Bruarfoss (Bruararfoss)

Golden Circle / Brúará River, South Region (Suðurland), Iceland

About Bruarfoss (Bruararfoss)


Hiking Distance: about 7km round trip
Suggested Time: about 3-4 hours

Date first visited: 2021-08-06
Date last visited: 2021-08-06

Waterfall Latitude: 64.26495
Waterfall Longitude: -20.51792

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Bruarfoss (Brúarfoss or Brúarárfoss; meaning “bridge falls”) was one of the more unique waterfalls that we encountered in Iceland, and thus it attracted quite a following especially on Instagram.

A distinguishing feature of this modest 3-5m waterfall that it was much wider than it was tall while featuring numerous segments and ripples caused by the dark underlying lava that contrasted the white and blue of the Brúará River.

Bruarfoss_170_08062021 - Bruarfoss (or Brúarfoss or Brúarárfoss)
Bruarfoss (or Brúarfoss or Brúarárfoss)

However, right in the middle of this waterfall was a long yet narrow rift or fold where the waterfall seemingly fell onto itself towards the center.

Because we missed it on our first visit to Iceland in 2007 and then had to wait 14 years to finally get our chance to experience this place, it really felt like we were a bit late to the party, so to speak.

Yet in that period of time, with the waterfall’s growing popularity, the authorities closed the nearest approach to the falls due to trespassing on private lands as well as associated increased littering and erosion from off-trail scrambling.

It’s kind of a familiar story we’ve seen especially at home in the States when people show up with little to no disregard for the consequences of their actions.

Bruarfoss_261_08062021 - Shameful acts of littering was one of the reasons why the shortest access to Brúarfoss was closed, but even after its closure, we still saw evidence of inconsiderate visitors not practicing leave no trace principles
Shameful acts of littering was one of the reasons why the shortest access to Brúarfoss was closed, but even after its closure, we still saw evidence of inconsiderate visitors not practicing leave no trace principles

Perhaps that is why the only legal way to reach Brúarfoss is through a longer 7km round trip hike.

At least the nice thing about earning our visit to Bruarfoss is that we not only got to be more intimate with the environment here, but we also witnessed two other waterfalls along the way.

As much as it would have been nice to see the waterfall’s powder blue waters under sunlight, even the gloomy overcast skies that we experienced didn’t suppress the color of the Brúará River.

Anyways, we wound up covering this 7km hike in a span of nearly 4 hours, but it was mostly flat with quite a bit of muddiness, which you’ll see in the trail description below.

Brúarfoss Trail Description – Open Spaces and Muddy Trails

Bruarfoss_165_08062021 - Even though Brúarfoss was named after a natural bridge that once stood across the river, there's fittingly a bridge from which you can still view and experience this waterfall
Even though Brúarfoss was named after a natural bridge that once stood across the river, there’s fittingly a bridge from which you can still view and experience this waterfall

The falls was named the “Bridge Falls” because of a natural bridge that once stood over the narrowest part of the waterfall.

However, it was said to have been destroyed in 1602 by someone from the Skálholt church at a time when famine raised fears that peasants would cross that bridge to compete for the bounty owned by the church.

Perhaps fittingly, the hike to Brúarfoss started next to the Road 37 by a bridge over the Brúará River.

After passing by a stile (or the adjacent cattle guard), we then walked a fairly wide open and featureless 1.2km stretch between agricultural fields.

Bruarfoss_033_08062021 - The Brúarfoss passed through a lot of muddy sections like this one, which made us appreciate wearing legitimate hiking boots and even a trekking pole (which Mom really appreciated) to not slip and fall
The Brúarfoss passed through a lot of muddy sections like this one, which made us appreciate wearing legitimate hiking boots and even a trekking pole (which Mom really appreciated) to not slip and fall

Then, the trail traversed a side stream, where it then went through a very muddy 800m stretch flanked by tall growth.

It was here that we definitely appreciated wearing legitimate hiking boots though we saw other visitors ruining sneakers that probably had no business being on a trail like this.

