graenihryggur green ridge

Grænihryggur hike: Guide to the hidden Green Ridge

Graenihryggur hike is one of the most beautiful hikes in Landmannalaugar with stunning views full of spectacular colors. Grænihryggur is also one of Iceland’s best-kept secrets with almost no visitors even during the peak season! It’s a longer and more difficult hike but well worth the effort, making it a once-in-a-lifetime hiking experience.

So what is Graenihryggur? The literal translation would be a „green ridge“. And this is precisely what makes Grænihryggur special. Out-of-this-world blue-greenish color. It’s a ridge well hidden deep in the Landmannalaugar mountains. It can’t be seen from typical touristy hikes in Landmannalaugar, like Bláhnúkur or Brennisteinsalda.

Icelandic locals know well about Grænihryggur and they are usually the only visitors you will meet on a trail. Besides locals, guided tours also head to Graenihryggur, because this is one of those places in Iceland that can still be considered a true „hidden gem“.

Hike in a nutshell

Graenihryggur hike is an 8km long out-and-back hike that takes about 8 hours to complete. It is moderately difficult with some steeper and slippery parts and is accessible only in summer. It is one of the most beautiful hikes in Iceland, still not known to many visitors.

Location: 7km south of Landmannalaugar campsite detour
Length: 8km (5mi) one way, 4 hours one way
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Season: typically from July to September
Gear: hiking shoes, hiking poles, rain-proof, and wind-proof clothes
Hiking trail: coordinates of the hiking trail

How to get to the Graenihryggur hike

Graenihryggur is located in Landmannalaugar, close to the campsite. There are several different ways to reach Graenihryggur hiking trails and none of them is trivial. Firstly, you need to reach the famous Landmannalaugar area. For that, you have the 3 options below.

f208 landmannalaugar iceland

Amazingly beautiful roads around Landmannalaugar

Getting to Landmannalaugar

You can get to Landmannalaugar via three different roads:

We explained in detail the differences between these three roads in our Guide to Landmannalaugar. You need to have a 4wd car when heading to Icelandic Highlands and Landmannalaugar. A medium-sized 4×4 car is the best for this type of trip.

Getting to Grænihryggur trailhead

There are two main trailheads leading to Graenihryggur from Landmannalaugar. The first, shortest, and most popular trailhead is located right next to road F208, close to Landmannalaugar campsite, 8 kilometers (5 miles) south of road F224. It is depicted on the map above and also zoomed in the picture below.

Grænihryggur trailhead map

Grænihryggur trailhead map. Source: Wikiloc

The second trailhead is located at the Landmannalaugar campsite itself, where all famous Landmannalaugar hikes start. For our hike, we chose the first option – the so-called Halldórsgil trail. Halldórsgil is the most popular and also the shortest and safest trail leading to Grænihryggur. It leads via Halldórsgil canyon. The other trails are difficult, dangerous, and barely marked, see below.

Grænihryggur hiking trails

Graenihryggur is located in the heart of Landmannalaugar, between Brennisteinsalda campsite and Hrafntinnusker hut. This means you can get to Graenihryggur by many different trails, none of them being short, nor easy, though. Several of these trails are not even marked, that’s why many choose a guided tour instead of a self-hike.

Map of the Grænihryggur hiking trails:

graenihryggur hiking trails map

Map of the Grænihryggur hiking trails

There are three known hiking trails to Grænihryggur:

  1. The main Halldórsgil trail. It starts as a hike through the canyon of Halldórsgil. Halldórsgil trail is a well-marked trail (red sticks). This is the shortest, easiest, and also most popular trail. The only disadvantage of the Halldórsgil trail is that it’s an out-and-back trail. Landscapes around the trail are more than just amazing. We took this trail and describe it in detail below. It took us roughly 6 hours to complete a round-trip.
  2. The Landmannalaugar trail. The second, significantly longer, more difficult, and unmarked trail is a loop trail from Halldórsgil, via Grænihryggur to Landmannalaugar campsite and back (or the other way around). After reaching Graenihryggur you have to climb up and down several steep and unmarked ridges and also ford the fast-flowing and wide Jökulgilskvísl river. We highly recommend doing this hike only as a guided tour, or only if you are a very experienced hiker and you are in luck with a great weather forecast (no fog, rain, or strong winds). The Graenihryggur Landmannalaugar loop takes about 10-12 hours to complete.
  3. The Hrafntinnusker trail. Apart from the two main Grænihryggur trails mentioned above, you may also hike to Graenihryggur by several different combinations of various trails in the area. Most of them are longer and more difficult than those we mentioned above. Hikers usually hike them as a part of multi-day Landmannalaugar hikes. In addition, the majority of them are unmarked.

