You get up close and personal with Mt Earnslaw and its glacier on this mammoth walk, which took my wife and me almost 10 hours. The Earnslaw Burn Track follows the true left bank of the Earnslaw Burn through beech forest up to a tussock basin below the Earnslaw Glacier. Once out of the forest the views will be enough to knock your hiking socks off, and are amongst the best we’ve seen on any day hike. They include the Earnslaw Glacier and numerous waterfalls, big fallen rocks, and we caught sight of an avalanche too.
The only down side is about 7 hours of walking through seemingly endless beech forest. I like beech forest, but you can get too much of a good thing. And the walking was a bit tricky, stepping over roots, fallen branches and other obstacles. I managed to slip a number of times by making careless footing choices, and sprained my wrist on the way back. Track notes at the end.
I got a bit carried away and took too many pictures of the Earnslaw Glacier from various angles, but it was friggin awesome so I guess that was inevitable. Enjoy.
You can find basic notes for the Earnslaw Burn Track on the NZ DOC website. They estimate it will take 8 to 12 hours, but I think this estimate is to the tree line and back. Certainly 8 hours (return) to the viewpoint in front of the glacier would be optimistic. However 12 hours return to the tree line is too generous, so I’m not really sure. The walking is slow going for most of the way, with many obstacles in the forest and mostly uneven ground in the tussock basin.
When in the tussock basin keep to the true left of the Earnslaw Burn (the right as you approach the glacier), and after about 1-1.5 hours you will come across a big rock with a cairn on it. This seems to be a good place to stop and feast your eyes on the view. It would be possible to walk even closer to the glacier, but it’s a pretty tiring walk as it is so make sure you have energy and light to make it back. You might see a helicopter flying in and out behind some rocks below the glacier, which is the luxury way to visit. That cost about $900 NZD per person in 2016. I imagine the waterfalls are impressive from that spot.