Múlagljúfur Canyon; Take a Hike to a Magical Setting in Iceland

Dive into the captivating beauty of Múlagljúfur Canyon in Iceland. Our guide leads you through this enchanting natural wonder, where towering cliffs and meandering rivers create a landscape that seems plucked from a fairy tale.

Múlagljúfur Canyon

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

Múlagljúfur Canyon looks like a scene straight out of a fairy tale or one of those epic movies where you just gawk at the incredible panorama. It’s hard to believe that this little slice of heaven was only recently discovered, and the spot’s popularity is growing every day.

So, if you would like to see what all the fuss is about, and why this has become such a beloved place amongst hikers, read on. You might also be making your way to this idyllic setting very soon.

What is Múlagljúfur Canyon?

This picturesque place is extremely interesting for a variety of reasons: 

Geology and History of Múlagljúfur Canyon in Iceland

Mulagljufur is a geological wonder that speaks to the power of nature. The canyon was caused by erosion over millions of years as the Fjadra River (that still runs through the canyon today) carved its way through the earth.

múlagljúfur canyon

Unique Features of Múlagljúfur Canyon

Múlagljúfur Canyon is 2 kilometers long and 20 meters wide and has a couple of very unique features.

Firstly, the entire canyon is covered with Icelandic moss. Not only does the lush green along the cliffs add to the fairy tale-like vibe, but Icelandic moss is a much-protected part of the Icelandic ecology. In fact, if you trample Icelandic moss, it could take years to recover (if at all). Inside the canyon, you will also find trails that can be used to explore the canyon and give you breathtaking views across the landscape, and two famous waterfalls, Hangandifoss and Mulafoss.

How did the Múlagljúfur canyon get its name?

Ever wondered why Múlagljúfur is called what it is? Well, here's the scoop! "Múlagljúfur" is like a cool blend of words in Icelandic. "Múla" sounds like a mule (you know, the funky mix of a horse and a donkey), and "Gljúfur" adds a dash of mystery as it means canyon or gorge. So, put them together, and you've got the "Mule Canyon" or the "Canyon of the Mules." Fancy, right?

The naming of natural landmarks often carries historical or cultural significance, but the specific reason behind naming Múlagljúfur as such may not be universally documented or widely known. It's possible that the name could be linked to local folklore, historical events, or the presence of mules, that were used to transport goods to and from nearby glacial lagoons, at some point in time.

múlagljúfur canyon iceland

Múlagljúfur Canyon in Popular Culture

Whilst Múlagljúfur Canyon is becoming more and more popular, you won’t be able to find it unless someone tells you about it. That’s because it’s incredibly remote and there are no signs guiding you to the canyon. Most either use a GPS or follow the directions given to them by someone who’s been there.

How to Get to Múlagljúfur in Iceland

There are a few ways of getting to Múlagljúfur Canyon: 

On Tour

Although Múlagljúfur Canyon is not a tour destination often included in existing tour packages (unless it’s a hiking tour), you will still find plenty of tour operators and private guides willing to take you as part of a customized private tour.

By Car

This is the most popular way of reaching the canyon since it’s convenient and allows you to stay in full control of your time and itinerary. Driving to the canyon is easy (as long as you know how). You can either enter the coordinates, 63.98877960616354, -16.394959472827694, into your GPS and simply follow its commands, or you can go on directions.

Head south on Road 1 (aka the Ring Road route) from the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. You will cross two rivers. Turn right onto a gravel road after you’ve crossed the second river. This road will take you to the parking lot. This drive will require a 4x4 vehicle, not just because of the gravel, but potential flooding by the river, rainwater, or melting ice and snow.

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On Foot (Whether You’re On a Tour or Taking a Self-drive)

For all intents and purposes, visiting Múlagljúfur Canyon will include hiking. There is no other way of reaching it from the parking lot or exploring it than on foot. So, if you have very small children in your party or the elderly, you’ll need to consider this when adding it to your trip itinerary.

Hiking in Múlagljúfur Canyon

As we already touched on, there is no other way of reaching the canyon or exploring it than by taking a hike. And you’ll find that taking a Mulagljufur Canyon hike is often at the top of any avid hiker’s Iceland bucket list. There are also a few hikes one can choose from (all out-and-back).

Popular Hiking Trails

There are essentially two hiking trails that you can choose from: 

The Short Múlagljúfur Canyon Hike

Distance: 3.86 kilometers

Duration: 1.5 – 2.5 hours

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate 

Head uphill from the parking lot towards the trail. You can go anywhere where the trail forks except the places where the trail is blocked by stones (seriously, don’t take chances, it’s closed for a reason!) Continue like this till you reach some old trail posts. Follow these. 

mulagljufur canyon hike

You will go up a small hill before heading down into the gorge, and you’ll need to cross a creek by using the rocks as stepping stones. After this, you will walk up the next hill. Continue till you reach the top of the cliff offering breathtaking views across the canyon. If you want to snap the perfect Múlagljúfur Canyon photos – this will be the spot to do it. 

