After a 10 hour bus ride on Tuesday, I’m now in Franz Josef on the West Coast. It’s both the town name and the name of the infamous glacier here, which is part of the Southern Alps.
Today I went exploring a bit to check out the views! The actual glacier and all the hiking trails are ~2.5 miles away, so before you even start a hike, you’ve got a nice warmup! The views walking to the glacier were gorgeous though and part of the walk is actually in a rainforest parallel to the road.
I decided to do the Alex Knob hike, which is about 11 miles and is supposed to be pretty difficult. By difficult I thought they meant steep – but this hike was so hard! The trail was super narrow and rocky, as you’re walking in a rainforest. Given it’s in a rainforest though, the rocks were wet and covered in moss, making them super slippery. It must have recently rained too as it was really muddy with downed trees!
I almost turned around a few times, but kept going as someone was ahead of me, and they hadn’t turned around yet.
I made it to two great lookouts with incredible views of the glacier, but then the clouds started to roll in. I still had about 1.5 hours to the top and wasn’t sure if I’d see anything up there, so I decided to turn around. It ended up being cloudy the rest of the day so I doubt I would have seen much.
One of the main attractions here is to take a helicopter ride to the top of the glacier and do a guided tour. I didn’t end up doing that because it is really expensive ($350-400!) and I actually wanted to see the glacier, not just be on it. As you’re hiking though there are constant helicopters above you – I know it’s a huge business for tourism but not the most peaceful!
It’s pretty crazy to see the signs and photos they have posted, showing where the glacier used to be. In just about 100 years it’s moved and melted so much, mostly due to global warming. The valley almost looks bare now, with the glacier “hidden” in the back!