7 best Fox Glacier walks – Some of the most accessible hiking in NZ
Fox Glacier is a small township that is known for its stunning glacier (that goes by the same name, Lake Matheson and a number of memorable walking tracks. Join us as we explore the best trails in the area – from easy strolls to more challenging hikes, there’s something for everyone here.
Fox Glacier (known as Te Moeka o Tuawe to the local Māori) is not only one of the most spectacular glaciers in the world at 13km long, but it’s also one of the most accessible (though it’s no longer possible to walk up to the ice face).
It is located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park in the South Island and for many, it is a must-see attraction. Hosting around 1,000 people daily in the peak season (between Fox and Franz Josef Glacier), it’s a popular place to explore.
Fox Glacier township (Te Weheka) is home to much more than this famous glacier, though. Lake Matheson with its spectacular mirror reflections is worth the trip alone.
Plus, you’ve got the cute little township of Fox. With a couple of good pubs, and a perfectly isolated vibe, this underrated spot should be on your West Coast itinerary.
But you’re here because you want to know about the best walks in and around Fox Glacier, and there are a number of them!
We love that most of the walks in the area are relatively short, making them perfect for visitors passing through. Many of these double as bike trails too.
Which will you add to your to-do list?
Related: An Introduction to our Great Walks: NZ’s National Treasures.
The best Fox Glacier walks
The Fox Glacier Valley Walk – Closed indefinitely
Before we take a look at the best hiking trails in this area, it’s important first to note the Fox Glacier Valley Walk. It used to be one of the most popular ways to access the glacier but unfortunately, it’s been closed indefinitely.
After a landslide in 2019, there was considerable damage to the access road and facilities. Then further landslides and extensive rain led to further damage.
Now, it’s been decided that it’s no longer viable to re-establish road access into the valley. For this reason, you won’t be able to reach Fox Glacier via this trail, but we think it’s worth noting in case you see information that says otherwise!
With that said, let’s get onto the best walks in the area – all of which are open and worthwhile…
1. Minnehaha Walk
Distance: 1.2 km loop track
Time: 20 minutes
The Minnehaha Walk is the shortest walk in the Fox Glacier area. The trail follows a small stream that takes you through lush rainforest, so it’s undeniably beautiful.
The great thing about this walk is that it’s alluring throughout the day and night.
If you head there during the morning/afternoon, you’ll get to admire the area’s lush rainforests.
However, if you walk after dark, you’ve got a great chance of spotting glow worms. Just make sure you bring a torch along, so you don’t trip in the dark.
The trailhead for the Minnehaha Walk can be found off State Highway 6. After you’ve spotted the Bella Vista Motel, keep going for around 50 metres to get to the start of the trail.
The walk is suitable for wheelchairs and buggies, but dogs and bicycles aren’t allowed.
Haast Highway, Fox Glacier 7886
2. Te Weheka Walkway/Cycleway
Distance: 5 km, return via the same track
Time: 1 hour 20 minutes for walkers, 40 minutes for mountain bikers
The Te Weheka Walkway/Cycleway starts from State Highway 6, just south of Bella Vista Motel.
You’ll walk or bike the first 400 metres before heading into Fox Glacier Valley.
As you head up the valley, the trail climbs steadily. Just beware of your surroundings as it’s a shared trail, and mountain bikes can come through at some speed.
Although Te Weheka Walkway is a great option, you’ll want to keep in mind that it doesn’t offer glacier views.
However, you’ll still get to see something special!
The trail takes you to a viewpoint of New Zealand’s largest active landslide which is rather impressive.
Book: Distinction Fox Glacier – Te Weheka Boutique Hotel.
3. Lake Matheson
Distance: 4.4 km loop track
Time: 1.5 hours
Lake Matheson is one of the most popular Fox Glacier walks, and it’s not hard to see why! Boasting jaw-dropping views and an easy trail, this lovely walk is a must-do.
Nestled in an ancient forest, you’ll find Lake Matheson. This walk treats visitors to spectacular views of the local area. If the conditions are right, you’ll even get to see the famous mirror views on the water, with Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the distance.
Pretty special, right?
