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The best Mount Cook Hike that is relatively easy and stunningly beautiful? Definitely the gorgeous Hooker Valley Track!
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 track in Mt Aspiring National Park, the Hooker Valley Track in 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. Colorful lupines swayed by the roadside as we passed.
Mount Cook loomed larger and larger the closer we got, drawing us in.
About Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park was established in 1953 and is home to 19 peaks over 3000 meters in height including its namesake, Mount Cook, which is New Zealand’s highest mountain at 3724 meters. 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.
There is an excellent museum, The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, at the Hermitage Mt Cook Hotel in the park with excellent displays of the history of climbing on the mountain and about 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, like the short but scenic Tasman Glacier View track, 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.
For an even bigger adventure and one that is on my list for next time is the hike to Mueller Hut, where you can stay overnight if you are lucky enough to reserve it.
Hiking the Hooker Valley Track: A Stunning Mount Cook Hike
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 mountaintops glinted in the sun as we hiked along the well-graded trail.
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.
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.
Tussock grass framed the rocky trail as we walked deeper into the Hooker Valley towards the behemoth mountain beyond.
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 is an abundance growing around Mount Cook in spring.
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.
This gorgeous Mount Cook hike 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.
How to Hike the Hooker Valley Track
Getting to this Mount Cook Hike
It’s a five-minute drive from Aoraki/Mount Cook Village to the car park 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 of the Hooker Valley Track
6.2 miles/10 km return
Elevation Gain of the Hooker Valley Track
262 feet/80 meters
Difficulty of the Hooker Valley Track
Easy. The Hooker Valley Track may be long but it is well-graded and mostly flat so would be easy even for non-hikers. This is why it is the best Mount Cook hike for families.
Where To Stay For This Mount Cook Hike
If you are camping, stay at the basic White Horse Hill Campground. This is the closest camping ground to Mount Cook Village.
For hotels, stay at the centrally located Aoraki Mount Cook Mountain Lodge, Aoraki Court Motel, or the cute Mount Cook Station Huts. For vacation rentals stay in nearby Twizel at this three bedroom cottage close to town, this new two bedroom house near the lake, or this peaceful three-bedroom peaceful retreat.
What To Take on Your Mount Cook Hike
My favorite day hiking backpack is the Cotopaxi Luzon as it is lightweight and will pack down easily when you’re not using it.
I definitely recommend wearing hiking boots rather than trainers for better grip, and take some trekking poles to help with the downhill – your knees will thank you!
Pack a water reservoir as it is an easy and lightweight way to bring lots of water and it’s easier to stay hydrated while you are hiking.
Pack a raincoat in case it rains and if you are hiking when the weather is cooler, wear a lightweight but cozy thermal underlayer top.
If you liked this post, check out some of my other South Island and New Zealand hiking content:
- Pushing Myself to the Limit on the Kepler Track
- Hiking to Rob Roy Glacier in Mount Aspiring National Park
- 22 Best Places To Add to Your South Island New Zealand Itinerary
- Why You Should Visit These Beautiful Otago Towns in New Zealand
- Hiking the Hillary Trail on Auckland’s Wild West Coast
- Hiking the Tongariro Northern Circuit: One of New Zealand’s Great Walks