The Beloved Hiking Trail of Stakkholtsgjá Canyon

Stakkholtsgjá Canyon

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

    Do you like hiking but not extreme hiking? Then Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is the hiking trail for you! This amazing canyon in the Icelandic Highlands brings out the fantasy and wonder in all who walk through it.

    In this article, we go through A-Z of one of Iceland’s best and most liked hiking trails. When you’ve reached the end of this article, you’ll surely put this on the list of hikes to do in Iceland.

    Scenic Stakkholtsgjá – The Pathway to a Fairytale Waterfall

    Stakkholtsgjá Canyon lies relatively easily accessible in the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve. This is one of the most popular nature reserves in Iceland and is nicely tucked in between the three glaciers Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, and Tindfjallajökull. Overall, the area is very popular among locals and international visitors alike due to the nice hiking trails and stunning scenery.

    As far as hikes go, Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is probably the best all-rounder anyone could attempt in Iceland. It has the perfect blend of not being hard to walk, not being long to walk, not being far away from the road, but still delivering an excellent experience and plenty of photo opportunities.

    The canyon itself is about 100 meters high and between 2 and 3 kilometers long (depending on where you start). The trails in Stakkholtsgjá Canyon are not paved, but they are relatively flat and are suited well for even the younger ones in the family. Check out our guide to hiking in Iceland for some general tips on what to keep in mind before you go.

    The almost complete lack of elevation is also an important part of Stakkholtsgjá Canyon. Walking along the black sandy riverbed, you’re not likely to have to climb anywhere or go up any long, steep paths. It’s a pleasant hike ending in a cave-like spot with a stunning waterfall. In that small area, it’s important to be careful since all rocks will be damp and slippery.

    Along the Stakkholtsgjá Canyon route, there is also a small cave that we recommend sticking your head in. You can get amazing pictures there, and it almost feels like a gateway into another world.

    Stakkholtsgja Canyon

    Geology and History of Stakkholtsgjá Canyon

    This otherworldly scene is a canyon with pitch-black sand from withered-down hardened lava deposits. The gorge’s high walls are also black from the basalt rock and, in many places, covered in moss.

    The Stakkholtsgjá Canyon has been slowly carved out over thousands of years from glacial movement and the constant pressure of water streams. Luckily, Stakkholtsgjá Canyon has been somewhat protected from volcanic eruptions and lava flows in modern times. The area has been affected by volcanic ash, especially after Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption in 2010. After that, the area needed a couple of years for the flora and fauna to reestablish itself.

    An interesting feature of the Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is the steep and high canyon walls. These walls allow for moisture to be trapped to a larger extent than in other places. This means moss will thrive in the microscopic cracks, and the hardy mountain flora will have a fair chance to grow in the harsh climate. Unfortunately, the high walls sometimes also act as an amplifying wind tunnel, which is why there is a lack of taller highland flora along the trail. 

    This gorge has legends of trolls and other otherworldly creatures. It’s easy to imagine the petrified faces of trolls in the mountain walls, and one can understand why superstition has had a hold on this area. If you hike through the canyon, plenty of dark corners, small rifts, and cracks along the way will fuel the imagination. If you’re on your own or don’t have the safety of modernity, this would indeed be a mystical and (perhaps) frightening place.

    Stakkholtsgjá hike

    Stakkholtsgjá Canyon – Off the Beaten Path

    Getting to Stakkholtsgjá Canyon will not require a pilgrimage to the other side of the island or something of the sort. However, the last stretch of the road will be one of the Iceland F-roads, so if you drive yourself, a 4x4 will be needed.

    For hiking, we recommend hardy shoes for the rough terrain and perhaps an extra pair of shoes to sacrifice when you go through the many streams along the trail.

    You can either go on your own or take a tour from Reykjavík or any nearby town, so go with whichever you feel most comfortable with.


    If you have been checking out the best things to do in Reykjavík and want to visit Stakkholtsgjá Canyon for a day, then you can easily follow these directions:

    • First, get on Ring Road 1 in Iceland going east.
    • Get on Road 249 right at Seljalandsfoss.
    • Keep going along 249, which turns into F249, until you reach the canyon.
    • Start your hike!

    As you see, it’s a very simple list of directions and two roads to remember. The entire trip should take about 2.5-3 hours single trip by car, and then an extra 2-3 hours to hike. This means you can easily make Stakkholtsgjá Canyon a day trip from the capital.

    Banner CVI

    Things to do Around Stakkholtsgjá Canyon

    Even though the hike through Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is a fantastic experience, there are plenty of amazing things to explore in the area. For example, Þórsmörk is the end of one of Iceland’s most popular hiking trails: Laugavegur. This multi-day hike requires proper planning and might be difficult for some.

    If you want luxury, you can find some glamping tents in Þórsmörk with proper furniture and heating. This might be a good option for those who enjoy hiking but not sleeping in tents. This would be a great option for those who want to use the glamping tents as a base for exploring the nearby peaks.

    Your Journey to Stakkholtsgjá Canyon

    Hiking is the name of the game, and Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is the ultimate hiking destination for the average person. With all the accumulated knowledge from this article, you’ll be ready to take this on and explore the surroundings. The only thing missing is to rent a campervan in Iceland and face the adventures head-on. So, what are you waiting for? Adventure awaits!

    Let’s go on an adventure!

    Unbeatable prices. Premium customer service.

    Book now
    Book now