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  • Writer's pictureJulie Wolbers

Franz Josef Short Walks

Franz Josef Glacier is home to some of the world's most spectacular, easy and accessible short walks and they all offer something unique. Read on to find out Ribbonwood Retreat's top short walks all within a 5-minute drive from the town center.

Peters Pool Walk

Peters Pool Walk Franz Josef Mountain And Rainforest Reflections On Kettle Lake

If you're planning a trip to Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand make sure to add the Peter's Pool Walk to your itinerary. As one of our favorite short walks in Franz Josef, this easy, fully accessible walk is an absolute must-do for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.

The trail winds through lush rainforest, offering you a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant greenery of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. As you stroll along the 1.2 km route, you'll pass through beautiful fern and beech forests. But the highlight of this short 25-minute return walk is undoubtedly Peter's Pool itself. This small kettle lake was formed about 200 years ago by ice melting amongst glacial moraine. Surrounded by native rainforest, this dainty kettle lake is a sight to behold.

Peter's Pool is renowned as one of the best viewpoints in Franz Josef and it's easy to see why. The calm waters of the lake offer a mirror-like reflection of the surrounding landscape, making it a perfect spot for some fantastic photos. Whether you're a seasoned hiker looking for a relaxed trek or a family searching for a child-friendly trail, the Peter's Pool Walk is an excellent choice. If you plan to complete the full Douglas Walk, keep in mind that you will visit Peters Pool during this loop track anyway!

Terrace Walk Franz Josef Short Walk


Situated in the heart of Franz Josef township, the Terrace Walk is a 20-minute in-and-out track suitable for people of all fitness levels. It is a great way to get an introduction to the unique rainforest environment of Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

As you embark on this walk, you'll be surrounded by a thick canopy of native trees, including Rimu and Kahikatea. The sounds of birdsong fill the air, making it a therapeutic experience for nature lovers. Along the path, you'll also encounter a variety of fascinating plant species, offering a glimpse into the rich biodiversity of the region.

The Terrace Walk takes you along the charming Waiho River and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains The river, with its glacial blue hue, makes for a breathtaking sight and a perfect backdrop for your photos.

Glow Worms Walk Franz Josef

One of the highlights of the Terrace Walk is the opportunity to see glow worms at dusk. As the sun sets, these tiny creatures start to glow, creating a magical atmosphere that's sure to leave you spellbound.

Sentinal Rock Walk Franz Josef

View From Summit Of Sentinal Rock Franz Josef

The Sentinel Rock Walk is a must-see destination for visitors to Franz Josef in New Zealand. This short yet rewarding trail offers stunning views of the glacier and the Waiho River, making it an ideal spot for photography and nature enthusiasts.

The walk begins at the Franz Josef Glacier Access Road car park, leading you on a steady climb up an ice-scraped rock now covered by lush rainforest. Despite being just 1km in return, the trail provides an immersive experience into the unique ecosystem of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

The trail's highlight is the Sentinel Rock itself, a geological marvel that emerged from beneath the retreating Franz Josef Glacier in 1865. Over the years, the glacier has retreated further, and plants have gradually claimed the rock, adding to its beauty.

Sentinal Rock Walk

When you reach the summit, you're rewarded with the most impressive views of the glacier and the Waiho River. Information panels along the way offer insights into the area's geological history and the dynamic nature of the glacier. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, the Sentinel Rock Walk is sure to impress. It's a testament to the power of nature and the constant evolution of our planet. So, make sure to add this short and sweet climb to your Franz Josef itinerary.

Douglas Walk Franz Josef

Mountain, Snow, Rainforest And Glacier Views of Franz Josef Glacier Valley From Glacier Valley Car Park

The Douglas Walk is a fantastic way to experience the natural beauty of Franz Josef, New Zealand. This easy and scenic trail is located in the Waiho Valley, north of the Franz Josef Glacier/Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere terminus.

Rata Tree In Full Bloom Franz Josef Glacier

Starting from the Franz Josef Waiau township, you cross the Waiho River bridge and follow the Glacier Access Road or Te Ara a Waiau. The walk is a 3.4km (2.1-mile) out-and-back trail that generally takes an average of 56 minutes to complete. The path is wide and well-graded, making it suitable for walkers of all ages and fitness levels. As you traverse across glacial landforms that are over three and a half thousand years old, you'll be treated to lush forest scenery and impressive geological features.

One of the highlights of the Douglas Walk is Peter's Pool, a reflective "kettle" lake that offers stunning views and photo opportunities. You'll also have the chance to cross the historic Douglas Suspension Bridge, adding a touch of history to your journey. This short, easy forest walk also gives you a unique opportunity to observe the different stages of the rainforest and the incredible landscapes of glacier country.

Douglas Suspension Bridge Over Waiho River Franz Josef Glacier Walk

Franz Josef Terminal Face Walk

The Franz Josef Terminal Face Walk, also known as the Glacier Valley Walk was once a popular route for visitors to get up close with the glacier, has undergone significant changes due to natural forces. One of the main challenges has been the shifting course of the Waiho River, which has washed away the access track. As a result, it's no longer possible to walk up to the terminal face of the glacier. However, this doesn't mean that the beauty of Franz Josef Glacier is now out of reach. The Sentinel Rock Walk has emerged as a great alternative. This trail offers panoramic views of the glacier and the Waiho River, providing a stunning glimpse into the region's natural beauty.

Franz Josef Walks Map

At Ribbonwood Retreat in Franz Josef Glacier, we strive to ensure our guests have the best possible stay. To assist with this, every guest is provided with a copy of the Franz Josef Walks Map upon arrival. This map outlines all the local hikes, offering detailed insights into each trail. In addition, we are always available to help you decide which hikes would be best suited to your interests and fitness level and provide clear directions to ensure you make the most of your visit.

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