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I’ve been to Iceland five times now and I’ve seen quite a bit of the southern coast. There was one spot that eluded me, though. It’s one of the most incredible canyons I’ve ever seen, but none of the pictures I saw online mentioned the location. Before my last trip an Icelandic buddy finally clued me in: the name of the canyon is Mulagljufur.
After quite the adventure getting to Iceland and seeing some adorable puffins, it was time to finally make my way to Mulagljufur. If you want to catch up on everything that led up to my hike, see the following posts:
If you didn’t actually click those links, here’s a picture of a puffin to let you know what you missed.
How to get to the Mulagljufur trailhead
Unlike more popular hikes like Svartifoss in Skaftafell National Park, Mulagljufur is relatively unmarked. You will not see any of the familiar signs pointing it out from the Ring Road like you saw for Seljalandsfoss or Skogafoss. If you’ve driven out to Jokulsarlon, though, you’ve driven right past it!
From the Ring Road, you’ll turn north onto an unmarked rocky road.
A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended but I was able to navigate the road carefully with my two-wheel drive rental. You will cross a stream on the way to the trail head. If you have a two-wheel drive vehicle and see rushing water, turn around. The water level was extremely low so it wasn’t an issue for me.
I drove until I reached a parking lot of sorts next to a levee. There are no signs here but when you can’t go any further, you’re there. Grab some water, some snacks, and get ready for a great hike!
The hike to Mulagljufur
I grabbed my camera gear and made my way onto what I thought was the trail, turning back to get a picture of the parking lot.
Climb onto the levee and make your way past the parking lot. The only markings you’ll have for the trail are stakes with PVC pipes stuck onto the top. Sometimes they’re hidden really well. Generally, though, when in doubt, head up!
Early on in the hike the stakes are pretty prominent, as is the trail that others have hewn into the landscape. There are a few times where you’ll be at an intersection and there’s not an obvious stake. Look further up the trail and there will be one, you’ll just have to look a little harder for it.
Sometimes the stakes blend into the landscape REALLY well. Stick to the paths and you’ll be ok.
I came to the first of two river crossings. I had waterproof shoes on but didn’t really need them since the water level was low. I would prepare as if the water levels are higher than this.
During one of my many breaks
to rest because I’ve lost a bit of my fitness to take a picture, I looked east and saw a glacier lagoon. It wasn’t Jokulsarlon, rather its less-famous sibling Fjallsarlon.
I kept climbing and finding more stakes, it was the most random game of hide-and-seek I’ve ever played, but it made me love this hike even more, since it felt more remote.
Eventually the landscape started to look more canyon-ey. There was one downhill part leading to another river crossing.
This was the only place where I saw two stakes on different paths but both paths converged into the main path later.
It was at this point where I realized that I was walking into a cloud. Weather like this is common in Iceland, so you need to understand going in that you might need to wait for the epic classic view of Mulagljufur.
I reached a clearing and saw a beautiful waterfall across the canyon. Well, part of it.
I didn’t realize I was actually at the ideal spot for the picture I wanted, since I couldn’t see all the way up the canyon. If you want the classic shot of the canyon, when you see the first waterfall in front of you you’re basically there. There’s a little clearing where the grass has been worn down.
I actually walked right past this clearing and went further up the trail, which was extremely fun. I had decent cell reception on the entire trail, so I eventually found some reference pictures of the hike, got my bearings, turned around, and went back to the clearing.
Confident that I was in the right spot, I set my camera up, pointed directly at: a cloud.
At that point, I just had to sit there and wait. For a few hours. The weather wasn’t too cold and the wind was pretty consistent, so I just needed a small break in the clouds. Other hikers came and went, some from Israel, others from Germany. It’s always fun getting to know people on trails like this.
Mercifully, I started to see more of the waterfall across the canyon from me, the first sign that the clouds were lifting.
The canyon was looking amazing, I just needed the last layers of clouds to break.
Finally, they did. My patience paid off. I saw Mulagljufur in its full glory.
For photographers: 50mm will get you a great wide-angle view of the canyon, 70mm will be a nice centre-weighted composition. A 24-70mm should be fine for Mulagljufur but a 24-105 might be better, or you can be like me and have a camera with a 50mm focal length lens on it and another camera with a 70-200 on it.
Satisfied with my efforts, I packed my camera gear up and made my way back down to my waiting car, satisfied with a wonderful hike. It’s roughly a 4-mile (6.5km) hike that has a good bit of escalation on the way but it’s fairly gradual (you won’t be scrambling up cliff faces or anything like that).
If you’re in the area, I can’t recommend this hike enough! Mulagljufur has bits and pieces of every other great hike I’ve done in Iceland and it’s surprisingly accessible just off the Ring Road.
I hope this guide was helpful! Are you planning to visit Mulagljufur and play Spot the Stake? Tell me in the comments below!