Trail running in Iceland
The popularity of trail running in Iceland grows every year. Iceland is great for trail running and good trails are easily accessed from Reykjavik. Heiðmörk is one of the largest outdoor areas next to Reykjavik, located southeast of Elliðavatn, ca. 10k from Reykjavík. There are beautiful trails in Heiðmörk which is an area with deep forests. The gravel tracks in and around the Heiðmörk area cover over 40 km, making it the perfect place for trail running.
Mt. Esja has also become a very popular training site with paths leading to the summit. Mt. Esja is 914 m (2,999 ft) high and is situated about 10 km north of Reykjavík. Approximately 200 meters below the top, there is a point marked with a big rock called Steinn. It is here that most runners choose to go down again, as the path becomes increasingly difficult from there.
There are a lot of exciting trail races around the country during summer time. Here is a list of the main trail races in Iceland for 2015:
Trail run in Hveragerði – 20 km / 25 km:
The running club in Hveragerði organises a trail running series this summer. Hveragerði is a beautiful little town with a geothermal park in the middle. It is located 45km from Reykjavík city centre.
The running series 2016 contains four runs:
- 16 April – 20km
- 21 May – 20km
- 17 June – 20km
- 30 July – 25km (part of Hengill Ultra)
Course for the 20km: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zEuEwAj1nhTA.km4EFRw0XDTc
Hvítasunnuhlaup Hauka – 14 km / 17.5 km
This is a trail run in wilderness next to Hafnarfjörður. The race starts from Ásvellir in Hafnarfjördur app. 20 km from Reykjavik city centre. The course is quite versatile in a beautiful environment. The race has two distances, 14 km and 17.5 km.
For further information please see: http://www.hvitasunnuhlaup.is/#!english/c23y2
Álafosshlaupið – 9 km
The Álafosshlaup is held in Mosfellsbær, ca. 15 km from Reykjavik city centre. The race is set in a very charming area in Mosfellsbær. The race is 9km and the second half of the course is on asphalt.
A small and cozy race that is a lot of fun !
Map of the course: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?oe=UTF8&t=h&ie=UTF8&msa=0&mid=zTfF283kYckM.klu2upNcMT38
Gullspretturinn – 8.5 km
This is an adventure fun race around lake Laugavatn which is ca. 75 km from Reykjavik. Be ready to get wet and muddy! The race will be held on 13 June and the course is 8.5 km.
See more on: https://www.facebook.com/Gullspretturinn
Mt. Esja Ultra – 14 km / 42.2 km / 77 km
The Mt. Esja Ultra race will be held on 20 June. The race has three distances: 14 km, 42.2 km and 77 km or 2, 6 or 11 trips. Mt. Esja Ultra is one of few pure mountain races held in the country and is considered the toughest single stage race in Iceland. The Esja mountain range is located just 25 minutes away from Reykjavik city by car.
For further information see: http://mtesjaultra.is/
Snæfellsjökulhlaupið – 22 km
Snæfellsjökulhlaupið is a 22 km trail run across Snæfellsnes. The race starts at Arnarstapi and ends in Olafsvik. Arnarstapi is located 190km from Reykjavik. The first 8 km of the race are uphill or up to 700 m and then it is mainly downhill. Largest part of the path is on dirt road but conditions can vary, e.g. one year runners had to run in snow for 5 km. The race will be held on 4 July.
Map of the course: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?oe=UTF8&t=h&ie=UTF8&msa=0&mid=zTfF283kYckM.khYa9UkTNRqw
For further information see: https://www.facebook.com/snaefellsjokulshlaupid
Thorvaldsdalsskokk – 25 km
The Thorvaldsdalsskokk is a 25 km trail run in north Iceland and will be held on 4 July.
For further information see: http://thorvaldsdalur.umse.is/
Laugavegur Ultra Marathon – 55 km
The 19th Laugavegur Ultra Marathon will take place on Saturday July 18th 2015. The Laugavegur trail is located in the southern highlands of Iceland and connects the nature reserves Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork. For many runners the Laugavegur Ultra Marathon is the most enjoyable race in Iceland.
For further information see: http://marathon.is/ultramarathon
Runners’ Festival in Ísafjörður – 10 km / 24 km / 45 km
The Runner’s Festival is an annual event in the Ísafjörður area, offering a half-marathon and 10 km street run, trail/wilderness run (10 km, 24 km and 45 km) plus open water swimming and mountain biking.
The wilderness run goes along a rough trail on the peninsula between the fjords Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður. The scenery is breathtaking, whether you do the 45 km run, 24 km or 10 km run.
The festival will take place 17 – 19 July.
For further information see: http://hlaupahatid.is/index.php/english
The Four Forest Run – 4.3 km /ca.10 km / 17.7 km / 30.6 km / 42.2 km
The Four Forest Run is held in Fnjoskadalur which is 34 km from Akureyri in north Iceland. The race offers four distances making it perfect for the whole family to participate. The course is through four forests in Fnjoskadalur and the path is extremely beautiful.
