A Guide to Hiking Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook, New Zealand

Mount Cook is one of New Zealand’s must-sees on the south island. The location is slightly remote, so that is why I recommend to drive your own car and map out a road trip – check out my full post on The Ultimate Guide to New Zealand.

However, if that’s not an option for you – no problem! You can hop on a tour bus at almost every major location in New Zealand and do trips, or opt for a tour that stays overnight so you can have more time.

How To Get To Mount Cook

From Christchurch, pick up your rental car or camper-van (all of these companies are located next to the airport.) If you are looking for a reliable rental car company and are planning to camp or stay in hotels along the way, Omega and Hertz are both reasonably priced with a wide range of vehicles for long or short term rental.

As far as a camper-van, there are a few companies that all offer the same style of van and set up. We rented through Spaceship Rentals which came out to be about $100/day. The camper-van is essentially an oversized minivan that has two front seats and a compartment set up in the back. There is space for your luggage, and a pop up compartment with a fridge/freezer unit, a crate of dishes, silverware, cooking utensils, pots and pans, a portable stove, and butane cans – basically everything you need to cook!

On top of the compartment is the fold out bed. Placed on three wooden slats, the mattress pieces fit together to make a double bed on top of the storage. You can either sleep with the back of the car open and attach a tent, or if it’s too cold, you’ll be extra cozy sleeping in the van with all the doors closed.

Aoraki / Mount Cook

The drive from Christchurch to Mount Cook takes about four hours. However, there are plenty of stops to take along the way to break up the trip!

You absolutely must stop at Lake Tekapo – a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, making it the perfect spot for stargazing. When arriving to Tekapo, you’ll see a tiny chapel perched above the crystal blue lake – an excellent photo-op as you can imagine! There are also Tekapo hot springs just around the bend from the chapel – natural springs to soak in while you gaze up at the stars.

From Tekapo, you’re only about an hour to Lake Pukaki and the Mount Cook area. You’ll drive around Lake Pukaki, which is another crystal blue lake many people stop at. With the mountain range in the backdrop you won’t want to miss this stop.

Where To Stay at Mount Cook

There is a small village just at the base of Mount Cook called Aoraki. Here you’ll find a few hostels, bed and breakfasts, and chalet style lodges. If you’re coming to Mount Cook on a tour bus that spends the night, these are the best accommodations because of their close proximity to the base of the mountain.

If you’re looking for campsites, there are two options.

White Horse Hill Campsite – RV park and tent sites, first come first serve. Surrounded by mountains located at the base of Hooker Valley Track, facilities include a kitchen and toilets, (to shower you must visit the shelter in the village and pay $2), no powered sites, availability is on a first come first serve basis.

Glentanner Holiday Park– campground, RV park with fantastic facilities; full kitchen, dining room, bbq area, showers/toilets, WiFi, etc.. In my opinion, Glentanner has much better facilities than White Horse and is more spacious, however it is a 20- minute drive from Hooker Valley Track. Make sure to book ahead as it’s usually pretty full in the summer season.


Hiking Hooker Valley Track

One of the most popular walks in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park – Hooker Valley Track is by far one of the best half day hikes you can do in New Zealand. The hike is about 5 km (3 mi) to the glacier lake, making the roundtrip about 10 km (6mi). Getting to the trailhead is extremely accessible, only about ten minutes driving from Mount Cook village with a carpark right at the start of the trail, next to the White Horse Hill Campsite.

The track is a fairly easy path to walk. There are no major inclines or switchbacks, making it a great day hike for all levels. The walk all the way to the glacier lake takes you through Hooker Valley beside the Hooker River, and ending at the lake where there are amazing views of the mountain.

On the hike, you’ll cross over three swing bridges above the river, and encounter picturesque views of Mount Cook, icebergs, and glaciers at every turn. The trail does get pretty crowded, so I suggest starting early in the morning before the masses of tour buses arrive.

Expect the hike to take 3-4 hours to complete, leaning towards 4 hours with all the photos you’ll be taking along the way. Enjoy a picnic lunch once you arrive to the lake and soak up the sun before turning back on the trail!


Things to Do Near Mount Cook

After your hike, take a dip in Lake Pukaki. This glacier water will be sure to cool you off on a hot summer day! Access to the lake can be tricky, but you’ll see a few turn offs just before getting to Glentanner Campground.

If you’re looking for a more exhilarating activity, take a helicopter ride through Mount Cook National Park. These run all afternoon (when the weather permits), and give you an awesome aerial view of the lake and mountain range.

You can also rent bicycles and bike along the lake in the summer, or rent skis and hit the slopes in the winter!

Ciao!

The Traveling Yogi

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