Brúarfoss Trail Description – Hlauptungufoss and Miðfoss

Once we got through the muddy area, we then found ourselves back by the rush of the Brúará over the first of the three waterfalls of the hike – Hlauptungufoss.

This particular 5-10m waterfall occurred where the river narrowed into a tight chute amidst some slippery yet sharp lava rocks.

Bruarfoss_076_08062021 - Hlauptungufoss was the first of the three officially named waterfalls on the Brúará River that we encountered on our Brúarfoss hike
Hlauptungufoss was the first of the three officially named waterfalls on the Brúará River that we encountered on our Brúarfoss hike

Already at this waterfall, we could see the color from the glacial river appear within the waterfall itself, which was quite reminiscent of the Salto Grande in Patagonian Chile.

Continuing beyond Hlauptungufoss, the trail then skirted the east side of the Brúará where after 500m we arrived at the Miðfoss.

Unlike Hlauptungufoss, which was a singular chute waterfall, Miðfoss was really a series of segmented rapids and small cascades.

Brúarfoss Trail Description – The Final Stretch

Further upstream of Miðfoss, the trail continued along a calmer part of the river while a few forks in the trail eventually converged a short distance further (so it didn’t matter which fork you chose to continue the hike).

Bruarfoss_226_08062021 - The cascade beneath a footbridge by the trail that provided a more atmospheric alternative to the uphill climb closer to the hidden Summer homes on our Brúarfoss hike
The cascade beneath a footbridge by the trail that provided a more atmospheric alternative to the uphill climb closer to the hidden Summer homes on our Brúarfoss hike

After a little over 500m from the uppermost of the Miðfoss Waterfalls, the trail then ascended a hill in the vicinity of some Summer homes.

At the top of this hill, we then crossed a bridge over a stream yielding a side cascade with an alternate trail.

Had we taken this alternate trail, which was more overgrown, instead of the uphill climb we just did, we could have hiked alongside that side cascade.

Unfortunately, during our August 2021 visit, we still saw evidence of inconsiderate visitors leaving soiled toilet paper by the trail (perhaps justifying the closure of the shorter trail from the Summer homes nearby).

Bruararfoss_013_iPhone_08062021 - Contextual view of Brúarfoss and its surroundings under gloomy skies which still didn't suppress the blue of the Brúará River. So imagine just how much more pronounced the colors would be under clearer skies!
Contextual view of Brúarfoss and its surroundings under gloomy skies which still didn’t suppress the blue of the Brúará River. So imagine just how much more pronounced the colors would be under clearer skies!

Anyways, the final 300m stretch beyond the bridge over the side cascade eventually led us to the final bridge over the Brúará River, which also happened to be right in front of the Brúarfoss Waterfall.

Even during our morning visit, it was pretty busy on the bridge though I was well aware that it could be even more crowded here given how many people we’d eventually see heading to the falls when we were heading back to the trailhead.

In any case, after having our fill of the falls, we just came back the way we came as this was a pretty straightforward hike.

Authorities

Bruarfoss resides in the Southern Region of Iceland near Reykjavik, Iceland. It is administered by the municipality of Bláskógabyggð. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting their website.

