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Hiking to Roberts Point Track: Franz Josef Glacier Lookout

Hiking to Roberts Point Track: Franz Josef Glacier Lookout

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

This moderate hike reveals a magnificent uninterrupted view of the Glacier from a wooden platform viewpoint on the South Island of New Zealand.

After arriving on the West Coast, we were on the lookout for a hike that would offer the best views of Franz Josef Glacier. After speaking to the DOC at the visitor center we were told that the Alex Knob track was closed. Our next best option was the Roberts Point Track, which definitely didn’t feel like a second-rate hike.

Roberts Lookout offers the best views of Franz Josef Glacier out of all the nearby tracks. The hike is very enjoyable and scenic, crossing several epic suspension bridges and waterfalls along the way.

How to Get to the Roberts Point Trailhead

You can access the Roberts Point Track from two locations. Each location starts with a separate track that quickly joins up to the Roberts Point Track.

Whichever of the two start points you choose, you won't have much trouble finding the route. There are signposts along all the tracks indicating the way.

Map showing the location of the roberts point track on the map of the south island of new zealand

Franz Josef Glacier Car Park

Leave your car at the car park and begin at the Peter's Pool Walk. This joins up to the midpoint of "Douglas Walk" Before turning off at the "Douglas Bridge" walking bridge crossing the Waiho River.

Location: Franz Josef Rd

Alex Knob/Lake Wombat Car Park

This is a small car park on the right side of Franz Josef Glacier Road, just 3.3 km after crossing the Waiho River Bridge. From here, start on the Douglas Walk and follow signs to Roberts Track, which starts at the Douglas Bridge.

Location: Alex Knob Carpark

Peters pools reflective pools

Robert's Point Track GPX Map

Below I've included the track that I took using my Garmin GPS watch. You can download the GPX file by clicking the download link below.

Strava map showing roberts point track, new zealand
My Strava Map
Gallery steps with stunning moss and fern surrounds on the roberts point track

What to Expect on The Robert's Point Track

  • Hike Length:  11 km return from Alex Knob/Lake Wombat car park or 12.3 km return from Franz Josef Glacier car park
  • Hike Duration: 4.5-5.5 hours
  • Hike Elevation: 680 m total elevation gain
  • Hike Difficulty: Moderate - difficult (DOC: advanced tramping track).

The Robert's Point track is an in-and-out double-back hike that is suitable to fit hikers in good conditions.

If you're leaving early in the morning or late in the afternoon, then I'd recommend starting at the glacier car park on the Peters Pool walk. Although it's a little bit longer, checking out the reflective pools is well worth it in good weather conditions.

The start of Roberts Track is fairly flat, following the true right of the Waiho Valley. The track is well-maintained at the start. However, you'll quickly notice that this changes the further you progress along the track.

Still, following the track is fairly straightforward, because it's a pretty popular hike however it does begin to steepen, with sections almost vertical. The trail is clearly marked so you will have no problems with navigation.

Tip: There are many large roots on the trail (we joked that these were potential ankle-breakers) so be sure to keep your eyes on the track!

Hike Highlights on the Robert's Point Trail

1. Glacial Valley Views

The track winds up the valley through dense native beech forest with brief breaks for uninterrupted views of the Franz Josef glacial valley.

Tip: We spotted some wild deer walking along the river so keep an eye out!

Views over the franz joseph river along the peters pool walk
Franz josef glacier from roberts point track

2. Swinging Bridges

Besides the glacial lookout, these swing bridges were certainly a highlight. There are a total of three swing bridges on the track, each high above the valley below.

My personal favourite was the unique Rope Creek swing bridge, which is a long and thin bridge that's sure to get vertigo going.

Note to self: Don't swing on the bridge when your hangry partner is in front! (give trail snacks first).

Haylea walking across the large swinging bridge along the trail
Roberts point track swinging bridge view looking down over river.

The Gallery Steps are platformed steps that have been bolted into the side of the cliff. This section is really unique, and it almost feels like you're on a via ferrata track. This part of the track is quite narrow and allows one person to pass at a time.

Gallery steps on the roberts point track

4. Waterfalls and Stream Crossings

Along the track, there are dozens of beautiful waterfalls and stream crossings. Each seems like the perfect place to rest and take some photos. However, if you did then you'd never finish in a day!

While these sections are scenic, they can understandably be very dangerous in rainy or icy conditions. In fact, there's a sign at the start of the track warning that people have died on the Roberts Point track.

Waterfall on the roberts point track

5. Hendes Hut

If you've done a bit of hiking or tramping in New Zealand already, then the Hendes Hut won't be overly intriguing. However, it does make a great place to stop and have a rest before the Gallery Steps.

Grayl water filter bottle

Get Clean Drinking Water on Your Hike

I take the Grayl GeoPress Purifier Bottle on every hike and use it as my go-to source for filtering water all over the world. I've even used it to drink tap water in India!

Compare how the GeoPress stacks up against the best water bottle filters on the market.

View of Franz Josef Glacier From the Roberts Point Lookout

The final pièce de résistance of this hike is, of course, the Franz Josef Glacier view from the Roberts Point Lookout.

It's a rewarding feeling after the final steep climb to walk up the wooden platform steps. Turning around on the platform offers the first and only view of the glacier on the hike.

From this viewpoint, you'll also see the entire Franz Josef valley, as well as the tall waterfalls flowing down the ice-rock across the valley.

Update: Studies show from 2008-2023 the Franz Josef Glacier has retreated 1.56 km due to climate change!

Franz josef glacier from roberts point track
Ice rock waterfall at franz josef glacier
Helicopter flying over the glacier along the roberts point track

Packing List for the Hike

This isn't a short hike so it is best to be prepared and pack correctly!

  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Head Torch (I always pack this no matter day or night)
  • Muesli Bar or other Trail snacks
  • Sturdy boots or trail runners
  • Lightweight clothing
  • Rain Jacket
  • Warm layers
  • Camera - read my guide to camera gear for hiking & travel

Quick Tips for the Trail

Below I've also included some quick tips to help you plan a day of hiking the Sealy Tarns track.

  • Start early for sunrise views
  • Check Franz Josef weather updates
  • Prepare for an icy, slippery trail
  • Notify somebody of your intentions (DOC)
  • Be prepared for swift changes in weather

More Photos from the Roberts Point Track

Roberts point track swing bridge
Swinging douglas bridge over the franz josef river
Walking over the rock trail along the roberts point track
Roberts point track swing bridge
Waterfall bridge crossing on the roberts point track
Hikers crossing the waterfall trail along the roberts track
Green ferns and plants with rock walkway along the roberts point trail
Hiker walking along the trail on the douglas walk
Peters pools reflective pools
The melting franz josef glacier
Blue ice on the franz josef glacier

I hope that you enjoyed this guide to the Roberts Point track and Franz Josef Glacier lookout.

If you're looking for more New Zealand travel and hiking inspiration, check out some of the links below.

Pinterest pin for the robert's point track
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.