Map of the Graenihryggur hike

Below is the detailed map of the main Grænihryggur hike, the Halldórsgil hike. There are the exact coordinates of the hike as we’ve done it in late July. All necessary info such as altitude, hiking times, and the trail we took are included in the interactive map below:

Powered by Wikiloc

Hiking difficulty

  • The hike is considered to be a moderately difficult hike.
  • The main danger of the hike lies in unpredictable weather, a very remote area with no network coverage and slippery trails
  • It is a full-day hike, it takes 7 to 9 hours to complete it as a round trip.
  • There are no chains, nor very exposed parts, yet some of them are steep
  • Many steeper parts are made of small gravel or dirt and the grip is not the best, especially if it rains
  • There is one river crossing, a wide Jökulgilskvísl river, not very deep; it is possible to cross it on dry feet in dry weather, however, you may need to wade it when there’s more water in the river;
  • It’s a great hike for anyone with hiking experience, even for families experienced in hiking;
  • It’s NOT a hike for the elderly or small children, or anyone used to just hiking for 1 hour and no more
  • Take special care early in the season (June/July), there may be snow bridges with dangerous rivers under them!
landmannalaugar Grænihryggur hike iceland

Unbelievable Grænihryggur hike views

When to hike Graenihryggur

Typically, you can go for the hike any time between the beginning of July and mid-September. Similarly to when F-roads are open, the hike is accessible when there’s no considerable snow on the trails. This usually starts in July, once most of the winter snow has melted, and ends at the end of September when the new snow arrives.

Of course, there are exceptions to the general rules mentioned above. After mild winters, you may be able to hike Graenihryggur even in June and maybe even until October. On the other hand, after very tough winters, you may encounter huge amounts of snow on trails even in July or August. This is exactly what happened to us in late July. The amount of snow was bearable, though, so we could just hike over it and not get stuck in it.

If you are unsure about the current conditions of the trails, it’s always best to contact by email, or to ask a local. One last important thing – even in summer, always check the weather forecast before the hike. Don’t hike during strong rain or strong wind, it can be very dangerous. Skies don’t have to be clear, but at least aim for no heavy rain or wind. We also wrote a handy guide on How to find nice weather in Iceland.

Grænihryggur hiking trail iceland

Grænihryggur hiking trail

How to prepare for the hike

  • Wear proper hiking shoes, wind-proof, and water-proof clothes (not just repellent!)
  • Have a winter hat and gloves ready if it’s too chilly
  • Hiking poles are a big plus, although it’s possible to hike also without them (not recommended)
  • Check the local weather forecast, and read tricks on how to manage weather; Go only if it doesn’t rain or blow too much; Ideally no rain at all
  • Check road conditions; you are looking for the green color
  • Better rent a satellite location device if you are not in a big group or not with a local
  • Bring wading shoes and a little towel for river crossing
  • Crampons are not necessary during the main season (July to September) and they won’t help either outside of the season (just don’t go)
graenihryggur hike view

One of the countless picturesque spots during the hike

The main hike – our experience

We drove by the Graenihryggur Halldórsgil trailhead on a cloudy, rainy, and foggy day. Definitely not an ideal day for a hike. We were indecisive about whether to go for the hike or not until the very last minute. Finally, my cousin co-hiker persuaded me to give it a try. And I’m now glad he did because the weather actually improved and the hike was amazing even without sun and clear skies!

We reached the starting point of the trail by our modified Land Cruiser around lunchtime, so pretty late. That was also the reason why we didn’t speculate with longer, unmarked trails, and rather stuck to the classic marked Grænihryggur trail from Halldórsgil canyon. The Halldórsgil trailhead is located just a few minutes of a drive south from the crossroads of F224 and F208.

There’s no car park, but we recognized the trailhead thanks to around 6 local Icelandic cars being parked at the edge of the road. These were apparently no tourists, but locals. We parked our car as the last one in the row, packed our backpacks, and headed out into moody weather.

graenihryggur trailhead

Graenihryggur hike trailhead -the beginning of the hike via Halldórsgil

Halldórsgil canyon trail

The first part of the trail to Graenihryggur is the easiest and also the most boring part of the hike. It leads via Halldórsgil canyon, which is one of the less magnificent Icelandic canyons, yet definitely a peaceful one. You won’t meet many fellow tourists here, as I already mentioned.

We hiked to Grænihryggur in July, in a year of a very strong Icelandic winter. This means we encountered a lot of snow on the trail, even in the second half of July. Soon into the hike, we reached smaller snowfields that got bigger and bigger the further we proceeded with the hike. Some of these snowfields were a bit scary. At one moment we could see a flowing river right under the melting snowfield and we had to walk through this snowfield, hoping not to fall down through it.

Halldórsgil canyon trail Grænihryggur

Snowfields in July on the Halldórsgil canyon trail to Grænihryggur

The ascent was gradual and there were no technical parts in this section of the hike. There was just a lot of walking in the snow, which is naturally more tiring compared to firm terrain. After about an hour of hiking, we stumbled upon the first of many amazing viewpoints. We finally got high enough to be able to observe the monumental Halldórsgil valley from the bird’s eye viewpoint. This is the typical Grænihryggur hike moment – Landmannnalaugar, but different, more remote, and even more magical, everywhere around you.