The Long Múlagljúfur Canyon Hike

Distance: 5.77 kilometers

Duration: +/- 2.5 hours

Difficulty Level: Moderate to Challenging 

You’ll be walking the short trail, but from the ridge, you will continue with the trail up the mountain. This trail will take you past Hangandifoss Waterfall. From here the trail becomes pretty steep, so just be careful.

Hiking Tips & Safety Precautions

If this is going to be your first visit to Múlagljúfur Canyon or your first time hiking, the following tips and advice will help make your hike memorable for all the right reasons: 

Keep on the Trail

Unlike Múlagljúfur Canyon itself, the hiking trails are clearly marked. Stick to the designated trails. Not only can you cause immense damage when wandering off, but the likelihood of you turning into an untelevised Bear Grylls survival episode is very good. 

múlagljúfur canyon map

Take Note of the Weather

You will need to keep a close eye on the Iceland weather forecast. As an outdoor activity, an outing to Múlagljúfur Canyon can quickly turn miserable when the weather goes bad. Depending on when you visit, you’ll also need to keep an eye on any ice or snow on the trail itself. It can become very slippery. 

Be Careful at Water Crossings

It goes without saying that you should always take note of water levels whenever you need to cross a river or stream. And even if you don’t have to wade through the water, you still need to be careful since stepping stones can also become pretty slippery. 

Always Ensure that You Have a Múlagljúfur Canyon Map

You might feel pretty prepared with your mobile phone or GPS, but you are making one critical assumption – that you will have signal. That’s why we always recommend that you either download a few maps or keep a hard copy with you for those times when technology fails you.

Things to Do Near Múlagljúfur Canyon

You will find plenty of things to do and see in Múlagljúfur Canyon and its surroundings. Here are a few you can consider adding to your trip itinerary:

Skaftafell National Park

Tips for Visiting Múlagljúfur Canyon

If this is your first time planning a trip to Múlagljúfur Canyon, we’ve taken out some of the guesswork below.

The Best Time to Visit

Technically, Múlagljúfur Canyon is open all year round, but things get a bit tricky with the weather and the trail during the colder months of the year. That’s why most will recommend that you visit during the warm summer months in Iceland. 

But, since this is peak season here on the island which means peak season crowds and peak season pricing, some prefer to plan their trip during one of the shoulder months (May or October). This way they can still take advantage of pretty decent weather and sufficient daylight hours, but without any of the peak season drawbacks.

What to Wear and Bring

If you don’t know what to pack for your Múlagljúfur Canyon hike use the following as your guide:

  • Layered Clothing – that means t-shirts over long-sleeve shirts, jackets over sweaters, etc. This way you’ll always be able to put something on or take something off depending on the conditions.
  • Waterproof Hiking Boots – this gets really important during those water crossings.
  • Trekking Poles
  • A Backpack (this should be fairly obvious)
  • A Refillable Water Bottle & Snacks (think nuts, trail mix, and protein bars)
  • Woolen Socks (at least 3 pairs – one to wear and 2 spares)
  • Waterproof Pants or Trail Leggings
  • A Warm Beanie
  • Sunscreen (irrespective of whether the sun is shining or not)
  • Sunglasses (irrespective of whether the sun is shining or not)

múlagljúfur canyon photos

Frequently Asked Questions About Múlagljúfur Canyon

Below you will find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about Múlagljúfur Canyon:

Is Múlagljúfur Canyon Difficult to Hike?

The Múlagljúfur Canyon Hike is not particularly difficult, but it can get pretty steep in places, and the trail can get pretty narrow. We do not recommend taking on this hike with small children or the elderly.

How Long Does it Take to Hike to Hangandifoss Waterfall?

The hike to Hangandifoss Waterfall takes about 2 hours, depending on your pace.

Can You Swim in Múlafoss Waterfall?

You should not attempt to swim in Múlafoss Waterfall due to safety concerns.

Is There Camping Available Near Múlagljúfur Canyon?

Yes. The closest campsite (and a favorite amongst visitors and locals alike) is the Skaftafell Campground. 

Múlagljúfur Canyon; A Magical Place with Plenty to Do & See

As you can see hiking and exploring the canyon brings with it unique experiences. From storybook aesthetics, incredible birdlife, magnificent views, and some of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland - Múlagljúfur Canyon simply cannot be missed.

We highly recommend visiting whilst doing a road trip around the island. Just rent a car in Reykjavik, hit the Ring Road, and ensure that you make Múlagljúfur Canyon a pitstop along the way.

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