Hovering Trails

Hovering Trails

Hovering Trails is a footpath system designed to respond to the increasing demand for low-impact infrastructure in nature reserves. It has now been installed in Hveradalir, a geothermal area in Iceland’s highlands.

    • walking_path

      Walking path

    • geothermal_area

      Geothermal area

    • moss___vegetation

      Moss / Vegetation

    • water


    Graphic map, large.Graphic map, detail.Architecture illustration.

    Designed for difficult conditions

    The uniqueness of the design of the Hovering Trails system lies in the possibility of installing the trails under challenging conditions, without damaging the ground or disrupting natural water flow. Further, it can be installed with lighting and security handrails according to local risk factors to prevent accidents.

    Hovering over the ground

    The trails “hover” above the ground and prevent the land from being squashed when facilitating access for travellers. The v-shaped form of the structural parts assures that the soil under the trail has access to light, which maintains the moss and heather. The trails are exciting in places with swamps, hot springs, or lava fields as they float above the ground, compared to traditional paths that could not be constructed in such areas without significant soil disturbance. With the hovering trails, the land can be returned untouched decades later.

    Key facts

    • Type of project

      Contemporary design for the protection of untouched nature

    • Project owner

      Birgir Þ. Jóhannsson, Architect, and Laurent Ney, Engineer

    • Location


    • GPS points

      64.02017419445633, -21.397309300578037

    • Landscape type

      Geothermal site

    • Estimated number of visitors high season

      An estimated 1,000 visitors per day in summer

    • Estimated number of visitors high season

      An estimated 100 visitors per day in winter time

    • Designers

      Birgir Þ. Jóhannsson, Architect, and Laurent Ney, Engineer

    • Materials

      Aluminium modules with handrails in stainless steel

    • Year built

      Between 2018 and 2022

    • Design / Production / Maintenance cost:

      ISK 66.460.000 sponsored by The Icelandic Technology Development Fund / Production cost is ISK 195.000 per m2 / No maintenance is required.

    • Prizes/Awards

      2nd prize, architectural competition for Kárastaðastígur. 3rd prize, architectural competition for Gullfoss. Received grants from TDF Sproti in 2017 and 2018 and from TDF Vöxtur in 2020 and 2021, as well as a marketing grant from TDF in 2021. Framkvæmdasjóður Ferðamannastaða sponsored the construction of the project in Hveradalir in 2019, 2020 and 2021.