The race will be held on 25 July.
Hengill Ultra – 24 km / 50 km / 81 km (50 miles)
The Hengill Ultra is the longest off road ultra marathon in Iceland. All distances begin and end in Hveragerði, a small village famous for its hot springs, 40 km from Reykjavik. Running paths are variant, some narrow and steep reaching mountain Skeggi (810 m) as the highest point. This run generates 2 points in qualifying for Mt.Blanc (UTMB).
The race will be held on 30 July 2016.
For further information see: http://www.hengill-ultra.is/en/
Barðsnes trail run – 13 km / 27 km
A bit further from Reykjavik than most, the Barðsnes off road run is an adventure race in the east of Iceland. It will be held on the 1st of August and there is a choice of two distances, 13 km and 27 km.
The race is held in and around the town of Neskaupsstaður which is located in East-Iceland, 710km from Reykjavik. The race starts at the Barðsnes farm and the route takes you through three fjords and finishes in the Neskaupstaður town. Runners take a ferry from Neskaupstaður over to the cape of Bardsnes, where the race begins.
For more information see: http://www.islandia.is/bardsneshlaup/english.html
Dettifoss Trail Run (Jökulsárhlaup) – 13 km / 21.2 km / 32.7 km
The Dettifoss Trail Run in north Iceland is probably the most beautiful and scenic trail race in Iceland. The race takes you along the canyon with the glacier river Jökulsá á Fjöllum and its waterfalls. The race will be held on 8 August and it has three distances, 32.7 km, 21.2 km and 13 km, which all end in Ásbyrgi canyon. The longest distance is quite varied; the surface of the first part is sand, rock and rough gravel then the surface switched to a soil path. The last leg of the route is on narrow paths through birch forest – sheep paths!
For more information see: http://www.english.jokulsarhlaup.is/
Tindahlaup Mosfellsbæjar – 12 km / 19 km / 34 km / 37 km
The summit run in Mosfellsbær will be held on the 29th of August. Participants can choose from the following distances:
- 1 summit (12 km)
- 3 summits (19 km)
- 5 summits (34 km)
- 7 summits (37 km).
The run takes place in and around Mosfellsbær which is 15 minutes’ drive from Reykjavik city centre. This is a challenging run, especially if you go for the 7 summits! Most of the 7 summits are around 300m height, although the highest peak is close to 500m high.
A map of the course can be found here: http://www.mosfellsbaer.is/library/Myndir/Myndasafn/Vidburdir/7%20tinda%20hlaup%20-%20kort.jpg
Volcano Trail Run – 12 km
Þórsmörk Trail Run is a 12 km long trail run through the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve. The trail leads you from Husadalur through some of the most beautiful landscape in Iceland. Through the birch woods and up onto the volcanic ridges and mountain tops over the Þórsörk Nature Reserve before reaching the finish line, back at Husadalur. Þórsmörk is 150km from Reykjavik.
The race will be held on 29 Sept.
My wife & I are interested in traveling to Iceland (from western Canada) next September for 18 days. While there, we would like to participate in a foot-race of some sort. Usually, my wife likes half-marathons (21 kilometers), but will run up to 30. Trail running is ideal. Given a choice, we would rather run in the highlands.
If possible, could you please send me a list of all the foot-races in September 2016?
Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated 🙂
Bill & Wendy
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Hi Bill and Wendy, there are a lot of races in September! We will send you an email with all the info.
Hello! I’m looking to come visit the beautiful country of Iceland in May. I’ll be coming from Northern Utah in the United States. I’d really like to know about the beautiful trials and mountains that I can access. I don’t have a destination yet, but I’d to build my destination around the beautiful country that offers fantastic views.
Hi, there are many articles on running and hiking trails on our website and we will add more in coming months. Laugavegur trail is the most popular along with the trails in Jokulsa canyon and the trails around Þórsmörk are wonderful. The trail races mentioned above are organized so they use the most popular trails.
Near Reykjavik is Heiðmörk and there are great hikes easily accessible, like Mt.Esja near Reykjavik and Mt Sula near Akureyri.
Hello, thank you for all the information. We are planning to participate in the Tindahlaup Mosfellsbæjar run on August 27, 2016. Could you please tell me, what is the registration procedure? Or can we just come and register on the spot? Thank you so much. Jana (Czech republic)
Hello. My wife and I will be coming to Iceland at the end of January 2017. I run, although she does not, and would love to experience running in Iceland – especially on trails. Are there trails to run that are accessible in winter (without snowshoes) that you would recommend? We will be coming to Reykjavik but, beyond that, we have no set itinerary yet. Thanks!
Hi Garth. It’s very hard to predict the weather and conditions in January. However, anything in the highlands will certainly be impossible. Near for example Reykjavik, there are trails that hopefully won’t have too much snow. Check out Heidmork, ir Mt Esja. You will need yaktracs or similar for your shoes, and that headlight might come in handy because it gets dark very early and the trails are not lit. Even in Reykjavik itself a headlight can also be useful.