Bruarfoss_005_08062021 - Perhaps fittingly, our Brúarfoss hike started next to a road bridge over the Brúará River
Bruarfoss_006_08062021 - Right off the bat, we had the option of climbing over the stile or just trying to step through the cattle guard at the start of our Brúarfoss hike
Bruarfoss_008_08062021 - The beginning of our Brúarfoss hike was dominated by open fields, and most of the unsigned forks like this one eventually converged further upstream so it wasn't like it was easy to get lost here as long as we were following the Brúará River upstream
Bruarfoss_011_08062021 - Continuing on the mostly open terrain in the first kilometer of our Brúarfoss hike
Bruarfoss_012_08062021 - Although the scenery didn't seem particularly interesting in the first kilometer on the gloomy day of our Brúarfoss hike, we did notice many interesting wildflowers, including this cotton-looking one
Bruarfoss_020_08062021 - After going about 1km from the start, the Brúarfoss hike pretty much stayed close to the Brúará River whereas earlier on, it was just getting through the open fields not necessarily skirting by the river itself
Bruarfoss_027_08062021 - By around 1.5km into the hike, Julie and Tahia were approaching this more densely vegetated area where we saw more signs indicating our progress to Brúarfoss as well a rock-hop across a side stream. It marked the start of the next really muddy stretch of the hike
Bruarfoss_030_08062021 - Tahia going across this line of rocks acting as a bridge over a side stream on our Brúarfoss hike
Bruarfoss_031_08062021 - This grid section of the Brúarfoss hike was one of the few spots where it helped us avoid some of the muddiest terrain
Bruarfoss_034_08062021 - Unfortunately, the majority of the muddy sections didn't have aids and we had to figure out ways to get around these patches on the way to Brúarfoss
Bruarfoss_037_08062021 - Another one of the muddy spots along a narrower part of the Brúarfoss hike
Bruarfoss_047_08062021 - The family continuing to negotiate more muddy stretches in a narrower and more vegetated part of our Brúarfoss hike between 1.5km and 2.3km from the start
Bruarfoss_055_08062021 - Hlauptungufoss was the first of the named waterfalls on the Brúará River that we encountered
Bruarfoss_059_08062021 - We had to be careful around Hlauptungufoss due to the slippery footing and the turbulent flow of the Brúará River
Bruarfoss_061_08062021 - Looking downstream from Hlauptungufoss where there were additional side cascades feeding the Brúará River
Bruarfoss_083_08062021 - Walking past a picnic table near Hlauptungufoss, which could have made for a nice spot for a picnic if we were inclined to spend more time around this waterfall
Bruarfoss_084_08062021 - Beyond Hlauptungufoss, we continued our hike along the mesmerizingly blue Brúará River
Bruarfoss_091_08062021 - The Brúarfoss hike continued skirting alongside the Brúará River between Hlauptungufoss and Miðfoss
Bruarfoss_094_08062021 - Context of our approach to the next series of cascades on the Brúará River that I believe are collectively named Miðfoss
Bruarfoss_109_08062021 - As you can see as opposed to Hlauptungufoss, the Miðfoss were really a series of rapids and waterfalls on the Brúará River
Bruarfoss_111_08062021 - Contextual look at us traversing a rocky part of the hike alongside the Brúará River and sections of Miðfoss
Bruarfoss_118_08062021 - The stretch of cascades on Miðfoss continued as we hiked further upstream
Bruarfoss_123_08062021 - Looking downstream along the Brúará River from somewhere near the uppermost of the Miðfoss Waterfalls
Bruarfoss_130_08062021 - Looking towards perhaps the uppermost of the waterfalls comprising Miðfoss
Bruarfoss_133_08062021 - Looking back at the context of other hikers checking out the uppermost of the waterfalls comprising Miðfoss for a sense of scale
Bruarfoss_137_08062021 - This calm section of the Brúará River beyond Miðfoss was actually an overflow part that created a small island of sorts (one of the trail branches actually went on it even though we didn't take it)
Bruarfoss_143_08062021 - Other hikers pushing ahead of us along this river-hugging stretch of the Brúarfoss hike somewhere past Miðfoss
Bruarfoss_146_08062021 - In this part, we had the option of following the Brúará River on the left or going up the non-slip-aided climb on the right to continue towards Brúarfoss. In the distance, you can see the footbridge that was ultimately the goal of this hike
Bruarfoss_148_08062021 - More focused look at the footbridge that was ultimately the end goal of our Brúarfoss hike
Bruarfoss_149_08062021 - Looking back at the non-slip-aided portion of the climb on our way up to Brúarfoss
Bruarfoss_151_08062021 - At the top of the climb, we had to go across this footbridge over a side stream, which produced another cascade on our way to Brúarfoss
Bruarfoss_152_08062021 - Looking downstream from the footbridge along the side cascade, which made us aware that this was an alternate trail hugging the river and stream instead of taking the non-slip-aided ascent
Bruarfoss_162_08062021 - Descending towards the footbridge fronting Brúarfoss, which was already busy with a handful of people after the 3.5km hike to get here
Bruarfoss_163_08062021 - There was this outcrop a little downstream of the footbridge fronting Brúarfoss, which yielded an unusual view of the footbridge spanning the waterfall itself
Bruarfoss_176_08062021 - Focused look at the fold or rift in the middle of Brúarfoss, which was a distinguishing feature of this waterfall
Bruarfoss_193_08062021 - Another look at the context Brúarfoss with its contrasting dark underlying lava really making the colors of the Brúará River and the falls itself jump out
Bruarfoss_198_08062021 - Looking downstream from the footbridge fronting Brúarfoss
Bruarfoss_214_08062021 - Last look at Brúarfoss and its 'bru' before we headed back
Bruarfoss_220_08062021 - On the way back to the footbridge over the side cascade, we noticed there were more Summer homes, which hinted at a shorter access route to the Brúarfoss Waterfall
Bruarfoss_227_08062021 - Julie and Tahia taking the alternate trail alongside the side cascade and Brúará River on the way back
Bruarfoss_228_08062021 - One of the flowers we spotted alongside the more vegetated alternate side track we took on the way back from Brúarfoss
Bruarfoss_231_08062021 - Unfortunately, we saw this shameful act of littering along the same overgrown section of track on the alternate side route we took on the way back from Brúarfoss
Bruarfoss_248_08062021 - The family getting to enjoy the Brúará on the way back from Brúarfoss once again
Bruarfoss_253_08062021 - The family returning to Hlauptungufoss where we next had to go back through the muddy part of the hike
Bruarfoss_264_08062021 - Finally making it back to the Brúarfoss car park, which now had many more cars when we were one of only two cars when we had gotten started


