Hooker Valley Track: Short Walk & Lake In Mount Cook, New Zealand

The Hooker Valley Track is one of the best short walks in New Zealand.

It’s a flat, easy hike with amazing views of some of the best lakes and peaks in Mount Cook National Park.

This is the kind of scenery that made New Zealand a perfect setting for the Lord of the Rings movies!

This travel guide will explain how to get there, and everything you need to know before you go!


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Quick Facts
  • Distance: 6 miles (10 km) return
  • Elevation Gain: 400 feet (120 m)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 3 hrs
Where Is It?

Hooker Valley is located on the South Island of New Zealand, in Mount Cook National Park.

The trailhead starts at White Horse Hill Campground, which also happens to be a great place to stay the night.

From Christchurch, it’s a 4 hour drive on mostly rural roads to get to the national park.
 
 

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What To Expect

This is a short out-and-back trail that takes you over bridges and past glaciers, lakes, and mountain ranges.

During the hike you’ll have constant views of Mount Sefton, accompanied by the sound of its rumbling glaciers, and if you’re lucky you may even witness an avalanche or two in the distance (we did!).

There are good photo ops at every turn, and the trail never gets steep or tiring. I’d rate it as easy and suitable for everyone.
 

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Even though it may be a beginner friendly hike, the visual payoffs are anything but ordinary. These are amazing landscapes that are always changing. A plaque at Mueller Lake tells about this:
 

A hundred years ago, the Mueller Glacier filled the valley floor. You could have walked onto the glacier from near here. Today, the glacier is all but hidden up the valley. Glacial ice left behind is still visible at the far end of the lake. Piles of rock rubble (moraine) dropped by the glacier mark its past extent.

As you round the corner, your next sight will be Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand, and each step takes you closer to this giant.
 
The hike ends on a little ‘beach’ with a stunning view of Hooker Lake with its floating icebergs. Hold a piece of iceberg for a unique New Zealand memory!
 

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Fees/Permits

FREE as of 2020.

No fees or permits are needed for this hike.
 

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Where To Stay – Camping

The best place to camp is at the nearby White Horse Hill Campground.

The Hooker Valley Track and some other great trails start directly from this campground, and it also has flush toilets and filtered water for dishwashing. It doesn’t have showers, but those can be had at the nearby Mount Cook Village Shelter.

It’s a little overpriced at $15 NZD (~$9 USD) per person, but you’re paying for the amazing views and location. More info can be found in the handy CamperMate NZ app.

If you’re looking for a hotel instead, there are half a dozen options in the nearby Mount Cook Village.

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