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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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