With some 140 glaciers making their way down from the Southern Alps, this area is fittingly known as glacier country. Few sights equal the spectacle of two of these giant frozen rivers (Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers) imperceptibly grinding their way down through temperate rainforest to just 250 metres (820 feet) above sea level. Our hike will take us along the Waiho River bed up the valley right to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier.
Heli-hike option (extra fee applies)
An outrageously scenic alternative to today’s hike is to heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier itself. After being fitted with crampons, ice axes and so on, you’ll board a turbine helicopter and fly towards the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, landing on the glacier at 1300 metres (4265 feet) above sea level. Led by specialist glacier guides, you’ll hike through the grand ice formations of the glacier, checking out its crevasses, seracs and tunnels – no previous experience is required! The constant movement of the glacier means every day is different, so your guides will cut steps in the ice and make sure you make the most of the conditions. At the end of your hike on the ice, you’ll take another helicopter ride out of the mountains and back to civilisation.
The heli-hike is extremely popular, so we offer advance reservations with the helicopter operators and guiding company. At the time of booking, or up until one month before your trip, we can reserve a space for you, or you can leave your decision until the start of your trip and your guides will get you a spot if it’s available.
From Franz Josef, we’ll travel down the coast through lush forest visiting historic Ship Creek to explore the Kahikatea forest, providing a glimpse back in time to what the West Coast may have looked like prior to human settlement. Tonight we’ll stay in the small settlement of Makarora, where you can enjoy incredible views of the mountains right outside your window.
Makarora Lodgings, Makarora (All meals)
Hiking Distance: 4.8 kilometres (3 miles) 2-3 hours
Elevation Gain: 20 metres (66 feet)
Elevation Loss: 20 metres (66 feet)