Since Bruarfoss (or more accurately Brúarfoss) can be crammed into a busy Golden Circle Day Tour, we’ll just focus on the driving directions from Reykjavík.

First, we’d drive east on the Route 49 for about 7km as we kept left to stay on the Ring Road (Route 1).

Bruarfoss_003_08062021 - This was the official car park for the Brúarfoss hike
This was the official car park for the Brúarfoss hike

After passing through several roundabouts, the Route 1 will eventually junction with the Route 36 on the right (about 15km from downtown Reykjavík).

We’d then follow Route 36 (Þingvallavegur) east for 45km before leaving the 36 to continue straight on the Route 365 (Gjábakkavegur) towards Geysir and Gullfoss.

After over 14km on the Route 365, we then continued straight onto the Laugarvatnsvegur (Route 37) east for another 14km to the Brúarfoss car park on the left just after the bridge over the Brúará.

Overall, this 91km drive would require about 75 minutes give or take.

Bruarfoss_001_08062021 - One way to tell we were getting close to the Brúarfoss car park was this huge smoke emitter in a nearby field
One way to tell we were getting close to the Brúarfoss car park was this huge smoke emitter in a nearby field

It’s worth noting that this trailhead is 15km west of Geysir, 25km west of Gullfoss, 42km east of the Öxarárfoss car park in Þingvellir National Park, and 49km (over 30 minutes drive) north of Selfoss.

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Comprehensive sweep taken from right on the bridge starting with a downstream perspective before looking down below the bridge where there's some kind of outflow in the Bruara, and then finishing off with a classic sweep of the Bruararfoss


Downstream to upstream sweep of the Bruara right at the Hlauptungufoss


Upstream to downstream sweep from the brink of Hlauptungufoss


Slow upstream to downstream sweep from Midfoss and then following the Bruara

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Tagged with: golden circle, blaskogabyggd, bruara, bridge, south region



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