Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock Walk, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Poutini National Park NZ

Very short walks to good views of the Franz Joseph Glacier. Can sometimes be extended on the Franz Valley Walk.

Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park

On a typically wet and cloudy visit to Franz Josef Glacier we wanted to at least get a good look at the glacier before moving on to our next destination. We did get a look from Rata Lookout two days earlier on the Alex Knob Track, however with some clear weather on the morning we left we stopped to do two very short walks, both with glacier views: The Forest Walk to Glacier View (the first part of the Franz Valley Track), and the Sentinel Rock Walk, which is a short side trip up a hill. You get a decent look at the quickly receding Franz Joseph Glacier from the end of these tracks, however the highlight is probably the overall Franz Valley.

When conditions allow you can walk much closer to the glacier on the Franz Valley Track, but after some consistent rain the Waho River was high and they closed the track beyond a view point on the Forest Walk. The views in my photos below are the very minimum you can expect in clear weather. 

Track notes at the end.

Forest Walk and Sentinel Rock Walk, Franz Josef Glacier: The Scenery

Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park
The view from Sentinel Rock.
Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park
A slightly zoomed in version of the view from Sentinel Rock. This is more the scale as it looks to the eye.
Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park
Returning from Sentinel Rock.
Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park
The path on the Forest Walk is quite wide and so you never feel like you are ‘in’ the forest as such. More so on the short climb to Sentinel Rock.
Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park
We could only go this far due to recent rain swelling the river.
Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park
The view from the end of the Forest Walk. A 100 years ago the glacier used to extend to where I took this picture. In living memory it used to at least reach the valley floor.
Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park
A panorama of the glacial Franz Valley.
Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park
The Franz Josef Glacier.

Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park

Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park
A close up of the Franz Josef Glacier.
Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park
A close up of the glacier

 Track Notes

Both of these walks are very short and easy. The DOC website has more info on these and more in the area. We also did the Lake Wombat Track, and the full day Alex Knob Track. 

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.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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