iceland’s nature draws a lot of avid hikers looking to spend days out hiking through the wilderness. With the increasingly wild weather affecting the chances of a pleasant experience along Iceland’s most famous multi-day trek, the Laugavegur trail, opt instead for the following equally-incredible long-distance treks.

Borgarfjörður to Seyðisfjörður

3 to 4 days trek, 45 miles (74km)

Situated in the Eastern Fjords of Iceland, this multi-day trek is criminally overlooked. With stunning vistas over the North Atlantic Ocean, imposing mountains, and abandoned farm houses, the hike from Borgarfjörður to Seyðisfjörður holds many a surprise and will leave you with a memorable experience. The fall is a great time to complete this hike, as the increased winds and dramatic weather will only increase the edge-of-the-earth vibes that come with hiking this trail.

Wanderlist: What To Do in the Eastfjords of Iceland

Colourful road leading to a church in Seydisfjordur, East IcelandPhoto by James Taylor/Wonderguide.

Fimmvörðurháls Pass

1-2 days trek, 13 miles (25km)

A small and arguably most scenic part of the famed Laugavegur trek, crossing the Fimmvörðurháls Pass during the moody Fall is a trip that you won’t forget anytime soon. If the conditions are right then this hike will take you through some of Iceland’s most spectacular scenery, crossing over into the gorgeous Thórsmörk Valley between the two glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull.

Read: How to Hike the Fimmvörðurháls Pass in One Day

Hiking to Thorsmork in IcelandPhoto courtesy of Unsplash.com.