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.

Where is the Sealy Tarns Track?

The Sealy Tarns track is located in the Mount Cook National Park, just near the White Horse Hill Camp Site. This is the same area where you can start the Hooker Valley Track and the Mueller Hut hike.

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

Hike Distance: 7.5KM return
Duration: 2-3 hours return
Sealy Tarns Elevation: 1310M AMSL (550M elevation gain)
Difficulty: Moderate (steep)

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.

SEALY TARNS TRACK

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.

HOOKER VALLEY MORAINE GLACIAL LAKE MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK

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.

SEALY TARNS TRACK NEW ZEALAND

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 TRACK

RELATED: 6 BEST DAY HIKES IN MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK


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.

SEALY TARNS REFLECTIVE POOLS MOUNT COOK PHOTOGRAPHY
SEALY TARNS TRACK NEW ZEALAND

Quick Tips

Below I’ve also included some quick tips to help you plan a day of hiking the Sealy Tarns track.

Start early for sunrise views
Check Mount Cook National Park weather updates
Prepare for an icy, slippery trail in Winter
Notify somebody of your intentions
Keep your pack light
Be prepared for swift changes in weather

Packing List

Here are some essentials for completing the Sealy Tarns hike.

Water bottle
Sunscreen
Muesli Bar or other Trail snacks
Sturdy boots or trail runners
Lightweight clothing
Rain Jacket
Warm layers for the top
Camera

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,

Alternatively, for those who prefer a room or hotel, you can stay in the nearby Mount Cook Village. Popular options include the famous Alpine Lodge and the Mt Cook Lodge.


MORE: 11 EPIC MOUNT COOK VIEW LOCATIONS – BEST PLACES TO SEE MOUNT COOK


MORE PHOTOS FROM THE SEALY TARNS HIKE

VIEW OF MOUNT COOK FROM THE SEALY TARNS TRACK
HOOKER VALLEY VIEW

MY CAMERA AND PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT

For a list of all my recommended photography gear (including what I use and why) check out my guide to camera gear for travel.

If you’d like to use any of the photographs on this website, please visit my licensing page to find out how. I also sell professional fine-art prints, visit my Print Store or contact me directly for customs prints of any images on We Seek Travel.

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.

Alternatively, get some more hiking inspiration by checking out this guide to the 6 Best Hikes in Mount Cook National Park or the mega-guide to the best hikes in the South Island!

SEALY TARNS TRACK

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