Hike to Franz Josef Glacier: Beyond the Trail End


Added by Vita Rice

Distance: 5.4 km (3.3 mi) roundtripDuration: 1.5 hours roundtrip (to the view point), 3.5-4.5 hour round trip (from carpark to terminal face of glacier)Visit one of the most accessible glaciers in the worldBoth the trail to the viewpoint and beyond reveal fantastic views of the incredible 7000 year old glacier

(Beginner Level) From the carpark, you will briefly walk through beech and fern forest before making your way into the valley, which is a fairly flat river bed region. The trail to the viewpoint is well marked. Depending on the weather, the viewing platform may change in distance from the terminal face of the glacier. The main trail is rocky but well traveled, and is suitable for all ages and abilities. Along the main trial you will pass large boulders and smaller rocks covered in red lichens and moss. You will pass many beautiful waterfalls and schist and gneiss formations. If you are a geology buff you will really enjoy the variation of metamorphic rock in this region.

Disclaimer: This next part is highly advised against by the Department of Conservation and other councils because of health and safety risks

(Advanced-Expert Skill Level) Before continuing past the barrier of the look out point, you must consider a few things:

  1. What time is it? Allow for plenty of time to hike down to the glacier and then get back (you will have to find your own way, as there are no marked paths, and water levels and rock falls may change the landscape at any point). It took us around 3 hours return trip with a leisurely stop at the glacier to look around.

  2. Am I experienced enough to deal with adversity (e.g. ice, rock falls, crossing water, etc)? Much of the landscape between the viewing point and the glacier is made up of loose small-large rocks than can slide at any point. This is possibly the most dangerous part about the trek to the glacier.

  3. Am I wearing proper clothing/Do I have proper equipment? You should be wearing suitable sturdy hiking boots and have the clothing to keep you warm and safe if the weather turns to the worst.

  4. Is the weather good? DO NOT move past the barrier if the weather is less than ideal.

Once you reach the glacier, be careful to not climb onto the ice by any means. Especially at the terminal face, the ice is at its weakest and will be melting at a much higher rate than farther up on the glacier. Ice collapses cause plenty of deaths. Be sure that if you are going near or underneath any ice arches that you keep quiet, as loud noise can easily cause a collapse in the ice. Always be aware of the rate of melting of the glacial ice at all points, and be careful to watch for rocks falling off of the melting ice faces.

If you are experienced and well prepared, moving past the viewing point can be well worth the trip. Franz Josef Glacier is magnificent, and without spending loads of money on a helicopter ride you can meet the terminal face yourself. Just remember to keep safe and tell someone that you are going. Do not go alone, always bring a partner.

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Rock Climbing



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