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Franz Josef Glacier Valley Track

The Better Glacier Valley Walk

Difficulty: easy 30 minute (2.5 km) one-way walk
Bring: swimsuit, sandals
Franz Josef Glacier Valley Track
NZGps: 43° 25' 24.3984" S 170° 10' 8.1912" E
Average: 2.3 (3 votes)

The Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk is the more interesting of the two glacier valley walks, and it seems less crowded since tourists are spread out over a longer distance than at Fox Glacier. It takes an easy 30 minutes from the carpark to reach the roped-off end of the track some 200m before the glacier’s snout. Along the way there are a bunch of waterfalls in side canyons and a very photogenic triple falls directly on the track. Redblossomed Southern Rata trees adorn the towering canyon walls in the summertime. Sheer jagged walls tower overhead and you get a good look up the face of FJ’s canyon-filling ice field as you walk towards it. At the track’s end near the crumbling nose of the glacier you’ll get a good look at the cave from whence pours the icy Waiho River. Ropes and signs prevent people from attempting to get closer to the wall of ice (people have died getting too close and having ice chunks “knock ‘em cold”). Often you’ll also see parties of guided glacier-walkers making their way down the hyper-steep front face of the gravel-covered portion of the snout.

If you’re the type for wacky off-the-beaten-path ideas, then wear a bathing suit under your regular clothes for this track. The scenic triple waterfall that tumbles down the canyon wall about half-way to the glacier, surprisingly, isn’t ice cold—it’s the “temperate” part of this wondrously unique glacier/rainforest combo that makes this area so special in the world (it’s a rain-fed waterfall rather than an ice-melt flow). So, what better way to celebrate NZ’s unique marvels than to strip down to your swimsuit and then have a bit of a waterfall shower—in sight of the frozen wall of ice! Where else in the world can you do this and not be freezing cold?? The left-most of the three waterfalls even has a dry photo spot where your friends can take some memorable pix. Woo-hooo, Fun at the Franz!

Excerpt from "NZ Frenzy Guidebook" by Scott CookNZ Frenzy Guidebook

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Location Map


Crowded during first section

Jules2's picture

Crowded during first section as this is a tour bus stop, but keep going and you will lose some of the crowd as tourist s who are dressed for or prepared for a hike will quit. You won't get right up to the foot of the glacier (that would be unsafe), but as close as you will get without the helicopter trip. A few nice waterfalls along the the way (depends on recent rainfall).


Submitted by Jules2 on Sun, 2018-04-01 12:45

Disappointing. In April 2015

bananas's picture

Disappointing. In April 2015 could only approach to half a km away from the front face which was ugly, tiny and brown. The waterfalls are nice but not among the most spectacular ones in NZ. The Fox one is better.


Submitted by bananas on Sun, 2015-04-19 20:18

Nice walk up to the glacier

samhankin's picture

Nice walk up to the glacier with waterfalls. I think it was a bad time of year as the ice had receded a long way back and they were working on the path as you walk up. Didn't get as close to the ice as we had hoped but still cool to see this natural sculpture.

The walking tour would be a waste of money as they can't get you onto the ice. If you want to get to the ice you have to get a helicopter and that comes at a price!


Submitted by samhankin on Sat, 2015-03-14 16:10