Iceland’s Laugavegurinn Trail stretches 34 miles—not including a 12- to 14-mile extension via the Fimmvörðuháls pass—through the island nation’s iconic southern highlands. Hikers traverse expansive lava fields, cross glacial streams, and traverse breathtaking landscapes with geologic features that include hot springs, volcanoes, glaciers, and mountains in hues of pink, purple, blue, green, and yellow.
“Out of all the hikes I’ve done all over the world, this one was the most diverse and scenically the most spectacular,” says Jennifer Pharr Davis. “When we hiked it, we got the sense that every five to ten miles we were in a completely new environment and eco-zone.”
The hike starts in Skógar, a small village near the southern coast that’s close to numerous waterfalls, including Skógafoss. It follows the scenic glacial pass between Eyjafjallajökull (which erupted in 2010) and Katla volcanoes before reaching Thórsmörk (named for the Norse god Thor), a sheltered valley with birch trees and vibrant mosses along the Krossá River.
While the trek is considered moderate based on terrain and a well-appointed hut system makes camping quite comfortable, weather conditions that include high wind, cold rain, and snow can make it more difficult, as does attempting to tackle the trail at ambitious speeds. Pharr Davis did all 50 miles in three days. She also went south to north (most go the opposite way) to leverage the scenic natural hot springs on the north side as her reward.
Jennifer Pharr Davis
Jennifer Pharr Davis has hiked more than 12,000 miles of long-distance trails on six continents. She holds speed records for Vermont’s Long Trail (women's, unsupported) and in 2011 thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail faster than any man or woman before her for a new overall speed record. In 2012 she backpacked more than 600 miles during her second trimester of pregnancy. See her Adventurers of the Year profile.
Jennifer Pharr Davis': Sunglasses
“I couldn’t have survived Iceland without sunglasses," says the speed hiker. "I needed them not just for the glare off the glaciers, but [also] because the wind would send all this loose volcanic ash flying through the air.” She prefers the Pivothead Aurora sunglasses. "They take pics, video, and protect my eyes."