Mount Esja hike, a day hike from Reykjavik.

Posted: 07/08/20 | August 7th, 2020

Mount Esja hike, a day hike from Reykjavik. Hike like a true Icelander, Mount Esja is one of the most popular hiking areas around Reykjavik. Go up to great heights and see incredible views, located just outside Reykjavik. 

The mountain range that can be seen from Reykjavik across the bay. It is close to Reykjavik and incredibly popular among locals for hiking and trail running. Understandable, since this area is so close to the city and offers a small taste of what nature in Iceland has to offer.

What makes this hiking area so great is that there are many different trails with different levels of intensity. So whatever you are looking for you can find it here. Short forest walks, trail running, or a 700m climb up to peak Thverfellshorn. You can do it all at Mount Esja, even if you don’t like hiking it’s nice to come over here and have a coffee at the café.

Another great thing about Mount Ejsa is that even if you don’t have a car you can get here by bus. Making it the perfect day trip from Reykjavik if you are just on a city trip. But still want a small taste of Iceland’s beautiful nature.

Mount Esja hike, a day hike from Reykjavik.

Mount Esja hike, a day hike from Reykjavik.
Mount Esja as seen from Reykjavik during the winter.

Facts about the Mount Esja hike:

  • Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
  • Length: 7Km
  • Ascent: 730 meters
  • Altitude: 820m
  • Duration: 3-4 hours (round trip)

Don’t let these numbers scare you, this is the trail if you walk all the way up to peak Thverfellshorn. There are many different hiking trails around Esja ranging from short 1 hour walks to this 3-4 hour walk all the way up. All of them offer nice views in this beautiful area.

What to bring on the Mount Esja hike?

Decent hiking shoes if you aim to climb up to Thverfellshorn, since it is quite the climb. The ascent from the parking spot is about 730m in a little over 3km’s. So it is a steep climb. Especially the last bit from Steinn up to the peak of Thverfellshorn gets very steep and requires a bit of climbing.

If you are scared of heights you can skip the last bit to the peak and have a rest at Steinn! The views from up here are still amazing and worth hiking up for. In fact, a lot of people stop at Steinn and turn around.

  • Decent hiking shoes
  • Walking sticks
  • Sunscreen
  • Rain clothes
  • Snacks and water

In case you are not very confident it’s good to bring a pair of walking sticks. This will help a lot! Oh and, since it is Iceland it might rain at any time!

When to go on the Mount Esja hike?

The hiking area is open all year! But if you want to go all the way up to Thverfellshorn, the best time to visit is in the summer, probably from June to September.

However, as said the “trail” is open all year so if the weather has been really good and there is not much snow it is doable earlier and later. We say probably because it depends heavily on the weather conditions. Make sure you check the weather forecast and trail conditions before you go up.

Top tip: The hiking area of Mount Esja can be very busy, if you don’t like people and want a more quiet hike. Drive another 10min from Mount Esja and hike up to mount Moskardshnjukar. 

When to go on the Mount Esja hike?
Hiking at Mount Esja during the winter.

How to get to the Mount Esja hike:

The starting point of the hike is a 2o min drive from downtown Reykjavik (20km). Or about 50 min by bus from the main bus station in Reykjavik.

By bus:

Take a bus from the main bus station in Reykjavik towards the parking spot at the start of the Mount Esja hiking area. Check out for the actual bus timing to plan your trip.

  • Address bus station Reykjavik: Umferðarmiðstöðin
  • Address bus station Mount Esja: Esjurætur – Hiking Center

By car:

An easy 20 min drive, follow the Nr1 ring road north towards Akureyri. The parking spot is located right next to the ring road.

From the parking spot, the trail is very clear and easy to follow. There is a bunch of info signs explaining all the different routes you can walk. Additionally, we do recommend using Maps.Me, since it has all the complete trails from the parking spot.

How to get to the Mount Esja hike:
View of Mount Esja from the parking spot.



Where to stay:

Since this is a day trip from Reykjavik there is no need to stay anywhere close by. It is less than an hour drive from the city.

But if you are planning on doing the ring road towards Snaefellsnes, the Westfjords, or Akureyri you might consider continuing north instead of heading back to Reykjavik first.

In case you are planning on going on towards Thingvellir and the golden circle,  it is only a 5 min drive back to the road leading you in the right direction.

Mount Esja hike, a day hike from Reykjavik.

After a 20-30 min drive, we arrived at the parking spot. There is a cafe next to the parking spot and an info sign explaining all the different routes.

The weather was perfect, no clouds and a very sunny! Our plan for the day was to go all the way up to Thverfellshorn which will take about 1,5 hours with a 730 ascent leading up to 820m, exciting!

The trail: A day hike from Reykjavik.
The trail: A day hike from Reykjavik.

The first bit of the walk is in a green forest area along a river. In the summer break, you will see a lot of kids coming here during summer camps. Picking berries, playing in the forest, and rivers.

The trail: A day hike from Reykjavik.
The trail: A day hike from Reykjavik.

Slowly the view gets more and more stunning. Since the trail is steep you gain altitude quite fast, which gives you rewarding views in return!

First stop: Steinn

The first stop is a rock which is called Steinn (creatively means stone in Icelandic). Located at 650m, most people walk up to Steinn and then head back, to the parking spot.

Mount Esja hike, a day hike from Reykjavik.
Made it to Steinn at 650m altitude!

It took us a little bit under an hour to reach Steinn, due to the amount of sun we were quite exhausted and sweaty! Good time to admire the views where we came from. The views from up here are quite amazing already. You get a panorama view of Reykjavik and the mountains in the area.

Mount Esja hike, a day hike from Reykjavik.
Last steep climb up to Thverfellshorn.

After a quick rest, we decided to continue our way up to Thverfellshorn which is another 170m up in just 600m. So it is going to be a fun climb!

Made it: Thverfellshorn.

And a fun climb it was, especially the last bit was more climbing than walking. There are a lot of ropes, chains, and some steps guiding you to the peak. All while having amazing views all around you.

Mount Esja hike, a day hike from Reykjavik.
Elisa climbing up the last parts.

Exhausted after the last climbing we made it to the peak. It’s not a traditional pointy peak you will find in the Alps, since most mountains in Iceland are flat. But the views are breathtaking nonetheless.

Views from Mount Esja, Thvellhernshorn.
Views from Mount Esja, Thverfellshorn .

Views from Mount Esja, Thvellhernshorn.
Views from Mount Esja, Thverfellshorn.

There is a guestbook on the top, so you can leave your name and details!

Views from Mount Esja, Thvellhernshorn.
Sign the guestbook at the top, Reykjavik city is in the background!

During our visit there was almost no one at the top, seems like most people turn around at Steinn. So it is worth climbing the last part.

From here you can continue further on the mountain and make a loop down. The signs are not super clear and it’s a lot of climbing/stumbling over big rocks. So we decided to take the same way back towards the car.

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