Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk – Guide

Franz Josef Glacier valley walk

Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk

This is a guide to the Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk which includes all the information you need to know including how to get there, how long the hike is, and much more. It also includes my personal opinion and some great tips on how to see the glacier if you don’t have your own transport!

Topics included in this Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk Guide are:

The Franz Josef Glacier is one of the most talked about attractions in New Zealand. This impressive Glacier is 12km long and is located in the Westland Tai Poutini National park. The glacier is very unique in the fact that it descends (during some years) to only 300m above sea level and almost always breaks past the vegetation line.

Franz Josef Glacier was a must-see spot for me so it really was a no-brainer to make a stop in the cute little town of Franz Josef for a night. Many travelers also have the same plan, which to me, is a great decision!

In this post, I answer all of the questions I had prior to completing the hike in hopes to answer the ones you have before you visit or hike the free Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk.

Franz Josef Glacier valley walk view
The Valley!

Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk general info

The Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk is a great way to view the glacier. This walk starts from the Franz Josef carpark located only 5 minutes by car from the town of Franz Josef. From the town, drive south on Highway 6 until you cross the long one-way bridge, then turn left.

The valley walk is an easy hike and is around 5km return. The hike takes around 1.5 hours return depending on your speed and how long you spend looking at the glacier.

During the hike, you do have to cross two small streams that involve stepping stones. If you’re not confident with this, its best to hike with others. Bailey and I did complete the hike in around 1 hour the first time we did it as we arrived late in the day and ended hiking the last kilometer in the dark!

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Is the Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk free?

Yes! The Franz Josef Glacier valley walk is completely free! 

Franz josef glacier valley walk free
The sign at the start of the Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk!
Franz Josef Glacier valley walk free
The trail to the glacier is really beautiful!

Can I walk from the town of Franz Josef?

Yes. In fact, during my stay, I saw many people walking from the town to the start of the hike. This, however, will add an extra couple of hours to the total hike time.

Another great way to get to the start of the hike if you don’t have transport is to hitchhike.

Where is the Franz Josef Glacier?

The Franz Josef Glacier is located in the Westland Poutini National Park. The best option to view the glacier is to stay overnight in or around the town of Franz Josef. The Glacier is located only a few minutes drive from the town of Franz Josef. The Glacier is actually within walking distance to the town for those who don’t have a car.

Franz Josef Glacier valley walk
Taking in the view at sunrise (shame it was such a cloudy day!)

Getting to the Town of Franz Josef

From the town of Greymouth to the north, Franz Josef is a 170km drive, and from Wanaka to the south it is a 285km drive. Both towns are connected by Highway 6. If you are heading from the south then the road to the glacier carpark will be just before the town of Franz Josef and the opposite if you’re coming from the north. There is a large single lane bridge at the turn off so you really can’t miss it!

Buses run from both Greymouth and Wanaka to Franz Josef.

From Wanaka (or Queenstown) you can catch the Intercity bus at 10:10 am daily and arrive at 4 pm. This bus service costs $43 NZD.

From Greymouth, you can catch the intercity bus at 1:30 pm daily and arrive at 5 pm. This bus service costs $34 NZD.

For more information on bus on bus scheduals click here

Franz Josef Glacier waterfalls
Just one of the amazing waterfalls along the trail!
Franz Josef Glacier valley walk
And…another!

Accommodation in Franz Josef town

The town of Franz Josef offers all types of accommodation from luxury hotels to budget hostels!

We stayed in a budget hostel called The Glow Worm. The hostel was $25 NZD per night for a 6-bed dorm room. The hostel was good and had free parking. I have no problem recommending it to others for a budget option.

If you want to browse the accommodation options in Franz Joseph town, click here!

Franz Josef Glacier valley walk
Jumping for joy during the hike!

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What I thought of the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk

The Franz Josef Glacier valley walk is an amazing short hike. The hike takes you through some breathtaking landscapes and offers great views of the surrounding area. During the hike, you pass several waterfalls and small streams that only add to the experience.

In recent years, the Franz Josef Glacier has entered a retreating period. This means that the viewpoint that was once at the very foot of the glacier is now around 800m away. So the views, without taking a guided tour were not all that amazing. This is compared to say 4 years ago when the glacier met the valley floor. That being said there aren’t any glaciers in Australia (where I’m from) so it was still pretty amazing to see and something well worth that visit!

If you are driving to/from Wanaka make sure you stop at Thunder Creek Falls. It is a great little stopover along Highway 6 that you won’t want to miss! Click here for all of the info!

-Daniel

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