Project Description

Distance: 8km Return
Time: 3 Hours

The Hooker Valley Track is my favourite short hike. With snowy mountains and glacial lakes, I didn’t know where to look and found myself muttering ‘wow’ the whole 10km.

The track runs through the Hooker Valley in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park in the Mackenzie Region of New Zealand’s South Island.

This mainly flat track starts from the carpark at White Horse Hill Campground at the end of Hooker Valley Road. To get here is a 1 1/2 hour drive from the nearest town of Lake Tekapo, which lies between Christchurch and Twizel. From the carpark the start of the track is easy to find and well signposted.

Following the gravel path, you wind through the alpine bush before coming to the first lookout. Listen for the distant rumbling of ice falling from Mount Sefton into the Muller Glacier below.

Shortly after this lookout, you cross the first of three swingbridges, over the Hooker River.

From here the track winds and undulates, past another lookout, and over the second swingbridge, this time over a small stream.

After this bridge the track opens up and travels through the valley. The terrain changes to tussock on both sides and you cross over some boardwalks before coming to the third and final swingbridge.

From here it is a short distance to the lookout and picnic table overlooking Hooker Lake and Hooker Glacier with Aoraki Mount Cook in the background.

Head down the short side track to the shores of the Hooker Lake, and then return to the carpark the way you came.

To get the best views of Mount Cook, I recommend doing this hike during sunrise, as the first rays of the day turn the sky over Aoraki a pinkish-orange tone and reflect beautifully in the water.

If doing the hike this early in the morning, you can expect to share the trail with only a few other people, but the later you leave the hike, the more crowded it will be, especially over the summer holidays.

Growing up in rural Waikato, mountains are not something I get to experience up close and so combined with the hues of the sunrise, this hike had everything I needed.

Standing on the shores of the Hooker Lake, alone with the great presence of Aoraki Mount Cook before me, I was overcome with a huge sense of appreciation for the world around me, and a deeper understanding of what truly matters.

I knew that for centuries, people had stood at the base of this mountain, and I knew that people would continue to do so for centuries to come. I felt a sense of connectivity with the earth, and it hit home that it was an absolute honour to be where I was.