Múlagljúfur Canyon has everything you could want in an Iceland hike – waterfalls, glacier views, and rugged landscapes galore. Hiking Múlagljúfur Canyon was one of our favorite days in Iceland, and one of our top hikes in all our time in this beautiful country. It is a relatively quick hike that nearly any visitor can complete and offers incredible 360-degree views! But how long does the hike take, how challenging is this hike, how are the crowds, and what all should you expect on your day hike? We’ll break down all the specifics here!
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All About the Múlagljúfur Canyon hike
You may have seen Iceland travel photos of a rugged and deep canyon with views of not one, but two incredible waterfalls; this is Múlagljúfur Canyon! This 5.8km out-and-back trail includes an elevation gain of 367m and can be completed by hikers of all ages. From the main viewpoint, you will be rewarded with views of Hangandifoss and Múlafoss waterfalls, two of the most beautiful Iceland waterfalls. For a better view of Múlafoss waterfall, nestled at the far end of the canyon, continue past the main viewpoint along a steeper trail.
One of our favorite things about the Múlagljúfur Canyon hike is that it is felt relatively untouched and not nearly as busy as many other tourist locations in Iceland. You will not find the typical crowds or a parking lot full of tour buses that can sometimes be found at other tourist spots in Iceland; in fact, if you get lucky like we did, you may have the trail nearly all to yourself!
We found that the trail was not always well-marked, but it is easy enough to find your way. The hike begins with a gradual elevation gain on your approach to the canyon. On this approach, you will also encounter two creek crossings; the water depth at the time of our visit meant that we could make the crossings easily without getting wet at all.
However, this may not always be the case depending on the varying weather conditions throughout the year. As you continue hiking towards the main viewpoint, there are a number of paths of varying distance from the canyon edge; depending on your level of comfort, you may wish to stay further from the edge as it’s a straight drop-off.
Once you reach the main viewpoint, you will be rewarded with views of two incredible waterfalls and water running through the canyon floor. Along the trail, you will also be able to catch a view of the nearby Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon and Fjallsjökull Glacier. As mentioned, you may also decide to extend your hike to get a better view of Múlafoss, the waterfall that can be seen in the distance at the end of the canyon.
Preparing for your hike
As with any activity in Iceland, you will want to ensure that you are prepared with proper clothing and footwear. The weather can change very quickly and hikers should always be prepared for adverse conditions such as strong winds, rain, or even snow. You can get a bit of everything in Iceland! Before embarking on any hike we will often check AllTrails for reviews and recent trail conditions written by fellow hikers. With any travel in Iceland, it’s advisable to pay attention to the weather on Vedur.is, as this hike wouldn’t be much fun in a downpour.
Dressing in layers, including a water/windproof jacket, is a good idea. Ensuring that you wear supportive hiking shoes or boots will also help you to navigate the rugged and sometimes slippery terrain. Of course, bringing adequate water and a small first aid kit with essential items is also important.
How to get to Múlagljúfur Canyon
The Múlagljúfur Canyon hike can be easily accessed from the Ring Road in the southeast region of Iceland. We visited the canyon on a day when we were traveling between the towns of Vik and Höfn on a counter-clockwise tour of the Ring Road. The turn-off for Múlagljúfur Canyon can be found approximately 180km east of the town of Vik and approximately 92km west of the nearby town of Höfn. We relied on Google Maps to guide us to the correct spot for the trail, as the road is not well-marked.
After turning off the Ring Road, another 8-minute drive down the 2km road will get you to the parking area for the hike. It is important to note that this 2km road is not fully paved, and you will have to drive carefully along the bumpy and rocky terrain. We were nervous when we first started driving along the road, but we drove slowly and did not have any problems navigating this with our 2WD van. Continue driving until you reach the end of the road; here you will find a small parking area and the trailhead.
How Difficult is the Múlagljúfur hike?
AllTrails rates the Múlagljúfur Canyon hike as hard, but we found this to be more of a moderate hike. There is nothing technical about the trail, and the incline is fairly steady the entire way (but not too difficult). The steepest sections are located near the end of the hike as we continued past the main viewpoint to get a better view of Múlafoss. Most of the trail is easy to follow, however, there were a couple of times where we consulted the offline map of the trail (which we downloaded beforehand). There are a couple of spots where the trails follow the cliff edge, so those with a fear of heights or elevation may feel a bit wary and watch their footing.
If you are an experienced hiker, you will likely find this trail to be a relatively quick and moderately strenuous hike. We personally completed the hike all the way to the end of the trail within 2-3 hours, allowing plenty of stops for photos.
This short day hike leaves you with extra time to explore the many other nearby sites in the area such as Svínafellsjökull Glacier, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and Diamond Beach (but more on those locations later!). Those with less hiking experience may find this trail more difficult; adjust your time expectations based on your own level of experience!
How Busy is the Múlagljúfur Canyon hike?
