The Trek to Bruarfoss
In one of my earlier posts about my trip to Iceland I think I mentioned I would post more about the hike out to Bruarfoss. This was the hike I came to love and left the biggest impression on me. It's also the hike I shared a photo of me sitting about 15 feet from the first falls of the hike. I really could have ended the hike here but not because I was tired. Because these falls which, I have learned since, are called Hlauptungufoss (I'm not even gonna try to pronounce that) were my favorite of the entire trip. I was just enamored by these falls. You could get so close to them and really feel the power. If that weren't enough the water was just a brilliant sapphire blue. The hike was to get to Bruarfoss though so we continued on from here but not before we took our time to enjoy these falls, photograph them thoroughly and take a slight rest. By the time we had arrived at these falls Steve and I had gone from cool, to comfortable, to hot and sweaty and we were only just over half of the way there (roughly).
According to the information available to us, the hike to Bruarfoss is 2.5 kilometers. HA! HA! I'm telling you, right now, this is NOT a 2.5 kilometer hike. After we nearly finished the hike and finished chanting "beer" as our car came into sight, I mentioned to Steve that the hike felt more like 5 miles (8 kilometers). It turns out, I wasn't far off. The hike is actually just a hair over 4.5 miles (just shy of 8 kilometers) round trip which means Bruarfoss is about 4 kilometers from your starting point. Slightly off. This is partially due to a slightly meandering trail but also due to the fact that the 2.5 kilometers is just plain inaccurate, even as the crow flies (yes I measured point-to-point on Google Maps and it's not even 2.5 kilometers in a perfectly straight line). It's not a difficult hike as there is virtually no elevation change, on average. There are some ups and downs but nothing serious. You'll encounter some suddenly very steep but short changes in elevation. And while the river doesn't follow a straight line you're dealing with switchbacks or anything. You're generally traveling in a straight line with, I'd say, a gradual elevation change overall. What you do have to watch out for is tree roots on the trail. I would not ever want to be hiking this trail at night; the tree roots will definitely try to grab your feet so you have to be vigilant at all times in terms of your steps. There will be portions of the trail, also, where there's nothing between you and the rushing river but 50-75 feet of cliff and your wits. I remember commenting to Steve that I didn't remember looking down this cliffside on the way in (as we were returning -- I'm scared to death of heights). If you are just hiking out to the falls to grab some photos with your phone or mirrorless camera this is a relatively easy hike and you get to see three falls along the way. If, like Steve and myself, you are carrying upwards of 35-40 pounds (18kg) of gear this hike will tax you unless you're in prime shape. Us 40-something ex-Army dudes with bum joints and post-surgery crap definitely felt it when we got back to the car. A couple of ibuprofens and a couple beers and we were right as rain and it was categorically worth it. Regardless, bring water and a light snack to keep your energy.. emphasis on the water.
So aside from Hlauptungufoss, you will then come upon Midfoss which is deceiving because it's not really the midway point. It's just the middle falls of the three. I'd say Midfoss is two-thirds of the way to Bruarfoss; just enough for you start wondering "are we there yet?" but just a couple hundred meters after you start wondering you can hear Bruarfoss ahead. I wasn't all that impressed with Midfoss, not after Hlauptungufoss, so I had started wondering if Bruarfoss was going to be worth it as we continued on. I have to admit that when we first arrived at Bruarfoss I was underwhelmed. Not because Bruarfoss is ugly or disappointing, it's because Hlauptungufoss just captured me in a way that I can't explain. As I've edited pictures, thought about that hike, and reflected on the whole trip I can unequivocally say that Bruarfoss was worth the hike. It's a majestic and unique falls with opportunities for different angles of it including getting pretty close, despite its enormous size. The skies were moody again but we had a slightly harsh mixture of Sun and clouds. I just wish on this occasion that clouds were positioned differently. Still, I think the photos turned out pretty good and you can really appreciate the majesty of these falls that a small percentage of the tourists that are now inundating Iceland (with their damn "selfie-sticks") bother to go see. I'm glad they don't as it is apparently too much effort for the vanity. Steve and I had the falls to ourselves for the better part of an hour at the least. When we arrived another photographer had arrived just before us (she passed us on the trail while we stopped at Midfoss) and left about 30 minutes after we arrived. It was nearly an hour later that a young couple arrived at the falls to enjoy them and Steve and I left them to enjoy the falls all to themselves.
The hike back seemed easier, probably because we didn't stop as much, and a lot faster. As I said though, by the time we got back to the car we were cooked. Hungry, thirsty, and beat. It was a great way to end the trip but upon thinking of this trip I wish we had the time to do more hikes to get to more remote features. We were on a tight schedule though and I don't think I would have obtained the number of photos I did if we had spent more time on hikes. It does make me want to go back again. I can only imagine what Milky Way and Northern Lights shots in the winter might be like. It's the shortest pleasure excursion I've taken but it was also the most fulfilling and enjoyable I've had in my life and I'm very grateful I had the opportunity to do it.
A little more about the hike out to Bruarfoss. Currently Bruarfoss is public land and there are trails to get out to it, unfortunately they end at private property. There doesn't appear to be a way to get to Bruarfoss without trespassing on someone's private property which is a real shame. Once you reach the end of the supported/condoned trails you will end up having to cross boggy, multi-stream areas and then encounter multiple paths. Just keep heading north along the river and you will eventually reach Midfoss which then puts you back on public land. From there to Bruarfoss you are no longer trespassing. There may be other ways to get to Bruarfoss without trespassing but at the time of our visit they weren't published anywhere we could find and the shame of that is that you would miss out on Hlauptungufoss unless the local municipality and the land owners can come to some kind of agreement. It did sort of feel like there was kind of a stand-off going on and anyone wanting to get to Bruarfoss could potentially get caught in the middle of legal trouble. I was actually a little dubious that we were really trespassing and the local land owners are tired of people hiking out to the falls due to irresponsible tourists. There is a small community right next to the river but it appears there is a green space buffer between the community and the river (which is what made me wonder if we were actually trespassing or just not being fooled by locals attempts to thwart throngs of people doing the hike). With that said, hike to Bruarfoss at your own risk unless you can confirm a way to hike there without trespassing.
So with this blog post I'm publishing the next Iceland photo and the following photos will focus on the hike and sights to Bruarfoss. I don't wish for it sound like any part of my trip to Iceland wasn't satisfactory because it was all far more than satisfactory. It's just that if I had to pick a favorite part of the trip, this would be it. Hands down.
Keywords: Bruarfoss, Hiking, Hlauptungufoss, Iceland, Landscape, Midfoss, Photography, Summer, Travel, Waterfalls
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