Helgufoss

summer day at helgufoss

ABOUT Helgufoss :

If you’re looking for a family-friendly waterfall without the crowds, Helgufoss might be your best option. This waterfall stands at 39 ft (12 m), with a gentle flow of water. Helgufoss is only around 30 minutes from Reykjavík and easy to access. Located in the Mosfellsdalur valley, this waterfall is not well known to tourists but is often a local favorite. Despite its lack of popularity, Helgufoss is a gorgeous waterfall you don’t want to miss.

The fall is surrounded by mossy cliffsides and flows into a shallow stream, Kaldakvísl. On warmer days, be sure to bring your bathing suits! You can join in on the local pastime of taking a swim in the stream below the fall. Just keep in mind that the streams and rivers in Iceland are cold all year long! Even if you don’t want to take a dip in the waters, Helgufoss is an excellent place for a picnic or photography!

History of Helgufoss :

picnic at helgufoss

The area surrounding Helgufoss is rich in history. A few historical figures have visited the waterfall itself. One of these figures was named Halldor Laxness, who lived near the waterfall. Halldor was a novelist born in 1902 and became Iceland’s only Nobel prize winner in 1955. Halldor died in 1998, and after his death, his house was converted into what is now known as the Laxness Museum. This museum is a tribute to his life and his works. One of the ways to access Helgufoss is to hike from the museum’s parking lot. The hike is also part of the Laxness trail or also known as the Poet’s Path.

Helgufoss is also a natural feature of a country park called Bringur. The goal of Bringur is to help persevere the land, its history and to continue to allow the general public to enjoy its beauty. Bringur park has been officially protected since April 20th, 2014.

Helgufoss sketch from Sir John Thomas Stanley's Expedition
Sketch of Helgufoss from Sir John Thomas Stanley's expedition.

In 1789, Helgufoss was also visited by Sir John Tomas Stanely, a British amateur scientist. Stanley became a historical figure for his expedition to the Faroe Islands and Iceland. During his journey, Stanley and his fellow men made sketches of many landmarks, including Helgufoss.

Helgufoss also has other historic sites and legends around it. West of the waterfall, you can find Helgusel, the ruins of an old shepherd’s hut. These ruins tell the story of when livestock was kept in a sel (a sheep pen). Helgusel, Helgufoss, and the other surrounding landmarks are said to be named after Helga, the daughter of Bárður Snæfellsás. Bárður Snæfellsás was a half-giant or half-troll according to legend. His father was a titan, while his mother was only human.

The real truth behind the Helgusel name more likely came from a church. It is a fact a church in Mosfell once owned the land. Helgusel could mean “the holy sel,” which would logically explain Helgusel’s naming origin.

hiking to Helgufoss :

AllTrails list two options to get to Helgufoss. The trails listed are “Gljúfrasteinn – Grímannsfell – Helgufoss” trail and “Helgufoss” trail. The Gljúfrasteinn – Grímannsfell – Helgufossis trail is for the more experienced hiker, while the Helgufoss trail is a short, family-friendly hike.

Gljúfrasteinn - Grímannsfell - Helgufoss Trail

The Gljúfrasteinn – Grímannsfell – Helgufoss 5- mile hike that starts from Grímannsfell, the Laxness Muesum. Parking can be found at the museum. The path starts from the museum and follows the Kaldakvísl stream briefly before you turn right. This portion of the trail will take you up toward Grímannsfell peak. On the path down, you will encounter Helgufoss and follow the stream back to the starting point. This hike is rated as moderate in difficulty with a 1,505 ft elevation gain. It is advised that you are in decent physical health to hike the trail.

Helgufoss Trail

The Helgufoss trail is the easier option of the two. This hike is only a 0.8-mile hike with a 160 ft elevation gain. There is parking for this trailhead as well, and it’s marked on google maps. The entirety of this hike is within the Bringur park. This hike is perfect for a quick picnic, family trip, or general recreation. There are several other historic sites and points of interest in Bringur Park to see as well.

Directions to Helgufoss :

Finding Helgufoss is easy and very accessible. Helgufoss is marked on google maps. It is roughly a 30-minute drive from Reykjavík to Helgufoss. Even though the waterfall lacks visitors, it is right off the famous tourist route, the Golden Circle. A hike, a short hike, at minimum, is required to reach Helgufoss. See the two hiking trails above for more information. Parking is included at both trailheads.

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