Fox Glacier Waterfalls

Westland / Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

About Fox Glacier Waterfalls


Hiking Distance: 2.6km round trip
Suggested Time: 1 hour

Date first visited: 2009-12-27
Date last visited: 2009-12-27

Waterfall Latitude: -43.49967
Waterfall Longitude: 170.04932

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The Fox Glacier Waterfalls were the series of waterfalls that Julie and I encountered when we finally had a chance to visit this glacial counterpart to the more famous Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009.

Unlike with Franz, it didn’t seem like we could identify any waterfalls with official names.

Fox_Glacier_120_12262009 - The Fox Glacier and a cascade tumbling towards it across the valley
The Fox Glacier and a cascade tumbling towards it across the valley

Heck, we couldn’t even identify Flute Falls, which seemed to be the only officially-named waterfall in this valley according to the Tumonz map software.

So all we had were a bunch of photos of waterfalls where we had trouble associating each of them with waterfall names.

So if this page is a difficult read because we couldn’t single them out, well, we did our best to describe them under the circumstances.

Fox Glacier

In any case, these waterfalls were really our waterfalling excuse to talk about the Fox Glacier itself, which was the primary draw.

Fox_Glacier_141_12262009 - Context of the Fox Glacier and a cascade tumbling closer to its terminus
Context of the Fox Glacier and a cascade tumbling closer to its terminus

Like Franz, this glacier was also said to be one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, and it also could make that rare claim that it terminated into a coastal temperate rainforest.

That said, it seemed to us to be noticeably quieter and less developed than the Franz Josef Glacier (including its neighbouring township) though it too saw its share of tour groups.

Indeed, the waterfalls were like backdrops to the overall scenery without any of them drawing the kind of attention to stand out on its own.

The Glacier Valley Walk

Julie and I only did the glacier valley walk from the car park (see directions below) to the Fox Glacier terminus.

Fox_Glacier_107_12262009 - One of the waterfalls seen near the car park for the Fox Glacier Valley Walk
One of the waterfalls seen near the car park for the Fox Glacier Valley Walk

We didn’t get a chance to do a helihike on this glacier. Yet we already started to see waterfalls coming down around the car park area as well as the access road to get there.

According to our map, Flute Falls was supposed to be tumbling near one of the access roads to get here so perhaps it was one of the waterfalls we saw during the drive.

Anyways, we’re not sure if these waterfalls were permanent or they benefitted from the rains that would frequently come to this end of the Southern Alps.

Perhaps this uncertainty was the main reason why hardly any of these waterfalls seemed to have official names.

Fox_Glacier_114_12262009 - Another attractive waterfall fronted by a powder blue body of water near the Fox Glacier Valley car park
Another attractive waterfall fronted by a powder blue body of water near the Fox Glacier Valley car park

Nonetheless, we then proceeded to walk along the north side of the Fox River.

The mostly rocky track had a somewhat long (and potentially wet) stream crossing beneath a cascade before ultimately reaching the terminus of the glacier.

Across the valley, we saw another cascade tumbling towards the glacier terminus.

There were signs warning us about tidal waves in the Fox River, and Julie and I happened to witness the reason why as we managed to hear the crack and see the thundering calving of the glacier terminus right before our eyes!

Fox_Glacier_026_12262009 - Julie and many other hikers walking closer to the terminus of the Fox Glacier
Julie and many other hikers walking closer to the terminus of the Fox Glacier

Overall, we spent just under two hours doing the walk, but when Julie and I made a return visit later in the afternoon (when the weather was calmer), we only needed one hour as we stopped fewer times to take photos.

Authorities

The Fox Glacier Waterfalls reside in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park in the West Coast region. It is administered under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Fox_Glacier_002_11232004 - Partial view of the Fox Glacier in November 2004 from a lookout on the road to the south side of the Fox River (opposite the glacier access road)
Fox_Glacier_001_12262009 - The start of the track to the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_004_12262009 - Looking ahead at the context of people walking closer to the terminus of the Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_006_12262009 - Zoomed out context of the Fox River and the terminus of the Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_016_12262009 - Looking back downstream towards the line of hikers approaching the Fox Glacier backed by shapely mountains flanking the Fox Glacier Valley
Fox_Glacier_017_12262009 - This was a fairly long (and potentially wet) stream crossing on the way to the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_007_jx_12262009 - Looking across the span of the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_023_12262009 - Looking right at the terminus of the Fox Glacier where it looked like part of the terminus wall had calved as evidenced by the fresh white wall surrounded by dirty ice
Fox_Glacier_030_12262009 - This was one of the more prominent waterfalls that we saw on the way to the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_033_12262009 - Now we were getting fairly close to the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_039_12262009 - Focused look at the dirty ice on the terminus of the Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_050_12262009 - Context of the terminus of the Fox Glacier and some thin cascade tumbling before that terminus
Fox_Glacier_053_12262009 - A closer examination of the striations in the dirty part of the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_064_12262009 - Tidal wave signs warning us not to get close to the Fox River due to glacial calving, which we actually witnessed during our visit
Fox_Glacier_087_12262009 - Contextual look back at the Fox Glacier as the sun started showing up
Fox_Glacier_092_12262009 - Going back across the fairly long stream crossing as we made our way back from the terminus of the Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_094_12262009 - Heading back to the car park with some interestingly-shaped knobs and hills flanking the Fox Glacier Valley
Fox_Glacier_101_12262009 - Angled view towards this double-barreled waterfall seen near the car park of the Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_118_12262009 - We came back later in the afternoon to see the Fox Glacier again, and in doing so, we noticed this cascade in the distance seen from the car park
Fox_Glacier_133_12262009 - Context of the Fox Glacier with the Fox River and some cascades tumbling towards it as seen on our return visit later in the afternoon
Fox_Glacier_143_12262009 - A closer look at that waterfall tumbling near the termins of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_152_12272009 - Our last look at the impressive Fox Glacier (just as low clouds were swirling around) before we left for good

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The turnoff for Fox Glacier is about 2km south of the Cook Flat Road/SH6 intersection (in the Fox Glacier township).

Turning left onto the access road from the town centre, proceed for just under 4km to the car park at the end of the road.

If you’re coming from the south and heading north, the turnoff is on the right just past the bridge over the Fox River.< Note there's also an access road to the south of the Fox River just before (as you're heading north) the bridge. This took us to an overlook, but I didn't recall it taking us to the glacier itself. For geographical context, the Fox Glacier township was 23km (30 minutes drive) west of the Franz Josef Glacier township, 157km (2 hours drive) south of Hokitika, 196km (2.5 hours drive) south of Greymouth, and 327km (4 hours drive) north of Queenstown.

Sweep from left to right starting at a prominent cascade then panning over to the glacier terminus before following the river downstream


This isn't a waterfall movie, but... Folks, this is why you heed the warning signs!!!


An impressive waterfall fronted by a colorful pool just north of the car park for the glacier terminus walk

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Tagged with: westland, tai poutini, world heritage, national park, fox glacier, west coast, south island, new zealand, waterfall, southern alps



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