Hafragilsfoss

Vatnajokull National Park (formerly Jokulsargljufur National Park), Northeast Region (Norðurland eystra), Iceland

About Hafragilsfoss


Hiking Distance: roadside (east bank); about 800m round trip (west bank)
Suggested Time: allow at least 30 minutes on each side

Date first visited: 2007-06-29
Date last visited: 2021-08-13

Waterfall Latitude: 65.83248
Waterfall Longitude: -16.39958

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Hafragilsfoss was the third of four major waterfalls on the glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum that we visited within the vast protected area of Vatnajökull National Park (known then as Jökulsárgljúfur National Park during our 2007 visit).

The falls was said to have a drop of 27m with an average width of 91m, but given the amount of mist it threw up accompanied with its muffled thundering sound, we certainly appreciated its size and power.

Hafragilsfoss_003_06292007 - Hafragilsfoss
Hafragilsfoss

In the vicinity of the falls, the Hafragil (Goat Gorge?) part of the larger Jökulságljúfur canyon was said to be at its deepest so the scenery around the area was also quite dramatic.

The power of the river was evident as we noticed a maze of gorges further downstream of the falls, which reminded me of a smaller version of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and why I think of Jökulságljúfur as Iceland’s Grand Canyon.

Like the other major waterfalls further upstream on the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum (e.g. Dettifoss and Selfoss, respectively), it was possible to experience Hafragilsfoss from both sides of the river.

Finally, to try to make sense of the name, my Icelandic dictionary said the word hafrar meant “oats”, but apparently hafra meant “goat” in an older 1874 Icelandic-English dictionary (whereas geit was “goat” in my dictionary).

Experiencing Hafragilsfoss from the East

Hafragilsfoss_017_06292007 - Looking away from Hafragilsfoss towards perhaps the deepest part of the Jökulságljúfur canyon
Looking away from Hafragilsfoss towards perhaps the deepest part of the Jökulságljúfur canyon

Perhaps the easiest way to experience Hafragilsfoss would be from a drive-to overlook on the east side of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River (see directions below).

Aside from being able to look right down at the gushing waterfall at a distance right from the car park, it was also possible to do a short jaunt further downstream for a slightly more direct and elevated look down at the falls.

Although my Gaia GPS topo map suggested that there were at least four viewing spots from this side, we were pretty much content with our views of the falls from the first two.

The further downstream I went, the more of the Hafragil Gorge I was able to see where clear freshwater emerging from springs and dropping over smaller waterfalls did an interesting mix with the milky glacial river at their confluence.

Hafragilsfoss_005_08122021 - When we visited the east side of Hafragilsfoss in August 2021, we barely had a minute or two before fog coming in from the north rapidly inundated the canyon and blocked our ability to see it
When we visited the east side of Hafragilsfoss in August 2021, we barely had a minute or two before fog coming in from the north rapidly inundated the canyon and blocked our ability to see it

After having our fill of Hafragilsfoss, then we just retreated to the car for a rather short visit that probably took no more than 15 minutes total.

Experiencing Hafragilsfoss from the West

Conversely on the west side, I saw for myself from our August 2021 visit that there were a couple of ways to experience Hafragilsfoss.

The first way, which we wound up doing, was at the end of a short 4wd spur access road (see directions below) that can be walked if you don’t want to take chances with your rental vehicle.

In my mind, that access road represented the last vestige of the type of rough conditions that we had to endure when the Route 826 was the F826 4wd road on our first visit to Iceland in 2007.

Hafragilsfoss_West_017_08132021 - Context of Hafragilsfoss with the Hafragil Gorge and the east side lookout on the opposite side of the canyon
Context of Hafragilsfoss with the Hafragil Gorge and the east side lookout on the opposite side of the canyon

Once we got out of the car, we then went on a short 400m walk (800m round-trip) that brought us right to the brink of the cliff overlooking the falls.

As we went a bit further downstream to pay more attention to the Hafragil Gorge, we noticed that there was also a precarious natural arch that took us by surprise.

Further downstream on the northern end of the cliff-side overlook, we got to look deeper into the Hafragil Gorge revealing more hidden cascades that weren’t visible from the lookout on the east side.

Anyways, after having our fill of this side of Hafragilsfoss, we then completed the short loop hike and returned to the trailhead and eventually drove back to the main paved area to return to the so-called Diamond Circle Route.

Hafragilsfoss_West_056_08132021 - This was the precarious natural arch that we noticed on the west side overlook of Hafragilsfoss
This was the precarious natural arch that we noticed on the west side overlook of Hafragilsfoss

Finally, we observed that there were a handful of people down below on the intermediate cliff shelf with a very close look right at the wide Hafragilsfoss.

