How to Train for the Laugavegur Trail

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So you’ve decided to trek the Laugavegur Trail. Congratulations!

You are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Perhaps you’ve started creating your itinerary, putting together a packing list, and booking your accommodation, but have you thought about your physical preparation? Obviously, you’ve at least taken the first steps since you’ve found your way to this post, and for that your future self will thank you. That’s because being physically prepared for a tough trek like the Laugavegur is the single most impactful action you can take to ensure your trip will be as enjoyable as possible. 

Training for the Laugavegur will make your experience exponentially more rewarding for a number of reasons, including…

  • You’ll be able to focus on the beauty of your surroundings instead of the pain and fatigue in your body.
  • You’ll eliminate the unnecessary stress of falling behind schedule due to spending longer-than-anticipated days on the trail.
  • By taking the time to prepare in advance, you’ll enjoy the anticipation of your upcoming trip and completing your trek will be immensely rewarding.
  • You’ll improve your fitness and health by working towards a goal that is exciting and meaningful.

Everything you need to to plan your Laugavegur Trek – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, or something in between, we’ve got you covered. Our Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur Trail is the ultimate tool to help you plan your perfect trip.

When you purchase a guide, you’ll get instant access to all the information you need to plan your trip in our planning portal as well as in a downloadable PDF eGuide.

Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur Trail detailed features

Your in-depth guide contains resources you won’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Instant access to our online trip planning portal
  • Downloadable eGuide to the Laugavegur Trail
  • Complete 2-day, 3-day, and 4-day Laugavegur itineraries with video fly throughs
  • Fimmvörðuháls Trail maps and information
  • Accommodation descriptions as well as booking information
  • Detailed maps for every stage
  • Custom GPS data for each itinerary
  • The ultimate packing list
  • Information about getting to and from the trail
  • 15-week training plan
  • Video tutorials on how to use your GPS files to navigate on the trail. 

We truly believe this is the best guide available for the Laugavegur.  Pick up your guide below and if you’re not satisfied for any reason we’ll give you a full refund!

What’s in this post?

landscape near Hvanngil on the Laugavegur Trail
Beautiful landscape near Hvanngil. The views make all of the training worthwhile!

How Difficult is the Laugavegur Trail?

As far as long-distance hiking trails go, the Laugavegur is very approachable in terms of difficulty. There are several factors that impact the challenge of this hike, including the distance covered in each day (see our itineraries for more on this), the weight of your backpack (it will be much larger if you choose to camp), the direction you hike in (there is significantly more uphill walking if you trek from south to north), and the weather and trail conditions.

Therefore, someone carrying camping gear and hiking northbound in two days will have a much different experience than someone staying in huts, heading southbound, and completing their trek in four days. Most reasonably fit hikers with some trekking experience will have no problem completing the Laugavegur in three days. 

Beyond the physical challenges of the Laugavegur, there are a few other factors to keep in mind when understanding the difficulty of this trek.

River Crossings: You will encounter several river crossings along the Laugavegur Trail. These can very from ankle-deep to waist-deep depending on the time of year, recent rainfall, and weather conditions. We can’t stress enough that you need to check with the wardens at each hut about the current condition of the rivers, and always cross in the designated areas. Also, you’ll want to bring a pair of sturdy sandals or other water shoes to make these crossing. Flip-flops will be pulled right off your feet by the swift currents and walking across barefoot is a dangerous endeavor.

A river crossing near the Alftavatn Hut on the Laugavegur Trail
River crossing after Álftavatn. Be prepared for lots of these!

Weather: Icelandic weather should not be taken lightly. Weather conditions are a major factor that can greatly increase the difficulty of your trek.   Whiteout snowstorms can occur any time of the year on the Laugavegur, as can gale-force winds and freezing temperatures. It is imperative that hikers check the weather conditions before setting out. The easiest way to stay up to date on the weather is to talk to the wardens at the huts. Weather updates are usually posted outside, but you can also ask the warden for more information. If they advise you not to hike in the conditions, be sure to listen to them! Additionally, the Icelandic Met Office’s website provides quality forecasts for wind, precipitation, and temperature in specific areas. 

