The Hooker Valley Track

Hooker Lake and Aoraki/Mount Cook

The Hooker Valley Track

The Hooker Valley Track is a stunning shorter walk in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in Canterbury, and you’ll get some of the best views in New Zealand for very little effort. Don’t miss the chance to see the spectacular alpine scenery including glaciers, mountain rivers and glacial lakes. On a good weather day you are treated to uninterrupted views of New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki/Mount Cook (3,724m). Be warned though, this is one of the most popular walks in New Zealand, so you’ll probably be walking with the crowds.

DoC rate the Hoooker Valley track as 3 hour easy walking track. I walked the 10Kms there and back in a couple of hours.

There are plenty of activities and walks to do in the area, from multi-day hikes to very short walks. On this visit I was only here for a short time, but if you have a couple of days and your fitness is good, it’s definitely worth checking out the Meuller hut route. It rivals Avalanche Peak in Arthurs Pass, for “most-spectacular-views-on-a-day-walk”.

Getting There

Getting to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park warrants a special mention, because the road along Lake Pukaki is so incredible! Whether coming from Christchurch or Wanaka direction, you travel for 45 minutes (55Kms) along its Western edge. The colour of the lake is an unusual bright blue/turquoise. This comes from the fine rock particles which have been washed out of the Hooker and Tasman glaciers feeding rivers, which flow into the lake. It is one of the highlights of New Zealand.

Lake Pukaki towards Aoraki/Mount Cook
Lake Pukaki towards Aoraki/Mount Cook

Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

Mount Cook village has a variety of accommodation options ranging from extremely grand to camping. My budget only extends to the latter, so I stayed in the incredibly scenic White Horse Hill Doc campsite. It is located right next to the start of the Hooker Valley track (and numerous other walks) so is a great place to base yourself.

The Hooker Valley Track

The track starts at the end of the Hooker Valley Road, by the campsite. Being such a popular walk it is a well graded and a very easy track to walk. There are a few undulations and some steps but nothing at all difficult and you can take the family. The track starts off from the car park through some grasslands, and within 5 minutes I was at the first of the three swingbridges on the track.

Starting the Hooker Valley Track
Starting the Hooker Valley Track

Turning the corner to see the numerous hanging glaciers and waterfalls tumbling down the rock face above the Meuller Lake, really takes your breath away. There were a few little vantage points where I admired the views and got some snaps.

The Meuller Lake and Hooker River
The Meuller Lake and Hooker River

Swingbridges and Views!

The Meuller lake empties into the Hooker River. It all looked pretty tranquil from up here but as I walked over the swingbridge the roar of the water and boulders and stones tumbling was pretty impressive.

The first swingbridge on the Hooker Valley Track
The first swingbridge on the Hooker Valley Track
View from swingbridge hooker valley track
The view from the first swingbridge

I watched the wall of rock closely, hoping to see a little avalanche from high up. I remembered the creaking noises of the glaciers and the crashing of mini-avalanches from high up in the peaks from walking up the Meuller hut route ten years ago.

From the first swingbridge the track wound between some old glacial moraines, little hills on either side. It skirted the Meuller lake briefly before heading up to a second swingbridge. There were low bushes and vegetation but nothing to obscure the beautiful views.

Looking back across Mueller Lake
Looking back across Mueller Lake
Looking back to the Meuller Glacier
Looking across to the Meuller Glacier
River views on the Hooker Valley Track
River views on the Hooker Valley Track, with Aoraki/Mount Cook in the distance

The Second swingbridge was about half way (a couple of Kms or so) down the track over Stocking Stream. There were toilets here – an advantage of being on such a popular walk.

Toilets near the Stocking Stream swingbridge
Scenic toilets near the Stocking Stream swingbridge

Towards Hooker Lake

From the second swingbridge the track continued wth some small undulations and soon I was at the final swingbridge. From here the landscape became more rocky and the track climbed up a little, over the moraines to reveal the Hooker Lake. There were small icebergs on the lake.. I say small, but in reality these things are huge chunk of ice!

Hooker Lake and Aoraki/Mount Cook
Hooker Lake and Aoraki/Mount Cook

I was walking the track on a midsummers day in late January. Even so, I was amazed at how little snow was on the peak of Aoraki/Mount Cook (3,724m). At the end of the Hooker lake I could see the Hooker Glacier. Looks lovely and isolated doesn’t it? I came over the brow of the next hill and there were the masses 🙂

I made my way back through the throng of people and was back at the campsite within an hour. The wind really got up on the way back, and I was glad I had carried my raincoat with me to keep out the worst of it. Even though this is a shorter walk, it is very exposed, so be sure to carry enough water, sunscreen and warm clothing, even on a midsummer day.

Aoraki/Mount Cook is a must-do on anyone’s New Zealand itinerary. My advice for walking the Hooker Track? Choose your timing wisely. DoC recommed an early morning start, just as the sun’s ray’s creep across the mountain peaks. If you come this early you will only share it with only a handful of people.

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