A dozen or so demanding hiking trails run north through Lónsöræfi and right up to Snæfell. This is a remote area: don’t hike alone, and bring everything you’ll need with you – warm clothing, food, water and a tent – as weather or navigation errors can see even one-day walks accidentally extended. You’ll also want Mál og menning’s Lónsöræfi 1:100,000 map. Note that the reserve’s waterways are all glacier-fed, making for unpredictable flow rates in summer. Hiking huts along the way – which you need to book in advance – are operated by Ferðafélag Austur-Skaftfellinga (868 7624, [email protected]) and Vatnajökull National Park.
A short, easy hike (5hr return) follows erratic marker pegs uphill behind Stafafell Farm hostel onto the moor, above but away from the east side of the Jökulsá í Lóni river. It’s slightly boggy heathland, with spongy cushions of moss, low birch thickets and hummocks of gravel; there’s a tight grouping of fells looming to the northeast, while the west is more open. Following a general northwest bearing, after a couple of hours you’ll find yourself above the shattered, orange and grey rhyolite sides of the Grákinn valley; scramble west down the scree and then crisscross the stream to where the valley appears to dead-end in a wall of dark cliffs. Push through a short canyon and exit to the Jökulsá í Lóni, which you follow southeast downstream along a dull jeep track to the highway and the farm.
Lónsöræfi to Snæfell
The hike from Stafafell to Snæfell takes at least four days. Contact the farm to arrange a lift in a vehicle across the Jökulsá í Lóni at the start of the hike; at the other end there is no public transport from Snæfell to Egilsstaðir, so you’ll need to risk finding somebody to hitch with, or contact Tanni Travel, who can arrange pickups. There’s one short glacier traverse along the way, requiring a little experience; otherwise you just need to be fit.
Once over the multi-streamed Jökulsá í Lóni, there’s a hut and campsite at Eskifell. From here, you follow an ever-tightening gorge due north to another hut and campsite at Illikambur, around 25km from Stafafell, from where there are several day-walks along side-gorges and up nearby peaks, including a route west up to Rauðhamar for views down onto Öxarfellsjökull, Vatnajökull’s easternmost extension.
Back on the main track, around 10km north of Illikambur is Víðidalur, an attractive valley with campsite to the south and lakeside hut 2km to the northwest at Kollumúlvatn, where there are further glacial views and trails northwest to a collection of wind-scoured outcrops known as Tröllakrókar, “troll spires”. The next 17km follows Vatnajökull’s northeastern edge to the Geldingafell hut; from here, the final stage to Snæfell is a lengthy 35km (avoiding unfordable rivers), first westwards over the tip of Eyjabakkajökull, then bearing north at Litla-Snæfell to the hut on Snæfell’s west side.