A hike from Ásbyrgi to Dettifoss
Hiking up along the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, from the luxuriant Ásbyrgi to the barren but magnificent environment around Dettifoss, is a unique experience for every hiker. The diversity of the landscape is unique and captures the eye at every footprint: tremendous gorges, quiet ponds, clear springs, rough river, luxuriant forests and bare gravel plains.
- Ásbyrgi - Dettifoss, total: 32 km (shortest way)
- Ásbyrgi - Vesturdalur: 12 km or 13.6 km (see route description)
- Vesturdalur - Hólmatungur: 8 km
- Hólmatungur - Dettifoss (along Hafragil): 11.5 km
Here is a hiking map of Jökulsárgljúfur: [pdf 1.8 MB]
It takes two days to hike between Ásbyrgi and Dettifoss and normally lodged in Vesturdalur (Hljóðaklettar). The route can be walked in both directions (start ingeither in Ásbyrgi or Dettifoss). In Jökulsárgljúfur it is only allowed to camp at the official campsites in Ásbyrgi, Vesturdalur and at Dettifoss (a small campsite with few facilities). From Ásbyrgi to Vesturdalur there are two paths to choose from: One is to follow the rim of Ásbyrgi, and go south along Klappir and Kvíar, just over 12 km. The other route is to go the easterly path, closer to the river, but that route is 13,6 km long. Both routes start at the Visitor Centre in Ásbyrgi. From the Visitor Centre, there are two ways to access the rim of Ásbyrgi. An easier way is to go east over the golf course and turn south at the intersection east of the golf course. From there the path goes up the lowest part of the cliff. A more difficult way is to go directly south from the Visitor Centre, towards the intersection at Tófugjá. There, turn east and go up the cliff, where there is a rope for support. It is not recommended to go this way if people have a heavy burden. Up at Tófugjá it is possible to choose which way to go to Vesturdalur (along the rim of Ásbyrgi or along the Jökulsá river).
The route between Vesturdalur and Hólmatungur is about 8 km. The only river that has to be waded during the hike, Stallá, is at this section. Stallá is a spring river that flows into the Jökulsá river. The river is shallow and cold, but wading restores tired legs and makes the trip more memorable.
From Hólmatungur there is roughly a 10 km hike south to Dettifoss, if you go into the Hafragil lowland (black route). If you go along the Hafragil ravine the route is 11,5 km. It is not recommended for people with a heavy burden to go down to the lowland. In that case, hikers are advised to go to the campsite at Dettifoss, ease the burden and then explore the lowland.
On the route there are no cabins and it is only allowed to camp on the park campsites. In Vesturdalur there is a beautiful camp site. There are toilets and running, cold water, but no shower facilities. Please contact the rangers before camping. At Dettifoss there is a small camping area, only intended for hikers. The area is just north of the parking lot. There is no running water at the campsite, but rangers bring fresh water to the site every day. Please use the water spaerly.
- Between Ásbyrgi and Vesturdalur there are no streams or springs to take water from. Hikers have to carry all fluids with them.
- In Vesturdalur there is running water in the toilet buildings. It is not recommended to drink water from the spring river due to high traffic of people in the area during the summer.
- In Hólmatungur there are a lot of streams from which is safe to drink water.
- Between Hólmatungur and Dettifoss the only spring river is down in Hafragil.
- At Dettifoss there is no running water. Park rangers carry water in tanks to the campground. Hikers are kindly requested to moderate the use of that water.
Obstacles on the route
The trail is mostly easy. The main obstacles on the route are:
- Tófugjá in Ásbyrgi is the way that goes up the rock wall of Ásbyrgi canyon. There is a ladder and rope for support. You can choose another way to get up to the rim. See route description.
- Stallá is the only river that has to be waded. It is shallow and cold but not a major obstacle for hikers.
- Hafragil lowland is the most difficult trail in Jökulsárgljúfur but also the most magnificent. People who carry heavy burdens, are advised not to go down to the lowland, as the path is really narrow in some areas. In Sanddalur the trail is really steep and there is a rope for support to go up/down. Furthermore, the trail goes along large boulders and there is a danger of falling rocks. For those who carry heavy burdens and want to explore the lowland it is better to go all the way to the campsite at Dettifoss, leave the luggage there and then walk back down to the lowland. Those who are afraid of heights are also not advised to go this route.
The trail from Ásbyrgi to Dettifoss is a one-way route. Hikers need to have plans to get back from the endpoint. There are two companies that offer regular transport between Ásbyrgi and Dettifoss, SBA and Fjallasýn. SBA offers daily tours between Dettifoss and Ásbyrgi from the 18th of June to the end of August. For more information, visit the SBA website. On request, the company Fjallasýn offers privat transfer between Ásbyrgi and Dettifoss. For more information visit the Fjallasýn website.