Trail development along Hengifossá

From the early 2010s, the trails along the Hengifossá have been gradually developed. The ambition has been to preserve the landscape and keep the changes to the trail, resting places and viewpoints to a minimum.

Since 2017 ZIS AS // ZeroImpactStrategies has been involved in the implementation, after having won the competition for the Tourist facilities at Hengifossá.

The different trail elements from the winning proposal were designed for production and placed strategically in the landscape. On a field trip in October 2017 the accurate positions were decided upon on-site. A set of guidelines also contained suggestions for the rehabilitation of the different parts of the trail. This strategic document was done in collaboration with Landslag, award-winning Landscape Architecture office based in Reykjavík.

During autumn 2017 and spring 2018 the trail elements were installed in the landscape, and the trail rehabilitated. In September 2018 there was a new field trip to review the work done – the different design elements (benches, signposts, small bridges and gates) had all been installed. The illustration boards, to be mounted on the benches and signposts, was the only remaining items to be installed.

The illustration design was a part of a separate project, to better inform the visitors of the unique landscape and sights in Fljótsdal and surroundings. This project was supervised by Skúli Björn Gunnarsson. This information strategy would also be integrated in the new service building as a permanent exhibition.

In spring 2019, because of extremely wet weather and an ever increasing number of visitors pre- and post-season, the trail up to Hengifoss had to be closed to prevent severe damage to the landscape. Subsequently the trail had to be repaired and protected, by installing wetland bridges in the uppermost chapter of the trail towards Hengifoss.

The number of tourists to visit Hengifoss had increased from  a mere 27 000 per season, from May to September in 2013, to a massive 83 000 per season, from March to November, in 2019. There was a dire need to build better facilities (a service building) by the car park. But with the out-break of covid in spring 2020, the visitors numbers fell for the two successive years (2020 and 2021) which delayed the start of the construction of the service building until 2022. 

In this covid-period, waiting for the tourists to return, the work began to extend the trail network on the opposite side of the Hengifossá. This diversifies the movement and thus reduces the impact of the visitors on the landscape.

To connect with the existing trail, two bridges were designed and installed in autumn 2022; the lower at the start of the trail near the parking lot; the upper at a narrow point of the river, crossing a characteristic gorge. The bridge design and implementation was done by EFLA, with aesthetic input by ZIS AS // ZeroImpactStrategies.

Both of the bridges being wooden constructions, the lower bridge has a traditional wood railing. The upper bridge , due to its prominent location with high visibility in several directions, has a light railing to blend in with the landscape and not to obstruct the sight-lines towards Hengifoss.

The latest developments of the trails, and news of the construction of the service building, was duly presented on the evening news by Icelands main broadcaster RUV on the 01.07.2023 (from which the photo of the upper bridge has been taken).