Iceland: Hiking Glymur Waterfall

Miss my previous Iceland recaps? Check those out first: Iceland Day 1, Exploring the Glacier Lagoons, Hiking Skaftafell in Vatnajokull National Park, and the Reykjadalur Hot Springs Hike! This is my final Iceland post – featuring the amazing hike Matt and I did on the last day of the trip: hiking Glymur waterfall, which is Iceland’s second highest waterfall.

This is another hike we found out about thanks to a blog reader recommendation (thank you!) and I’m so glad we checked it out because it ended up being our #1 favorite hike of the whole trip. It helped that the weather was slightly better (still cloudy, but no rain!), but it was also just a phenomenal hike – we went through a little cave, we crossed the water twice (both trecherous/not your normal bridge crossings), there was some fun rock scrambling, and we hiked up and up and up and up and up along cliffs with stunning views of the waterfall.

Along those lines, a word of advice: this is not an easy hike, nor is it one you want to do if you are afraid of heights. Just FYI. Those cliffs were legit, and you get really high up. Also: plan most of the day to do this hike unless you start early.

We got to the trailhead around 11 or so, once again with a packed lunch, snacks, multiple layers (including hats, rain coats, gloves, jackets, etc.), and lots of water on board. The hike began with beautiful views of snow capped mountains in the distance.

It was so green!

We soon had our first views of the stream the waterfall turned into.

But first: a small cave! Fun!

Out of the cave, we started walking along the stream.

And then we found this. Wait… this is where we cross?!

Luckily when we arrived at the crossing a few people had just made the trip coming back our way, so they gave us a tip: take off your shoes and socks! The first part of the crossing required submerging your feet in rushing water, and the rocks were slippery, so this served two purposes: 1) bare feet are better at gripping slippery rocks than shoes are, and 2) you don’t want soaking wet shoes and socks for the rest of the hike, do you? Nope!

The best way to get across is to have your body on the left side of the wire until you reach the log, then duck under so you are on the right side of the wire. It was actually less scary and more fun than it sounds/looks, but MAN was that water cold!

Another tip: bring a small quick dry towel with you on this hike so you have something to wipe off your feet with after the two water crossings (the other one is really high up after you pass the main waterfall – you only do it if you do a loop vs. an out and back – more on that later)!

With the first water crossing successfully completed, we carried on – time to start climbing up! It was STEEP – some parts had wires or ropes you could hold onto to drag yourself up. Helpful!

I took the uphill nice and slow – didn’t want to trip or get my heart rate insanely high given the pregnancy situation!

The views got pretty amazing as we climbed. I was so glad that it wasn’t foggy out on this day – still cloudy, but at least clear enough to see relatively far!

Our first glimpse of Glymur waterfall – it’s massive!

Getting really high up now!

I took so many pictures on the climb up – the views kept getting cooler and cooler! We were basically RIGHT on the edge the whole time – eek!

As we got higher, there were tons of white birds flying around – you can kind of see them in the following picture. They had little nests in the side of the cliff!

I think at this point we were like “okay, this is officially our favorite hike of the trip.”

Only a bit farther to the very top!

We made it!! We were officially higher than the waterfall!

Beautiful snow capped mountain peeking out from under the clouds in the distance!

At this point in the hike, you can either turn back and go down the same way you came, crossing the river again at the very bottom via the log, or you can make the hike a little longer and do a big loop, continuing past the waterfall, crossing the river there, and coming back down the other side.

We decided to mix things up and do the loop – no fun going back down the exact way you just came! Although, if we’d known how torturous the water crossing up this way was, we might have changed our minds… 😉

See those people in the photo above crossing the river? Yeah, it’s really wide, and outrageously cold (like, the coldest water I’ve ever felt in my life), and there’s nothing to hold on to. Oh, and there are sharp rocks underfoot. If you decide to do this hike with the full loop, consider bringing water shoes. You still have to deal with the crazy cold, but at least you can go more quickly since the rocks won’t be an issue!

You’ll want to take your shoes and socks off again to keep them dry. Other than that, the only way to prepare is to take a deep breath and get ready for some pain. The water was so cold that it ached terribly. It seriously hurt so badly I basically wanted to sit down and/or cry – I had to force myself to keep moving and breathing! Matt raced across just to get it over with but I was nervous about falling in and getting soaked and/or hurt, so I went more cautiously… by half way through my feet/legs were numb, so at least that helped because they didn’t ache anymore!

Here I am crossing while getting lapped by a random lady. Both of us were like “AHHHH GET US OUT OF HERE!!”

Brutal. We were very glad when that was over!

And now, time to go down!

We could only see the waterfall briefly on the other side – soon, it was behind the cliffs!

Everything was really green on this side, though, and we had a nice view of the snow capped mountain in front of us.

We stopped to eat the second half of our lunches (we ate the first half on the other side about half way up) – I had another smoked salmon, hard boiled egg, and cucumber sandwich. Yum! This made great hiking fuel because it had some good protein to keep me satisfied – and carbs from the bread for energy! Plus, the smoked salmon was nice and salty – good for replacing sweat!

Break over – down we go!

The sun came out for approximately 3 minutes – this is me celebrating! Oh, sun – I haven’t felt you in nearly a week!!

I’m pretty sure that we ended up going down the wrong way/not on the official trail on this side – we followed the people in front of us, and there were some others following behind us, and I think everyone ended up off track!

This is probably the point where we realized we were off trail – yikes! See how steep that is?!

Alright then – down the steep way it is! We took it slow and let people pass us, and Matt helped me down some bits, too. Sliding down on my butt in some parts was also helpful! It was a little scary at some points but for the most part it ended up being fine. Has anyone else done this hike as a loop, though? And if so, is this seriously the right way down?!

We made it!!

From the bottom of that cliff, it was a nice flat walk back to the parking area – maybe about half or 3/4 of a mile. I’m not sure how long the total distance was since we did the big loop and most of the stuff online is about the out and back route – but we were out there for 4 or 5 hours, so it wasn’t short!

Put this hike at the top of your list, though, if you visit Iceland – it was amazing. I can’t imagine doing it on a totally clear, sunny day – the views would be even more insane!

Thank you for following along on our Iceland adventures! It has been fun reliving them by writing these posts. 🙂

What’s the most intense hike you’ve ever done? Hiking Mount St. Helens will probably not be topped for me anytime soon!

Have you ever crossed a river/stream during a hike?

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