The Robert’s Point Track starts from the same car park as the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Track.
As you get out of ear shot from the bus fulls of tourists embarking on the Valley Track you will reach the peaceful and serene scene at Peter’s Pool. Take a minute to enjoy the bench, have a snack, and marvel in the mirror like reflection of the mountains in the small pond.
The initial walking trail to the Douglas Swing Bridge is gentle and easy. Enjoy your walk down the gravel path as it surrounds you with lush ferns and other rain forest flora. The real tramp begins after you cross the Waiho River.
On the other side of the Douglas Swing Bridge the trail almost immediately narrows and the terrain becomes more rugged. The trail follows up the valley through the wet rainforest. The surface is often rocky, mossy, and slippery. It’s not long before you reach your first creek crossing. Most of these crossings are small and can be easily traversed by rock hopping, but care needs to be taken if the streams are swollen.
The Arch Creek Bridge is the first bridge on the trail. It’s also the oldest and most rickety with a one person limit. Here is my wife cautiously crossing it as it swings and creaks.
Shortly after the first crossing you will reach the second bridge. This is the tallest, longest and narrowest bridge on the trail. Luckily it’s solid modern construction gave me confidence as it’s swing gained momentum midway through the crossing.
Here I am holding on with both hands as I slowly cross the gap.
The Robert’s Point Track continues to wind through the forest with several more water crossings and multiple steep climbs along the way.
Eventually you will reach a scenic outcrop with a resting bench and a fantastic view of the Franz Josef Glacier Valley below. From here you get a clear view of Trident Falls on the opposing side of the valley. If you look closely you will see hundreds of tourists moving in an ant like procession along the Franz Josef Glacier Track.
Shortly after the scenic bench you will reach the century old Hendes Hut. In 1906 this hut housed Peter Hende and his team as they built the iron standards that support Hende’s Gallery. There are signatures scratched into the walls of the hut that date over a hundred years.
Around the corner you will find yourself at the base of Hende’s Gallery. This 50m long cliff side structure was originally built by Peter Hende in the early 1900s and later restored by the DOC in 1996. When the Gallery was originally built it gave access to the Franz Josef Glacier. One hundred years later the Glacier has retreated several kilometers up the valley and the iron staircase now serves as a photogenic section of the Robert’s Point track.
Contrary to what I read in guidebooks and online, the iron structure bolted directly into the rock face proved to be extremely secure. The surrounding trees also give a false sense of security and at no point did I feel unsafe.
A closer view at the underside of the Gallery.
The last few km of the trail have several outcroppings with fantastic views of the Franz Josef Valley and the Track on the opposing side.
The Rope Creek Swing Bridge is the final bridge on the Roberts Point Track.
The track continues to push through the beautiful rainforest with several more small waterfalls and creek crossings.
After roughly 5 kilometers of hiking you will reach Roberts Point. Here you will find a picnic table, a large newly built raised viewing platform, and a slightly obscured view of the Franz Josef Glacier. I’m sure this view was far more magnificent before the Glacier began it’s rapid retreat in 2008.
South Island New Zealand – Robert’s Point, Franz Josef Glacier Track
If you expand the thumbnail below you will see a group of heli-hikers climbing back in their helicopter after an expensive walk on the Franz Josef Glacier.
It felt surreal being surrounded by hot, muggy, humid rainforest while staring at a giant glacier.
I always enjoy hiking to a location where I am face to face with helicopters. Somehow it feels like I have earned my view more than those who were flown there. Or maybe I’m just cheap :).
If you expand the thumbnail below you will see a helicopter just below the cloud to the right of the waterfall.
After enjoying a snack, some coffee, and the view it’s time to hike the 5-6 km return trip. At no point should you attempt to cross the Valley to gain access to the Franz Josef Valley Track. Unfortunately several hikers have drowned in the Waiho River doing just that.