“A world-class, multi-day route across the remote highlands of Iceland.”
— Brian Smith
River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
The Laugavegur Route is a mind-blowing, multi-day overland route in the highlands of Iceland. On this point-to-point hut adventure you'll follow singletrack through a multitude of landscapes including geysers, multicolored rhyolite mountains, bubbling mud, endless lava fields and glaciated mountain vistas.
The trip can be broken down into three long days or five shorter days. The last day from rsmrk to Skogafoss is truly epic and travels between two major glaciers and across the slopes of a cooling volcano. This day is only for those who are very fit and very adventurous.
Need to Know
Iceland is the kind of destination that is best experienced with a tour company and guide. With routes and trails that interconnect through remote mountains, local knowledge and pre-planned logistics are invaluable.
The highlands region is a remote and exposed environment. Expect the weather to change quickly and be prepared with extra layers, waterproof gear, as well as plenty of food and water. Snow is possible in the summer months of July and August.
A GPS unit is a good bet to help with navigation when the weather rolls in and visibility could become limited.
Landmannalagur to Lake Alftavatn
From the back of the hut, cross a bridge to the base of the lava field. Work your way through a short steep section to the top. From here, travel along technical singletrack to the base of another steep climb. There are some steam vents here, an integral part of geothermal activity that exists throughout this region. At the top, cross a small pass and into a landscape of colorful rhyolite mountains before ascending to the 1,100m high point of the route. Afterwards, descend to Hrafntinnusker Hut for a break.
Continue through the next section on a series of flat areas interrupted by short climbs and descents. The landscape is unique here with limited vegetation and random steam vents. As you begin to see lush green on the horizon you'll pass through a very active geothermal area with bubbling mud - it's sticky and stinky. At the far edge of this, drop down Jokultungur pass. The view will blow your mind. The descent is super fun, steep, and rowdy. Make one small river crossing before an easy jaunt to Lake Alftavatn Hut.
Lake Alftavatn to rsmrk
This part of the Laugavegur Route trends downhill and includes water crossings, with and without bridges.
From Lake Alftavatn Hut, head up and over a ridge before dropping into the Hvanngil drainage. Make a water crossing before getting to the Hvanngil Hut. Continue past, through a rocky flat area to a bridge across the Kaldaklofskvsl River. Soon after, prepare to take your shoes off for another portage through a small river.
From here, the route has little elevation change as it crosses a valley floor with mountains surrounding. There is one small pass with a descent into another valley. Bear left here to make another long traverse. This traverse is followed by a quick descent to the Emstrur Hut. Grab a quick snack here before continuing on to a very scenic pass which overlooks a large hidden valley. Navigate another steep and rugged descent to the Nyrri Emstru River. Cross by bridge here and then push up a quick climb out of the gorge. Finish traversing the valley by climbing up and out to a large plateau. From here, the route is open and generally descending to the rng River, the last water crossing of the day. It is also the widest crossing of the trip, so be prepared to feel effects of the frigid water!
The last bit of the route to the Volcano Huts is through a small and lush birch forest, a pleasant end to an awesome day.
rsmrk to Skogafoss
The final part of the Laugavegur Route is a BIG day out. In fact, it's epic in every sense of the word: classic singletrack, long steep sections, a glacier crossing, an active volcano, and a memorable downhill finish.
Start by rolling back out the way you came in the previous day, staying right at an obvious intersection to ascend a ridge. The climb tops out and then descends into a giant glacial river valley. Skirt the north edge until you see the bridge to make the crossing to the other side. Once there, head up the valley on a doubletrack road until you reach an intersection. Stay right and start the long haul up to the glacier.
From here it gets real with a steep push up through a lush canyon to the glacier crossing. This part of the route takes a lot of time, strength and more patience. The rewards are well worth it. As you get to the high point of the crossing, you'll have the opportunity to hike to the top of a cooling volcanic cone (warm to the touch). The backside of the crossing is difficult at times with a trail surface that is a mix of black soil, snow, and ice. The glacier crossing ends at a small hut.
The final stages of the route include a rough doubletrack descent to a bridged river crossing. Afterwards, the singletrack returns and you'll definitely enjoy the hike along the deep Skoga River Canyon that cascades all the way down to the Skogafoss waterfall.