Read more: Check out our Trip Report to get the full scoop on what the Laugavegur was really like!

Fimmvörðuháls Trail Extension: Many hikers opt to extend their hike by taking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, which connects Þórsmörk and Skogar via a very difficult 15-mile trek. The Fimmvörðuháls trail is quite a bit more technical and challenging than the Laugavegur. There are some very exposed and steep sections that require the use of cables, chains, and holds to navigate them. Depending on which direction you choose to hike, you’ll either start or end your trek with a very big day which will add to the overall difficulty of your experience.

A large section of snow on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.
A long and tiring snow crossing on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.

The Laugavegur Trail in Numbers:

Laugavegur Trail Only

Total Distance: 55 kilometers (34 miles)
Total Elevation Gain: 1450 meters (4758 feet)

Laugavegur Trail + Fimmvörðuháls Trail

Total Distance: 79 kilometres (49 miles)
Total Distance: 2428 meters (7967 feet)
A deep canyon on stage 2 of the Laugavegur Trail
Fortunately, you can enjoy these views without too much climbing!

I don’t live near mountains…Will I be able to get fit enough?

Okay, so hopefully the first section of this post convinced you that yes, you CAN complete the Laugavegur, but also that you really, really should take our advice and train ahead of time. However, if you’re like a great many people who aspire to trek the Laugavegur Trail, you don’t have trails in your backyard on which to complete said training. If that’s your situation, don’t despair. We’ve known plenty of people who’ve become incredibly strong hikers without the benefit of mountain training. Here are some ideas for flatlanders:

  • Use the stairclimber machine at your local gym. Go slow, as this torture device machine definitely induces greater perceived exertion than most sections of the Laugavegur.
  • Walk or run up and down the stairs at a nearby high school stadium or similar venue.
  • Get on a treadmill and walk at a brisk pace. Play around with setting the incline to a variety of levels, ranging from 5-12%.
  • Many bridges make excellent artificial hills. Make sure the one you choose has a safe pedestrian area and then walk back and forth across that sucker a bunch of times. Sure, it’s not the most exciting option, but consider it an opportunity to build both physical strength and mental fortitude.

As much as possible, complete the above activities while wearing a weighted pack similar to the one you plan on hiking with. Commit to one or more of these moves and you might be shocked at the high level of hiking fitness you can build without ever leaving sea level.

A hiker walks on rocky terrain on the Laugavegur Trail
WAY better than the stairclimber machine!

Basic Laugavegur Trail Training Plan

Six Months Before Your Trek: Build Your Endurance Base

Even if you’re taking four days to complete the Laugavegur, you can expect to spend long days on the trail. Most walkers complete their trek in 2-4 days, meaning they’ll need to average well over 15 kilometers (10 miles) per day. To prepare for extended periods of hiking, you should try to build a solid foundation of aerobic endurance. So what does that actually mean? Simply put, your body needs to be accustomed to sustaining low(ish)-intensity exercise for longer than an hour.

Like a lot of training, the best way to get your body used to moving for a long time is-you guessed it- to regularly move for extended periods of time. You can achieve this a lot of different ways, but the important factor is that you’re frequently and consistently doing cardio exercise. Aerobic activity (AKA “cardio”) includes things like jogging, cycling, walking, swimming, using the elliptical machine, or anything else that requires moderate, sustained exertion (your heart rate should be elevated, but you should be able to maintain a conversation and keep up the activity for at least 30 minutes).

Starting six months prior to your trek, aim to complete 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity 3-5 times per week. If your fitness regimen already includes this kind of thing, just keep on keeping on!

Build your endurance base to cross vast landscapes like this one.

Three Months Before Your Trek: Build Your Strength

In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should begin to increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. 

Your main goal is to continue to build your aerobic endurance while also training your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline (4-12% grade), or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to.

