Set in New Zealand's Westland Tai Poutini National Park—part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Site—the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are two of the world's most accessible glaciers. Unlike polar glaciers, they exist in a temperate climate, making hiking a much more attractive proposition. Here are some of the top trail options.
Franz Josef Glacier Hike
Hiking on the sheer icy surface of this glacier is a real thrill. Fly to the glacier crest via helicopter, and land on top where you’ll begin your trek. Using ice axes and crampons, make your way along the vast icy terrain, passing ice caves, pinnacles, seracs, and crevasses. Because of the dangerous and changeable nature of the terrain, hiking on the glacier should only be done with a guide.
Fox Glacier Hike
As with Franz Josef Glacier treks, hikes on the Fox Glacier typically begin with a helicopter ride to the top, followed by a guided trek through the icy wilderness. Equipped with appropriate equipment, hikers make their way along the remote icy expanse, passing sculptural ice formations, ice caves, and arches.
Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk
Suitable for those of moderate fitness, this 3.3-mile (5.3-kilometer) trail is ideal for those who would prefer to stay off the ice. It follows the shingle and rock riverbed through the glacier valley, where the glacier once flowed. The route leads to a viewing area, which overlooks the ever-changing terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier.
Fox Glacier Valley Walk
This 1.6-mile (2.6-kilometer) walk leads hikers to within 1,640 feet (500 meters) of the terminal face of Fox Glacier, where ice and rock can sometimes be seen calving off. Though it’s not a long route, the surface is somewhat rough and uneven, and hikers may need to cross several small streams.
Ideal for families, this easy 2.4-mile (3.9-kilometer) loop walk passes through the temperate rain forest, where different areas of vegetation represent the stages of regrowth following the retreat of the glacial ice. It leads to Peters Pool, a small reflective kettle lake formed by meltwater from Franz Josef Glacier, where you can see a mirrored image of the surrounding peaks.