“A beautiful and rugged track through native bush climbing to some spectacular views of Franz Josef Glacier.
— Kristen McGlynn
The weather can be unpredictable at the higher elevations - come prepared. In the winter, snow is possible above Christmas Lookout. Runners should not venture above snowline unless experienced with alpine winter conditions.
If you are up for the challenge of having to bushwhack a little bit on the lower section of this track, it would make for a great but challenging run.
The Alex Knob Track is a challenging, but rewarding climb from the Wombat Lake Trail to the summit of Alex Knob where you'll enjoy beautiful views of the Franz Josef Glacier, the Waiho River and valley, the surrounding mountains, and the Tasman Sea.
As you leave the Wombat Lake Trail, the terrain immediately gets a bit more rough and rugged, as you leave the wide, gravel track and turn onto a narrow, rocky, steep, and somewhat overgrown singletrack. Getting off the beaten path definitely has its challenges and its advantages.
For the first three miles, you'll be climbing on tight singletrack through dense native bush with several tight switchbacks to aid the climb. There are some sections that are a bit of a scramble to get up a drop from an eroded section of trail, and there are a couple large fallen trees that you'll have to scoot under or climb over/around. You can almost imagine yourself miles removed from civilization except for the constant reminder of helicopters whizzing by overhead. These helicopter flights run nearly every 10-15 minutes and the flight path runs right along the ridge you are climbing. It is best to go early or hope for a windy day if you are wanting a truly quiet outing.
The first lookout you'll come to is Christmas Overlook where a break in the trees affords an impressive view across the valley. From here, not only can you see the terminal end of the glacier, but you can also see well up the valley for a more bird's eye view of the entire glacier.
After a bit more climbing, you'll emerge from the native bush and head out along a rocky and exposed ridge. From here, the trail switchbacks and snakes along this ridge with a very sheer drop and breathtaking views that just keep getting better and better. From here, it is about a mile of running through grassy tussocks until you reach Alex Knob at 4,275 ft. From here, the views are outstanding in all directions.
Flora & Fauna
Lowland podocarp forest transitioning to a high alpine tussock on top of Alex Knob. Tui, bellbirds, kereru (wood pigeon). Possible to see Kea on the higher sections of the track.