Stekkjarfoss and Dalsfoss

Blonduos / Vatnsdalur / Forsaedalur, Northwest Region (Norðurland vestra), Iceland

About Stekkjarfoss and Dalsfoss


Hiking Distance: 2km round trip (Stekkjarfoss); 6km round trip with scrambling (Dalsfoss)
Suggested Time: 1 hour (Stekkjarfoss); 3 hours (Dalsfoss)

Date first visited: 2007-06-26
Date last visited: 2021-08-16

Waterfall Latitude: 65.28884
Waterfall Longitude: -20.07552

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Stekkjarfoss and Dalsfoss were the most accessible waterfalls on the Vatnsdalsá River within the Forsædalur Valley, which is one of the upstream precursors to the wider Vatnsdalur Valley.

Accessing these waterfalls made for an off-the-beaten-path adventure that made it quite unlike most of the other “bucket list” attractions in Iceland that have drawn crowds after being boosted by Instagram or other social media outlets.

Forsaedalur_240_08162021 - Dalsfoss
Dalsfoss

Indeed, both times we’ve come here (once in June 2007 and again in August 2021), we were pretty much the only people on this self-guided excursion.

Armed with verbal and written “chicken scratch” directions from Jón at the Hof í Vatnsdal Guesthouse, it then became a test of how well we could follow his hints while figuring things out as we went.

The end result of this adventure was a lot of tranquility as well as that sense that we were really experiencing a place that only locals would go to let alone know about.

After all, it didn’t seem like there was a formal trailhead, and we even questioned ourselves about whether we were trespassing or not though Jón assurred me that we wouldn’t be.

Vatnsdalur_018_06262007 - When Julie and I first went to Stekkjarfoss and its fish ladder in June 2007, we were the only people here
When Julie and I first went to Stekkjarfoss and its fish ladder in June 2007, we were the only people here

Regarding the waterfalls themselves, Stekkjarfoss (I’ve also seen it called Stekkarfoss) was the first of the waterfalls in Forsædalur Valley with a height of perhaps 5m or so.

Its distinguishing feature was that there was a fish ladder besides its drop so I’d imagine anglers in the know would come here to fish the river.

Dalsfoss was the next waterfall in Forsædalur, and it was a much wider rectangular (or trapezoidal) waterfall that I’m guessing was 15-20m tall and perhaps 30m wide.

This imposing waterfall sat at the head of the lower reaches of the valley so it formed an obstacle that prevented further progress for both fish and people alike.

Drive_to_Forsaedalur_002_iPhone_08162021 - This was a part of the book that Jón at Hof í Vatnsdal showed me to illustrate just how far away the Skinandi Waterfall was (on the far topright of this page) from Dalsfoss (on the bottomleft of this page)
This was a part of the book that Jón at Hof í Vatnsdal showed me to illustrate just how far away the Skinandi Waterfall was (on the far topright of this page) from Dalsfoss (on the bottomleft of this page)

Forsædalur actually featured many more waterfalls beyond Dalsfoss such as Skessufoss, Rjukandi, Kerafoss, and eventually Skinandi, among others.

However, reaching those waterfalls involved hiking a different “trail” along the northern canyon rim, and they’re beyond the scope of this write-up.

What Does It Take To Access Stekkjarfoss and Dalsfoss?

According to my GPS logs, we wound up hiking a total of 6km round trip, which took us about 3 hours.

This did not count the 40 minutes or so of just chilling out at Dalsfoss, which was the final waterfall of this particular hike and scramble.

Forsaedalur_024_08162021 - The initial kilometer of the hike followed a tractor trail through the Forsædalur Farm before descending towards Stekkjarfoss
The initial kilometer of the hike followed a tractor trail through the Forsædalur Farm before descending towards Stekkjarfoss

The first kilometer involved a relatively calm hike along a tractor path between the field of the Forsædalur Farm and the canyon carved out by the Vatnsdalsá River.

Towards the end of the farm’s pasture was a gate that we had to get through before the tractor path made a crescent as it descended and backtracked downstream towards the signed Stekkjarfoss Waterfall.

