ABOUT REYKJADALUR HOT SPRING RIVER TRAIL
Reykjadalur (means Steam Valley) Hot Spring River Trail is an incredibly popular and gratifying experience for anyone visiting Iceland. The trail is located in Reykjadalur Valley, roughly 45 minutes east of Reykjavik by car. The drive is simple, just follow Þjóðvegur 1, Iceland’s main road that circles the country, and once you reach the town of Hveragerði, signs will start appearing for the city’s geothermal park.
The hike itself is moderately difficult and spans a distance of about 3 kilometers from the trailhead to the boardwalk, which is the best place to access the river. The path is not overly challenging, but it does have varying terrain. You will cross a river and gradually ascend. The route alternates between inclines, declines, and traversing along hill faces.
In total, you can expect the hike to take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes each way. Though it may sound somewhat strenuous, the breathtaking views you’ll encounter along the way make it worth every step. In addition, the reward at the end of your journey is the geothermal waters of the hot spring river, perfect for a well-deserved and relaxing soak after your uphill journey.
The scenery of Reykjadalur is stunning. Expect to see the sulfur-rich soil coloring the ground in shades of red and brown, contrasting beautifully with the bright green grass. Mud pools add a dark, murky gray to the palette, while the hot springs themselves are a soothing light blue.
As a heads up, when you cross the bridge by the bathing section of the hot springs, you may notice a distinct smell of rotten eggs. This is due to the sulfur in the boiling groundwater. But don’t let that discourage you; the experience is well worth it. In fact, you might even share the valley with some local inhabitants, such as sheep and Icelandic horses.
Finally, one of the best parts about this adventure is that it is completely free of charge. So pack your hiking boots and swimsuit, and prepare for a unique blend of beauty, adventure, and relaxation on the Reykjadalur Hot Spring River Trail.
During the beginning of the Covid crisis of 2020, I was quite fortunate to be stuck in Reykjavik for an extra few days. My flights were cancelled and rebooked multiple times, and I needed to find some ways to spend the time. And since it was winter, someplace warm would be nice to visit.
My friends at Hradstadir suggested that I take a hike to the hot springs river. With the parking lot being less than an hour away, I grabbed some cold weather clothing and my bathing suit.
The drive to Hveragerdi was quick and easy. I took the exit from Rt 1 and followed the road 5 minutes until it dead-ended into the parking lot. Since most of the tourists had already left the country, the parking lot was virtually empty.
The snow was at least a foot deep, and from the outset, the trail seemed steep. This was not going to be the easiest 3.5K hike. Looking ahead up the trail, there were columns of steam emenating from hot springs bursting from the hillside. On the other side of the trail, the hot spring river was steaming, with a couple of campers bathing in it.
The walk, turned into a trek, as the wind picked up, and blew snow across the thin trail of footprints. In some places, ice had formed, making the combination of gale force winds, steep inclines and slippery ground a difficult venture. I passed a few couples making their way back to the base, having turned around due to their difficulty hiking. Of course, this made me more determined to finish the hike.
At some point, the wind died down and the sun came out. In every direction were spectacular vistas. The last 1k went rather quickly, as it was downhill or flat. Eventually the winding river was in full view.
After crossing the river a couple of times, I saw wooden walls, that are used as changing screens. I dumped my backpack, changed, followed the trail up higher and lowered myself into the water. OUCH! Yes, there were a few people lounging in river, but none up this high. The higher up towards the source you go, the hotter it is.
I walked down the river a little further until the water was more tollerable. There was a little area on the bend of the river, where the water was calm. This was the perfect spot. The warm water coupled with the freezing air and beautiful views was the ideal spot. I was certainly fortunate that the place was virtualy deserted that day. It offered a calm that I was hoping to find in Iceland.
After reluctantly getting out of the river, I hiked back to the car and drove into town. I thought I had seen a brewery as I arrived, and I found it! OLVERK
Olverk is not just a brewery with outstanding beers, but truly unique pizzas as well. I have to say, that this stop made an already wonderful day, even more perfect.
Are reservations required?
No, just park and start hiking. This trail is becoming more popular, so plan on getting an early start.
When is the best time to go?
You can go any time of year, the water’s always hot! Since it’s a 3.5KM hike each way, allow yourself some time – start early, and get back to the parking lot by lunch time. Then you can enjoy pizza and a beer at the local brewery.
What else is near by?
The small town, Hveragerdi has a nice little pizza restaurant that’s also a brewery. Olverk Pizza & Brewery
WHERE IS IT?
45 Minutes from Reykjavik
50 km from Reykjavik