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  • Craig Cooper Photography

Hiking New Zealand: Rob Roy Glacier

Located within Mount Aspiring National Park, in the heart of the South Island of New Zealand, lies the vast Rob Roy Glacier. The glacier ages back into the ice age, dating back to approximately 20,000 years ago. The glacier that once filled the entire Rob Roy Valley is now a hanging glacier at the head of valley, but remains one of Mother Nature's most extraordinary gifts and one of New Zealand's most beautiful natural wonders.

The Rob Roy Glacier Track is a 7 mile out and back trail with an elevation gain of 1,307', and the payoff upon completion is simply stunning. The track is located about 34 miles west of the adventure town of Wanaka on the Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road, and the views along the drive are truly priceless. The Southern Alps of New Zealand lie in every direction and the blue, clear waters of the Matukituki River pave the way. Cattle, deer and sheep also line the country road as you head towards the trailhead, located at the Raspberry Creek car park.

Blue waters of the Matukituki River

View of the mountains along the route to Rob Roy Glacier

The hike begins at the Raspberry Creek car park and begins a trek up the West Matukituki River valley with expansive views of the mountains surrounding you. Sheep and cattle line the track and make for great photo opportunities. Shortly after the beginning of the hike, we reached a swinging bridge that hovers over the sparkling waters of the Matukituki River. It is important to respect fellow hikers as everyone has to take turns crossing the bridge, because the width of the swinging bridge is approximately a mere 2 feet wide. Upon crossing the bridge, the trail transitions from vast, wide open views to a lush beech forest and the sounds of the forest come alive.

Sheep along the track

Swing bridge heading into the beech forest

Matukituki River tumbling below the bridge

After entering the forest, the nicely paved trail continues on alongside the tumbling river. As we hiked along, I kept my sights along the tree lines in anticipation of possibly spotting a rare Kea parrot. The Kea is only located in the forest and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand. After about a 15 minute hike into the forest, I finally spotted one! After taking a few photographs, we began to make our way towards the lower lookout of Rob Roy Glacier. As we inched closer towards the lower lookout, we noticed a nice rocky area where we sat to have a quick lunch. This particular spot is, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked areas of the track. The light shining in from the trees into the crystal clear, blue water was absolutely stunning and made for gorgeous lunch views.

Kea parrot along the track

Beautiful scenery along the track

View of Rob Roy Glacier from the lower lookout

Upon reaching the lower viewpoint, we took some time to rest and appreciate the views and then continued our trek towards the upper lookout. This particular part of the track can be dangerous during certain times of the year, as weather can be unpredictable and alpine conditions can arise at any time. Avalanches are also prone during certain times of the year, most notably during Spring. It is important to check the weather updates the day of your hike and take precaution before heading up towards the glacier.

When we arrived at the upper lookout, the views were indescribable. Waterfalls line the glacier and tumble down into the valley at almost every turn.

After exploring the upper lookout, we made our way back down to the trailhead with beautiful views of the Matukituki River along the way.

Rob Roy Glacier zoomed in

Beautiful waterfall from the upper lookout

Numerous waterfalls tumbling from below the glacier

Track headed back towards the parking lot

Beautiful views of Matukituki River on the way back

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