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The Mighty Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier RJ Cox

The Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe grinds down the Fox Valley from the high peaks of the Southern Alps / Ka Tiritiri o te Moana. It surges through temperate rainforest and turns a corner before terminating 250 metres above sea level and only 12 kilometres from the Tasman Sea. It is the longer and the faster moving of the two famous West Coast glaciers. Fed by four alpine glaciers, it falls 2600 metres on its 13-kilometre journey towards the coast. It is 300 metres deep and its terminal face is just 5 kilometres from the township.


The névé or snow catchment area of the Fox Glacier is about 36 square kilometres (14 square miles), which is the same size as Norfolk Island. Its valley has more 3 000-metre (10 000-feet) peaks presiding over it than any other valley in New Zealand. Douglas Peak, and Mounts Haast, Tasman, Torres, and others, feed snow into the névé and cast their shadows at sunrise

Vertical schist rock walls in the Fox Glacier valley are over one kilometre high. They were ground out by the glacier around 18 000 years ago when the ice reached all the way to the Tasman Sea. These cliffs tell the geological story of the Southern Alps. The dynamic forces of the tectonic plates colliding along the Alpine Fault built the mountain range, and left these sedimentary rock faces behind.

The road to the glacier crosses ancient moraine from earlier advances and retreats. Short valley walks to the Fox Glacier terminal face or guided glacier walks on to the ice give spectacular views of this dramatic landscape and a unique glacier experience.

The Department of Conservation checks the Fox Glacier valley first thing every morning.

For more information check out the daily glacier access update on this site.

Things to do and see

From Glacier View Road there are several options for walks that take from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours return. To see the glacier up close: you can walk to the terminal face; take a guided glacier walk; take a heli-hike, or a scenic flight for aerial sightseeing with or without snow landings. You can get in some mountaineering or go skydiving.

See also:
Fox Glacier Valley and Lake Matheson Area in the ‘Walks, Tramps, Tracks and More’ section and Glacier safety information.



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