Done the Franz Josef Glacier Valley and still want more?
Perhaps you’ve ticked the glacier heli-hike experience off your list but still need more of those stunning icy glacier views? Don’t fear; there are plenty of options for hiking around Franz Josef Glacier. If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the walks.
The most popular walk for anyone visiting Glacier Country is the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk. The trek only takes 1 hour and a half return but offers a smorgasbord of views! You’ll trek through the lush rainforest, over small creeks, alongside the mighty Waiho River, past cascading waterfalls and then arrive at the best spot for viewing Franz Josef Glacier from the valley floor. It’s an amazing walk, so it’s no surprise that many people are left wanting more.
Here are a few of the other walks in and around the Waiho Valley. All of these walks are accessible from the Franz Josef Glacier Valley road, or the car park at the end of the road.
Easy to Moderate Franz Josef Glacier Walks
Sentinel Rock Walk
Time: 20 Mins / 900 mts Return
Catch more great views of the glacier, the Waiho River, and the glacier valley on this short walk suitable for a moderate level of fitness. Starting with a steady climb through the bush, you soon arrive in an area that up until 100 years ago was underneath the ice. As the glacier has retreated, vegetation has once again taken over the landscape. With many telltale signs of the glacier’s previous location, the area offers an excellent illustration of the dramatic changes the glacier has undergone over the years. Information panels at the viewpoint show the glacier’s retreat over the years.
Time: 25 minutes / 1.1 km return from the car park
Peters Pool is a kettle lake. A kettle lake forms when detached ice, broken off from the glacier, is left to melt in depressions. Kettle lakes are an excellent indication of where the glacier has previously been. Peters Pool was probably a part of the glacier around 200 years ago. From the pool, catch reflective views of the glacier and surrounding mountain peaks in this tranquil setting.
Time: 1 hour (including 15-min loop back via Te Ara a Waiau) / 3.9 km loop
Observe the incredible landscapes of glacier country in this easy 1-hour loop track. Take a walk through the rainforest and observe the different stages of vegetation regrowth that occurs following the retreat of the glacier. This walk takes in Peters Pool, as well as the historic Douglas suspension bridge.
Lake Wombat Walk
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes / 3.8 km return
Half way along the glacier road, you will see the signs for the Lake Wombat walk. Another kettle lake, Lake Wombat was formed nearly 9,000 years ago when a large piece of ice was left behind from the glacier. The lake is a peaceful spot set amongst stunning rimu forest. The walk begins with a steady climb along a fern-lined track and offers plenty of opportunities to observe local birdlife. Are you experienced? If you are an experienced hiker and well equipped to handle alpine conditions, there are full day and multi-day hikes throughout the region. Check with the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre in Franz Josef Glacier for what walks are most suitable for the season and which are suitable for your experience.
Alex Knob Track.
Time: 8 hours / 17.2 km return
This walk is for experienced and well-equipped trampers only and should only be undertaken by those who are familiar with alpine tramping and understand Westland’s weather conditions, although it is considered one of the best full day walks in the Franz Josef is the Check with the Department of Conservationbefore setting off. The start of the Alex Knob Track begins on the right-hand side of the road into the Franz Josef Glacier car park. Beginning with a steep winding track through lowland forest, Rata Lookout offers the first glimpse of Franz Josef Glacier. Subalpine scrub meets alpine meadows as you climb higher. Enjoy incredible views and a place to rest at Christmas Outlook. The track continues through snow tussock to Alex Knob summit where you are rewarded with stunning views of the glacier and the surrounding peaks of the Southern Alps. From here you can see the incredible impact the ancient glaciers have had on the landscape. Start early in the morning to ensure you reach the summit before theafternoon. Take care if attempting this walk during winter as snow is likely above Christmas Outlook and is not suitable for those who are inexperienced in snow and alpine conditions.
For further information on walks around Franz Josef Glacier, talk to the front desk team at Rainforest Retreat as we’re all pretty keen on a hike ourselves. For further info, visit the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre at 69 Cron Street, Franz Josef Glacier.