*Where “best hikes” are defined as “hikes I did” 🙂
The weather during our short trip to the Snaefellsnes peninsula wasn’t the most cooperative, but we still managed some hikes while we were there. Most of these are quite short and barely constitute “hikes”, but if you check out the map of the national park, you’ll see that you can connect many of the hikes together to make a full day of it, if you do so choose (and if rain isn’t pelting you in the face).
In no particular order, some lovely day hikes in Snæfellsjökull National Park:
Trailhead location: 570
This hard to pronounce little loop leads through awesome lava fields and up and around a big ol’ volcano crater. The hike is short (2.3 km) and fairly flat, and hiking up the crater only requires a few minutes of expended energy.
The landscape is so very Iceland; it looks like an alien hellscape, if aliens had a lot of green moss growing over lava fields. The strange depressions in the ground are apparently the remnants of “lava tubes”, where rivers of molten lava used to flow out of the volcano. There’s an awesome view of the impressive looking Hreggnasi (which you can also climb, see below!) for the entire hike, and you can make your loop a bit bigger by returning along the river.
Trailhead location: 570 (a few minutes further up the road than Rauðdhóll)
While you’re hiking Rauðdhóll, you’ll gaze upon a jagged and impressive looking peak, perhaps thinking to yourself “gosh, that looks like it’s hard to climb.” YOU WOULD BE WRONG. If you drive slightly further up the road (road 570 on the map) after your hike of Rauðdhóll, you’ll drive around the craggy side of Hreggnasi and discover that the back side is a straight-forward hike, and only 2km round trip!
The climb is up the entire way, but very manageable and free of drop offs or other scurry stuff, though you could manage to fall off an edge on the summit if you tried hard enough. Just watch your feet, as those lava rocks make for some easy ankle twisting!
The summit of Hreggnasi rewards you with 360 views of pretty much everything. There were some low-ish clouds the day we were there, but if the weather cooperates I imagine you’d be able to see the ocean, the summit of Snæfellsjökull glacier*, and miles and miles of lava fields.
We gazed down on the now tiny-looking Rauðdhóll, and saw some storm clouds a’brewin’ over the ocean (which would blast rain in our face the next day!). From the summit you can also look down on the jagged spine of Hreggnasi, the part that made the mountain look real difficult to climb!
Trailhead location: 572 (off of 574)
We explored Djúpalónssandur on a day with gale-force winds and constant rain, so please pardon my sad, blurry pictures. I was mostly busy walking backwards and covering my camera/face to avoid the full force of the weather. 🙂
This hike can be connected with other hikes in either direction, moving east or west along the rocky coast of the Snaefellsnes peninsula (see map).
Djúpalónssandur is a black sand beach with jagged, impressive, lava rock formations. The main attraction, however, is a set of famous stones that were supposedly used by olde tyme fishermen to test their strength. The lightest stone is a “mere” 23 kg, and uhmmmm, I couldn’t lift it, but the stones were wet, okay??? And I didn’t want to throw out my back!!! And there was rain pelting my face!!! David somehow managed to lift the 2nd lightest stone, supposedly weighing 54 kg, but I think it was a lie and he was just lucky, whatever.
Despite the weather, we still managed to appreciate the beauty of this beach. But had the weather cooperated, we certainly would’ve taken advantage of those long trails along the coastline and explored a LOT more.
Trailhead location: Short dirt road off of 574
Okay so full disclaimer… there is a short hike on the map that continues past the top of the volcano crater, but we didn’t do it/couldn’t find it? This was the windy-rain-in-your-face day, and we were pressing our luck climbing up to the top of the Saxhóll crater. There is a metal staircase that wraps around the crater, and you get expansive views from the top.
Due to the weather we couldn’t see all that we might’ve seen, but on a clear day you’d get a panoramic view of the Snæfellsjökull glacier and surrounding mountains, the ocean to the east, and the lava fields to the north and south. Not bad for a five-minute walk up a metal staircase, eh?
Trailhead location: 574
Rauðfeldargjá is a deep gorge just off of road 574, and is slightly out of the national park boundaries. You can spot it on the lower right-hand side of the park map. This was another gale-force winds + rain day activity, so again, please pardon the photos.
Rauðfeldargjá is like a turbo narrow version of the narrows in Zion National Park, and I’m not sure how far back you can squeeze your way into it. There is a straight-forward path to the opening, and once inside, it gets very narrow very quickly.
There is water rushing between the tall rock walls, and if you wanted to explore back there, I’d strongly advise you bring water shoes and do your exploring in the Summer to avoid hypothermia!
- We obviously didn’t get to do Snæfellsjökull National Park any justice whatsoever in the 2 days we were there, and I think you could easily spend a week hiking in the park and surrounding areas of the peninsula.
- Road 570 cuts around Snæfellsjökull itself, and is apparently often impassable, even in summer. We drove further up towards the glacier after our hike of Hreggnasi and the snow quickly became deeper and I was paranoid about being stranded in a rental car on a mountain road in Iceland, so we turned around real fast. If you visit in the summer, though, and the weather is cooperative, I bet driving the entirety of this road is pretty darn fun.
- There are NO facilities inside the park, save the visitors’ center at the south entrance. The visitors’ center sells maps and has a few exhibits to look at. Oh, and they have real bathrooms. Besides that, you have to try your luck in the towns around the park. On the north side, Hellissandur is a decently large town with some facilities. On the south side, the towns are quite small, and they offer just about nothing for tourists. On our sad rain day, the Primus cafe in Hellnar was packed to the gills with other sad tourists buying very expensive coffees and cakes because it was the only game in town (I might’ve bought expensive coffee and cake too, because hey, it was a sad rain day).
- When we visited, we stayed in Rif, which is super small and has no facilities, but it’s super conveniently located near the park entrance and there’s a grocery store 5 minutes away in Ólafsvík. Plus, it had the cheapest hotel I could find, probably because the town has no facilities. 🙂
*Yes, i realize saying “Snæfellsjökull glacier” is redundant. ShhHHhhH.