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Múlagljúfur Canyon

Mulagljufur Canyon Iceland - Fjallsarlon

Múlagljúfur Canyon is situated just a few miles from Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon and we’d recommend you visit while you’re in the area. Here’s some background to this wonderful canyon as well as practical information to help you get the most of your time there.

When is a hidden gem truly a hidden gem?

If you’ve started to read travel content about Iceland online, chances are it hasn’t taken you long before you come across something touted as a hidden gem. This overused phrase can get a little tiresome, and of course locals will be familiar with these off the beaten track sights as highlights of their own backyard.

Occasionally, however, the term is appropriate, and Múlagljúfur Canyon might just qualify as one of those places. That is quite unexpected, given that it’s located so close to the country’s ring road and thousands of tourists pass by each year bound for more visible attractions such as Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. If you prefer to visit a glacier lagoon with less tourists, then Fjallsárlón should be on the top of your list of things to do. The parking is free of charge at Fjallsarlon. When visiting Jokulsarlon you will have to pay for parking and during high season you may feel that Jokulsarlon can be overcrowded.

The steep, moss-clad walls of Múlagljúfur Canyon rise from a narrow valley floor through which the glittering water meanders. It’s hard to comprehend how such a small river can create such a majestic gorge, but over time, that’s precisely what it has done. From the viewpoint, you’ll have an unobstructed view of Hangandifoss in front of you and Múlafoss in the distance to your left. 

Finding the canyon

Approaching from the west, you’ll reach the turn off to Múlagljúfur Canyon before you arrive at Fjallsárlón. It’s only about three miles away but there’s a good chance if you’re not looking out for it you’d drive right by. There are no signs, and it’s easy to miss despite the gravel splay by the side of the road.

It’s advisable therefore to put the co-ordinates (63.9886667; -16.3971589) into your phone or SatNav to make sure you don’t end up having to turn around. You can follow the gravel trail for a short distance and then once you’ve parked up, you’ll need to continue into the canyon on foot.

Mulagljufur Canyon Iceland - Fjallsarlon

What’s it like to hike to Múlagljúfur Canyon?

The path that leads into the canyon begins from the parking area. Look out for a series of marker posts lining the trail. At some points they can blend in to the grey canyon walls, so you might have to look hard to see them. The first part of the route is the most challenging. It’s pretty steep and you’ll need to be in reasonable shape for the climb as it takes around 45 minutes to an hour. This is where the path levels out. 

Here, you’ll encounter your first waterfall, which is a good excuse to rest for a while. There’s a breathtaking view from here into the canyon and to another waterfall. Some hikers decide to remain here. If you’re not confident about your way-finding abilities that’s probably a good thing as there are no wooden posts further on.

Meanwhile others continue on following another unmarked trail that leads higher up. You’ll do the same in reverse to get back to your vehicle. Be sure to keep looking around as well as along the trail in front of you. For instance, there’s a great view over to Fjallsárlón from the path that you won’t want to miss. But also pay attention to where those marker posts are, so you don’t take a wrong turn!

The amount of time you need to allow for the hike depends on your fitness. In all, you should probably allow two to four hours for your visit. This isn’t a place you’ll want to rush, both because of the uneven ground and also for its exquisite beauty. As relatively few tourists make it up here, it really is a special place.

A waterfall named Múlafoss

One of the reasons it’s worth coming to Múlagljúfur Canyon is to see the water that created it. One of its major waterfalls is called Múlafoss. This translates to Mule Falls, and given how people travelled around in the past it’s not surprising to learn that there are several other waterfalls in Iceland that share the same name. 

This Múlafoss sits on the Rótarfjallsá River and is fed by the glacial meltwater of Öræfajökull, though other small streams also contribute water. In all, it measures 101 metres from top to bottom. The waterfall cascades in multiple sections, most of which are hidden from sight. However, the largest single drop is easily visible to hikers and extends down about 53 metres.

Mulagljufur Canyon Iceland Mulafoss waterfall- Fjallsarlon

What’s the best season to visit Múlagljúfur Canyon?

The best time of year to visit Múlagljúfur Canyon is during summer, when the weather is better and more likely to be sunny. You’ll need to ford a stream to reach the car park, so even in summer make sure the water level is sufficiently low for your car to make it safely across; it’s not worth taking chances in a quiet area such as this. You might feel more confident in a 4×4, though it is passable in a two-wheel drive car, even a small one, so long as you are careful and take it steady over the bumps.

Narrow gravel trails snake through an area characterised by low bushes and moss. This can get a little overgrown during the warmer months. You’ll also have to cross a couple of small streams, which is much easier when the weather has been dry. Nevertheless tackling this vegetation is preferable to attempting to walk here in autumn, when rain can turn the gravel trails slick and slippery. The mud makes the hike a lot less pleasant. 

Similarly, in winter, ice and snowfalls mask the area’s uneven terrain and it’s not safe to navigate. But even in summer, you should keep a close eye on the weather forecast and time your visit for fine weather. It’s hard enough to figure out where the trail is without low cloud descending around you.

How to prepare and what to take with you to Múlagljúfur Canyon

Given the remote nature of this canyon, it’s smart to let someone know your plans if you intend to hike, particularly if you’re doing so on your own. Though your vehicle would be in the car park, consider filing a trip plan or tell someone at your accommodation when you expect to arrive. That way, if you get lost or get into difficulties, help will be on its way.

Except for the small car park, there are no facilities at Múlagljúfur Canyon, which is of course a large part of its appeal. However, this means you need to plan carefully before your visit to ensure you have everything with you that you’re going to need. There are no toilet facilities, for instance, so be sure to have been before you arrive.

Canyon Iceland - Fjallsarlon

You’ll also want to bring a day pack with some essentials. Carry a refillable bottle of water and bring any snacks you might want. Though it’s not a long hike, with scenery this captivating you might wish to hang around for a while to appreciate it. Of course, you’ll also want to have your camera with you to take some pictures of this extraordinary place.

As you can see, Múlagljúfur Canyon is a splendid place for a hike before or after your visit to Fjallsárlón. Don’t miss out – make sure you include it in your itinerary.

Similarly, in winter, ice and snowfalls mask the area’s uneven terrain and it’s not safe to navigate. But even in summer, you should keep a close eye on the weather forecast and time your visit for fine weather. It’s hard enough to figure out where the trail is without low cloud descending around you.

Mulagljufur Canyon Iceland - Fjallsarlon location

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