This is a short walk to a viewpoint of the glacier – suitable for children.

This is a 15 minute (fully accessible) walk through the rainforest to a river bank view of the Franz Josef Glacier. The view point is 2000m from the terminal face.

Changing glacier visits – 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.

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. Click here for daily glacier valley access information:

Getting there

Drive or walk south from the Franz Josef Waiau township across the Waiho River bridge and turn left onto the Glacier Access Road or Te Ara a Waiau. Drive or walk for approximately 4 km to the car park at the end of the road.

Know before you go

  • This track is sometimes closed due to ice collapse, flooding or landslides –  check the latest track conditions and weather forecasts at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre before starting your trip.
  • Always take warm and waterproof clothing as the weather can change rapidly.
  • Carry drinking water, insect repellent and sun protection at all times.
  • No drones allowed.

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 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.

 

15 min Easy: Walking track