Hiking on the West Coast

Nestled in between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea is the West Coast of New Zealand.

This is an area rich in natural beauty and untouched magnificence that never ceases to amaze the thousands of visitors that take to mountains and bush each year, on journeys of exploration.

The West Coast spans a stretch of 600 km; each corner is teeming with ancient landscape, unique natural features and rare flora and fauna. This area is reminiscent of what New Zealand would have looked like before colonization and it is a wondrous sight to see. There are many historic places on the West Coast, but nothing beats the towering, ancient forest and glaciers that still stand proudly thousands of years after their birth.

Another unique feature of the West Coast is its ever changing landscape; in this relatively small space you can witness sky-scraping mountains, azure blue rivers, thick rain-forests, wild beaches, glaciers and even intricate networks of caves. The West Coast is also brimming with wildlife; penguins, dolphins, native birds and more make for fabulous viewing opportunities and exciting nature experiences.

So we know the West Coast is particularly stunning and unique, but what is the best way to explore this untouched land? The answer is, hiking! There is no better way to get back in touch with nature than to immerse yourself in the hidden paradise of the West Coast. There are a great selection of hiking tracks for all ages and fitness levels; some trails only take a couple of hours, while others may take a week. Choose from guided or un-guided hiking expeditions and enjoy a slice of New Zealand that is simply amazing. Here are a few of the most popular West Coast hiking trails.

Mount Fox Route

The Mount Fox Route is just 3 km south of the town of Fox Glacier and is a challenging climb, suitable for only advanced and equipped trampers. The track is uphill and takes around three hours each way. Be wary it’s a steep climb, but a particularly spectacular route.

Te Ara Pounamu - The Greenstone Pathway

Here you will find the most intricate network of historic walking trails that were once used as a guide for those hunting out precious New Zealand Pounamu (greenstone). There are 83 different sections to the trail so you can make it as long or as short as one would like. Guided overnight hikes are available with a selection of accommodation options ranging from trail lodges with personal chefs, to traditional camping trips. The hike itself is through lush forest and is a relatively easy walk, suitable for beginners, through to advanced hikers.

Heaphy Track

The Heaphy track covers 78.4km and takes four to six days to complete, depending on fitness levels. The track is situated in the north-western tip of the South Island and includes a variety of scenery including tussock lands, forests and the dramatic West Coast. During the hike you can stay in hiking huts or campsites and mountain biking is also permitted via the Heaphy track.

Alex Knob Track

This one isn’t as popular is the others, but is still a stunning hike. It’s a 4 hour climb to the top of Alex Knob, making this trip a return time of 8 hours. The track itself is for intermediate fitness levels as it’s an uphill, zigzagging climb. Once you reach the summit you will arrive at Rata lookout for exceptional views of Franz Josef.

Waiuta Walking Tracks

Visit one of The West Coast’s major ghost towns; Waiuta is an old goldmining town and is signposted from the Reefton highway. There are a number of walking tracks with differing time-frames; all of them are classed as easy for beginners.

Franz Josef Glacier Hikes

The best way to explore the glaciers is with a guided tour; currently there are only two experienced and renowned glacier guiding companies that are permitted to take guided hikes onto the glaciers. Franz Josef Glacier is by far the gem of New Zealand's West Coast and hiking over this ice giant is certainly one of the most popular West Coast attractions. There is a selection of hiking tours available depending on fitness abilities, these range from short walks to extensive longer tramps.

Start exploring New Zealand's West Coast with Glenfern Villas; see their website for luxury accommodation and more information about things to do on the West Coast.

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