Barnafoss was really more of a series of rapids on the Hvítá River (not to be confused with the river by the same name causing Gullfoss even though they’re both fed by the Langjökull Glacier).
The river was forced through a narrow rocky chute that apparently once had a large natural bridge spanning across it though we noticed that there still stood a second natural bridge closer to the river.
The meaning of this waterfall translates into “Children’s waterfall”, but the signs here indicated that there was a saga describing how it got this name.
The Barnafoss Saga
The saga said that there were two children in the Hraunsás household who were supposed to stay home while the parents went to church for Christmas Mass.
When the parents returned from mass, they discovered that the children had disappeared (possibly because the children got bored and decided to go out).
They then followed the children’s tracks to this waterfall at the stone natural bridge where the tracks disappeared.
The mother concluded that the children must have fallen into the river and drowned.
Then, the mother had the arch destroyed in order to ensure no one else faces a similar fate.
I’ve seen some accounts say it was by spell or curse, which induced the bridge’s collapse by earthquake.
The Barnafoss Experience
In reality, natural bridges usually collapse over time as these and natural arches in general only last for just a blip on the geologic time scale.
Moreover, given the powerful erosive forces from the rapidly moving river that undercut whatever was supporting the bridge, that could very well have been the fate of the upper natural arch here.
Anyways, as far as experiencing Barnafoss, it’s really part of the Hraunfossar experience as the part for Barnafoss was just an extension of the trail system here east of the footbridge over the Hvítá River.
When we last came here in August 2021, the entire excursion encompassing both named waterfalls was a short walk of about 1km in total and it only took us about an hour as we really took our time.
However, it seemed like the sanctioned trail and lookouts only went about 60m beyond the trail junction before the footbridge over the Hvítá River.
I swore that in the past, we had been able to hike a bit further upstream to the point that we could see other springs feeding the turbulent upper reaches of Barnafoss, which you can in the first photo on this page (not the hero image).
I go into more detail about the trail description in the Hraunfossar writeup.
Barnafoss resides in the West Region of Iceland near Akranes, Iceland. It is administered by the municipality of Borgarbyggð. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting their website.
Barnafoss is in the same area as Hraunfossar.
So see that page for specific driving directions.
For geographical context, Reykholt was about 35km (about 30 minutes drive) southeast of Bifröst, 41km (over 30 minutes drive) northeast of Borgarnes, 71km (under an hour drive) northeast of Akranes, and 108km (about 90 minutes) north of Reykjavik.
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