We took advantage of Iceland’s long summer days and completed this hike on a late afternoon/early evening in July. Luckily, we essentially had the entire trail to ourselves and there were only a couple of other cars parked at the trailhead when we arrived. Of course, depending on the time of day and season of your Iceland visit, the trail might be more or less busy than this.
If you are visiting in the late morning and early afternoon, you might find the trail busier. While this trail used to be one of Iceland’s lesser-known locations, it has gained in popularity in recent years thanks to its photogenic nature. However, you will be far from the tour buses and crowds that can be found at many of Iceland’s other natural wonders; this is perhaps why Múlagljúfur Canyon was one of our favorite stops on our Ring Road trip.
How long does it take to hike Múlagljúfur Canyon?
We completed the hike in approximately two hours with plenty of stops for photos and breaks. Any of the viewpoints would be an amazing place to stop for lunch or a snack. This hike was a great addition to our already jam-packed day, including Dyrhólaey Peninsula, Reynisfjara Beach, the town of Vik, Fjadrargljufur Canyon, and more. Even with all of the incredible sights located in southeast Iceland, the Múlagljúfur Canyon hike is one that we would definitely not want to miss.
Things to see in the Múlagljúfur Canyon area
As mentioned, one of the perks of the Múlagljúfur Canyon hike is that it is relatively short, meaning we had plenty of time for other sightseeing on the same day. Because we visited in July, we had the advantage of Iceland’s long summer days, and traveling in a camper van in Iceland meant that all of our meals could be eaten on the road.
It is also important to note that we had a very jam-packed schedule, as we completed the Ring Road in only seven nights; we managed to visit each of the locations listed below all in one day as we traveled between the towns of Vík and Höfn. Depending on your trip itinerary, you could consider visiting the locations listed below on the same day as Múlagljúfur Canyon.
Vík, a town in southern Iceland, was the first overnight stop on our Ring Road itinerary. The town features a well-equipped (and popular) campsite with lovely cliffside views, as well as the often-photographed Vík í Mýrdal church. If you are staying the night or just passing through, don’t miss the awesome Skool Beans Cafe (built in an actual yellow school bus) located at the Vík Campsite.
This location is technically backtracking on your way from Vík to Múlagljúfur Canyon (it is located west of Vík instead of heading east toward Múlagljúfur Canyon). However, we did not have time to visit on the previous day, and did not want to miss this location. To reach this spot, you will drive up a winding road on your way to a lighthouse viewpoint. Along the way, you will be able to sneak a view of Reynisfjara Beach in the distance.
From the viewpoint, you will be able to see the famous Dyrhólaey rock arch reaching into the ocean. The perk for me, though, was the colony of puffins perched along the cliffside. I could have spent all day watching and photographing the hundreds of puffins here, but we had a busy day ahead!
Again, Reynisfjara Beach was a bit of a backtrack as it is located west of Vík where we had spent the previous night, but this is another spot that we did not want to miss. Reynisfjara Beach is famous for its black sand, basalt columns, and sea stacks. On the day we visited, we found many other tourists here enjoying the views. While it can get crowded, I would say that this unique spot is popular for a reason.
We spent some time venturing along the beach marveling at the volcanic black sand and found that there were less people as we made our way further from the parking lot. You will see signs here warning visitors of the dangerous and powerful waves along this beach; remember always to obey safety rules and never turn your back on the waves.
Another hike with waterfall and canyon views, we spent approximately an hour at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Here you will find a well-maintained uphill trail to a viewing platform where you can see Mögáfoss waterfall descending into the canyon. While the views were less impressive than those of Múlagljúfur Canyon, this spot was still worth the stop.
Another short detour from the Ring Road, Svínafellsjökull Glacier was a worthwhile stop approximately 40 minutes from Múlagljúfur Canyon. Here you will find a small parking lot and a short walk along a gravel road will lead to views of Svínafellsjökull Glacier and its glacier lagoon. We found that pictures did not do this place justice; it was amazing to view the depth and color of this impressive glacier.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach
Last, but certainly not least, we visited Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and nearby Diamond Beach to end our day, which are two of the best things to do in Iceland. Because we visited late in the evening, neither of these locations were particularly busy. We took photos and walked the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon’s lakeshore. Next, we crossed to the opposite side of the Ring Road to visit Diamond Beach, named for the large chunks of ice that rest on the beach. Visiting these popular spots was a great end to an epic day in southern Iceland!
More Helpful Iceland Travel Tips
- Icelanders speak Icelandic, but every single person I came across spoke English.
- The local currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK). ATMs are found throughout the country.
- Have I mentioned Iceland is expensive? Save money by eating in and cooking for yourself. Check out our Iceland grocery store guide for all the tips!
- Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world; however, it’s always important to use common sense when walking alone at night.
- Iceland has a strong internet infrastructure, and you should be able to stay connected easily.
Even with so many incredible sights to see in Iceland and along the Ring Road, the hike to Múlagljúfur Canyon remains one of our favorite activities! Múlagljúfur Canyon is definitely worth a visit on your next trip to Iceland, and a spot that I would highly recommend.
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