The popular 55 km multi-day Laugavegurinn trail connecting Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk is typically completed over a few days, with trekkers making good use of the mountain huts at Hrafntinnusker, Álftavatn, Hvanngil and/or Emstrur. Except for our youngest son (who did a few multi-day backpacking trips in middle school) we are strictly day hikers. Even so, we arranged with our driver / photo guide to complete one leg of the Laugavegurinn trail as a day hike. He dropped us off near the Hrafntinnusker mountain hut about 2 o’clock on a drizzly weekday afternoon and we met him at the Landmannalaugar parking lot a few hours later.
Hrafntinnusker translates to Obsidian Skerry, which refers to the hard, dark, glass-like volcanic rock prominent in the area. Chunks of obsidian dotted the landscape as we approached the small parking area.
Even though it was a late start for hiking (about 2 o’clock in the afternoon), we took a few minutes to eat our sandwiches and find a geocache hidden near the trail head before starting out.
The trailhead is well marked.
Although the trail was bare and dry at the very start, within minutes we came to a broad expanse of snow and route finding was made a little more challenging because of cloud/fog. We moved quickly here, glad we were layered up and wearing our full rain gear (kept us warm in the strong wind).
The puffs of steam rising from a shallow valley tempted us off trail, to take a closer look at the geothermal vents, hot springs and sulfurous ponds.
The sky and trail cleared once we passed the valley of geothermal vents. The boys moved quickly along the gently descending, calling back via walkie-talkie when they wanted a little guidance at a trail intersection. Mr. GeoK and I made slower progress as we stopped to photograph the intersection of snow and lava.
A short while later, Mt. Bláhnjúkur (Blue Peak) came into view and we had a different perspective on the Laugahraun lava field we’d crossed the day before.
We opted for a trail section that took us past Brennisteinsalda, perhaps the most colourful ryholite peak in the area. There was one steep, snow-covered section that was a little more of an adventure than K anticipated! Look at that smile!
The trail to Brennisteinsalda was quite busy, so it was no trouble to find someone willing to take a family photo here. It turned out he was a fellow Canadian (from Quebec), a reminder that it’s truly a small world and that Iceland is a big tourist draw these days.
Downhill from Brennisteinsalda we skirted another lava field before crossing a broad plain and then a few minutes later we were at the Landmannalaugar parking lot where our ride was waiting.
Hiking distance = 10.8 km
Elevation change = descent of 470 m (net)
Hiking time = 3.5 hrs (including 1 hr for photo stops along the way)
If the stunning scenery along this leg of the Laugavegu trail is any indication of what hikers encounter on the other 45 km, then we definitely understand the appeal of this very popular trek. That doesn’t mean we’ll be backpacking the whole route on our next visit to Iceland, but we’ll be planning to do another leg of the route.