Mount Fox Route is an epic day hike and scramble to the most expansive view of Fox Glacier on the West Coast of New Zealand. Just beware the 1,000m+ elevation gain over just 3.5km. It’s little wonder Connor and Pippa had the trail all to themselves.

Quick Overview of the Mount Fox Route

Mount Fox Route is a 7.1km out-and-back challenging trail located on the West Coast of New Zealand at Fox Glacier. The hike takes approximately 5-7 hours and contains 1,162m of elevation gain over just a 3.5km trail. Mount Fox Route gives the clearest views of Fox Glacier and the surrounding mountains – especially in the morning!

Mount Fox Route Facts

Distance: 7.1km return
Duration: 5-7 hours
Elevation gain: 1,162m
Nearest town: Fox Glacier

About the Mount Fox Route

Fox Glacier is an essential stop-off for everybody travelling the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. There are two main glaciers that people visit on the West Coast: Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. As Pippa and I were travelling north along the coast, Fox Glacier was first on the list and we spent a day there.

While there are multiple hikes that allow glimpses of the glacier, Mount Fox Route reaches the highest elevation and provides the best unimpeded views!


Mount Fox Route – New Zealand’s Fox Glacier’s Greatest Scramble, Photo by Connor Fisher, nz hikes, fox glacier, day hike, view halfway up the mount fox route with scenes of the glacial runoff and the Tasman sea

Halfway up! View of the glacial runoff and Tasman Sea


We also incorporated the Lake Matheson walk afterwards, which is a short walk around a nearby lake providing reflective views of the New Zealand Southern Alps.

Many people also choose to heli-hike either glacier, allowing for the unique experience of being able to walk on the glacier and even try some ice climbing! As our pockets were light and we were living in a van, we chose to view it on foot.

Fox Glacier History

Fox Glacier is a 13km long temperate maritime glacier located in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. It’s fed by four alpine glaciers and finishes near a rainforest only 300m above sea level. It’s considered one of the most accessible glaciers in the world, similar to the nearby Franz Josef Glacier.

The glacier is known by local Maori as Te Moeka o Tuawe meaning ‘The bed of Tuawe’ and represents the story of two lovers, one of whom died as a result of an avalanche. Fox Glacier represents their resting place.


Mount Fox Route – New Zealand’s Greatest Scramble to See Fox Glacier, Photo by Connor Fisher, nz hikes, fox glacier, day hike, view of fox glacier

View of Fox Glacier


For the last 100 years, there’s been a significant retreat of Fox Glacier due to climate change. Both Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are more than 2.5km shorter than they were a century ago.

Read more: How Climate Change is Already Affecting Adventures, And What We Can Do About It

How to Get to the Mount Fox Route

Mount Fox Route is easily accessible by car from the nearby town, also named Fox Glacier. As it’s an out-and-back route there are spaces nearby to park your car. It’s also possible to walk there, being only 3km from town. There are no public transport options around Fox Glacier.

By Car

Follow Google Maps directions to Mount Fox Route trailhead. Drive south from Fox Glacier town along Fox Glacier Highway (State Route 6) for around 3-4 minutes. After crossing the bridge, the trailhead is only a couple of hundred metres to the left of the road with a car park on the right.


Mount Fox Route – New Zealand’s Fox Glacier’s Greatest Scramble, Photo by Connor Fisher, nz hikes, fox glacier, day hike, Hiker posing at the trailhead of the mount fox route in new zealand

Pippa at the trailhead

Where to Stay Near the Mount Fox Route

As we were travelling New Zealand in a van, we used Rankers Camping and CamperMate to find nearby campgrounds. We highly recommend staying at the Department of Conservation’s Gillespies Beach Campsite. Lake Matheson is on the way and the campground is directly on the beach, providing beautiful sunsets. It costs $10 per person or is free if you have the DOC campsite pass.

Other nearby accommodation includes:

Skill Level for the Mount Fox Route

Intermediate – Advanced

The Mount Fox Routes is considered an intermediate to advanced day hike. The trail is poorly marked at many points, there are no water sources along the trail, and visibility can be restricted when the clouds roll in. It is only to be undertaken when the weather looks favourable.

Some of the trail can be slippery and muddy, especially when descending. Hikers should be comfortable following trails and obscured markers and have some scrambling experience.

Despite this, it’s definitely very achievable and doesn’t need any technical equipment like ice axes, crampons, or maps.

We both hiked in hiking boots, carried 2L of water, and had our lunch near the top within view of Fox Glacier.

We also had the track downloaded on AllTrails so were able to track our progress and elevation even when the reception was patchy. As there isn’t much traffic on the route, it’s good to travel in a group in case of any issues!

Essential Gear for the Mount Fox Route

  • Hiking boots/grippy shoes
  • Hat
  • Warm jumper
  • Raincoat/poncho for rain
  • Snacks
  • Lunch
  • Water (2L minimum)
  • Sunscreen

Read more: Remember to leave no trace

What It’s Like to Hike the Mount Fox Route

If wet weather hiking and bouldering had a baby, it would be the Mount Fox Route. The constant scanning for the next trail marker and easiest route keeps you on your toes, but the unobstructed view of Fox Glacier at the top was worth it.


Mount Fox Route – New Zealand’s Fox Glacier’s Greatest Scramble, Photo by Connor Fisher, nz hikes, fox glacier, day hike, hiker smiling up on the mount fox route

Rock climbing crossed with hiking


Fair warning though, the downhill can feel like it never ends – both of us managed to slip over a couple of times. While Pippa and I both considered it challenging, we agreed it was also one of the most fun hikes we’ve done, especially compared with the wide and well-marked trails of the New Zealand Great Walks.


Mount Fox Route – New Zealand’s Fox Glacier’s Greatest Scramble, Photo by Connor Fisher, nz hikes, fox glacier, day hike, tired hiker lying down on the mount fox route

Mount Fox takes another victim

Tips For Hiking the Mount Fox Route

  • Leave your hiking poles behind
  • Hike early in the day

Before setting out on the trail, we checked the weather (clear with some previous rain) and the AllTrails reviews. One important note was that it was beneficial to leave the hiking poles in the car. Due to the amount of scrambling and bog, people found they ended up just strapping them to their bag and climbing with their hands.


Mount Fox Route – New Zealand’s Fox Glacier’s Greatest Scramble, Photo by Connor Fisher, nz hikes, fox glacier, day hike, hiker traversing boggy ground on the mount fox route

Beware of the bog


One important note is that the clouds often roll in around midday. We started relatively late and reached the top just as a huge cloud was approaching us, eventually making Fox Glacier impossible to see. Start early, finish early, and enjoy everything Fox Glacier town has to offer after a challenging yet rewarding hike.

Mount Fox Route FAQs

Is the Mount Fox Route good for beginners?

Due to the very steep ascent of this hike, we do not recommend beginners attempt it if they’re just getting into hiking. Also, the track often experiences fog, and markers can sometimes be elusive – which makes navigation challenging.

When is the best time of year to hike the Mount Fox Route?

The track can be visited all year round, just note that in the winter months the area can experience snow. Going between November – March might be best. We also suggest that you get up early to hike to avoid cloud coverage that occurs throughout the day.

Do you need a permit to hike the Mount Fox Route?

No permits are required, walk on fellow hiker! However, it is a smart idea to fill out an Outdoor Intentions form with the DOC.

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