Additionally, now is the time to start incorporating a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Many hikers neglect strength training for any number of reasons; they don’t think they need it, they don’t know how, they don’t have time, or they just find it boring (this last one is the favorite excuse of yours truly!)

However, strength training plays a huge role in giving you the power needed to tackle hard climbs, build stability, stay light on your feet, and prevent injury. You don’t need to spend a ton of time in the gym to get results, either. Even just a few minutes a week in the comfort of your home can make a world of difference.

Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build Laugavegur-ready legs:

  • 10 goblet squats (with medium weight)
  • 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase the challenge)
  • 10 step-ups on each leg (weights optional)

Complete three sets of each exercise.

A trail sign on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.
Your leg strengthening routine will certainly pay off on this difficult section of the Fimmvörðuháls.

Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold.

First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight.

Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! In the two months before your Laugavegur trek, try to complete at least one challenging hike at least once a week while wearing your pack.

Your backpack should mirror the weight you intend to carry on your Laugavegur Trail hike, including food and water. Ideally, you should work up to hikes that are 15-18 kilometers (5-10 miles) long with 500 meters (1,500 feet) of elevation gain. If that’s not possible, try to complete a weekly long walk (5-10 miles) while wearing your pack and with as many hills as possible (see the previous section for more ideas on this). As an added bonus, these hikes/walks are a great opportunity to start breaking in new hiking boots and other gear.

Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections, simply replacing one of your weekly aerobic workouts with a long hike. 

A hiker walks through a large snow field on the Laugavegur Trail
You can still expect to encounter lots of snow on the trail in July!

One Month Before Your Trip: Time for a Test Run (Hike)

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  If you aren’t planning on camping along the Laugagevur, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking.

This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to hiking consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.

Keep up your established aerobic and strength training until 10 days to one week before the hike. In the last week before your trip, continue doing some light cardio and strength, but take extra rest days and don’t do any big, challenging hikes so your body is fresh for your upcoming adventure. Finally, pat yourself on the back and take pride in showing up to your Laugavegur trek fit, prepared, and the best version of yourself!

Camping at Alftavatn.
If you plan on camping along the Laugavegur, try to do a test run before your trek.

Adapting the Hike for Varying Ability Levels

Unfortunately, the Laugavegur Trail is not the friendliest trek in terms of accessibility and adaptations.  Detours and shortcuts are nearly impossible, as there are few road connections along the route.  That being said, there are actions you can take to minimize the difficulty of your Laugavegur trek. If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Hike from north to south to minimize elevation gain and avoid the most strenuous climbs.
  • Skip the Fimmvörðuháls Trail extension, as it is much more difficult than the Laugavegur Trail.
  • Carry as light a pack as possible to reduce the strain on your body. You can store additional luggage in Reykjavik if needed. Check out our Laugavegur Trail Logistics article for more details on luggage storage.
  • If possible, allow yourself four days to complete the Laugavegur. With this itinerary, you’ll never have to walk more than ten miles in a single day. See our Laugavegur Itineraries article for details.
Hvanngill Hut Laugavegur Trail
Staying in huts like this one will allow you to carry a lighter pack and reduce the overall challenge of the trek.

The Bottom Line

Move, preferably uphill and with weight on your back, as much as possible. Do this and you will be able to enjoy every moment of your incredible trip so much more. Plus, the time and effort you spend working towards your goal will make the real thing that much sweeter. I can’t stress enough how glad we were that we’d prepared for the challenge of a thru-hike like the Laugavegur Trail, and I hope these training tips can help you have your best possible trip.

Disclaimer: This training plan  is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor is it a replacement for seeking medical treatment or professional nutrition advice. Do not start any nutrition or physical activity program without first consulting your physician.

Snow covered mountains on the Laugavegur Trail

Everything you need to to plan your Laugavegur Trek – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, or something in between, we’ve got you covered. Our Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur Trail is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip. Get instant access to our trip planning portal with everything you need to start planning your trip.

Pick your digital guide below:

What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the Laugavegur Trail to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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