The west coast of the South Island is one of the most scenic areas of New Zealand. Forests, mountains, and coastlines make driving an adventure. Along the way, there are two famous glaciers to visit, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Both have great reputations but in order to climb Franz Josef Glacier, you need to take a helicopter ride which makes the price considerably steeper. We chose Fox Glacier which has one licensed tour company to guide you onto the glacier. Self guided tours are not possible here. You can hike by yourself up the glacier, but it is illegal to walk onto the glacier without a guide.
The tour company makes the trek a really fun experience by suiting us up with cold weather gear, walking poles, and spikes for the bottom of our boots.
We headed up to the glacier with our guide who explained how to hike on a glacier and gave us safety guidelines. Once we were on the glacier we used the spikes on the bottom of our shoes to dig into the ice on every step.
Although there has been dramatic melting over time, there was still plenty of ice to hike on. Our guide could not say whether global warming has impacted the ice because glaciers have a natural life cycle over the seasons. The amount of melting and refreezing is actually quite staggering, the glacier can add or lose a meter or so of ice in just one day.