We could only view this waterfall from across the river since we couldn’t cross the river to get close to it so we didn’t linger here for long.

Next, we followed the northern banks of the Vatnsdalsá River upstream as we started to pursue the Dalsfoss Waterfall.

Forsaedalur_043_08162021 - About a kilometer from where we started hiking at the Forsædalur Farm, Julie and Tahia descended this crescent on the tractor path shortly after passing through a gate as they briefly backtracked towards the Stekkjarfoss Waterfall
About a kilometer from where we started hiking at the Forsædalur Farm, Julie and Tahia descended this crescent on the tractor path shortly after passing through a gate as they briefly backtracked towards the Stekkjarfoss Waterfall

It didn’t take long before the tractor trail disappeared as the terrain became muddier and more of a scramble though there were hints of a thin footpath left behind by people who have been here before.

Roughly 500m from Stekkjarfoss, we reached a cliff obstacle with a sign labeled Bríkarhylur, which I’m guessing was some kind of pool in the river of some significance.

However, we spotted a use-trail that climbed over the fairly tame cliff protrusion before hugging the narrow path all along the river.

There were at least three more obstacles where it was tricky to stay dry, and this was where remembering Jón’s advice about not needing to get our feet wet on this hike encouraged us to not give up.

Forsaedalur_116_08162021 - Julie negotiating one of the tricky obstacles in an effort to stay dry while scrambling towards Dalsfoss, which is partially visible up ahead
Julie negotiating one of the tricky obstacles in an effort to stay dry while scrambling towards Dalsfoss, which is partially visible up ahead

That said, we were quite glad that we wore legitimate Gore-tex hiking boots while also maintaining our balance with trekking poles, especially at those tricky obstacles.

I even wondered if the river was too swollen earlier in the season or if there was too much rain, whether it would be possible to keep the feet dry throughout this hike and scramble given the close calls that we dealt with on our August 2021 visit.

Eventually after another 1.6km or so of scrambling beyond Bríkarhylur, we reached an intermediate cascade obstacle.

At first, it seemed like this cliff and pool couldn’t be passed without swimming, but then we noticed a faint use-trail that climbed up a steep grassy slope to the left side of the waterfall to bypass it.

Forsaedalur_139_08162021 - Context of Tahia and Julie figuring out where to go next after approaching this cascade and cliff obstacle as we were very close to Dalsfoss at this point
Context of Tahia and Julie figuring out where to go next after approaching this cascade and cliff obstacle as we were very close to Dalsfoss at this point

Once we got on the other side and beyond the intermediate waterfall, then we were pretty much home free to go the remaining 300m or so to the base of Dalsfoss.

Isolated by steep cliffs on three sides (including the escarpment that it fell over), we took advantage of its seclusion by enjoying the solitude for a pretty solid 40 minutes or so before heading back.

Authorities

Stekkjarfoss and Dalsfoss resides in the Northwest Region near Blönduós, Iceland. It is administered by the municipality of Húnavatnshreppur. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting their website.