In order to get down there, we would have had to walk about 2.25km (4.5km round trip) downstream from the developed lookout on the west side of Dettifoss.

There was no safe and direct “shortcut” that I was aware of to get from our cliffside overlook down to the shelf next to Hafragilsfoss.

Anyways, the trail leading down from Dettifoss to the close-up views of Hafragilsfoss was part of a much longer hike along the Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, which continued towards Katlar, Réttarfoss, Hólmatungur, and ultimately Ásbyrgi.

Hafragilsfoss_West_053_08132021 - Looking down at the mix of clear spring water mixing with the milky Jökulsá á Fjöllum within the scenic Hafragil Gorge section of Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon
Looking down at the mix of clear spring water mixing with the milky Jökulsá á Fjöllum within the scenic Hafragil Gorge section of Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon

We didn’t have the chance to do that hike to get real close to Hafragilsfoss, but I’m definitely keen to do it should we be fortunate enough to have another opportunity to come back.

Authorities

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

Hafragilsfoss_004_iPhone_08122021 - The sudden onset of fog conspired to cut short our experience on the east side of Hafragilsfoss during our August 2021 visit
Hafragilsfoss_001_08122021 - This was our first look at Hafragilsfoss from the east side when we got to see it again for the first time in 14 years after our first visit in late June 2007
Hafragilsfoss_002_08122021 - It was a race against the fog, and this might have been my cleanest look at Hafragilsfoss from the east side on our August 2021 visit
Hafragilsfoss_010_08122021 - Looking ahead towards more of the lookouts further up this hill when I faced downstream of Hafragilsfoss on the east side of the gorge in our August 2021 visit
Hafragilsfoss_013_08122021 - Literally seconds went by before the fog pretty much covered up Hafragilsfoss and cut short any other intentions I had for experiencing the rest of this area on our August 2021 visit
Hafragilsfoss_015_08122021 - Another look at the fog inundating the overlook area at Hafragilsfoss' east side in August 2021
Hafragilsfoss_016_08122021 - Making it back to the car park for the east side of Hafragilsfoss where fast moving clouds conspired to shroud the whole area on our August 2021 visit
Hafragilsfoss_West_002_iPhone_08132021 - We had a little better luck with the weather and visibility when we came back the next day of our August 2021 trip but this time we went to the west side of Hafragilsfoss, which involved driving this rough access road
Hafragilsfoss_West_001_08132021 - Making it to the small car park and trailhead for the west side of Hafragilsfoss on our August 2021 visit
Hafragilsfoss_West_004_08132021 - The overlook area on the west side of Hafragilsfoss was a short loop, and this junction was the start and end of it
Hafragilsfoss_West_005_08132021 - Tahia heading closer to the cliffs overlooking the west side of Hafragilsfoss
Hafragilsfoss_West_006_08132021 - Our first look at the impressive Hafragilsfoss from the west side
Hafragilsfoss_West_015_08132021 - More contextual look down at the impressive Hafragilsfoss Waterfall from the west side
Hafragilsfoss_West_018_08132021 - Continuing along the short loop in the desolate west side of the Hafragil Gorge
Hafragilsfoss_West_020_08132021 - Zoomed in right at the powerfully wide drop of Hafragilsfoss during our August 2021 visit
Hafragilsfoss_West_025_08132021 - Context of Hafragilsfoss and the cliffs that we were standing on that prevented us from getting down to the shelf below without having to go the long way around by the busy Dettifoss west side area
Hafragilsfoss_West_028_08132021 - Looking downstream at the context of the deep Hafragil Canyon during our August 2021 visit
Hafragilsfoss_West_042_08132021 - More zoomed in and focused look at the context of waterfalls that I couldn't see from the east side fronting the depths of the Hafragil Gorge in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon
Hafragilsfoss_West_045_08132021 - Another look down at people that have made the hike to get close to the front of Hafragilsfoss during our August 2021 visit
Hafragilsfoss_West_046_08132021 - Context of the downstream context of the short loop trail and the precipitous dropoffs above the scenic Hafragil Gorge
Hafragilsfoss_West_063_08132021 - Looking back in the upstream direction at the barren expanse of the lookout area above the west side of Hafragilsfoss
Hafragilsfoss_West_066_08132021 - We were quite surprised to see even more people make their way down to Hafragilsfoss, and I wasn't sure if they were somehow from the tour group we saw earlier or if it was just a hiking group
Hafragilsfoss_West_067_08132021 - Looking up at some pinhole arch that we noticed while walking back to the trailhead for the west side of Hafragilsfoss
Hafragilsfoss_West_069_08132021 - Looking down at the context of one couple that managed to continue into the lush part of the Hafragil Gorge further downstream of the west side of Hafragilsfoss
Hafragilsfoss_West_071_08132021 - Last look back at the Hafragil Gorge from the west side as we started to head back to the trailhead
Hafragilsfoss_West_081_08132021 - The family heading back to the west side trailhead for Hafragilsfoss
Hafragilsfoss_West_086_08132021 - Making it back to the trailhead and car park when we were the last people around during our August 2021 visit
Hafragilsfoss_West_011_iPhone_08132021 - Heading back along the rough access road to return to 'civilization' after our brief stint at the west side of Hafragilsfoss
Hafragilsfoss_002_06292007 - Full contextual look at Hafragilsfoss when we first visited from the east side in late June 2007. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery came from that trip
Hafragilsfoss_010_06292007 - Focused on the gushing drop of Hafragilsfoss from the east bank as seen in late June 2007
Hafragilsfoss_002_jx_06292007 - Looking into the depths of the Hafragil Gorge near the east bank overlook for Hafragilsfoss as of late June 2007
Hafragilsfoss_030_06292007 - Looking way downstream of Hafragilsfoss into the depths of Hafragil Gorge as of late June 2007
Hafragilsfoss_033_06292007 - We noticed there were more smaller waterfalls further downstream of Hafragilsfoss within the jumble of chasms of Hafragil below
Hafragilsfoss_007_06292007 - This portrait photo of Hafragilsfoss kind of hints that we were standing atop a cliff looking down at the falls
Hafragilsfoss_012_06292007 - Another portrait look at Hafragilsfoss gushing during our late June 2007 visit
Hafragilsfoss_013_06292007 - Zoomed in look at one of the smaller waterfalls downstream of Hafragilsfoss as seen in late June 2007
Hafragilsfoss_021_06292007 - Another contextual look at Hafragilsfoss from further downstream along the short overlook trail during our late June 2007 visit
Hafragilsfoss_029_06292007 - Differently-framed look at Hafragilsfoss' east side revealing the stark mountains and cliffs of the west bank across the river


