Somewhat overshadowed by nearby Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier is definitely worth hiking to if you’re travelling along the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. You’ll hike through a scenic, glacier carved valley to a viewpoint close to the glacier. You can’t set foot on it (without joining a tour) but the view is a good climax to the excellent 90 minute round trip hike.
Update 2019: The access road to Fox Glacier is closed indefinitely. I think you can still walk to the start of the track from town (around 6 km one way) but information is hard to come by. I’ll be heading back there later this year but if you have any up to date information let me know in the comments below.
Hiking to Fox Glacier
The hike starts off on a hill above a milky, glacier fed river. From there the track meanders up the valley until coming to a final climb to the viewpoint. It’s fairly easy (until the last section) and the views are great. Waterfalls crash down rocky emerald peaks, contrasting nicely with the moon-like terrain of the valley floor.
The last section of the Fox Glacier Track is a 400 metre uphill hike surrounded by treacherous rocks which, if you believe the signs, could crush you at any moment. There are signs every few metres imploring you not to stop. What they didn’t factor in is that most people can’t walk 400 metres uphill without stopping for a rest. Maybe it’s just an elaborate system to motivate people to walk faster and burn more calories.
The Fox Glacier Viewpoint
The final viewpoint gets you reasonably close to the glacier. There’s a huge waterfall nearby, as well as barren greys slopes and the scruffy, sediment covered glacier. This isn’t like the surreal blue ice you might have seen at glaciers in South America! It still holds a certain rugged beauty though.
Another Fox Glacier Viewpoint
We drove down Glacier View Road in hopes of seeing another angle of Fox Glacier. We got to the end of the narrow road and saw the viewpoint, which was a bit disappointing as it was mostly obscured by trees. There are other walks in the area with views of Fox Glacier. We haven’t done them yet — maybe next time!
Fox Glacier VS Franz Josef Glacier
If you have time you should see them both, but in my opinion the Franz Josef Glacier Track makes for the better hike. There’s more to see along the way (including some accessible waterfalls) and the valley itself is a bit more impressive.
READ MORE: Hiking the Franz Josef Glacier Track
Fox Glacier is a few kilometres from the township of the same name. It’s around 30 minutes from Franz Josef and 90 minutes from Haast. If you’re in the area make sure to walk around Lake Matheson — if it’s a clear, calm day you’ll see amazing reflections of Mount Cook.
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