Fox Glacier South Side Walkway Ultimate Guide

Are you an adventure seeker looking for a serene and rewarding experience amidst stunning natural surroundings? If so, the Fox Glacier South Side Walkway, located in the small village of Fox Glacier in New Zealand’s South Island, might be what you’re looking for. The walk offers an opportunity to feast your eyes on one of New Zealand’s largest glaciers while being surrounded by breathtaking panoramas. Please read on to discover the wonders of this underappreciated gem.

View of Fox Glacier, mountains and river bed of rock in foreground.

In this comprehensive review of the Fox Glacier South Side Walkway, we share our personal experience and provide practical details to assist you in planning your adventure. We’ll guide you on the route to the starting point, advise you on the essentials for your hike, give you a glimpse of what to expect along the way, and estimate the time required for each stage of the walk. 

What is The Fox Glacier South Side Walkway

This Fox Glacier self-guided walk is a mesmerizing journey through an ancient podocarp rainforest in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. It is the best Fox Glacier walk, as it allows you to view the glacier from several viewpoints.

Along the way, you travel through lush rainforest trails surrounded by towering trees and native ferns, and you have a chance to see and hear New Zealand birdlife.

Gravel track through ancient rainforest in Fox Glacier, New Zealand.

But the real highlight awaits as you approach the glacier’s terminal face. Here, you’ll be greeted by the awe-inspiring sight of the glacier. Even though it is quite a distance away, it still appears majestic and otherworldly. 

The hike offers a unique opportunity to experience the glacier and puts you as close as possible to it on foot. Only a helicopter can bring you closer.

The track is seriously underrated. Most people choose to do the nearby Franz Josef Glacier trail, mainly because the town is much bigger and has more accommodation and facilities.

A bonus for mountain bikers is that the trail is suitable for cyclists and takes 60 minutes or less to complete.

How Long Does The Fox Glacier Walk Take?

Fox Glacier walk time is approximately 1.5 to 2 hours round trip.

It is easy, family-friendly and on a wide, well-marked gravel path suitable for most skill levels. 

What sets the Fox Glacier South Side Walk apart is its accessibility. Unlike some glacier experiences requiring advanced mountaineering skills, this track offers a safe and easy way to get close to one of New Zealand’s most iconic natural wonders. 

We often get asked how long to walk to Fox Glacier, but please note that you can not wander right up to the glacier. 

The viewpoint is located hundreds of meters away from the glacier’s face. 

If you really want to see the glacier up close and touch it, you can only do this with a guided heli-hike tour.

What You Will See On The Walkway

One of the best things we liked about this hike is that there are three magnificent viewpoints. These viewpoints each offer a differing yet rewarding view of the glacier.

The Fox Glacier valley walk starts from the Fox Glacier Car Park and is accessible on a wide track up the valley. It travels through a canopy of trees and ancient rainforests along the Fox River’s border, with occasional water views.

As you make your way, you will come across several viewpoints of the Fox River and numerous springs, including a Warm Spring. It is just a small pond, but the temperature is warm to the touch compared to the other springs. Anyway, we thought it was impressive.

You will reach the first Fox Glacier lookout within 35 minutes. The bush surrounding you from this location makes a perfect picture frame of the glacier.

Fox Glacier, New Zealand view through the lush bush surroundings.

The following portion of the trail is slightly uphill and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. You will then come across an old car park, which is no longer accessible. Here, you will find a picnic table, a bench chair, and a toilet. However, the toilet was closed during our visit.

This is the furthest point on the trail that bikes can access, and bike stands are available for parking at this spot.

Fox Glacier Track leading to bush and mountains, with a picnic table in view.

You then descend the small hill for a few minutes. On the way, you will see the closest glacier view of the Fox Glacier terminal face walk.

A further 2 minutes downhill takes you to the final Fox Glacier viewpoint beside the river.

During our journey, we saw the most people at this spot. Some walked down to the river bed, but most people spent only a few minutes there before returning to the car park the same way they came. No doubt they were in a rush to do the Lake Matheson walk next.

View of Fox Glacier with fern tree in the frame and rocky river bed.

We didn’t see many people on this track, but on the way back, there’s a 30-minute side trail called the Moraine Walk. It’s perfect for those who love jungle adventures, immersing them deeper into the forest.

Note: We took this hike in mid-March 2024, around mid-morning. It was more crowded compared to our previous visits.

Is Fox Glacier walk worth it?

Absolutely! We consider this short walk a South Island highlight!

We have our own rating system for each walk we take based on its rewards, difficulty level (we prefer easy hikes of up to 2.5 hours), and whether we would do it again. Those scoring 7 or higher are ones we would do again. 

This walk received an 8 out of 10 score thanks to the easy trail, the stunning views of the bush and river, and three incredible viewpoints from which to see the glacier.

People standing at a lookout through the bush to Fox Glacier in the distance.

Love bush walks?
Here are some of the West Coast’s most spectacular walks you should not miss:

Fox Glacier South Side Walkway NZ South Island Travel Insider Tips

Before you go, scan these travel tips to help you make the most of your walk.

Can You Drive to Fox Glacier, NZ?

No, you can not. Sorry, the closest you can get to the glacier is either with this walk or by taking a helicopter tour.

However, you can see the glacier from further away at a few other vantage points. One of the most convenient options, offering spectacular views, is the Fox Glacier Viewpoint / Te Kopikopiko O Te Waka, which you can drive to.

Check out our story on what to do in Fox Glacier, New Zealand. It includes information on this lookout, other excellent walks in the area, Fox Glacier tourist attractions, where to eat, and cool things to do, and it is complete with photos.

When is the Best Time to Visit Fox Glacier, New Zealand?

It is best to go when it is sunny and not too cloudy. Additionally, we have found that when we go early, we get better glacier views, as, by late afternoon, the glacier has become covered by clouds.

You can check out the Fox Glacier webcam to see the current weather conditions and also images showing how far the glacier has receded since 2015.

How to Get to Fox Glacier Walking Track Start

From the Fox Glacier Village, head 2 km south. After crossing the Fox River Bridge, you will see a car park for the track on the left-hand side. Park your car, take your compulsory river photo, and off you go.

View of lush mountains and rocky river bed in Fox Glacier.

What to Bring on the Walk 

The walk isn’t long, so unless you plan to stop at the picnic table at the end and have a picnic lunch, bringing a water bottle should be enough.

More importantly, it is essential to wear proper walking shoes and bring a wind/rain jacket, especially as weather conditions can quickly change in this area.

Additionally, take insect repellant and sunscreen for any outdoor trips on the West Coast.

So, Why Should You Do the Fox Glacier South Side Walk? 

Well, besides the stunning scenery and the opportunity to see ancient native New Zealand forests, the walk offers as close as you can get Fox Glacier access.

This Fox Glacier free walk is a must-do experience for anyone visiting the region, whether a nature enthusiast, a photography buff, or someone who wants to experience all the best highlights of the South Island.

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