Trident Creek Falls, Unser Fritz Falls, and the Franz Josef Glacier Waterfalls

Westland / Franz Josef Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

About Trident Creek Falls, Unser Fritz Falls, and the Franz Josef Glacier Waterfalls


Hiking Distance: 5.4km round trip
Suggested Time: 90 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-11-23
Date last visited: 2009-12-28

Waterfall Latitude: -43.44095
Waterfall Longitude: 170.1535

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“Trident Creek Falls” was what I believe to be an unofficially named waterfall since it didn’t appear to have an official name on any of the maps that I had seen of New Zealand.

That said, the maps did indicate that this waterfall flowed on Trident Creek, and it also had a segmented appearance that kind of resembled a trident.

So I guess it was certainly an appropriate name for the falls.

Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_034_11222004 - Trident Creek Falls
Trident Creek Falls

Regardless of nomenclature, this page was really my waterfalling excuse to talk about the Franz Josef Glacier.

It was an impressive (and fast-moving) glacier that Julie and I had the fortune of experiencing by doing a helihike on back in November 2004.

We also did a walk up to the glacier terminus on both November 2004 and December 2009.

In addition to this waterfall and the glacier, we saw many other waterfalls along the way so I decided to include these other waterfalls on this page as well.

Accessing Trident Creek Falls and the Franz Josef Glacier

To even get to “Trident Creek Falls”, we went on the walk from the car park for the Franz Josef Glacier (see directions below) to the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier itself.

The waterfall was probably at about the two-thirds point of the hike, where we were hiking amidst the barren glacially-scoured valley.

Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_022_11222004 - Descending into the glacially-scoured Franz Josef Glacier Valley
Descending into the glacially-scoured Franz Josef Glacier Valley

Such scenery clearly indicated to us that the glacier had been that far out not that long ago before receding to its current position.

Before we descended into the barren valley, we passed through a section of native bush that managed to take advantage of the combination of rich soil and very wet climate.

And all along the way, we saw several unnamed waterfalls.

It was hard to tell if any of them were truly permanent waterfalls or they just so happened to benefit from the rain in both of the times we had been here.

Beyond “Trident Creek Falls”, we made it up to the roped barricade at the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier.

Over the years, it appeared that the face of the glacier had changed, which attested to how dynamic the glacier was.

Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_050_11222004 - At the roped off terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen in our first visit in 2004
At the roped off terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier as seen in our first visit in 2004

Given the hazards of being close to the glacier (which could calf at any moment), we didn’t tempt fate as we turned around and headed back to the car park.

Near the car park, there was a separate short trail that led to the top of a hill.

At the crest of that hill, we got another view of the Franz Josef Glacier from a distance (provided clouds didn’t get in the way as they did on our January 2009 visit).

In any case, when all was said and done, we had spent just under two hours on the trail.

The Franz Josef Glacier Helihike

In our trip to the Franz Josef Glacier in November 2004, we also did a helihike higher up on the glacier itself (in addition to the valley walk).

The guided glacier walk was basically a seemingly random meander amongst the jagged ice formations and pinnacles.

Franz_Josef_helihike_038_11222004 - Guided helihike on the Franz Josef Glacier itself
Guided helihike on the Franz Josef Glacier itself

During this walk, we saw some more waterfalls tumbling from the cliffs right onto the sides of the glacier itself.

I believe one of them was the officially-named Unser Fritz Falls, which was one of the more prominent tumbling cascades.

However, without the benefit of a map, I could totally see how it would blend in with the rest of the plethora of waterfalls we managed to notice here.

The helihike was only doable if the weather wasn’t so poor that it would be unsafe to fly the chopper due to bad visibility.

Indeed, we were very lucky on the day of our helihike.

That because we managed to do the excursion despite low hanging clouds and intermittent rain, which always threatened to make flying in such conditions dangerous.

