Best Places to Hike Near Reykjavik

A hiker standing at the summit of a rocky mountain in Iceland admiring the view featuring a waterfall

Hiking is an incredible way to experience the rugged landscapes of Iceland. With so many incredible trails in the vicinity of Reykjavík, visitors to Iceland can easily explore the vibrant regions of Iceland each time they touch down in the city. Just remember to dress appropriately, carry essentials in your backpack, and always pay attention to the weather. 

Whether you’re in town for a few days or a week, lace up your hiking boots and check out some of the best trails near Reykjavík.

Mount Esja 

With an elevation of 914 metres (2,999 feet), Mount Esja is one of Iceland’s most popular hiking destinations. The flat-topped mountain range is well-marked with trails graded in terms of difficulty level: one boot for easy, two for moderate, and three for challenging. There are lots of popular trails, including the Kerhólakambur hike, which takes hikers up the Kerhólakambur peak standing 772 metres (2,532 feet) above sea level.

From downtown Reykjavík, a half-hour drive will take you to the Mógilsá car park on Mount Esja, where most trails start. The ascent is steep at the start with trails going past rugged and rocky terrain, which can feel challenging. Nevertheless, the view from above with Esja forming a dramatic backdrop to the city is stunning. 

Helgafell

About 30 minutes south of central Reykjavík lies the Helgafell Mountain, set in an astounding volcanic landscape. With an elevation of 338 metres (1,109 feet), Helgafell boasts spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, encompassing nearby mountains, lava fields, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Hikers are often surprised to discover this moon-like landscape with lava fields so close to the city. Multiple trails lead to the summit, with the popular ones being about two hours long. Although the hike isn’t particularly challenging, there’s steep elevation gain involved, so physical fitness is paramount for all hikers.

A view of Mount Esja from Reykjavík at dusk.

Vífilsfell

Vífilsfell is a hyaloclastite ridge located about 30 minutes away from southeast Reykjavík. With an elevation of 655 metres (2,148 feet), Vífilsfell is a hiker’s paradise, featuring awe-inspiring landscapes, rare flora and fauna, and a deep dive into Iceland's wild nature.

The trail begins in a grassy field that ascends gradually before entering a steep rocky section. Towards the peak, the hike gets challenging as the trail is increasingly steep and rocky. But this strenuous 6.4 kilometre (4 miles) round trip trek comes with unique rewards: you can see all the way to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland and the Vestmannaeyjar Islands to the south (clear skies permitting).

Rauðhólar 

Beyond the eastern suburbs of Reykjavík lie the red hills of ‘Rauðhólar’ whose striking red soils and unusually formed outcrops give it a Mars-like outlook. For any geology enthusiast, the hiking trails here provide an opportunity to explore its otherworldly landscape. 

Rauðhólar’s hiking trails cut through the Elliðaárhraun lava field dotted with red and green pseudo craters - formed when lava melting at 1,100°C (2,012°F) flows over ponds and swamps, causing the water to boil and erupt as steam. The trails are easy to moderate and offer a chance to explore the fascinating flora and fauna located just 19 minutes from Reykjavík on Route 49.

A hiker admiring the view from Helgafell Mountain in Iceland.

Reykjadalur

Less than an hour away from Reykjavík lies the fascinating ‘Steam Valley’ of Reykjadalur. Filled with hot springs and mud pools, a river to bathe in, and a valley that reveals itself at the end of a hike, the stunning region of Reykjadalur is famous for its geothermal activity. 

The hiking trail starts at the backside of the picturesque town of Hveragerði. There’s a gravel road from the town car park which leads to a river. Once you’ve crossed it, the trail ascends gently and curves as it traces the hills. It’s a manageable hike that takes you past steaming vents, bubbling springs, and blooming lupines (in the summer). The landscape itself is ethereal with the earth coloured in hues of pink, red, blue, green, and yellow.

Móskarðshnjúkar 

Next to Mount Esja lies a bright yellow summit called Móskarðshnjúkar. Located about a 40-minute drive from Reykjavík, this rhyolite mountain appeals to hikers for its colour-changing quality: the volcanic rock that Móskarðshnjúkar is composed of often has a reddish tinge and alternates between pink and yellow. 

Although it's not as easy to get to, unlike Mount Esja, Móskarðshnjúkar offers a more tranquil hike that allows you to soak in the scenery without being disturbed by crowds. The trail is challenging, however, being 6.9 km (4 miles) long and with an elevation of 650 metres (2,100 feet). The climb is challenging for most of the trail and becomes increasingly stiff as you get close to the peak.

The hot river in Reykjadalur Valley in Iceland

With glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, beaches, lava fields, and countless other natural wonders dotting its rugged landscapes, Iceland is a hiker’s paradise. As surprising as it may seem, some of the best hiking trails in Iceland are near Reykjavík. You can stay in the city’s top hotels while exploring regions of breathtaking beauty on your daytime hike.