Franz Josef Glacier Walk

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Franz Josef Glacier walk is an easy 1.5 hour round trip walk to the base of Franz Josef Glacier from the car park. Walk past a waterfall along the wide river stone track, suitable for children. You can’t get that close to the glacier face anymore because it’s receded too far. After you’ve finished your walk, why not relax in the main hot pools at Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools. Or even better, take a soak in the Franz Josef Glacier Private Hot Pools. The hot pools even have a Private Pamper Package!

If you’d prefer to have a guide take you and explain all about the glacier, discover the legends and history, learn all about the flora and fauna along the way, then book a 3 hour guided valley walk to Franz Josef Glacier. This tour doesn’t go on the ice.

Another awesome way to see the Franz Josef Glacier if you don’t want to walk there, is to take a scenic flight. Book a scenic flight over Franz Josef Glacier & Fox Glacier, leaving and returning from Franz Josef town.

Quick Facts

        • 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
        • Last Updated: March 2020
  • Track Highlights

    The day we were there we were watching pieces of glacier floating down the river which was really exciting to see.

  • Track Quality

    Good walking on river stones, no wet feet.

  • Hazards


  • Transport

    From Franz Josef village to the glacier you will have to drive or walk over a one way bridge. This bridge crosses the ice cold Waiho River that flows from underneath the Franz Josef glacier. You can pay for a shuttle from Franz Josef township to the Glacier $12.5 each.

  • Water


  • Driving Instructions


  • Shops or Restaurants nearby

    Franz Josef town has plenty of restaurants but only one IGA supermarket to buy your food from. Top up with plenty of food before you arrive in Franz Josef, it is a lot dearer to buy here.

  • Area & Track History

    The Franz Josef Glacier is currently 12 km long and terminates 19 km from the Tasman Sea. The glacier is less than 300 metres above sea level. When the German explorer, Julius von Haast discovered the glacier in 1865, the glacier would have extended almost out to the Tasman sea. He named the glacier after his Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. If you have the chance to walk to the Franz Josef glacier you will be one of the 250,000 visitors a year who do the walk. George J Roberts was a surveyor for the West Coast, he built trig stations throughout the West Coast from the 1870s to 1900.

    Roberts Point track was the first track up the Franz Josef Glacier Valley. The Graham brothers used this track to guide people up and onto the Franz Josef Glacier. You will also come across Peter Hendes Hut. It is said to be unsuitable for an overnight stay, it may have a stony floor and no windows but it is better then sleeping out in the open. Peter Hendes also built the Gallery which is just below the hut in 1907; the steps hang off the rock wall by steel bolts and rods. But don’t worry it was restored in 1996.

  • Best Things To Do near this walk

  • Map location of Franz Josef Glacier Walk

    Map of walk

Points of interest along the walk

In the map above, if you zoom in on the walk, you’ll see all the following track points and their location. Each point has photos along with a description about each one.

Point 1: 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 have decided not to fix it. Now you walk along side 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. This summer the price was $12.50 each.

Point 2: 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 up hill 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.

Point 3: 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. Click here to see the Roberts Point Walking Track at Franz Josef.

Point 4: Relax in the Glacier Hot Pools after your walk

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.

Point 5: Book the Franz Josef Hot Pools below:

Point 6: Watch the video on the Glacier Hot Pools below:

All walks in Franz Josef…

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