For those who want a shorter option, you can just walk from the car park to the first viewpoint, rather than right around the lake. This part of the trail covers a distance of 2.4 km (return) and takes around 45 minutes.
Whatever you choose, this trail is practically flat, making it a great choice for families and those with reduced mobility/fitness.
Book: Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat.
4. Moraine Walk
Distance: 4 km, return via the same track
Time: 1.5 hours
Next up in this guide, we’ve got the Fox Moraine Walk which is only suitable for trampers – bicycles aren’t allowed.
This is a great walk to do if like a sense of how big the glacier used to be. Here, you’ll find old moraine surfaces. These are essentially what’s left behind when a glacier retreats.
In fact, when you start the walk, you’ll be wandering along a surface that’s thought to date back several thousand years.
To reach the trailhead, you’ll need to drive south for around 2 km from the township of Fox Glacier Te Weheka. Once you’ve crossed the Fox River Bridge, you’ll see a car park on your left.
Related: 5 of the Best Day Hikes South Island New Zealand – Short Walks with Maximum Wow-Factor!
The Moraine walk was like stepping back into what may have been the Jurassic period.Karen Mason
5. Fox Glacier South Side Walkway/Cycleway
Distance: 6.4 km, return via the same track
Time: 2 hours for walkers, 1 hour for mountain bikers
This is one of the most popular Fox Glacier Walks and also one of the longest, although it’s still easy.
The Fox Glacier South Side Walkway is the hike you’ll want to do if you’re looking for epic glacier views as you’ll visit two fantastic viewpoints.
The trail takes you along the Fox River through an ancient rainforest. You’ll then continue up the valley by crossing moraine surfaces until you reach the first viewpoint (at around 40 minutes in).
If you’re on a bicycle, you’ll have to leave it here and walk to the next viewpoint. Just 10 minutes further, you’ll come across another awesome view of Fox Glacier.
Haast Highway, Westland National Park 7886
Pro tip: If you’re keen on great glacier views but don’t have the time to walk this trail, we recommend checking out the Fox Glacier lookout close to the Lake Matheson car park – it doesn’t require any walking.
6. Lake Gault Track
Distance: 8 km, return via the same track
Time: 3 hours
The Lake Gault Track is another long walk; this one takes around 3 hours to complete. For this reason, if you’re short of time, you might want to choose another trail.
However, if you’re not in a rush, then you don’t want to miss out on this track! Your reward will be breathtaking views of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, as well as panoramic views of the Southern Alps.
Like Lake Matheson, the views here are mirrored in Lake Gault’s waters if the conditions are just right. The tannins in these waters give them their distinctive dark colour, perfect for those iconic reflections.
For the best experience, hike during the early morning as this is when the lake tends to be calm and there aren’t many clouds about.
Lake Matheson / Te Ara Kairaumati Walk, West Coast 7886
Related: The 12 Best Wānaka Walks.
7. Mount Fox Route
Distance: 7.4 km, return via the same track
Time: 8 hours
The Mount Fox Route is one of the most difficult Fox Glacier walks, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
However, this tramp is best left to experienced hikers as it can be quite difficult to navigate. If you’re unsure, you can always check with the visitor centre first.
The walk will take you up through the bush, then you’ll need to follow blue and orange markers to reach the viewpoint. From there, you’ll get stunning views of the Southern Alps and of course, Fox Glacier.
To reach the trailhead, drive past Fox Glacier Weheka township for around 3 km until you get to Thirsty Culvert. There, you’ll find a small parking area on the right. The trail starts on the left.
If you are keen to take on this trail, ensure you are well-supplied with quality boots, plenty of food and water and emergency equipment (like a hired PLB).
Pro tip: If you’re happy to travel a bit further afield, the walks near Gillespies Beach and the Copland Track are worth checking out also.
There are plenty of awesome Fox Glacier walks to choose from – it all depends on what you’re after.
Are you looking to see the glacier itself, or would you prefer a gentle stroll through the forest?
The walks in this area are predominantly very easy, with both short and long routes to choose from. The result is some of the most accessible, inclusive bush walking in Aotearoa!
Have you visited Fox Glacier?
If you have, which is your favourite walk? We’d love to know…