Iceland is in many ways the perfect country for hiking. But not everybody who is visiting will have the time or the inclination to venture far from Reykjavik. And of course, hiking on glaciers or in the highlands is not for everyone. Luckily, there is this great hiking trail a very short distance from the city which is suitable for most people.
The most popular Reykjavik hiking trail is at Mount Esja. Mount Esja is often called the “city-mountain” and dominates the skyline to the north of Reykjavik. Mount Esja is a actually a synonym for a large mountain range. But we are going to stick with the most popular hiking trail which leads from a place called Mógilsá which is about a twenty minute drive from Reykjavik. It has a big parking lot, a really nice café, and a trail leading up to the top of Esja.
At the crossroads
After a short walk up the trail you come to cross-roads where you can choose to go left or right. The left path is slightly shorter but it is steeper. It has recently been renovated so instead of rather impassable swampland there is now a nice path almost all the way up. You kids just don´t know how good you have it!
Head up to the Stone
If you go right the path is a bit longer but not as steep. It is rocky at times and due to gravel it can be slippery if you are on the way down. So be careful. The two paths converge at large stone marker called “Steinn” which means “Stone” in English. It has a great view that includes Reykjavik, the town of Mosfellsbaer and the surrounding countryside.When the weather is good it is the perfect place to strike up conversations since a lot of people converge there to take a well deserved. If you want to record your trip for posterity you can sign the guest book kept there in a metal box.
Tear it up!
The trails leading up to Steinn are actually perfect for trail running, at least on the way up. Occasionally, I like to blow off steam, crank up some heavy metal and strap on my Garmin watch and try to go as fast up to Steinn as possible. For those interested in trying I go up on the left (steeper) trail. This takes about an half an hour and involves distance of 3KM and an elevation gain of 545 meters.
For those who like extreme hill running
For the extreme athletes among you check out the Mt. Esja Ultra Run which is an annual event held every summer. From the “Steinn” it is short but a steep way up to the top at “Þverfellshorn.” It is a relatively easy climb in summer but watch your step anyway. The round trip of the hiking trail the Mógilsá parking lot to the Steinn is just over 6 kilometer. The elevation gain is just under six hundred meters. Steinn sits at 605 meters. Þverfellshorn stands tall at 780 meters.
Be careful when hiking in winter
I don´t recommend going up to Mt. Esja or let alone to the top of Þverfellshorn in winter, unless you are experienced and properly clothed equipped. I have gotten myself in trouble on my way from down there. It happened while practicing for the hike to Iceland´s highest peak of Hvannadalshnjukur. I struggled there, stuck on an ice-sheet in poor weather, inching my way down on my ass. Not fun at all. The worst part is that I (rightly) felt stupid about getting myself in trouble. If you find yourself on thin ice (pun intended) and are unsure on how to proceed, call 112 for help. Please do not go up on Mt. Esja, or on any other hiking trip if the weather forecast is bad or if you are not fit or dressed to withstand winter weather in Iceland. It can get really rough up there in wintertime.
If you can make it to Steinn under an hour you make the hike to Hvannadalshnjukur. Take a short drive, put on your hiking boots and see whether you got what it takes to climb to Iceland´s highest peak.
Hotels in Reykjavik
After you have enjoyed some Reykjavik hiking you will want to relax at a nice hotel. There are so many hotel deals available as you can see in the widget below. If you want to search for a hotel by location, that is possible too!
How to get there?
From Reykjavik, drive on Highway One through the town of Mosfellsbær, turn right after you have passed the small fjord of Kollafjordur to the café at Mógilsá.
Written by Jón Heiðar Þorsteinsson