Forsaedalur_001_08162021 - On our August 2021 visit in Forsædalur, we noticed that the access road was more obvious as it led to the Forsædalur Farm
Forsaedalur_004_08162021 - Closeup look at some signage near a tractor road turnoff right before the end of the road at the Forsædalur Farm
Forsaedalur_009_08162021 - Looking ahead at the grassy tractor road skirting around most of the property of the Forsædalur Farm
Forsaedalur_013_08162021 - This small clearing was where we ultimately decided to stop the car and start walking on our August 2021 visit
Forsaedalur_015_08162021 - The first gate at the Forsædalur Farm was already swung open
Forsaedalur_018_08162021 - Mom walking on the grassy tractor road as we made our way through the Forsædalur Farm towards Stekkjarfoss
Forsaedalur_022_08162021 - Looking back across the field at the Forsædalur Farm our August 2021 visit
Forsaedalur_027_08162021 - This was the gate on the other side of the Forsædalur Farm property
Forsaedalur_032_08162021 - Looking down at the context of Stekkjarfoss and its stepladder as seen on our August 2021 visit
Forsaedalur_036_08162021 - Julie and Tahia descending the tractor road towards Stekkjarfoss
Forsaedalur_037_08162021 - More top down and direct look at the bluff opposite the Stekkjarfoss and its adjacent fish ladder as seen in August 2021
Forsaedalur_040_08162021 - Full contextual look down towards Stekkjarfoss as we were approaching it
Forsaedalur_044_08162021 - Context of the Stekkjarfoss sign and the bluff area where we could get a frontal look at the falls
Forsaedalur_058_08162021 - context of Mom and Julie checking out Stekkjarfoss
Forsaedalur_068_08162021 - Continuing the hike from Stekkjarfoss towards Dalsfoss, which started with this disappearing trail along the Vatnsdalsá River
Forsaedalur_070_08162021 - Soon enough, the 'trail' hugged the banks of the Vatnsdalsá en route to Dalsfoss
Forsaedalur_073_08162021 - The first obstacle involved us needing to climb over these rocks to continue the scramble along the riverbank towards Dalsfoss
Forsaedalur_075_08162021 - Continuing past the first obstacle by Nónhylur, we had to stay on the slopes while trying not to get wet if we were to keep going to Dalsfoss
Forsaedalur_081_08162021 - Looking back at the rest of the family getting by the first cliff obstacle, which was by a pool called Nónhylur
Forsaedalur_082_08162021 - Closeup look at Tahia trying to stay dry while hugging the slopes along the Vatnsdalsá River during our August 2021 visit
Forsaedalur_087_08162021 - Tahia continuing on the adventure along the Vatnsdalsá towards Dalsfoss during a beautiful day in August 2021
Forsaedalur_094_08162021 - Tahia trying to stay dry at the next obstacle on the way to Dalsfoss
Forsaedalur_098_08162021 - Context of the continuation of the scramble towards Dalsfoss as the scenery opened up a bit though we could see more obstacles up ahead
Forsaedalur_100_08162021 - Tahia approaching the next tricky obstacle on the way to Dalsfoss.  How are we going to stay dry here?
Forsaedalur_104_08162021 - Julie using a trekking pole to maintain her balance while trying to use some rocks to keep from getting too deep in the river as she tried to get by this obstacle to continue to Dalsfoss
Forsaedalur_107_08162021 - Passing along one of the easier parts of the Dalsfoss scramble alongside the Vatnsdalsá
Forsaedalur_112_08162021 - Looking up at some interesting formations seen on the way to Dalsfoss during our August 2021 visit
Forsaedalur_122_08162021 - Back in another tricky and rugged part of the scramble to Dalsfoss, which is getting tantalizingly near as evidenced by the mist rising in the distance
Forsaedalur_133_08162021 - Julie negotiating more rock scrambling on the way to the mist caused by Dalsfoss
Forsaedalur_138_08162021 - Approaching an intermediate cascade obstacle on the way to Dalsfoss
Forsaedalur_144_08162021 - Focused look at the context of the intermediate cascade and the cliffs behind it on the Vatnsdalsá River
Forsaedalur_146_08162021 - I would imagine the deep pool here might also make for another fishing spot on the Vatnsdalsá River
Forsaedalur_152_08162021 - The family finding a faint path to climb beyond the cliff adjacent to the intermediate cascade obstacle on the Vatnsdalsá River
