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The Hooker Valley Track, New Zealand: An Easy Hike with Spectacular Views

The Hooker Valley Track, New Zealand: An Easy Hike with Spectacular Views

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The Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park is an amazing walk. It is fairly easy and offers stunning views. This blog is about everything you need to know to conquer the trail for yourself. 

The Hooker Valley Track is the most popular hike in Mount Cook National Park. This stunning hiking trail is breathtaking at every turn and is one of the best attractions in New Zealand.

I have personally hiked the Hooker Valley Track in New Zealand three times now, and I never get sick of the views both along the way and at Hooker Lake.

If you’re going to do one hike while you are in Mount Cook National Park, make it the Hooker Valley Track. I guarantee you’ll love it!

In this blog, I’ll give you all of the information you need to complete the Hooker Valley Track, the attractions to look out for along the way, and how to best enjoy it by avoiding the crowds!

Overview of the Hooker Valley Track

Baiely standing in the shodow of Mount Cook on the Hooker Valley Trail
Just enjoying one of the many viewpoints!

Where is the Hooker Valley Track?

The Hooker Valley Track is within Mount Cook National park on New Zealand’s South Island. The track itself starts only a couple of minutes outside of Mount Cook Village (the town in Mount Cook National Park) at the White Horse Hill Campground.

To find the campground, just drive to the end of Mount Cook Road or punch it in on Google Maps. If you have no service, download Maps.me prior to entering the park and download the South Island of New Zealand map. On this map, it is clearly marked.

Once you arrive at the White Horse Hill Campsite just follow the signs to the track starting point.

Reated Read: There’s going to be a lot of road trips if you want to discover New Zealand, check out this Christchurch to Queenstown road trip itinerary.

How Long is the Hooker Valley Track?

Bailey walking on one of the suspension bridges on the Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand
Walking back after an epic sunset at the Hooker Lake

The Hooker Valley Track is 5km (3.1mi) in each direction. You return via the same trail you hiked there.

It takes an hour and a half to hike each way, and most people spend around an hour at the viewpoint enjoying the views of the Hooker Lake. Overall, the entire 10km (6.2mi) Hooker Valley Track can be completed within 3.5 hours including stops for photos.

How Difficult is the Hooker Valley Track?

Daniel walking along the boardwalk of the Hooker Valley Track
The boardwalk makes the hike easier but also protects the grasslands.

The Hooker Valley Track is a relatively easy hike. That being said, I have still seen people struggle on the trail.

The best way to work out whether it’s right for you or not, is to ask yourself if you can hike 10km (6.2mi) at a park or in the city? If you can, then this trail will be no problem for you.

The path is very well maintained with little to no inclines. It is a very flat trail that often goes over wooden walkways and bridges.

In the summer months, it can get very hot on the track and there isn’t much shade. In my opinion, this could pose a risk or make the hike harder for those who are not used to or prepared for New Zealand’s harsh sun.

I highly recommend bringing at least 1 liter of water per person, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen regardless of what the weather looks like!

Related Read: Everything you need to know to plan the best South Island, New Zealand road trip!

4 Highlights of the Hooker Valley Track

The Hooker Valley Track offers some incredible views that really have to be seen to be believed. The highlights of the trail are:

1. Mt Cook / Aoraki

Bailey standing in the shodow of Mount Cook on the Hooker Valley Track
Can you spot Bailey?

Mt Cook or Aoraki (as it was first named by the Maori people) is New Zealand’s tallest mountain. It now stands at 3,724m (8,937ft0, 40m (131ft) shorter than it was last recorded in 1991 after a few major slips and erosion caused it to lose some height. Let’s hope it doesn’t keep shrinking!

The name Aoraki comes from the Maori legend of how the South Island was born. Aoraki is actually the name of a Maori ancestor. The story behind the mountain is very interesting and you can read more about the Aoraki legend here.

You’ll see Mount Cook as you drive into the national park but from the end of the Hooker Valley Track is the best view in my opinion!

2. Hooker Lake

A view of the Hooker Lake at the end of the Hooker Valley Track
If you get a reflection it’s really stunning!

Hooker Lake is another stunning attraction to see on the Hooker Valley Track. This lake is actually a very new addition to the valley and only began to form in the 1970s after the Hooker Glacier began retreating.

The lake is glacier fed and sits directly beneath Mt Cook. In winter, the lake can freeze and in summer you’re likely to see icebergs floating on the surface. On a calm day, you can see Mt Cook’s perfect reflection in the lake. It’s the best end to the track!