To get to the lookout of Hafragilsfoss on the east side, we just had to go about 2km north on the Road 864 of the signed turnoff for the Dettifoss car park of the east bank car park for.

That was where we encountered the next signed turnoff on the left, which then led us over a small reddish hill towards the car park for Hafragilsfoss.

Hafragilsfoss_002_iPhone_08122021 - Looking back at a volcanic hill that we had gone over on the way to the small car park for Hafragilsfoss on the east side
Looking back at a volcanic hill that we had gone over on the way to the small car park for Hafragilsfoss on the east side

As for checking out the overlook above the west side of Hafragilsfoss, we had to take its signed turnoff roughly 1.6km east of the Road 862 and Road 886 junction or 1.2km west of the Dettifoss west side car park (see its directions).

Once on the unpaved turnoff heading north towards Hafragilsfoss, we then had to go on a bit of a rough and rugged road that reminded me of what the F826 Road used to be like before it became all paved and part of the Diamond Circle Route.

After about 1.6km along this road, we reached a rather humble looking trailhead with room for maybe a 4-6 cars or so.

If the road conditions were too rough for a typical passenger 2wd rental car, then after 250m from the turnoff, I noticed that there was some room for a few cars to park and walk the remaining 1km distance.

Hafragilsfoss_West_001_iPhone_08132021 - Taking the high clearance track to the trailhead for the overlook near the west side of Hafragilsfoss, which reminded me of the type of conditions we had to endure while driving the F826 Road along the west side of Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon
Taking the high clearance track to the trailhead for the overlook near the west side of Hafragilsfoss, which reminded me of the type of conditions we had to endure while driving the F826 Road along the west side of Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon

Finally, if the desire is to get as close to Hafragilsfoss as possible, then we’d either have to go to the Dettifoss West Side car park and hike for over 3.33km in each direction or hike about 7.5km (15km round-trip) from the Hólmatungur car park.

For geographical context, Reykjahlið was 101km (under 90 minutes drive) east of Akureyri, 165km (about 2 hours drive) east of Egilsstaðir, and 479km (under 6 hours drive) northeast of Reykjavík.

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Semicircular sweep starting by peering towards some formation and then panning across to the falls before the fog engulfed it


Brief upstream to downstream sweep focusing on the falls just as the fog was about to engulf it


Contextual left to right sweep and back of the canyon and Hafragilsfoss from its west side


Back and forth sweep revealing the downstream view of the canyon with its smaller waterfalls before going to show the Hafragilsfoss


Left to right sweep of the distant falls as seen from the east bank

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Tagged with: jokulsa a fjollum, vatnsjokull, jokulsargljufur, northeast region, iceland, nordurland eystra, waterfall, akureyri, grand canyon



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