Going beyond Skogafoss

Skogafoss is just one of the many waterfalls along Iceland’s Ring Road. Most people see this waterfall from below, standing next to the river that it crashes down into. However, there is more to Skogafoss if you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore.

Skogafoss, one of the many waterfalls along Iceland’s Ring Road

Next to the waterfall there is a set of stairs that snakes its way up the cliffs to the top of Skogafoss. Even though I was out of breath by the time I reached the top of the falls, it was completely worth it because the view was spectacular: you can look out over the rugged green hills and watch the river as it cuts through the plains below and winds out to the sea.

The lookout from the top of Skogafoss
The lookout from the top of Skogafoss – from here you can see all the way to the sea

While this lookout has a fantastic view, you can venture further up the river. If you climb over the stile by the lookout (be careful – it had just been raining when we reached Skogafoss, and I slipped off of the stile and into the mud!) you will find yourself on the trail that heads through Laugavegurinn and Fimmvörðuháls Pass.

The top of Skogafoss
The top of Skogafoss, where the river plunges down the cliffs

While we didn’t venture too far up the trail (we had a guided tour of the Skogar museum that we needed to get to), the scenery above the waterfall was even prettier than the landscape below.

The waterfall just up the river from Skogafoss
The waterfall just up the river from Skogafoss

There were more waterfalls and emerald green fields where sheep grazed. A collection of troll cairns surprised me – I had thought they were something that were only built in Norway, but obviously not!

Troll cairns
Troll cairns along the river

Heading back down the stairs I took one last look at Skogafoss, feeling the thick mist hanging in the air, before returning to the carpark. I felt glad that I had made the effort to get to the top of Skogafoss – it gave me an appreciation of just how beautiful and green the Icelandic countryside is.

So if you’re driving along the Ring Road, stop in at Skogafoss and take on those stairs – you won’t regret it!

Me trying to keep out of the mist coming from the falls!

Crossing the Devil’s Bridge at Rheidol Gorge

Devil's Bridge sign
Welcome to the legend of the Devil’s Bridge

Allow me to paraphrase the tale of the Devil’s Bridge:

Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived near Rheidol Gorge. She woke up one morning to discover that her only cow had managed to cross to the other side of the gorge and was stuck there, and she had no way of getting her back. As she sat, worried about her dilemma, the devil appeared.
“I can help you get your cow back,” he said. “I can build you a bridge so you can bring your cow home.”
Curious, the woman asked his price.
“The first living thing that crosses it.”
She agreed to the terms, but spent the night wondering what she was willing to lose – her cow as it came back over the bridge or her life as she went over to coax her cow home?
The next day, as promised, was a bridge spanning the gorge. The woman walked towards it, her faithful dog tailing her. Then, just before she stepped on to the bridge, her dog ran in front of her, and crossed the bridge. The devil was so angry that he had been tricked that he disappeared in a puff of smoke. The woman got her cow back and lived happily ever after.

And the Devil’s Bridge still stands today.

Over the years, rather than destroying the Devil’s Bridge (and perhaps incurring his fiery wrath?!), the locals have simply built over it. And when that bridge would no longer do, they built on top of it again. So now when you come to Rheidol Gorge, what you see is a history of bridges: three of them laid over one another!

The three bridges, including the Devil's Bridge
The three bridges. Built on top of each other, the highest was built in 1901, the middle bridge was built in 1708, and the “Devil’s” bridge is from the eleventh century

Besides seeing the bridges, there are two walking trails you can take through the forested gorge (there is a fee for each, payable at the entrance). The shorter walk takes you to see the Devil’s Punchbowl and a view of the Three Bridges.

The Nature Walk is longer, and takes you through the gorge, past spectacular views of the Mynach Falls and out across the Rheidol Valley, down the extremely steep Jacob’s ladder (I was glad I wasn’t climbing up it – down was scary enough!) and then back up the other side of the gorge past the Robber’s Cave and back up to the road.

Rheidol Valley
Looking out over the picturesque Rheidol Valley
The Mynach Falls
The Mynach Falls
Jacob's Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder – a steep staircase to take you down to the bottom of Rheidol Gorge

As someone who grew up with family walks to waterfalls, I liked the peaceful walk through Rheidol Gorge, and the glimpses of Mynach Falls through the trees as we circled our way around it, though the walk back up the other side of the gorge showed me how unfit I was, and left me catching my breath when we got back to the highest bridge!

Perhaps the woman was justified in bargaining with the devil for her bridge after all!

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