3. Hooker Glacier

The Hooker Glacier sits across the Hooker Lake and can be viewed from the edge of the lake. It has retreated quite far so you won’t get a close-up look but you’ll still see it! In the photo above, you can just see the glacier however it is covered in dirt and blends in with the landscape.

The glacier itself is 11km (6.8 miles) long and is only one of many that sit beneath Aoraki.

4. Mueller Glacier and Lake

The Mueller Lake, Mount Cook National Park
The Mueller Lake and Glacier (you can just see it covered in dirt)

If you look to your left as you start the trail you will notice another lake. This is the Mueller Glacier and Lake. The Mueller Glacier is located at the end of this lake down the small valley but due to the fact that it’s receding, it is very hard to see.

This glacier can be hard to see as it blends in with the surrounding mountains and is often covered in snow during the winter. However, you can still spot it (especially now that you’ll be looking out for it!)

Related Read: There are so many instagramabe spots in Queenstown for photography!

3 Reasons you MUST hike the Hooker Valley Track!

What I loved most about the Hooker Valley Track was just how scenic it was from start to finish. It wasn’t one of those hikes that are only good at the end, the entire time the scenery is breathtaking!

1. The View at the End of the Track

Bailey watching the sunset behind Mount Cook and the Hooker Lake, New Zealand
Bailey watching the sunset behind Mount Cook and the Hooker Lake, New Zealand

The amazing view of Mount Cook over Hooker Lake is the view at the end of the track or the main attraction. During clear days, Mount Cook reflects off of the lake making for an amazing picture.

I could literally spend hours just enjoying this amazing view!

2. You’ll cross the most beautiful suspension bridges in New Zealand!

Looking towards Mount Cook on one of the Hooker Valley suspension bridges
Looking towards Mount Cook on one of the Hooker Valley suspension bridges

I love the suspension bridges around New Zealand! But if I’m being honest, none compare to the three on the Hooker Valley Track. They cross the Hooker River along the trail in some of the most scenic locations! It’s one sure reason to add this hike to your NZ bucket list!

Because of all the suspension bridges, it also helps keeps the route flat and easy to hike.

3. You’ll stand next to New Zealand’s tallest mountain

Bailey standing on a suspension bridge on the Hooker Valley Trail with Mount Cook in the background
Bailey standing on a suspension bridge on the Hooker Valley Trail with Mount Cook in the background

You can’t come to New Zealand and not stand as close as possible to Mount Cook! I mean, how many other countries can you walk 5km (3.1mi) to their tallest mountain? I don’t know the answer, but my guess is not many!

Related Read: Find out where you can take the best photos in Mount Cook National Park here!

The BEST Time to Hike the Hooker Valley Track

Another suspension bridge on the hooker Valley Track
Another suspension bridge on the Hooker Valley Track

The best time to hike the Hooker Valley Track is in either the morning or late afternoon. This is not only a beautiful time of day but you’ll also avoid the large crowds that normally visit around midday.

Sunrise or sunset?

At sunrise, you will get an amazing glow as the sun rises behind Mt Cook. At sunset you see the last light disappear off the peak of Mt Cook. So, as for the age-old question of sunrise and sunset, I’d personally say sunset is better especially if you’re a photographer.

Day vs night?

During the day is beautiful because the entire valley is lit up and for those just enjoying the view, it’s a really nice time to be on the Hooker Valley Track. However, if you love the stars and photography be sure to hike back at night. The stars are amazing out here and you can catch the Milkyway over Mount Cook.

Summer vs winter?

When it comes to the seasons, the track is open all year round. The trail is safe to hike in winter as it doesn’t pass avalanche risk areas in close proximity. So, no matter what time of year you visit, you can hike the Hooker Valley Track all year round!

With that said, if you want that amazing reflection you’ll need to visit in summer to late autumn. This is because the lake freezes in winter and that reflective water is nowhere to be seen!

Please be aware that the Hooker Lake does not freeze enough to walk on. Despite this, I have seen people risk their lives doing it but please stay safe and don’t attempt it!

The Hooker Valley at Sunrise

A sunrise over Mount Cook on the Hooker Valley Trail.
The perfect amount of cloud!

The other day we got up at 4 am to hike the track for sunrise. We wanted to be at the lake to watch the amazing sunrise and it was well worth the early wake-up call. The mountains reflected off the lake as the sun rose over the mountains. We had the whole area all to ourselves! So peaceful and beautiful.

