The Stakkholtsgjá Canyon

Date 28 January 2024

The Stakkholtsgjá Canyon

The Stakkholtsgjá Canyon

Stakkholtsgjá is a stunning canyon located in the southern highlands of Iceland, world famous for its hiking trail which leads to a majestic waterfall.

The gorge is located in the Þórsmörk region in the south, one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. 

The Stakkholtsgjá canyon


Hiking is possible in winter only by superjeep excursion - Credit Jonatan Pie @Unspash

Nestled on the northern slopes of Eyjafjallajökull lies the awe-inspiring Stakkholtsgjá canyon. Stretching about 2 kilometers in length and rising a hundred meters high, this geological marvel was sculpted over centuries by glaciers and rivers. Its moss-covered cliffs, a haven for thousands of birds during the summer, reveal a breathtaking natural spectacle.

This extraordinary formation, evolving over millennia, now offers visitors a chance to marvel at its steep walls and a cascading waterfall that gracefully plunges into a cave.

How to get to Stakkholtsgja

Let's be upfront — reaching this gem is no cakewalk. Located off road number 1 at Seljalandsfoss in the south of Iceland, your journey involves turning onto road 249 which becomes the rugged off-road trail F249. The trail, while bumpy, becomes particularly challenging due to several potentially deep fords awaiting the intrepid visitors brave enough to venture out there. It's a 26 km trek from Seljalandsfoss.

There are three main routes to get there:

  • With a Rugged 4x4 rental:

Accessible in only summer for safety reasons, driving there yourself requires a well-equipped 4x4 to navigate challenging fords, especially the Steinholtsá glacial river. Standard SUVs and 4x4 vehicles are not recommended.

  • By Bus:

Often, visitors opt for the 4x4 bus companies heading to Thórsmörk several times a day.

Between June 10 and September 15, a daily bus service operates between Reykjavik and Þórsmörk, with stops including Hveragerði, Hella, Selfoss, Hvolsvöllur, and the Seljalandsfoss waterfall parking lot.

You can board the bus in the morning at various stops, with the return scheduled for the evening. For details, visit IcelandByBus.

Most travelers leave their vehicle at the Seljalandsfoss car park and take the bus directly from there. The journey to Þórsmörk takes 60 to 90 minutes depending on the stop chosen, Básar or the Húsadalur Volcano Huts.

  • SuperJeep Excursion:

Many tourists choose a SuperJeep specialist for a day trip, like:

Hiking in the Stakkholtsgjá canyon

Canyon Stakkholtsgjá

Stakkholtsgjá Canyon - Credit

To commence your adventure in Stakkholtsgjá, park near the Krossa River, a stop also served by the bus.

The round trip takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to cover the 2x2 km hike. It's an easy and accessible trek, but equipping yourself with sturdy hiking shoes or boots and rain gear will be indispensable to hike in comfort. The canyon floor is always humid and you'll be splashed by the waterfall one way or another.

Traversing several small streams along the way, the trail starts relatively wide at the entrance, gradually narrowing at the bottom. The gorge's entrance is flanked with tall palagonite cliffs, and further in becomes a stunning network of deep caves and ravines cut into the vegetation-covered plateau.

Stakkholtsgjá canyon

Hiking in the canyon - Credit Jonatan Pie @Unspash

As you progress, the canyon narrows, leading to a Y-shaped fork where streams flow to the left and right. Follow the left path, crossing the stream.

Continue the hike for a few hundred meters, crossing a few more icy streams, until you reach a magnificent cave of moss-covered stone at the centre of which surges a stunning waterfall with a deafening crash.

For the adventurous souls seeking to get closer to the water, be careful as the rocks may be slippery!