The Alex Knob (1303m) Track was top of my list of walks to do on our first visit to the West Coast of New Zealand. I’d read it provided better views of the Franz Josef Glacier compared to those further down in the valley that most tourists visit, and of course it was a peak to bag. Unfortunately the West Coast weather does not often cooperate, and those views of the glacier will have to wait. Luckily the walk provided very attractive forest scenery, with lush rainforest on the lower slopes, and then a unique collection of trees and plants higher up as we approached the bushline. We also visited Lake Wombat as a side trip on the way back, although this can be a short walk in its own right.
What to expect from this walk
I did get views of the glacier from Rata Lookout on the way up, but the cloud soon moved in and we got no more views for the rest of the walk. This is common for the West Coast though, so my experience was authentic in this respect. If you do this walk you too might have to be content with the forest scenery depicted in my photos below. One way to maximise your chances of clear views is to get up very early and make straight for the summit, or else choose a cloudless day (good luck with that!). For us it clouded in by mid morning, and started raining at the summit: this persisted for the rest of the descent. Don’t forget your rain gear!
Track notes at the end.
Alex Knob Track & Lake Wombat: The Scenery
Lake Wombat Track
First some shots from the first section of the track and the side trip to Lake Wombat, which we actually did on the way down when it was raining.
On to Alex Knob
The Alex Knob Track is fairly rough once you pass the Lake Wombat turnoff. There’s 1100m of ascent over about 8.5km; at the hard end of moderate. The track to Lake Wombat is constructed and nicely graded, so this represents a good choice for just a bit of scenery without the need for any hiking gear. There’s more information on other tracks in the area on the DOC website.