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Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking at Kirkjufell Mountain

Learn how to safely hike the most challenging mountain in Iceland

|December 23, 2023
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Ready to set foot on the most photographed mountain in Iceland? Hike your way up the thrilling peaks of Kirkjufell.


On the north coast of the Snæfellsness peninsula lies the iconic mountain of Kirkjufell. Sitting next to the tiny village of Grundarfjörður, Kirkjufell, also referred to as Church Mountain, rises dramatically out of the ocean. No wonder it is the most photographed mountain in the country.

The peaks are fun and thrilling to climb and offer fantastic views of the surrounding areas. However, there have also been a few incidents of hiking mishaps in the area. But don’t worry. In this blog, you will learn how to safely hike Kirkjufell so you can enjoy the rewarding view at the top.

Aerial view of the snow-capped Kirkjufell mountain.

Kirkjufell mountain

Kirkjufell Hiking Summary

  • Mountain Peak - 1519 ft
  • Vertical Gain - 1566 ft
  • Distance - 4.94 miles
  • Duration - 3 hours round trip (approx.)

Hiking Kirkjufell Mountain

The starting point of your hike will depend upon where you are staying. If you are staying at an Airbnb in Grundarfjörður, you can pick up the trail right from your cabin. But, for the public trailhead, you will have to park your car at the Kirkjufellsfoss Parking Lot before going up the south ridge of the mountain.

You will have to look for the trail carefully, as there are no markers. There are some trails that lead to a dead end, so be careful even on beaten paths. But there are a few safe routes you can take. Once you’ve found the right path, the rest depends on your determination! Along the way, you will find some spacious flat spots where you can catch your breath and admire the scenery.

During the hike, there are three parts during which you will have to pull yourself up on a rope and rappel down on the way back. The rock climbing skills involved here are basic, so you’ll be able to accomplish it easily. Your first rope will be about 16 to 20 ft (4.8 - 6m), the next one around 18ft, and the last one about 30 ft. You will find the first part of the rope climb about halfway through your hike and the next two towards the end.

A hiking path close to Kirkjufell mountain in Iceland.

A hiking path close to Kirkjufell mountain

Kirkjufell Hiking Tips

If you are ready to embrace the hike up Kirkjufell, you will find these tips useful.

  • Always wear proper shoes, such as hiking boots or rugged trail running shoes.
  • The safest way to hike Kirkjufell is with an experienced guide. 
  • It is extremely important to be in good physical condition as it’s easy to trip on the rocks or slip down a rope.
  • Train yourself with some balance exercises well in advance, as you may find yourself close to the edge as much as 70% of the time.
  • Do not attempt the hike during wet conditions, as it becomes slippery and dangerous. 
  • Always look for the trail on the west side of the mountain to avoid unnecessary risks.
  • Mind where you step foot on. One wrong move could lead to devastating consequences. 
  • Be careful when hiking Kirkjufell. Trust your instincts and know when to turn around.

Weather Conditions for Hiking Kirkjufell

Be prepared for changing weather conditions when hiking, especially when it comes to Kirkjufell. The temperature can drop significantly in a short amount of time. You are likely to experience some rain and hail. The rocks will be slippery if snow has melted recently, so be careful. But there are also pleasant weather conditions which make the hike a lot more fun. If you think the weather is getting worse, however, always head back for safety.

A hiker standing in the middle of a road leading to Kirkjufell.

Kirkjufell may just be the most challenging Icelandic mountain you will explore. Even if you don’t make it all the way to the top, remember to pat yourself on the back. It could just be your hardest hike yet, but that’s what makes it so rewarding.

If you would like to hike Kirkjufell, this small group tour offers the best of West Iceland in a day. You can even do a 5-day tour from West to East Iceland with Northern Lights on the way. Or you can add one more day to your itinerary for the ultimate Golden Circle and Ring Road adventure!

 

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