From Egilsstaðir town, the major town of East Iceland located by Highway 1, there are two routes to Hengifoss. You can drive on either the west side or the east side of lake Lagarfljot. The distance is the same, around 35 km.
If you pick the west side you can expect gravel road for part of route. You will find the junction with Highway 1 on the hill by the timber bridge close to the Egilsstaðir airport. It is marked as Route 931 with signs pointing to Fljótsdalur and Skriðuklaustur.
The route on the east side of the lake is more popular passing the beautiful Hallormsstaður forest and with great panoramic view to Mt. Snæfell, which is inside the Vatnajökull National Park. From the junction of Highway 1 and Route 92 in the town of Egilsstaðir, follow Highway 1 (the Ring Road) south for 11km, then continue straight along the road as it becomes Route 931 where Highway 1 bears to the left. Continue along Route 931 for another 23km, to a T-junction after a long bridge from where you can admire the waterfall falling from the plateau. At the T-junction bear left where signs point to Snæfell and Skriðuklaustur. The parking lot for the waterfall is just a little bit further, by the bridge crossing the Hengifossá.
From the parking lot there are only 5 km to the visitor center of Vatnajökull National Park at Skriðuklaustur where you can also find a culture centre, heritage site and great restaurant. Just continue on Route 933 further up the valley.
From the parking lot you start by going through a gate and climb up a flight of stairs. Then there is good gravel trail for the next 2km, moderately steep, but not very difficult. Half the way up, around 1,2km from the parking, you will see the Litlanesfoss with all the beautiful basalt columns. There are trails down into the canyon below the waterfall but they are steep and in lose gravel, so it is better to be careful if you decide to enter the canyon. Keep in mind all the way up that going very close to the canyon is risky due to the danger of fall. So be aware of that, especially if you are accompanied by children.
Continuing your hike you may expect in springtime to wade small creeks that have left their bed, because of melting snow. When you get to an information sign about 2.2km from the parking lot you will have a clear view to the waterfall and the gorge. To continue up into the gorge can be dangerous, varying on the time of your visit. In winter it can be really icy when you enter the gorge and no secure trail into it. In summertime the trail can be muddy and then you will have to cross the river if you want to go all the way to the waterfall. So be aware of the amount of water that is in the river. (THIS PART, FROM THE INFORMATION SIGN, IS CLOSED IN THE SUMMER 2019, DUE TO BAD CONDITIONS AND REPAIRING WORK).
But the hike to the base of the falls terminates in a desolate cove with the roar of the water echoing off the geologically fascinating and colorful cliffs.
For walking back down to the parking lot the easiest way is to return on the same trail on the south side of the river. But you can also, if you have already crossed the river, walk down on the other side of the river (north side) but there are no clear paths on that side. If you are a real climber you can also walk to the top of the waterfall and cross the river up there, then walk down on the other side. But be aware of not getting to close to the great gorge and don't cross the river at the edge of the waterfall. These routes are not marked and all paths quite unclear.
There are several GPS routes to be found on the web for hiking to Hengifoss. You can for example use this one from fatmap.
Parking and service
The parking lot by Hengifoss waterfall is located where a 2,5 km long hiking trail to the falls starts. In the high season it can be jammed with cars during the day and even in the bright summer night. By the parking lot is a small house with toilets, one for each sex.
According to plans of the municipality the parking will be enlarged and a bigger service house will be built in the next years. In the last years the hiking trails (2.2km) have been repaired and are easy to walk. Except the part high up that goes into the canyon which is closed in the summer 2019 due to damages.
In high season a park ranger from the Vatnajökull National Park is located by the falls part of the day to give advice and information.
If you are searching for more service you can find various accommodation, restaurants, souvenir shops and visitor centers within 5km radius from the falls. All information on that are to be found here on this site.
Our first advice is that you take your time to visit Hengifoss. There is so much more to explore in the surroundings then just that waterfalls. You can learn about that on this website and use it to help planning your trip.
Hiking in summer
The high season (July) it can be crowded by Hengifoss but it is mainly just jammed with cars at the parking lot. If you don't find a space to park you can just continue further into the valley and check the visitor's center for Vatnajökull National Park at Skriðuklaustur (5km) and then get back and see if some have moved.
The waterfall and the big gorge is facing southeast so if you want to have the sun on the falls you need to go there in the morning. In June and July there is usually plenty of water in the river to make Hengifoss magnificent but in August if the summer er really dry you may expect the falls to be not so broad, but is certainly is still enormously high.
Late May and early June can be risky because of melting snow in the highlands, causing high levels of water in creeks and rivers. You can expect muddy trails and slippery paths on you way to the waterfall and the need to wade some small streams. By autumn the rain can make the trails muddy as well but usually you will not have to wade any streams unless you want to enter the gorge and go close up to the base of the great waterfall.
Hiking in winter
There are more and more people that go to Hengifoss in wintertime. But then you need to be extremely cautious. The trails and paths get icy and very slippery so stay away from the edge of the canyon and be aware of the danger. It is not save to enter the gorge by the big falls in winter, due to a risk of falling ice from the cliffs.
There are nearby companies that offer you a guided tour to Hengifoss in wintertime just as in the summer. We can recommend wildboys.is to take care of your winter hike.
Frequently asked question
How tall is the waterfall?
The Hengifoss waterfall is 128 m tall or 420 feet.
How long is the hike?
The hike up and down takes around 90 minutes if you walk up to the sightseeing place but more if you go into the canyon. The hike to Litlanesfoss takes half of that.
Is it allowed to use drone there?
There are the same rules for drones in this area as else where in Iceland. But it is recommend to minimise the use of drone because it is annoying for visitors and disturbs the birds and animals.
Can you go behind the falls?
No, normally that is impossible. And it is very dangerous to go so far into the canyon due to risk of stones dropping from the cliffs.
Where is the next gas station?
Next gas station is 5 km away in the forest of Hallormsstaður.