Alex Knob Track & Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park NZ

The Alex Knob Track passes through very attractive forest to a peak (1303m) with excellent views of Franz Josef Glacier.

Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park

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.

Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
The fabulous forest starts right at the car park, and just keeps going until the bushline.

Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park

Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Lake Wombat. I’m not sure why it’s named after a wombat, but there is also a Wombat Pool in Tasmania, near Cradle Mountain.
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Returning from Lake Wombat.
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Returning from Lake Wombat.

On to Alex Knob

Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
A natural arch here.
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Lots of twisted mossy tree branches.
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Me taking a picture at Rata Lookout. These were the last views of the day due to the mist rolling in 🙁
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
The only clear shot I got of the Franz Josef Glacier before the mist closed in. Taken at Rata Lookout which is less than halfway into the walk (as I remember it).
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
I was disappointed not to get views on this walk, but the mist and West Coast forest combined to make some memorable scenes. Someone on Instagram described this as ‘goblin forest’. It was probably my favourite shot of the day, and one of my best ever tree shots.
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
A change in vegetation as we climbed higher. Still very nice. A friend thought this shot looked like a painting.
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Bark on the ground like this reminded me a little of Australia.

Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park

Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
These plants looked like the Pandani of Tasmania.
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Another one of those pandani-like plants.
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Dainty flowers above the bushline.
Alex Knob and Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Sophia on the summit. We stuck around for 45 minutes to see if the mist would clear but instead it just rained heavily on us, so we headed on back.


Track Notes

Franz Joseph Glacier Walks Topo Map
The Forest Walk and Sentinel Rock Walk are both on constructed tracks and very short. Sentinel Rock involves a short climb as a side trip off the Forest Track. When conditions allow you can continue along the Franz Valley Track, however we couldn’t on our visit.
The track to Lake Wombat is also constructed and that’s a reasonably short walk. Continuing to Alex knob is a much longer route, and only for prepared hikers as there is a bit of scrambling here and there, and you rise above the bushline and can expect all sorts of weather. As you can see on the map there are other options in the area including the Roberts Point Track, which is also a route for experienced hikers.

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.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.