Forsaedalur_153_08162021 - Looking down across the intermediate cascade obstacle on the Vatnsdalsá River just downstream from Dalsfoss
Forsaedalur_154_08162021 - Finally approaching Dalsfoss against the morning sun
Forsaedalur_155_08162021 - Looking back downstream from the intermediate cascade obstacle to get another sense of the riverside scrambling that we did to get here during our August 2021 visit
Forsaedalur_158_08162021 - The family continuing to make their way closer to Dalsfoss though the morning sun made it difficult to take good pictures since it was a west-facing waterfall
Forsaedalur_166_08162021 - A slightly elevated look across Dalsfoss against the morning sun
Forsaedalur_194_08162021 - Tahia enjoying herself trying to chuck rocks across the Vatnsdalsá River in front of Dalsfoss
Forsaedalur_199_08162021 - Looking up at the steep cliffs and loose rocks that formed one of the imposing barriers to any further progress along the Vatnsdalsá River
Forsaedalur_209_08162021 - Contextual look at Dalsfoss as we started to head back after having our fill of the falls during our August 2021 visit
Forsaedalur_224_08162021 - The family starting to make their way back along the Vatnsdalsá River
Forsaedalur_244_08162021 - Although the lighting seemed to be slightly improved when we left Dalsfoss, we'd really have to wait until afternoon to start benefitting from backlighting from the sun on the clear day that we were here in August 2021
Forsaedalur_262_08162021 - The family descending from the intermediate cascade obstacle on the return hike along the Vatnsdalsá River
Forsaedalur_263_08162021 - Another contextual look at our return hike as Mom was way ahead of us along the Vatnsdalsá River
Forsaedalur_268_08162021 - Looking back at our last glimpse of Dalsfoss as we continued to go further downstream along the Vatnsdalsá River
Forsaedalur_271_08162021 - Now that we knew where we were going, we managed to make much faster progress though the cliff obstacles still remained
Forsaedalur_284_08162021 - Finally making it back to the cliff obstacle by the Bríkarhylur sign
Forsaedalur_292_08162021 - Mom noticing some grazing sheep as we were returning to the Forsædalur Farm part of the return hike
Forsaedalur_302_08162021 - Closeup look at the pair of sheep curiously wondering why there were people here
Forsaedalur_304_08162021 - Looking downstream along a more open part of Forsædalur Valley as we were almost back at our parked car
Forsaedalur_318_08162021 - The family hiking back along the grassy tractor path at the Forsædalur Farm
Forsaedalur_328_08162021 - The family pretty much concluding our August 2021 adventure to Stekkjarfoss and Dalsfoss as our parked car was just a few more minutes down this grassy tractor path
Vatnsdalur_011_06262007 - Julie on the track that followed along the Vatnsdalsá River towards the waterfalls in Forsædalur. This photo and the remaining photos in this gallery was taken on our first visit in June 2007
Vatnsdalur_013_06262007 - The trail initially started above the Vatnsdalsá River before descending alongside it
Vatnsdalur_014_06262007 - Julie crossing a gate.  This was the main reason why we opted to park where we did as we started to lose faith that we were driving on a trail as opposed to a road
Vatnsdalur_015_06262007 - The sign for Stekkjarfoss as of our visit in June 2007
Vatnsdalur_019_06262007 - Stekkjarfoss as seen on our June 2007 visit
Vatnsdalur_021_06262007 - Beyond Stekkjarfoss, we saw this faint grass trail so we continued along it on our first time here in June 2007
Vatnsdalur_023_06262007 - Julie negotiating the first cliff obstacle as we intrepidly made our way further upstream from Stekkjarfoss on our first time here in June 2007
Vatnsdalur_025_06262007 - Context of Julie still intrepidly continuing beyond the first cliff obstacle and now scrambling along the Vatnsdalsá River during our June 2007 visit
Vatnsdalur_028_06262007 - Julie approaching the next cliff-and-river obstacle that ultimately turned us around as we had lost faith that we weren't supposed to be going further up the Vatnsdalsá River during our June 2007 visit.  But with hindsight being 20/20, it turned out we should have found a way and kept going upstream to Dalsfoss.  Perhaps we could have benefitted from trekking poles and a bit more persistence


