Franz Josef Glacier. © Jeff Finley

Franz Josef Glacier Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere Walk

Franz Josef Glacier
View the map

TAP FOR MORE INFO:

Follow a rocky riverbed path then climb to the Franz Josef Glacier viewing area. It's a beautiful yet dangerous place that is sometimes closed, so check it's open before you start.

About the walk

How long will it take? This is a 5.4km 90-minute walk.

The first 15 minutes is an easy (fully accessible) forest walk from the car park to a river bank view of the glacier. 

Continuing from the end of the forest walk, follow the markers in the riverbed past Trident Falls to a point close to the terminal face of the glacier. This is not a track but a route over the shingle and rock of the riverbed and it can be quite rough underfoot – make sure you have suitable footwear.

The final section of track to the safety barriers includes a short climb to the viewing area. Do not go past the barriers and pay attention to all signage as areas of the valley are hazardous and are not safe for visitors.

This is a beautiful yet volatile place – do not let the serene scene fool you.

The glacier is constantly moving. Ice and rock fall from the terminal face without warning. Creeks may rise up to a metre in even moderate rain. Water levels rise in as little as 15 minutes.

Hazards

The Franz Josef Glacier valley is a hazardous environment. The access road and tracks can be closed due to rock falls or flooded rivers, and glacier viewpoints may be hundreds of metres from the face of the glacier. 

The weather can change at any time. Walking to the glacier is over rough and uneven ground and can involve crossing streams. Be prepared to turn back if conditions are not favourable or you are outside your comfort zone.

The main hazards in the glacier valley are:

  • Icefall: Never go over the barrier and stand close to the glacier face – rocks and ice fall from the terminal face continuously – some pieces can be twice the size of a campervan! 
  • River surges: Glacial rivers can be dammed by ice falls and the dam could burst creating a huge surge of water and ice which floods the valley. 
  • Rock fall: Heavy rain can destabilise steep valley walls, causing rock fall. Do not stop in marked rock fall areas. 
  • Flooding: Downpours can create flooding within minutes. Follow the marked track, obey all signs and never cross barriers.

Don't make a fatal mistake! 

People have died or been seriously injured after ignoring signs and going over the barriers – you are taking a serious personal risk to get closer to the glacier. If you want to get closer to, or onto, the glacier there are experienced glacier guiding companies based in Franz Josef and Fox Glacier townships.

Glacier visits have had to change because the landscape is on the move every day as the glacier retreats. Helicopters are the only safe way to get people onto the glacier for guided walks, so you will hear them pass overhead.

For more information on visiting the glaciers safely click here

Explore more...


Be the first to comment on this page. You cannot post comments until you have logged in. Please log in or register if you don't have an account.

More stories like this

Find out more

Things to do

Fox Glacier River Walk

Get a great view of Fox Glacier and the opportunity to cross a historic suspension bridge on this pleasant short walk. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Things to do

Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

Many of the crinklier bits of New Zealand’s geography were formed by the slow but insistent action of glaciers. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Natural attractions

Te Ara a Waiau Walkway/Cycleway

Walk or cycle through bush from Franz Josef township to the Franz Josef Glacier car park.  Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Activities

Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers: monuments to nature’s power and beauty

Experience Fox and Franz Josef – two of the 140 glaciers that flow from the Southern Alps. Read the story . . . 

4.7 /5
From $125
4.7 /5
Best Price Around
Annabelle Motel Visit website

PRIVATE, QUIET, SPACIOUS AND LUXURIOUS. Here at Annabelle Motels, you cannot help but relax, unwind and enjoy your time here in our beautiful town.Our motels . . . More . . . 

From $125

Book now

Book now

4.4 /5
4.4 /5
Fitzherbert Court Motel Visit website

Friendly helpful hosts. 4 Star property with with spacious family rooms, 1 bedrooms and studios. Catering for international travellers, family and sports groups as well . . . More . . . 

Book now

Book now

4.7 /5
From $120
4.7 /5
Best Price Around
The Garden B&B Visit website

Character home in a tranquil garden setting with a range of rooms to suit every budget and group configuration, and within easy walking distance to . . . More . . . 

From $120

Book now

Book now

4.5 /5
The Terrace Motel Visit website

The Terrace offers spacious hotel and motel style rooms in a quiet location yet is still the closest motel to the centre of Franz Josef. . . . More . . . 

Book now

Book now