Hike to Franz Josef Glacier

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Added by Lauren Schusterman

Distance: 5.4 km roundtrip. Time: 1.5 hours roundtrip. Great way to see the glacier without paying hundreds of dollars to go on it. Easy, mostly flat walk. Several waterfalls.

From the carpark take a quick walk through a green, forested area before making your way into the valley. Here you will get your first view of the glacier. At this point the trail gets a bit rocky but is still very doable. The trail continues mostly flat for the next 35 minutes. You will pass many waterfalls and interesting rock formations on this part of the hike. Right before the glacier platform there is a small uphill. Once you reach the viewing platform there is an amazing view of Franz Josef Glacier. The area around the glacier is very dangerous because of ice and rock fall so make sure to not go past the viewing platform.

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The waterfalls are the best part!

Wanted to hike Roberts Point but the overcast hung low in the sky (a common occurrence on the West Coast) and would've obstructed the views so I opted for this hike instead and I was not disappointed. The waterfalls really make this hike extraordinary. Kind of reminded me of waterfalls in Hawaii but also with a huge glacier. Do yourself a favor and go at sunrise/sunset to avoid the crazy crowds.

Easy And Scenic

This is a very easy walk through the West Coast valley with views of the Franz Josef Glacier. When I went, the cloud deck was too low for helicopter tours (unfortunately mine was cancelled the next morning) but walking through the valley in this weather was pretty neat. Towering cliffs are streaming with waterfalls coming out of the clouds was pretty neat. The walk itself has almost no elevation gain and therefore if you're in town it is worth checking out.

Underwhelming

I'll be honest, for those who have seen glaciers in the past, these can be a little underwhelming. I was only able to get as close as about 700 meters, which is still quite far. The path was very well maintained as you can imagine, but it was very crowded. It is one of the crown jewels for NZ, and people know about it. It is some cool scenery and glaciers are always fun to see, but there are better spots to explore in NZ.

This is a pretty easy hike to the beautiful Franz Josef Glacier. It's really a shame how much of the glacier has receded since 2008 (when it entered a rapid phase of retreat). Just more of a reason to continually make efforts to preserve our environment and areas like these. Make sure you take the chance to see while you can!

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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