The short trek to Kvernufoss in is one of the best hikes in Iceland, located on the South Coast along the Ring Road. Featuring a lesser known waterfall that you can walk behind, it’s a must do for anyone who wants a hike to add to their Iceland itinerary!
This hike is easy and scenic, but you’ll need to know a few things before you go! This guide will tell you how to get to the Kvernufoss hike, what to expect on the trail, and more.
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About the Kvernufoss Hike
Here’s what you need to know before you hike to Kvernufoss!
Kvernufoss Hike Stats
Distance: 0.9 miles round trip (1.45 kilometers)
Elevation Gain: 147 feet (45 meters)
Leave No Trace on the Kvernufoss Hike
Anytime you’re outdoors, whether you’re a beginner hiker or an experienced adventurer, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the environment that will take the earth years, even decades to repair.
This trail is lesser known, but not a total secret – and while I firmly believe everyone deserves to enjoy these amazing spots, do your part to make sure it stays clean and beautiful! Iceland is a popular tourist destination, so overcrowding really takes a toll on nature, especially when people don’t follow LNT.
Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature, as much as it’s possible to do so. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you hike to Kvernufoss!
- Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, make sure you know have the right gear, and be prepared for the weather and for the hike!
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces – stay on the trail to avoid trampling grasses and plants! “Social trails” are a big problem in Iceland – when a lot of people take short cuts off the trail, it kills the plant life and creates what looks like a small trail. Do not walk on these! Stick to the main trail to preserve the plants.
- Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash, or anything else, behind. There are no trash cans at the waterfall, so pack it out!
- Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock or leaf, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the trail won’t be as pretty.
- Minimize campfire impacts – no campfires are allowed on the trail.
- Respect wildlife – never approach wildlife, and never feed the animals! There isn’t much wildlife in Iceland, but there are a lot of sheep along this trail – they’re really cute, but give them plenty of space. Don’t stress them out!
- Be considerate of other visitors – yield to uphill hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music.
What to Bring to the Kvernufoss Hike
When you hike to Kvernufoss, here’s what you’ll need to bring!
Iceland is known for being wet, so shoes with good traction are a must for this hike!
My favorite hiking boots are my Danner boots – they’re cute, comfortable, and waterproof! I also love hiking in my Luna Barefoot sandals, and I wore them for this hike. I know most people wouldn’t advise sandals in Iceland, but I prefer them! Just be prepared for sudden changes in weather.
Rain boots are another great option for muddy or wet conditions, and are definitely the easiest to clean.
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Iceland is known for being unpredictable, and it’s always best to wear layers when hiking. It’s important to bring rain gear, since there’s a good chance you’ll get caught in a drizzle while you hike. For the Kvernufoss hike, you can also walk behind the waterfall, so waterproof layers are a must for staying dry, even on sunny days!
The Marmot Minimalist Jacket is a great lightweight, waterproof option. For the cold, I love my Columbia puffy jacket – it’s lightweight, but keeps me warm. It’s also water resistant! For added warmth and layering, a Patagonia fleece is always a good addition.
Rain pants are, of course, helpful for rain, but since the Kvernufoss hike takes you behind the waterfall, they will also help you stay dry when you’re up close!
The Marmot Precip Full-Zip Pants are light and packable, but if you plan to spend time in the snow too, the Stoic Insulated Snow Pants will be perfect for both rain and snow. You can also get some bib pants for more coverage – the Helly Hansen Pier Bib Pants are waterproof and wind proof!
When I’m bringing my camera gear, my favorite backpack is the Alex Strohl Mountain Light. It’s definitely the best camera bag out there for hiking with photo gear. If you don’t need storage for camera stuff, I recommend an Osprey Hikelite. If you aren’t bringing very much and just want a day bag, I love my Topo Designs Y-Pack for carrying everyday essentials!
Especially when you’re hiking or exploring outdoors, it’s important to stay hydrated! Single use water bottles are, of course, terrible for the environment, so avoid that and bring a reusable one!
For hiking, the CamelBak water reservoirs are convenient and easy – they can fit in your hiking backpack for water on the go. Nalgene water bottles are great for day to day, and if you want an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold and refreshing, Hydro Flasks are the best!
How to Get to the Kvernufoss Hike
The Kvernufoss trailhead is just 5 minutes away from Skógafoss. Skógafoss is really popular, but I do recommend stopping there too! Once you’ve seen it, drive over (or walk) to the Skógar Museum, where you can park at the Kvernufoss trailhead. This hike is along the Ring Road, so you can drive to the trailhead in any car – no 4×4 required!
Trailhead Coordinates: 63.525350, -19.490680
You will need to pay for parking, which you can do with the EasyPark app, or inside the museum.
The Kvernufoss Hike
Once you park, it’s time to start hiking! The trailhead is marked with a big sign, and you’ll start walking down the path. There’s a fence with a gate – sometimes the gate is open, but if it’s not, you can climb up the little ladder over the fence. Don’t worry, it’s allowed!
The beginning of the trail is pretty flat, and follows a wide gravel path. Soon you’ll find yourself next to the river, and you can hear Kvernufoss close by! You’ll ascend a little bit, and find yourself walking in the gorge, with the waterfall at the end.
Keep going, and you can walk down to the base of Kvernufoss, as well as behind it!
Being behind the waterfall as it thunders down is a really cool experience – so don’t miss it! Once you’re done, you’ll go back to the parking lot the way you came. This hike is pretty short and easy, but the views are amazing!
Where to Stay Near the Kvernufoss Hike
Once you’re done hiking, you’ll need a place to stay – and there are plenty of options close to the Kvernufoss hike! You can find a campsite nearby, or stay in one of the hotels.
Kvernufoss is right next to Skógafoss, so that’s a good place to end your night! The Hotel Skógafoss is right by the waterfall, and the Fosstúnskogar Guesthouse is a short walk away. The Starlight Holiday Pods are a few minutes away, and these cute cabins make for a perfect place to stay!
For more places to stay near the Kvernufoss trail, check out this map! Be sure to change the dates to see all the available options.
More Adventures Near the Kvernufoss Hike
To find more things to do nearby, be sure to check out these Iceland itineraries! I recommend checking out the Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool nearby, and if you’re heading west towards Reykjavik, drive into Landmannalaugar in the Highlands! Of you want to see more waterfalls, read this guide about the best waterfalls in Iceland.
- Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Iceland
- Guide to Camping in Iceland
- Iceland Road Trip Itineraries
If you’ve hiked this trail and have any tips, or if you’re planning a trip and have any questions, leave them in a comment below!
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