If you too would like to do this be sure to leave at least an hour before the sun is due to rise. Oh, and don’t get scared if you see a possum run past you (like we did) they are common after dark!

Tips for Walking the Hooker Valley Track

Looking out at Mount Cook from the bench at the end of the Hooker Valley Trail
Not a bad place to relax!

How to avoid the crowds

The Hooker Valley Track is one of New Zealand’s most popular hikes. With that comes hoards of people. If you want to enjoy the view with some peace and quiet I suggest you either hike first thing in the morning or wait until the end of the day and spend sunset at the lake!

What to bring

  • Camera
  • Hat – for NZ’s crazy sun
  • Sunglasses
  • Clothes to fit the season
  • A towel – if summer and you decide to jump in the lake (or winter if you’re crazy)!
  • 1L of water
  • Suitable footwear
  • Headlamp or flashlight – for if you want to start before sunrise or come back after sunset

Accommodations Near Hooker Valley Track

Aoraki Court Hotel, Mount cook National Park
Photo Credit – Aoraki Court Hotel, Mount cook National Park

Accommodation is very limited in Mt Cook Village (where the Hooker Valley Track starts). In fact, you only have 7 options and they book up fast (especially in the summer). For this reason, it’s best to book them asap!

Twizel is the closest town to Mount Cook and home to budget hotels. You can search all of the Twizel options here or see our full list of recommendations below.

White Horse Hill Campground– This is a DOC caravan park and campground right inside the national park. It costs $13 per person per night. However, they do have specials for students and kids. The campground caters to tents, cars, and motorhomes.

Lake Ruataniwha Holiday Park – For around $100 NZD a night this holiday park in Twizel is the most affordable option that you will find pretty much anywhere in the area. Even though it’s a 45-minute drive to Mount Cook it is only a 2-minute walk to the gorgeous Lake Ruataniwha. Note, no matter which size cabin you book all facilities here are shared.

Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge – The Alpine Lodge is a medium-budget hotel that has stunning views of the surrounding mountains. This is probably the best value hotel in Mount Cook Village and as such, is almost always fully booked.

The Hermitage Hotel Mt Cook – The Hermitage is a great hotel and the largest in the park. It’s also where the visitor center is located. It likely has some of the best views in the village! Their onsite restaurant is delicious and offers incredible views while you eat.

Aoraki Court Motel – Another great hotel in the village. It’s actually got the best reviews in Mount Cook Village so you know it’s a great choice!

For more detailed info about the hotels in Mount Cook Village or alternative nearby towns to stay in, check out our blog about where to stay in Mount Cook National Park!

Other things to do in Mount Cook National Park

tasman river walk
The Tasman lake
  • Hike to the Mueller Hut – the Mueller hut is one of the best alpine huts in new Zealand. It’s located in the most stunning location high above the valley in Mount Cook. To date, it’s my favorite hike in New Zealand!
  • Scenic flight – I recommend this 30-minute helicopter ride over Fox Glacier!
  • Visit the Tasman River for sunrise – The short walk to the Tasman River makes it the perfect opportunity to enjoy a sunrise over the Tasman Glacier. From this viewpoint, you will have the most breathtaking views!
  • Take the famous Mount Cook road photo – It’s such an awesome photo to take home with you and in our blog, we show you exactly where and how to take it!
  • Hike the Sealy Tarn Trail – The Sealy Tarn Trail is the shorter version of the Mueller Hut. Both follow the same path but the Sealy Tarn trail ends halfway to the hut. However, the views from the top are still amazing!
  • Go Skydiving – There are three epic heights to jump from in an insanely scenic setting: 9,000 ft , 13,000 ft, or 15,000 ft.

For more amazing things to do in Mount Cook check out blog on the best things to do in Mount Cook National Park!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey on a suspension bridge on the Hooker Valley Track looking out over the Hooker River
If these photos don’t get you excited I don’t know what will!

Overall, the Hooker Valley Track was an awesome walk. I was thoroughly impressed with how beautiful it was! We will definitely hike the Hooker Valley Track again in the future, and you should too!

Don’t forget to check out all of our blogs about New Zealand, Mount Cook National Park, or a few of these other related articles below!

Best things to do on the South Island

Choosing a Mount Cook Helicopter Ride

Renting a campervan in New Zealand

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