Authorities

Trident Creek Falls and the Franz Josef Glacier are administered under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Franz_Josef_helihike_001_11222004 - Looking past the helipad towards the mountains surrounding the Franz Josef Glacier as we were waiting for our turn to go onto the glacier
Franz_Josef_helihike_002_11222004 - Waiting at the helipad for our turn to chopper our way up to the middle of the Franz Josef Glacier
Franz_Josef_helihike_009_11222004 - Looking beneath the clouds towards one of the impressive waterfalls feeding the Franz Josef Glacier while we were in the air
Franz_Josef_helihike_015_11222004 - Our helicopter that landed on the Franz Josef Glacier
Franz_Josef_helihike_021_11222004 - Doing our random meander atop the Franz Josef Glacier
Franz_Josef_helihike_024_11222004 - Randomly walking amidst some interesting formations on the Franz Josef Glacier
Franz_Josef_helihike_044_11222004 - While we were on the Franz Josef Glacier, we looked towards this waterfall through the clouds that might be the Unser Fritz Falls
Franz_Josef_helihike_045_11222004 - A thin waterfall seen while we were atop the Franz Josef Glacier
Franz_Josef_helihike_047_11222004 - The tour group going around some pools of melted glacier water while we were atop the Franz Josef Glacier
Franz_Josef_helihike_086_11222004 - Context of the waterfall that I believe to be Unser Fritz Falls
Franz_Josef_helihike_092_11222004 - Looking down the Franz Josef Glacier at the weather that we had to contend with on that day
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_003_11222004 - The road to the Franz Josef Glacier was unsealed back in 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_007_11222004 - At the car park for the Franz Josef Glacier, where the knobby hill was one overlook while there was a waterfall in the background on the far right side of this photo taken in 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_009_11222004 - Closer look at the waterfall seen by the car park
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_022_11222004 - Hiking amidst the jumble of rocks while making our way to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_023_11222004 - Looking towards a waterfall just as we had left the native bush section of the valley hike
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_027_11222004 - Following the trail towards the terminus of the Franz Josef Glacier
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_029_11222004 - Approaching the Trident Creek Falls seen back in November 2004
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_036_11222004 - Looking across the valley towards this waterfall towered over by a bush-clad mountain
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_055_11222004 - More waterfalls seen on our way back from the Franz Josef Glacier
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_060_11222004 - Yet another waterfall seen on the way back from the Franz Josef Glacier
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_063_11222004 - Another waterfall tumbling in a nook beneath a knobby mountain
Franz_Josef_Glacier_Valley_066_11222004 - Julie making her way back from the Franz Josef Glacier in the rain
Franz_Josef_town_003_11232004 - SH6 and the Franz Josef Glacier township
Franz_Josef_Glacier_012_12272009 - Back on the trail to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_013_12272009 - The familiar Trident Creek Falls in December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_019_12272009 - Julie chilling out before the Trident Creek Falls in December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_026_12272009 - Julie approaching the Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_028_12272009 - One of the side waterfalls in the Franz Josef Glacier Valley in December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_042_12272009 - An ice tunnel where the Waiho River flowed through the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009
Franz_Josef_Glacier_087_12272009 - Looking back at the valley from the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier with Trident Creek Falls in the background
Franz_Josef_Glacier_157_12272009 - This tall waterfall that was spilling next to the terminus of Franz Josef Glacier was what I thought to be Unser Fritz Falls
Franz_Josef_Glacier_156_12272009 - Looking back at the Franz Josef Glacier and the context of Unser Fritz Falls in December 2009

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From the Franz Josef Glacier township, we drove the SH6 south for about 4km. Just on the other side of the bridge over the Waiho River (which itself was fed by the melting waters of Franz Josef Glacier), we turned left onto a road that continued south for another 4km until it ended at the car park.

On our 2004 visit, this road was unsealed, but on our return visit in 2009, this road was completely sealed.

The Franz Josef Glacier township was about 129km south of Hokitika along the SH6. Hokitika was 39km (30 minutes drive) south of Greymouth, 245km (over 3 hours drive) northwest of Christchurch via SH73 through Arthur’s Pass, and over 6 hours drive northeast of Queenstown along the West Coast.


Bottom up sweep of the segmented waterfall


Direct and deliberate bottom up sweep of the segmented falls

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Tagged with: franz josef, westland, tai poutini, west coast, fox glacier, unser fritz, trident creek, waiho river, hokitika, haast, south island, southern alps, new zealand, waterfall



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