Getting There & Around
By Car -- Jökulsárgljúfur -- a mouthful which simply means "Glacial River Canyon" -- is aligned north to south. Roads run along the east and west sides, connecting Route 85 in the north to the Ring Road in the south. In general, regular cars have more access to park sites from the north. On the west side of the canyon, you can navigate Route 862 from Route 85 as far south as the Vesturdalur campsite, near Hljóðaklettar -- though potholes can be treacherous, especially in late summer. You might even get as far as the Hólmatungur parking area, but check with your car-rental company, as this could void your insurance. On the east side of the canyon, regular cars can take Route 864 between Route 85 and Dettifoss -- and usually all the way to the Ring Road, depending on conditions. Those with 4WD vehicles can probably get from the Ring Road to Route 85 on either side of the canyon, but Route 864 on the east side is far easier.
By Bus -- Trex (tel. 587-6000; www.trex.is) has a bus from Akureyri to Ásbyrgi (at the north end of the park) on weekday mornings year-round, with a bus change at Húsavík, for 3,400kr ($54/£27). The return trip from Ásbyrgi leaves in the afternoon.
From mid-June through August, SBA Norðurleið (tel. 550-0700; www.sba.is) has a daily morning bus from Akureyri to Dettifoss (on the west side of the canyon), stopping at Húsavík, Ásbyrgi, and the Vesturdalur campsite. A one-way trip is 4,500kr ($72/£36). The bus returns to Akureyri in the afternoon. Another bus, also daily from mid-June through August, starts at Mývatn and reaches Dettifoss from the opposite direction -- that is, by taking Route 862 north from the Ring Road. These two buses connect with each other, so travelers can loop in either direction. SBA also has a marathon 13-hour "Jewels of the North" tour from Akureyri, covering both the Mývatn-Krafla region and Jökulsárgljúfur for 9,100kr ($146/£73).
On Foot -- Park trails are well-marked and well-tended, with maps posted at trailheads, but it's still a good idea to secure maps and trail brochures at the information office before setting out. Visitors are asked not to venture off the trails, as sub-Arctic vegetation is fragile and slow to recover from trampling.
Hiking the full length of the park over two days can proceed in either direction, but almost everyone heads downstream, from south to north, starting at the parking area for Dettifoss (on the west side of the river) and ending at Ásbyrgi. The only legal campsite along the 34km (21-mile) route is at Vesturdalur. The warden at Vesturdalur is happy to store bags during the day, so clever strategizing can lighten your load. Travelers with cars could drop supplies at Vesturdalur, then park back at Ásbyrgi and take the daily SBA bus (which starts in Akureyri) from Ásbyrgi to Dettifoss, arriving around 1:20pm. (Make sure you can reach Vesturdalur before dark.) Those without cars can still jump off the bus at Vesturdalur and leave things with the warden before continuing on to Dettifoss. The hike has challenging segments and route variations, so make sure to review your plans with the park information office.
The Jökulsárgljúfur information office (tel. 465-2195; www.ust.is; mid-June to mid-Aug daily 9am-10pm; mid-May to mid-June and mid-Aug to mid-Sept daily 9am-7pm) is on Route 861; exit Route 85 at the N1 gas station, and it's shortly ahead on the left. The staff is accessible and helpful, and a free exhibit chronicles local geology, flora, and fauna.