Written by guest blogger Lauren Korstrom.
It is certainly no secret the beauty that Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park holds on the south island of New Zealand. Home to the tallest mountain in the country, the area is a playground of mountains full of glacial lakes and epic views.
There is so much adventure and exploring to be had in the area especially hiking. Luckily, you do not have to be a mountaineer or even seasoned hiker to experience it. There are a variety of tracks to walk and hike with different levels of difficulties which means, there is something for everyone!
Here are 5 awesome hikes in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
The Tasman Lake tracks are the easiest walks to do in the park and offer epic views over the lake and the Tasman Glacier. From the carpark there are a few different tracks you can take. My favourite is heading down to the river mouth. This path is a quick 20 minutes and leads to a lookout or a relatively easy small rock pile you can climb over to get to the water’s edge. This is a great spot to see icebergs up close.
You can also head up the other path which takes about 25 minutes to get more of a view from above. This lookout really brings to light the size of the glacier, especially if there are any boats in the water. It’s incredible to see just how big the glacier is.
I highly suggest walking both of the tracks as they each give a different perspective of the incredible lake. Signs to get to the car park are well marked as you come into the park and there are facilities there.
Hooker Valley Track
This is probably the most popular track in the park. It is not particularly hard as it’s quite flat but does take a bit longer being a 10 km return track taking between 2 and 3 hours round trip. The Hooker Valley track is the best one to walk if you want to see Mt Cook up close and personal. See if you can see his grumpy face in the snow! The beautiful Hooker lake is just below the mountain and often has big icebergs floating in it.
If you head out in summertime, I suggest starting as earlier as you can to avoid the heat, the crowds and hopefully catch some lake reflections.
If you are looking to gain a little bit of elevation but not puff to hard, Kea point is a great track to hike. It starts from the Whitehorse hill campground and gradually climbs for 200 meters to a lookout over Mueller Glacial Lake and out to Mt Cook. The walks is about a 1 hour round trip and once you get to the lookout, it is not uncommon to see Kea’s here either.
For anyone who wants a good leg workout, Sealy Tarns is the hike to do! With 2200 steps to tackle to the ridge, it is a good challenge but certainly worth every bit of effort. The scenery is stunning with a
large portion of the park in view. There is also a tarn on the ridge which makes for fantastic photographs especially if there is no wind. Sealy Tarns is the half way point to going up to Mueller Hut so if you’re not quite ready for a longer hike, this is a great option.
Now this one isn’t exactly for the faint of heart but getting to that iconic red hut in the end will have you forgetting about the climb up. As mentioned the first part of the climb is up a lot of stairs and the second is a steep rocky ascent up the mountain. Be sure to give yourself lots of time to get up to the hut, it’s an 8.5km and 7-8 hour round trip and although it can be done in a day, the real magic comes when the sky changes colour at night and in the morning. You do need to book with DOC’s booking system to stay over and it does tend to fill up quickly in summertime.
Aoraki/Mt Cook village is at the end of Highway 80 off the main road Hwy 8. The closest towns are Tekapo, 105km away to the north and Twizel, 65 km to the south. The road going into the village is a one road out highway and takes about 45 minutes from the highway.
A Few Things to Note
Before you head out for your hiking trip to Mt Cook National Park there are a few things to note especially because the village is quite small and has a limited amount of amenities. There are a few places to stay ranging from dorm and private rooms, to units and studios. You’ll want to make sure you book in advanced as it’s quite common in the peak times that there are no rooms available. There is also a campground, the Whitehorse hill campground that has 60 unpowered sites. There are facilities nearby and a large communal kitchen with bench space.
The village also has a few cafes and restaurants to eat at, as well as a small convenience store for essentials. It is a good idea to pre pack some food and snacks before you head down. Depending which direction you come from there are larger grocery stores in Twizel and Tekapo. You’ll want to fill up with fuel in one of these spots as well. There is a small credit card only fuel station in the Mt Cook village but it is quite pricey.
Also, take note that the weather in this area can change very quickly. If you’re camping, be sure to pack for all seasons and take enough warm bedding especially if you’re staying in the winter. If you’re hiking, be sure to take a few different layers with you in a backpack like a rain jacket, fleece and puffer. I always take a beanie with me and put my stowaway jacket in my pack to put on as I climb higher—even in the summertime. Remember this is an alpine area so take caution to what the weather is doing.
Other attractions nearby include:
– Lake Pukaki visitor center for amazing views down the lake
– Peter’s lookout for another view of Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook
– Alpine Lavender farm which is open to the public in the summertime when the flowers are in bloom.