Crossing Jökulgilskvísl river

After reaching the highest point of the trail, what follows is at times steep and slippery descent all the way down to Jökulgilskvísl river. And yes, you have to cross the Jökulgilskvísl river. Luckily, at the time of our visit in July, it was possible to cross the river with dry feet. The reason is, this is not the main riverbed, it’s just an arm of Jökulgilskvísl. Or better said, many small arms.

graenihryggur river crossing

Graenihryggur river crossing of the river Jökulgilskvísl on our way back

We were able to either hop over some of the river arms or we found some shallower spots where our shoes didn’t get wet, or we managed to find some stones suitable for hopping through. This fun can actually take some time. At least we were able to cross it with dry feet, unlike the river in Vonarskarð.

Now maybe you can guess what follows after this descent? Yes, you’re right, another ascent! And once again slippery and at times steep. This is one of the reasons we don’t recommend hiking Grænihryggur during/after a strong rain. Trails can get wet and even more slippery, and trust me, you don’t want to hike steep trails with mud all over the trails.

Rainbow hills

rainbow hills graenihryggur hike

Rainbow hills on a Grænihryggur hike are some of the most beautiful ones in Landmannalaugar

Despite being a bit more difficult, the hike to Grænihryggur is strikingly beautiful! Most of the time you’re gonna be surrounded by various types and tones of rainbow mountains, feeling totally like in a fairy tale. The weather was far from clear skies during our hike, we nevertheless felt like on another planet anyway.

Shortly before the final ascent of the hike we met the local Icelandic hiking group, which seemed to be just a huge group of friends. At that moment we saw who came with all these local cars 🙂 The group was apparently enjoying their summer hike and making a little picnic with some amazing views over nearby rainbow hills.

graenihryggur green ridge hike iceland

The first glimpse of the green ridge in the distance

Nevertheless, we continued with our hike and eventually reached the plateau, where we could finally see the famous Grænihryggur in the distance! Visibility wasn’t ideal, and Grænihryggur definitely looked much better in reality compared to the pale colors in the pictures. But that’s Iceland! We were happy we caught only a slight drizzle and weak fog and conditions were otherwise nice.

From this point we could already see Graenihryggur in the distance, so we could have easily ended at this spot and turned back, but we wanted to arrive right next to this famous green ridge. That being said we continued further along the trail.

green ridge hike iceland

The final descent towards the green ridge of Grænihryggur


The plateau leads to a ridge that can get you all the way right next to Graenihryggur. At this part of the trail, we were able to observe Graenihryggur getting nearer and nearer in front of us with every additional step.

From this ridge, we had to again descend down into the valley and finally reached Graenihryggur with its out-of-this-world colors itself. It’s forbidden to walk over the green ridge, because of the very fragile soil that can be damaged easily. Nevertheless, you can stand by Graenihryggur for as long as you wish and for example take a little picnic, as we did.

This is where the easiest and the most popular “Halldórsgil to Grænihryggur” hiking trail ends. You can then either turn back and follow the same trail back, as we did. Or you can continue with unmarked trails to follow different ways back and/or get to Jökulgil canyon or Landmannalaugar campsite. These trails are more difficult though, and we do not recommend hiking them without extensive hiking skills and/or a local knowledge of the area.

Grænihryggur green ridge

Admiring the famous Grænihryggur green ridge!

Quick hiking Tips

  • Choose a nice day. I know it’s easier to be said than done, we’ve been there. But try to choose a nice day. This at least means no stronger rain and no strong fog. We had a light fog and light rain and the hike was nice anyway. Of course, ideally, you aim for clear skies and no fog, but that may be hard to achieve.
  • Come with a proper 4×4 car. You’re gonna need it to reach the trail.
  • Study beforehand where the trailhead, i.e. the beginning of the trail is located. It may be harder to find, there’s no big sign, nor a car park.
  • Bring hiking poles and good physical health. This hike is not for small children, nor for the elderly.
  • Some climbs are pretty steep but if you are in a good shape they are definitely doable, no chains, no sharp ridges, just typical slippery Icelandic hiking 🙂
  • Enjoy the hike, views, and surroundings are very versatile, Graenihryggur is one of the most beautiful hikes in an entire Iceland in my honest opinion.

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Posted by Igor

Igor has spent months exploring every inch of Iceland over several years. He specializes in the Highlands, F-roads, hiking, hot springs, and less touristy places. He loves Iceland and keeps coming back.


Hi Igor

Thanks for this information, I’m planning on doing this walk in the summer. I’ve saved your Wikiloc route offline, which I appreciate very much!

kindest regards.


Thank you Liz! It’s nice to hear from you again. Wishing you an amazing Icelandic holiday!

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