Franz Josef Glacier walk is an easy 1.5 hour round trip walk to the base of Franz Josef Glacier from the car park.

I vividly remember the day I walked the Franz Josef Glacier track. The crisp morning air greeted me as I set out on this awesome sunny day.

As I followed the track, the lush rainforest gradually transformed into a pristine alpine landscape. You can’t get that close to the glacier face anymore because it’s receded too far. However, the Franz Josef Glacier walk is still really enjoyable.


Quick Facts about this walk

  • Location: Franz Josef, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
  • Distance: 5.4 kms
  • Time needed: 1.5 Hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Wheelchair Access: No
  • Route: Double back, return
  • Elevation: 264m
  • Wet Feet: No
  • Toilets: Yes
  • Dogs: No
  • Mobile Coverage: No

Summary points about this walk

Points of interest along the walk​

How to get to the Franz Josef Car Park – start of the walk

It is a short 4.6 km drive from Franz Josef Village on a sealed road to the Franz Josef Glacier car park. You can no longer walk up the Waiho River via Callery Gorge.

From the Callery swing bridge the track has been taken out by a slip. DOC has decided not to fix it. Now you walk alongside the road into the Franz Josef Glacier car park. You can pay for a shuttle to pick up and drop off from Franz Josef village. 

Observation point for good photos

From the Franz Josef Glacier car park, make your way to the information board then follow the path to the right. Five minutes into the walk there is a small uphill climb to a good observation point to take photos of the Waiho Valley and up to the Glacier.

A word of warning. Do not fly your drone anywhere around Franz Josef. The police will lock you up for the night and fine you thousands of dollars. One so and so, flew his drone past a chopper, almost causing the tourist laden chopper to crash. Guess where he spent the rest of his holiday.

To the Franz Josef Glacier Lookout

Back down onto the Waiho valley floor, this is the one and only bridge to cross, to your right there are three small waterfalls where you could top up that water bottle with fresh cold mountain water.

The last 300mt of the walk is the last small climb to the viewing point of the Franz Josef Glacier, but alas the Glacier is still hundreds of meters away, very disappointing. Going back to 2010, I could almost touch the Glacier face if the boys were not watching, but today the Franz Josef Glacier has receded back up into the Southern Alps by almost 1000 meters.

In ten years’ time it will be nothing but a speck of white ice you can only see with a pair of power 10 binoculars. The best view of the Franz Josef Glacier is from the five hour return walk to Roberts Point, 600m on the opposite side of the Waiho Valley from where you are standing. 

Relax in the Glacier Hot Pools after your walk - CURRENTLY CLOSED

It can get quite cold in Franz Josef even in the summer. The new hot pools located right in Franz Josef town are an excellent place to relax and warm up after walking or hiking around the Franz Josef area. Book a single ticket to the main pools or enjoy the luxury of a private pool. Even better is the private pool pamper package where you’ll have extra’s with a robe and antipasto platter for 2. For more details about the Glacier Hot Pools click here.

More things to do near From Franz Josef

More of my walks in Franz Josef

My legs in the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools

Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools and Private Pools

3 main hot pools & 3 private hot pools right in the centre of Franz Josef town
Walk details →
The other end |Start of the Tatare Tunnel walk

Tatara Tunnel, Franz Josef

2.5 km • 1 hr 30 mins • Easy
Walk details →
Roberts Point Track||||||Roberts Point Walking Track

Roberts Point Walking Track, Franz Josef

11 kms • 5 Hours Return • Medium
Walk details →
Lake Wombat|||||Lake Wombat Walk

Lake Wombat Walk, Franz Josef

3.80 km • 1 hr 30 mins return • Easy
Walk details →
Callery Gorge Swing Bridge|||||Callery Gorge Walk

Callery Gorge Walk

5.20 km • 1 Hour 20 Minutes • Easy
Walk details →
Heli-Hike Franz Josef Glacier 3 Hour Glacier Walk & Hot Pools - Copyright Freewalks NZ|Franz Josef Glacier walk

Heli-Hike Franz Josef Glacier 2.25 Hour Glacier Walk & Hot Pools

2.5 km • 3.5 Hours • Medium
Walk details →