Although it’s not a pre-requisite to stay in Vatnsdalur to do this hike to both Stekkjarfoss and Dalsfoss, I’d recommend doing it so you have time to explore this tranquil and often-overlooked part of Iceland.

We stayed in the Hof í Vatnsdalur farmstay so I’ll describe the driving directions to get there from Blönduós before continuing the route to the Forsædalur Farm, where we began our hike and scramble.

Drive_from_Forsaedalur_to_Hof_005_iPhone_08162021 - Looking back at the turnoff for Forsædalur, which was right before the bridge traversing the Vatnsdalsá River
Looking back at the turnoff for Forsædalur, which was right before the bridge traversing the Vatnsdalsá River

So starting from the town of Blönduós, we took the Ring Road South for about 17km to the Road 722 turnoff on the left (this was before the bridge over the Vatnsdalsá River).

Once on the 722 Road, which started off paved, we then followed the gravel road as it followed the east side of the Vatnsdalsá River eventually going some 15km south of the Ring Road to the turnoff for the Hof í Vatnsdal Guesthouse or Farmstay.

Continuing beyond Hof í Vatnsdalur, we proceeded to drive further up the Vatnsdalur Valley for another 5.7km.

We then turned left onto an access road signed for “Forsædalur” (this was before the next bridge over the Vatnsdalsá River), and then we drove a little over 6km to the Forsædalur Farm, which itself was about 1.4km beyond the Sunnuhlið Farm.

Forsaedalur_002_08162021 - It wasn't clear to us if you were supposed to park by the Forsædalur Farm at the end of the public part of the road like this, but I'd imagine lower-clearance vehicles might consider this over driving the tractor road
It wasn’t clear to us if you were supposed to park by the Forsædalur Farm at the end of the public part of the road like this, but I’d imagine lower-clearance vehicles might consider this over driving the tractor road

Overall, it took us a little under 20 minutes to drive from Hof to the Forsædalur Farm though you’re looking at around about an hour if you drive to the farm from Blönduós.

Once we got to the Forsædalur Farm, we apparently had to figure out where to park as it wasn’t obvious to us where to do so on either of our visits (in 2007 and 2021).

At first, we considered parking next to the farm building at the end of the public part of the road, which felt weird as we were getting strange looks from the kids living there.

However, we noticed there was signage pointing towards a grassy tractor road (signed for Nónhylur, Urriðaflúðir, and Stekkjarfoss), which we took for roughly 250m to somewhat of a clearing next to a gate.

Forsaedalur_011_08162021 - Looking back at Julie driving the rental car on the high-grass tractor road towards perhaps a different place to park the car without getting strange looks from the Forsædalur Farm owners
Looking back at Julie driving the rental car on the high-grass tractor road towards perhaps a different place to park the car without getting strange looks from the Forsædalur Farm owners

We opted to start walking from here though I suspected that the owners probably thought you could keep driving the grassy road all the way to Stekkjarfoss.

However, that tractor road cut pretty deep into the grass, which meant that even though we had a decent amount of clearance on our 4wd rental, we still didn’t feel that comfortable driving it as we kept feeling the ground scraping the vehicle’s underside.

And that was why we wound up walking that kilometer stretch between the Forsædalur Farm and Stekkjarfoss instead of chancing it with our rental vehicle.

When we first were here in 2007, there was less infrastructure around the farm so we actually drove all the way to a second gate, where we opted to stop there thinking that we were driving on a foot trail and not on a road anymore.

Vatnsdalur_012_06262007 - Looking back at our parked rental car at this rather obscure trailhead in Vatnsdalur when we first came here in June 2007
Looking back at our parked rental car at this rather obscure trailhead in Vatnsdalur when we first came here in June 2007

But with hindsight being 20/20, I suspect that you probably can open the gate, drive through it, then close the gate again, and finally drive to the clearing near Stekkjarfoss.

Had we gone ahead and did that with the rental car, then that would shave off 2km off the round-trip distance of the hike and scramble that I had described above.

As for geographical context, Hof í Vatnsdal was about 33km (about 30 minutes drive) south of Blönduós, about 177km (over 2 hours drive) west of Akureyri, and 242km (about 3 hours drive) northeast of Reykjavík.

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Back and forth sweep from the end of a bluff overlooking Stekkjarfoss and the downstream scenery


Haphazard sweep showing an intermediate waterfall obstacle with the ladies chilling out for a bit


Back and forth sweep as seen from the brink of the intermediate waterfall showing a distant view of Dalsfoss and the intermediate cascade itself


Comprehensive video showing Dalsfoss as seen from a couple of different positions against the sun


Brief right to left sweep showing an elevated and angled view of Dalsfoss against the sun

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Tagged with: vatnsdalur, blonduos, northwest region, nordurland vestra, iceland, waterfall, skinandi, fish ladder, dalfoss, skessufoss, rjukandi, kerafoss



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