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Guide to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River Hike

With rolling green hills, cascading waterfalls, adorable sheep, steaming geothermal vents, and a hot river to soak in, the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River is one of the best hot springs in Iceland, and a great addition to any Iceland itinerary!

But getting to soak in the river requires a hike, so you’ll need to be prepared before you go. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the trail – what to bring, how to get there, and more!

Head’s up: some of these links are affiliate links, so I get a commission if you make a purchase (at no cost to you). But that’s great, because I was going to share anyway, and this helps me keep making free guides for you!

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About the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River Hike

Here’s what you need to know before you hike the Reykjadalur Hot Spring trail!

Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River Hike Stats

Distance: 5.0 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,138 feet
Difficulty: moderate

Leave No Trace on the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River Trail

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 really popular – 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 the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River trail!

  • 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 hot spring, 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 Hike the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River Trail

When you hike the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River trail, here’s what you’ll need to bring!

Bathing Suit

A bathing suit isn’t required to soak in the hot springs of Iceland – nudity is a little more normal in most European countries than it is here in the US! That being said, everyone I saw at the Reykjadalur Thermal River was wearing a bathing suit – but it’s up to you.

There isn’t anywhere to change – just a few wooden “stalls” that don’t really provide much cover. I wore my bathing suit under my clothes and changed out of it afterwards to avoid hiking down while wet, but you probably will flash a few people.

I love bathing suits from Aerie – every one I’ve owned has been amazing and super comfortable! Backcountry has cute bathing suits too, and I like to wear some swim shorts for extra coverage.

Hiking Shoes

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.

Bonus Tip: A lot of these links are for my favorite place to buy outdoor gear – Backcountry. If you install the free Lolli extension on your browser, you can earn free Bitcoin when you shop online at certain retailers, including Backcountry.  Download Lolli here!

Layers

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.

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.

Backpack

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!

One thing to keep in mind is that while you’re soaking in the Reykjadalur Hot Spring, your stuff will be exposed – so if it’s raining, you need a way to keep it dry! The Mountain Light backpack is waterproof on it’s own, which is super handy. The Osprey Hikelite comes with a rain cover that you can put over the backpack. If your backpack isn’t waterproof or doesn’t have a rain cover, I definitely recommend bringing a dry bag for anything that can’t get wet!

Hydration!

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 Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Getting to the parking lot for the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River is easy! You’ll need to drive there – but the trailhead is only 45 minutes from Reykjavik, and just a little way off the Ring Road, so you won’t need a 4×4. Any car can make it, since there are no F-roads to drive on.

You’ll just follow the Ring Road south from Reykjavik, then turn left onto Breiðamörk when you reach the Hotel Örk. Follow this road to the end, and you’ll pass some horses and reach the parking area in front of the Reykjadalur Café.

Horses in a pasture next to the Reykjadalur hot spring thermal river trailhead.

Parking for the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Trailhead Coordinates: 64.0213422,-21.211219

You have to pay for parking at the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River – this part was a little confusing! You actually pay after you’re done. There are cameras in the parking lot that will snap a photo of your car. Then, on your way out, you’ll go to the machine in front of the café, type in your license plate number, and it’ll tell you how much you owe based on how long you were parked.

Alternatively, you can download the EasyPark app in advance and pay on there!

Hiking to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Once you park, it’s time to start hiking! The trail is to the right of the café, and it’s easy to see. Begin hiking, and you’ll be greeted by views of the gorgeous hills right away! You’ll cross a bridge over the river (this river is cold!), and likely walk past some sheep hanging out and munching on the grass.

The ascent starts pretty much right away – the trail isn’t terribly steep, but it can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t hike often! As you start climbing up, there will be some geothermal springs to your left. Remember – don’t go off the trail!

There are a few areas where the trail detours to the hot pots, so feel free to take a closer look. There are signs there to remind you, but make sure not to touch the water, ever. Some of them are extremely hot!

Continue on the trail, and the views only get more and more beautiful. The Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River trail is really easy to follow the whole way, so you don’t have to worry too much about getting lost.

Keep an eye out for the waterfall that goes through the canyon!

A waterfall next to the trail to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River.
A waterfall next to the trail to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River.

When you cross the wooden bridge over the river, you’ll know that you’re almost there.

A bridge over the water along the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River trail.

Soon, you’ll start walking along the river, and see steam coming up to let you know that the water is warm!

You aren’t allowed to soak in the river until you get to the designated area – the boardwalk will let you know you’re there. This part of the trail is often pretty muddy, and make sure to keep an eye out for sheep!

Sheep grazing in the grass by the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River.

Keep walking, and you’ll get to the boardwalk! This is where you can soak in the Reykjadalur hot spring thermal river. As you go further up, the river gets hotter – so keep walking to find a spot.

The boardwalk at the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River.
Disclaimer – I Photoshopped all the people out of these photos of the soaking area for privacy reasons, but you probably won’t ever see it this empty!

I also recommend that you keep walking past the boardwalk, as the trail continues on! The river is really popular, but if you walk a bit further, you can get a little privacy – you can’t soak up here (the river is dangerously hot), but it’s a great view.

Steam coming up from the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River.
Sheep in the grass by the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River.

After you explore a bit, circle back and find a spot to soak in the river! Be careful walking down the steps – they can be slippery.

The boardwalk at the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River.

Once you’re done soaking in the Reykjadalur Hot Spring, take the trail back the way you came, and don’t forget to pay for parking before you go!

Two black sheep walking on a bridge over the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River.

Where to Stay Near the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Once you’re done hiking, you’ll need a place to stay – and there are plenty of options close to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River hike! You can find a campsite nearby, or stay in one of the hotels.

The Frost and Fire hotel is a gorgeous place next to some geothermal hot springs, minutes away from the trail, and it has a pool, hot tubs, and an outdoor sauna! The Greenhouse Hotel is another unique place to stay, with lots of plant life all around.

For a private place to stay, check out the Gljúfurbústaðir Holiday Homes – a vacation house with a hot tub!

For more places to stay near the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River trail, check out this map! Be sure to change the dates to see all the available options.

Booking.com

More Adventures Near the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

To find more things to do nearby, be sure to check out these Iceland itineraries! Near the trail is Thingvellir National Park, where you can scuba dive the Silfra Fissure – a really incredible experience! For another hot spring, I recommend going to the Hrunalaug Hot Springs in Fludir.

More posts:

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!

Pin any of these photos to save this guide to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River for later!

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A Pinterest graphic that says "hike to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River in Iceland"
A Pinterest graphic that says "hike to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River in Iceland"

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