The adsorption of hydrogen at nonpolar GaN(1¯100) surfaces and its impact on the electronic and vibrational properties is investigated using surface electron spectroscopy in combination with density functional theory (DFT) calculations. For the surface mediated dissociation of H2 and the subsequent adsorption of H, an energy barrier of 0.55 eV has to be overcome. The calculated kinetic surface phase diagram indicates that the reaction is kinetically hindered at low pressures and low temperatures. At higher temperatures ab initio thermodynamics show, that the H-free surface is energetically favored. To validate these theoretical predictions experiments at room temperature and under ultrahigh vacuum conditions were performed. They reveal that molecular hydrogen does not dissociatively adsorb at the GaN(1¯100) surface. Only activated atomic hydrogen atoms attach to the surface. At temperatures above 820 K, the attached hydrogen gets desorbed. The adsorbed hydrogen atoms saturate the dangling bonds of the gallium and nitrogen surface atoms and result in an inversion of the Ga–N surface dimer buckling. The signatures of the Ga–H and N–H vibrational modes on the H-covered surface have experimentally been identified and are in good agreement with the DFT calculations of the surface phonon modes. Both theory and experiment show that H adsorption results in a removal of occupied and unoccupied intragap electron states of the clean GaN(1¯100) surface and a reduction of the surface upward band bending by 0.4 eV. The latter mechanism largely reduces surface electron depletion.