Hvannagil Canyon – a hiker’s paradise

Hvannagil Canyon hike

Close by the rustic Stafafell, which we have recommended recently, a new exciting world is awaiting. Only several footsteps behind the farm you can jump into an incredible scenery which reminds a pure fairy tale. Many Icelanders highly recommended this place, as it’s a kingdom of Hvannagil Canyon, one of the most stunning canyons in the whole country. Now you know why we couldn’t leave Stafafell without going for this hike. That’s what we had dreamed about – to get away from reality for a while far away from the world’s hustle and bustle. We made the hike in the beginning of October on a beautiful autumn day.

Hvannagil Canyon hike

Prepare for exploring an absolutely unusual place – this world is so noiseless, the scenery so alluring and like often in Iceland, totally unearthly! While walking in such a stunning terrain we are savoring the complete silence. Imagine that your heart beating can be taken as a noise, what a feeling! On the left fantastic, almost glowing with pride peaks, on the right even more boastful peaks, blue sky over your head and cute fluffy tundra moss under your shoes. Do you need anything more? Flora is so fascinating here – lots of dwarfish trees cast among fields of moss. You just can’t decide where to look, up or down, as everything is so appealing.

Hvannagil Canyon hike

Have a look at our original Icelandic fine art prints!

After a couple of hours an amazing view opens up for our hungry eyes. The rhyolite Hvannagil Canyon is amazingly colourful. We have encountered rhyolite rocks before, but such amazing formations – never! It will take your breath way! For sure nothing different than “WOOOW” won’t get through your mouth. It’s a perfect symphony of rainbow colours. These alluring colours are echoed by the hues of Icelandic autumn – ochre, umber, saturated orange, fever yellow. Fairy-tale! This incredible feast for the eyes was broken only because a strong wind in a company of a heavy rain appeared out of the blue. But fortunately, it finished as quickly as it started.

Hvannagil Canyon hike

We simply adore places, where you can wander for hours and meet nobody. During our all-day hike, we haven’t met anybody, not even a single person! We could immerse ourselves in the captivating surroundings completely alone. That’s exactly what we search for in the mountains. This is the reason why we still postpone more popular hiking trails, like for example the famous Laugavegur trail in Landmannalaugar. It’s probably the most famous hiking trail in Iceland. We heard it’s awesome. But daily several hundred people complete it in the season. So forget about even a moment of solitude. That’s great that there are still hiking trails, which not so many people heard about. And Iceland is full of them. Just one warning at the end – the experience of Hvannagil Canyon trail permeates deeply into one’s soul and stays there forever. It’s strongly addictive, so be careful!

Hvannagil Canyon hike

Practical info:

  • Distance – 14,5 km

  • Time – 5-6 hours (Altogether with stops to take pictures it took us 8 hours to complete the loop. But we stopped almost every few steps.)

  • Best time to go – July-October

  • Start / Finish – Stafafell (exactly a few steps behind the guesthouse)

  • Trail description – The trail to Hvannagil Canyon is marked with wooden sticks till the edge of the canyon. The ascent to the canyon from Stafafell is very gentle. When you get to the canyon, there is a steep path which leads down. There are no wooden sticks any longer, so don’t look for them. You have to continue to walk along the river on the bottom of the canyon for about 1,5 km and cross the river a few times. When you reach the recreational area (when you notice a hut in the distance, you will know you are there), a gravel road along the river Jökulsá í Lóni leads to the Ring Road. From the Ring Road there is around 1,5 km to Stafafell.

  • Difficulty – fairly easy. The only thing which can cause some difficulties is the river. According to the description that Stafafell’s owner gave us, there should be a tiny river to cross. The note says that it should be very easy. But when we got there the river surprised us; it was deeper and wider than we thought it would be. Everything started to be a bit nerve racking because the day was slowly coming to its end and we were still jumping through the curved current. In fact, we had to cross the river a dozen or so times and our hiking boots got completely wet. Usually, we have a pair of sandals for river crossing, but we didn’t take them this time. The level of the water in the river wasn’t higher than our knees, so it wasn’t risky to cross it, just unpleasant. If you are not good at such river acrobatics choose the same way back. And remember that in May or June, when the snow melts, it might be not possible to cross the river. Of course, it’s the same after long lasting heavy rain. The last few kilometres aren’t so spectacular (you just walk along a gravel road), so you wouldn’t loose a lot. The first part of the hike is definitely much more packed with outstanding vistas.

  • Overnight – We recommend staying in Stafafell guesthouse. Then you don’t have to drive anywhere to start the Hvannagil Canyon hike. The trail starts exactly behind the guesthouse. You can read about Stafafell in our previous post.

Hvannagil Canyon hike
Iceland Map Stafafell

Comments (11)

Ah, we didn’t get to stop here.

I agree, it is an amazing colour.

Thanks for sharing!

I just love Iceland – the vivid colours and raw scenery. I only had 10 days a few years ago and fell head over heels…I can’t wait for the opportunity to go back…AND SOON!

I was just hoping for a map as I was reading your post and then I came to the map image you’d included. Nice job! Very cool that you guys spent 6 months there. Any restrictions on long you can stay in Iceland?

The thing about Iceland is there are so many hikes…you HAVE to return. It’s not a one time destination.

I love the landscape. Usually trekking is all mushy mushy greenary and stuffs like that but the barrennes has its own beauty that greenlands cannot provide. I loved your photographs.

That is a lovely trail and yes, as you said, colorful indeed. It is different. Loved the tips that you have shared along with the trail description.

The shades of autumn are highly seen. I can also stay for six months in a place like that. Haha. The trail is truly a hiking paradise.

You have aptly named the article as, “Hikers Paradise”, because your description and the lovely photos emphasize the beautiful charm of the trail. It would be wonderful to experience this trail some day. It is so unique and has a wild beauty.

Wow! This is definitely a hiker’s paradise! Looks like fun and cool to explore!

You wrote the best time to visit is June – October.
How about March? How about the situation, recommend to visit?

In March this hike is not recommended unless you have great experience in winter hiking. There will be a lot of snow on the trail.

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