The Sealy Tarns track is known as the New Zealand “Stairway to Heaven”. Take the steep climb to catch the perfect tarn reflection of Mount Cook and the Hooker Valley.
The Sealy Tarns track is a half-day hike offering incredible views of the Hooker Valley, Mount Cook and the moraines below. Known as the “Stairway to Heaven” this track climbs steeply, covering over 2200 wooden steps as you ascent the 550M metres to the tarns.
This guide will help you plan your hike, as well as answer any questions you might have.
Essential New Zealand Travel Resources
How to Find Cheap Flights
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TIP: If you’re flexible on dates, search for “Whole Month” to see a calendar result with the cheapest days to fly.
Comparing Best Deals on Accommodation
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TIP: For the best hostels, I usually compare reviews on Hostelworld, then check other booking sites to compare prices and deals.
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If you’re reading this blog then you’re more likely to be seeking adventures over poolside sips. By far, my two favorite companies for the most comprehensive adventure travel insurance is World Nomads and SafetyWing. If you’re on the fence, you can read the comparison article.
TIP: If you’re looking for a budget, reliable camper, Spaceships is a good bet. You’ll also find great car rental deals on RentalCars.com Also, make sure to download the Spaceships App, WikiCamps App, and Campermate App to find free campsites and facilities.
Where is the Sealy Tarns Track?
In fact, the Sealy Tarns track makes up the first section of the Mueller Hut track. So, when you’re looking for the trailhead, just look for signs to the left pointing to Sealy Tarns or Mueller Hut.
How to Get to the Sealy Tarns Track
The best way to get to the Mount Cook National Park hiking area is to drive here yourself. There is a large carpark here that you can leave you car for free. That being said, this carpark can get very busy in peak season, so plan to arrive early.
Luckily, if you don’t have a car, then you can still get to the Sealy Tarns track 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.
Tip: For those without a car looking to save money, it’s also very easy to hitchhike to the Mount Cook National Park since there is only one way in and one way out.
What to Expect on the Sealy Tarns Track
From the White Horse Hill Campsite, you’ll need to follow signs to the Sealy Tarns / Mueller Hut / Kea Point track.
After approximately 10 minutes of walking, you’ll come to a junction where you will turn left to continue on the Sealy Tarns track. The right path goes to a small viewpoint of the moraine known as Kea Point.
Soon after joining onto the Sealy Tarns track, you’ll begin your long, steep ascent. This is fairly monotonous, as you walk up the 2200 vertical wooden steps to the tarns.
The track is fairly exposed, which means it’s important to be prepared for bad weather. On a clear day, you can break up the monotony by turning around and admiring the increasingly better view behind you.
After about an hour, and 2220 steps later, you’ll have arrived at the Sealy Tarns. This is a wooden bench here which is great for relaxing and enjoying the views.
If you have time, I’d highly recommend continuing on for the Mueller Hut route. This is one of my favourite alpine hikes in New Zealand and definitely worth the overnight stay too. Read the full guide to the Mueller Hut hike here.
Sealy Tarns Reflections
Put simply, a tarn is a small mountain lake or pool. Due to the crisp mountain air, tarns are great for capturing reflection phtotos.
The Sealy Tarns track is especially popular because these tarns allow you to catch some great reflective photos of Mount Cook.
For better photos, try to get low to maximise the mountain reflection in the tarn.
Below I’ve also included some quick tips to help you plan a day of hiking the Sealy Tarns track.
Here are some essentials for completing the Sealy Tarns hike.
ACCOMMODATION NEAR MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK
Either after or before the overnight hike, you can either camp at the White Horse Hill Campsite, or stay in a hostel or lodge in the Mount Cook Village.
The campsite fees for White Horse Hill campsite are $15 per night per person. This is a great, cheap option as it will allow you to explore all of the other hikes and things to do in the area easily,
MORE PHOTOS FROM THE SEALY TARNS HIKE
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MORE HIKES IN SOUTH ISLAND NEW ZEALAND
I hope that this quick guide to hiking the Sealy Tarns track in New Zealand’s South Island has been useful. If you are looking for more travel inspirations or hikes on the South Island, why not check out some of the links below.
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