From epic alpine huts to towering views of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, here are six of the best hikes in Mount Cook National Park.
Aoraki/Mount Cook is New Zealand’s Everest. In fact, the mountain was the old proving grounds for the world’s most coveted mountaineer; Sir Edmund Hillary.
While the towering peaks of Aoraki are inaccessible to everyday hikers, there are still some epic day hikes to be had beneath her slopes. In this guide, I’ll be outlining some of the best hikes in Mount Cook National Park for those looking to chase views!
I’ve also written independent hiking guides for each of the hiking day trips below if you’re looking for detailed information.
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How to Get to the Mount Cook National Park
Most of these hikes depart from the Mount Cook National Park area near the White Horse Hill Campsite, approximately 3.5 kilometeres from the Mount Cook Village.
Getting to the Mount Cook National Park requires a drive down one of New Zealand’s most scenic roads; Mount Cook Road. This road branches off from State Highway 8 (Tekapo-Twizel Road) at the junction just before Lake Pukaki.
The road to the Mount Cook National Park is sealed and well-maintained. However, it does close occasionally during Winter due to storms.
If you don’t have a car, then you can still get to the popular day hike tracks by booking a shuttle bus. There are a few companies that offer this service. I found Cook Connect to be one of the most popular options.
They have pick up locations in Glentanner, Twizel and Lake Tekapo. Prices for transfers range from $41 return.
Best Hikes in Mount Cook National Park
So, let’s get straight into the list of best hikes in Mount Cook National Park. If you have any more recommendations, make sure to let other travelers know in the comments section.
1. Hooker Valley Track
The Hooker Valley Track is by far, the most popular day hike in Mount Cook National Park. In fact, it’s often rated as one of the best and most popular hikes in New Zealand.
Following up Hooker Valley, the track gently winds up to the Hooker glacial lake. There are several epic swing bridges on the way, with plenty of opportunity for spanning views of the Sealy Mountains and Aoraki/Mount Cook.
FULL GUIDE: Guide to Hiking the Hooker Valley Track
2. Sealy Tarns Track
The Sealy Tarns track is a more difficult hike that climbs steeply to a set of beautiful mountain reflective pools (tarns).
Known as New Zealand’s “Stairway to Heaven” the track is mostly just a monotonous wooden stair climb to the tarns. However, turning around at any point of the hike reveals incredible views of the Hooker Valley and of course, Mount Cook herself.
FULL GUIDE: Guide to Hiking the Sealy Tarns Track
3. Mueller Hut Route
The Mueller Hut route is one of my personal favourite hikes in Mount Cook National Park and perhaps in all of New Zealand. It’s better to attempt this hike over two days, either staying in the hut or freedom camping nearby.
Following on from the Sealy Tarns track, the Mueller Hut route continues on, climbing to a mountain pass on the Sealy Range.
From the pass, hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views of the opposing ice walls and just around the corner, the Mueller Hut.
This hut is one of the most scenic in New Zealand, being surrounded by ice-covered mountains on each side, anf incredible sunrise and sunset views of Mount Cook.
There is also the option to summit Mount Ollivier from the hut, which is only a short, yet incredibly rewarding side-trip.
4. Kea Point Track
For a shorter and much easier day hike in Mount Cook National Park, the Kea Point track is a good bet.
Branching off from the Sealy Tarns track before the stair-climb, the Kea Point track runs gently along the feet of the Sealy Range. The track ends at an incredible viewing platform of the Mueller moraine and Mount Cook.
5. Tasman Glacier Moraine Viewpoint
This Tasman Glacier viewpoint hike follows the Balls Hut track from the Tasman Glacier car park.
Although this offers arguably the best hiking views of the glacier, it is not marked or mentioned by the DOC. I suspect that the reason for this is that the scree climb up to the edge of the moraine wall is simply too dangerous due to the risk of rockfall and avalanches.
However, in good conditions, this hike is the best viewpoint to see New Zealand’s largest glacier up-close and personal.
DETAILED GUIDE: HIKING TO THE TASMAN GLACIER MORAINE LOOKOUT
6. Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walk
If you want to see the Tasman Glacier but you’re not prepared for a longer walk or a slippery scree climb, then I’d recommend taking the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier walk.
This is a much shorter walk to the Tasman Lake, where you can spot the retreating glacier from afar.
There is also an option to detour to the Blue Lakes, which is a set of three colourful lakes which is a good spot for a quick swim in Summer.
HEADING TO QUEENSTOWN?: 8 BEST HIKES IN QUEENSTOWN
Camping and Sleeping Near the Mount Cook National Park
By far, the best place to stay overnight at the Mount Cook National Park is the White Horse Hill Campsite.
Here, there are 60 unpowered sites and you’ll need to arrive early in peak season to secure a spot. It’s not possible to book online as it operates on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Fees are $15 per night per person.
Best Time to Hike in the Mount Cook National Park
Many of the day hikes on this list can be attempted year-round. However, the best time to hike in New Zealand is between November and April.
These months offer warmer conditions, less ice on the track and clearer skies.
However, hiking in the colder, winter months is also great for those who prefer more challenging conditions.
Mount Cook and Tasman Glacier Helicopter and Ski Plane
By far, one of the most incredible experiences in New Zealand is to take an alpine Helicopter or ski plane flight. There are hundreds of companies operating out of the Mount Cook National Park.
However, this particular helicopter tour is one of the best-rated and most value-for-money that I could find online. In terms of price, I’d highly recommend booking online to save money.
Registering Intentions in the Mount Cook Visitor Centre
For the majority of these hikes, registering your intentions with the DOC Visitor Center in the Mount Cook Village is not required.
However, if you’re intending to do some bigger hikes such as the Mueller Hut Route, or you’re hiking in Winter, then registering with the DOC is a must.
This is a free process whereby you notify the DOC about what you intend on doing and where you are going. This helps to prevent unwarranted searches from taking place when they find your car in the carpark overnight. It’s also a great safety protocol so that the authorities know where you are if things were to go south on the mountains.
MORE EPIC HIKES IN SOUTH ISLAND NEW ZEALAND
I hope that you enjoyed this quick guide some of the best hikes in Mount Cook National Park. If you’re looking for more day hikes or things to do in New Zealand, make sure to check out the list below.
A good starting point is this guide to the 31 Best Guides in the South Island.
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