In the shadow of a giant- Hiking to Mount CookHike the gorgeous Hooker Valley track to the tallest mountain in New Zealand? Yes please! 

I had wanted to visit Mount Cook for ages but for some reason, I hadn’t quite made it there. But last spring during my South Island road trip with my Dad, the timing was finally right.

Along with hiking the Kepler Track through Fiordland, and the Rob Roy Glacier hike in Mt Aspiring National Park, the Hooker Valley Track to Mount Cook was also firmly on the itinerary.

The drive out to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park was a beautiful adventure in itself. Through a valley flanked by lofty peaks, the road squiggled by the baby-blue Lake Pukaki. Colourful lupines swayed by the road side as we passed.

Lake Pukaki

Mount Cook loomed larger and larger the closer we got, drawing us in. 

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park was established in 1953 and is home to 19 peaks over 3000 metres in height including its namesake, Mount Cook, which is New Zealand’s highest mountain at 3724 metres. The mountain was first successfully summited in 1894 and thousands of climbers have attempted it since.

Perhaps the most famous person to summit Mount Cook is New Zealand’s own Sir Edmund Hillary, who earnt his climbing stripes on the snowy expanse of mountains in the National Park before building up to his ultimate achievement, being the first man to summit Everest in 1953. 

River to Mount Cook

There is an excellent Museum, The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, at the Hermitage Mt Cook Hotel in the park with excellent displays on the history of climbing on the mountain and on Sir Ed himself, including a really good documentary about the life of this Kiwi great.

There are a few Mount Cook hikes on offer in the park but the one that I wanted to do was the Hooker Valley Track, a 10km return hike through the jaw-dropping beauty of the Hooker Valley towards the mountain itself.

Hooker Valley

We started off hiking the Hooker Valley track in the brilliant sunshine with spectacular views surrounding us from the very beginning. The snow of the mountain tops glinted in the sun as we hiked along the well-graded trail.

Hiking to the mountain

Just off the main Hooker Valley trail the triangular Alpine Memorial sits atop a small rocky hill. It is a stark reminder that the mountain, although beautiful, can be a dangerous place to be. It has claimed at least 240 lives over the years, which is roughly the same number of climber deaths on Everest.

Mount Cook Climbers Memorial

Carrying on, the gentle gushing of the Hooker river became audible as we caught sight of the first of two swing bridges over the Hooker river.

Bridge in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

Tussock grass framed the rocky trail as we waked deeper into the Hooker Valley towards the behemoth mountain beyond.

Hiking back from Mount Cook

I caught sight of my first Mount Cook lily about halfway along the trail. The Mount Cook lily is in fact not a lily at all, it belongs to the buttercup family and is the world’s largest. The lily only grows in sub-alpine and alpine terrain in the south island of New Zealand and there are an abundance growing around Mount Cook in spring.

Mount Cook lily

The Hooker Valley trail ended at Hooker lake with a view over to the mighty Mount Cook. Icebergs floated in the milky waters of the glacial lake. We sat and enjoyed the view for a while before hiking back the way we came.

View to Mount Cook

The Hooker Valley trail is possibly the most accessible trail with the best rewards of any I have done, and I can certainly see why it has been named the best half day hike in New Zealand.

It lived up to its stellar reputation and then some.

Hooker Valley Track to Mount Cook

How to Hike the Hooker Valley Track

Getting there: Five minute drive from Aoraki/Mount Cook Village to the carpark at the end of Hooker Valley Road. You can also walk the 2.4km Kea Point Track from the village to the start of the trail.

Length: 6.2 miles/10 km return

Elevation Gain: 262 feet/80 metres

Difficulty: Easy. The Hooker Valley track may be long but it is well-graded and mostly flat so would be easy even for non-hikers.

Mountain view lilies

4 Comments on In the Shadow of a Giant: Hiking the Hooker Valley Track

  1. sam
    April 5, 2017 at 7:50 am (2 months ago)

    Is there any guided tour to the Hooker Valley Track that I can sign up to?
    Regards

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      April 6, 2017 at 7:10 pm (2 months ago)

      I’m not sure about day trips to Mount Cook to do the trail but if you can get to Mount Cook Village then the Hermitage Hotel runs half day and full day tours of the Hooker Valley that includes hiking the track.

      Reply
  2. Organized Wanderer
    July 20, 2016 at 6:33 am (10 months ago)

    I love the details in this blog post – from the triangular Alpine Memorial to the bit about Mount Cook Lily. Very well written piece! And I’m sure you’ve heard this before – but the domain name that you have for your blog is totally awesome!

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      July 20, 2016 at 2:43 pm (10 months ago)

      Thanks very much! I am glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for the comment about my domain name, I wanted something that stood out. I like yours too 🙂

      Reply

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