The Haifoss Hike – Iceland
The Haifoss Hike isn’t your classic hike. It starts at the hike’s highest point and ends at its lowest. Once you reach the hike’s endpoint, you don’t have wide-open views, but you’ll find yourself in a narrow gorge. No other tourists around either, probably.
View of the Haifoss waterfall from the top of the cliff.
It’s easy to get to Haifoss, and the parking is right by the waterfall. The waterfall is literally a short stroll away from where you park your car. Once there, most will look at the waterfall along the ridge, gazing at that fantastic sight that Haifoss and the nearby Granni waterfall provide, and then hop back in the car – onto the next stop.
Still, most would have noticed a trail that leads down the slope. Some will know where that trail leads. It leads down to the gorge at the foot of the waterfall. Few will hike all the way down; probably one in twenty will, at best.
Once down, most will wander about in awe, looking at that huge waterfall pouring water down for 100+ meters, then hike back up.
The trail does not end there, however. It continues through Haifoss’ water spray and follows the Fossa river into the narrow gorge. There awaits another fantastic sight:
In the two and a half hours I spent there, I saw only one other person hiking into the gorge. This is a location that does not get many visitors. Perhaps Haifoss is stealing all the attention :)!
How to get to Háifoss
A quick note on the access road: it’s possible to get there with a standard 2WD car. The road is not an F-road. I have read reports and seen questions on some online forums about the conditions of the road, mentioning a 4WD is required. This is no longer the case.
I visited Haifoss for the first time in 2014, and I can confirm that, at that time, the road was very, very rough. Big rocks and deep potholes in the middle of the road required drivers to ponder the best path forward to not damage the car. Since then, the road has been greatly improved. Most of the big rocks have been removed, and although it’s still a rough dirt road, it is no longer as tricky as it was a few years ago.
- How to get to Haifoss and Parking: Haifoss can be accessed via Road 332, a side road 32. To get there from the east, you will need to turn to Road 30 not long after Selfoss. Then onto Road 32 until the turn into Road 332 (click here for the exact location). From there, it’s a 10/15 minutes drive to the parking area. If you are looking for car rental options, I can definitely recommend Blue Car Rental for cars and CampEasy for Camper Vans.
- Start of the Hike: directly from the parking area, keep following the trail until you see the trail posts.
- Photography & Scenery value: Incredible landscapes and waterfalls that can be photographed from several different locations, including a narrow gorge at the foot of the waterfalls.
- Difficulty: Moderate. The hike is never steep, and the terrain is relatively easy. Still, carefulness and proper footwear are required as some sections are on wet and slippery rocks.
- Tip: I would highly recommend visiting Gjáin too when stopping to visit Haifoss. Gjáin is a waterfall wonderland. Also, if you have a vehicle suitable for f-roads, I’d highly recommend visiting the Rauðaskál crater (also known as the Apple Crater).
Reykjavik to Háifoss
It is entirely possible to visit Haifoss as a day trip from Reykjavik. The drive should take close to 2:30 hours each way, with one short stop. However this being Iceland, you’ll probably stop quite a few times along the way :). Add a few stops like Gjáin or a detour to the Golden Circle and you’ll have an amazing day trip!
The Háifoss hiking trail
From the parking area, head toward the lookout over Haifoss and Granni. The site is fenced, and you can follow the fence on the way down the side of the cliff. After a few hundred meters, you will notice orange trail poles marking the trail.
Keep following the trail down. After a bit, you will have to climb a small three-step ladder. Next, the trail will turn to your right, down the side of the cliff. From here, the trail continues down until you reach the bottom of the gorge.
View of Haifoss from the trail
The sight of Haifoss from the bottom of the gorge is nothing short of spectacular. Here you get a stronger sense of the waterfall’s height and water volume. As well as considerable water spray, depending on wind direction and how close to the waterfall you decide to get.
As you get closer to Haifoss, you will see a faint trail continuing further into the gorge. There will most likely be a lot of water spray from Haifoss, so you may get wet and need to store away your camera gear. The rocks may also be slippery. At one point, it will look as if the trail may continue to Granni, but it will end and disappear earlier.
Also, note that this trail does not require you to get into the river, so if you see the trail disappearing in the waters, water levels are probably too high to go any further.
No further signs of the trail after this point. That’s the best view of Granni from inside the gorge.
This is a one-way hike, so once you get to the end of the trail in the gorge, you need to get back up the same way.
Photos and Photography Tips for the Haifoss Hike
The top of the gorge is going to be your first stop on this hike. And perhaps your last too, on the way back up. The views from there are spectacular. Haifoss is a fantastic waterfall, and so is Granni. The way the water drops from the cliffs is almost hypnotic to watch. Not only that but looking down from the vertical cliffs is quite an experience.
There are several good viewpoints both at the top and at the bottom of the gorge. You’ll probably be running around, like I did, trying to find as many different compositions as possible.
Haifoss and Granni in the background.
View of the Haifoss waterfall from the top of the cliff.
The Waterfall Granni. This photo was taken in 2014 but today, this vantage point is no longer accessible.
Can you see the “little” guy next to the waterfall?
On sunny days, you can use the water spray to include small “water spray” rainbows.
However, as you hike past Haifoss and follow the Fossa River into the gorge, you will not get any good views of Granni. Granni is too hidden at the back of the gorge to be entirely visible.
Inside the gorge, there are a few good vantage points – personally, the best one I have found is a huge boulder you can step on, as that places you almost in the middle of the river. This means you can use the river as your main leading line.
I recommend using ultra-wide lenses here; Haifoss is a gigantic waterfall, and you can get close to it. Same for the gorge. This is one of the few situations I wished I had something a little wider than 14mm.
All in all, The Haifoss Hike is a spectacular one. Here you’ll find several different photo opportunities, even if the location is mainly known for just one waterfall.
Video of the Haifoss Hike
Here’s a short video of the Hike to Haifoss and the hidden gorge below. Nothing fancy, just the trail, the views and some music:
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Map of the Haifoss Hike
The trail is visible at all times and well-marked. Still, if you need a GPS track you can download it from the Komoot activity below:
Where to Stay
There are few options nearby, the closest being the Highland centre Hrauneyjar or a few guesthouses along road 32. Not a particularly cheap accommodation though, especially during high season. There also are some camping grounds or hotels a little further down the road or along road 26.
However, you could easily do this hike in a few hours or half a day and you can easily combine it with other stops or attractions in the area.
Car or Camper Van Rentals
I can definitely recommend two companies here:
- Cars: Blue Car Rental, which is the largest Car rental company in Iceland, and for good reasons. Free Cancellation, Unlimited mileage, 24-hour break assistance, SCDW, CDW, TP, and GP insurance are included in the price. Blue Car Rental is also located within walking distance of the Keflavik Airport, so you can be on your way to explore Iceland right away. I’ve always been happy with my rentals there, which is why I’m happy to recommend their services here on my blog.
- Camper Vans: CampEasy. With CampEasy, you can rent 2WD or 4×4 campers alike. With a raised Chassis, larger tires, and extra insurance with reduced liability for river crossing, their 4X4 campers are the best choice for your trip into the Highlands. Their Website also provides extensive information about roads you can take and instructions on river crossings. Perfect choice for a hiking holiday in the highlands!
These are my two favorite companies in each respective rental area, which I why I am happy to recommend both here. If you also like this blog, booking through them is a great way to support it. I’ll get a small commission fee at no additional cost, so you can essentially support the running costs of this blog for free too.
Got a question or your own experience to share? Let me know in the comments below.