Hiking in Skaftafell via Svartifoss to Morsárdalur - Iceland

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Skaftafell National Park lies between Kirkjubæjarklaustur and Höfn. The total area of the national park covers 4807 km2 and includes the Svartifoss waterfall, Skaftafellsjökull glacier, Mörsárdalur valley, part of the Vatnajökull and the mountain Kristinartindar.

We want to climb to the top of Kristinartindar, but the clouds are hanging low, so we decide to go to the Morsárdalur valley. The trail starts at the informatioon centre near the campsite. From here there is a forest trail towards Svartifoss. Along the way we walk acorss a plain and see Hundafoss and Magnusfoss. Through the vegetation a small trail goes to a good viewpoint for Magnusfoss. The Hundafoss is less visible. During the hike you quickly see the Svartifoss. This is surrounded by basalt columns. These hexagonal columns are created by lava flows that cooled very slowly, which forms basalt. The basalt columns are black, hence the name Svartifoss, which means 'black waterfall'.
From the Svartifoss we walk up to the viewpoint Sjónarsker. From hear you have a great view of Kristinartindar, Skaftafellsjökull, the outwash plains (sandurs) and the Skeiðarárjökull.
From Sjónarsker we continue towards Morsárdalur. Through a plain with uncountable shades of green we hike towards the forest. Although the forest cannot be compared to a forest in mainland Europe, there are fairly high trees here.
The descent to the footbridge is fairly easy, just a loose rock here and there. When we reach the footbridge we see the clouds over the mountains and are glad we didn't climb up Kristinartindar.
After the footbrdige we walk across the sandur/out wash plain of the Morsárjökull. The trail looks more like a jeeptrail of loose sand. We follow the small yellow posts to the other side. When we reach the other side we continue through a small forest and lupines. Uncountable numbers of lupines are on the sides of the 'trail'. The trail is no more than a worn out path between the lupines, without yellow posts. We ask ourselves if we're still on the right track. Because we haven't seen any markings for some time. We hike alongside the forest Bæjarstaðarskógur and cross a river. This can be done on your hiking boots, if you're at the right spot.
The yellow posts are nowhere to be seen! Fortunately there are topo maps of Iceland on our GPS and this trail is on it. So we hike a section across this sandur by GPS. We see several troll's breads (Tröllabrauð), rocks that have cracked like slices of bread due to frost. The Icelandic people, superstitious as they are, believe this is bread for trolls living is places unknown to them.
After a kilometer we see the yellow posts appearing besides the trail! We have found the trail to return to the other side of the sandur. Across rocks, boulders and loose sand we head back to Skaftafell. We walk towards a different footbridge as on the way in, this time we take the south bridge across the Morsá. Along the banks of the sandur, lakes and across the dams we return to the campsite and our car.

Distance: 16.7 km.
Height difference: 220 m.

Although this hike was very long, it not too difficult. The missing of the markings can solved with a GPS with topo cards.
Not only this hike, but also shorter hike are marked on the information sign at the visitor center. On it is also the latest information about closed trails or bridges. Before you head our on your hike, look for the status of the trail you want to follow. This prevents surprises during the hike.

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