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Ultimate Guide to the Mueller Hut Hike, New Zealand in 2024!

Ultimate Guide to the Mueller Hut Hike, New Zealand in 2024!

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If you love hiking and views of mountains then the hike to the Mueller Hut is for you! This blog includes everything you need to know about the Mueller Hut including hiking it in just a day or staying in the hut overnight!

The Mueller Hut Track is easily one of the most gorgeous hikes in New Zealand. Both the hike and staying in the hut are bucket list NZ experiences and one I recommend to anyone visiting Mount Cook National Park.

From the Mueller Hut, you can enjoy unspoiled panoramic views of Mt Cook National Park. There really is no other hike in New Zealand that can compare!

But, there is just one problem. The harsh climate, steep climb, and booking the Mueller Hut means that you need to prepare before embarking on this hike.

Don’t worry though, in this blog, we tell you everything you need to know about the Mueller Hut hike, including how to prepare, the weather, and some extra info if you want to spend the night at the hut (we highly recommend this), or go during the winter season (June to October.)

Please note: some of the photos in this blog were taken in spring. If you hike in summer, expect conditions like the image above.

Overview of the Mueller Hut

Related Read: Make sure to check out which free and cheap things in Queenstown you can do while in New Zealand!

About the Mueller Hut Track

A lady hikes along a rocky area towards the Mueller Hut
it’s a tough climb!

The Mueller Hut Track is one of the best Mount Cook walks. It is more difficult than the ever-popular Hooker Valley Track but more beautiful offering views of the Hooker Valley and Hooker Lake from up above.

At 1,800m (5905ft) above sea level at the Mueller Hut, you peer down at Mount Cook National Park and can feel accomplished for completing one of the hardest Mount Cook hiking tracks.

The Mueller Hut route starts on the Sealy Tarns Track. This part of the track is commonly referred to as the “Mueller Hut stairway to heaven” as it is 2,200 steps up a steep staircase. After you get to the top of the staircase you will continue on further up the mountain to finally reach the Mueller Hut!

The Mueller Hut is one of the many government-owned and operated New Zealand huts. For those who don’t know, these huts exist for hikers to spend the night. They have a common space for cooking, a drop toilet, and bunk beds with mats. In the winter when it is too cold to camp, these huts come in very handy!

The Mueller Hut’s Interesting History

The toilet at the Mueller Hut with views of Mount Cook int he background
Not a bad view from the loo!

The first-ever “Mueller Hut” was built in 1914. This hut deteriorated and a new hut was built. Harsh conditions and even an avalanche caused four more “Mueller Huts” to be built over the years until finally the one that you see today was built in 2003.

Sir Edmund Hillary built the current Mueller Hut. For New Zealanders, Sir Edmund Hilary is a national icon being a great mountaineer who is the first person to have summited Mt Everest! In addition, Sir Edmund also summited Mt Cook before anyone else.

The Mueller Hut is currently located just below the peak of Mt Oliver, which was the first mountain Hilary ever summited making it a significant place for him.

Where does the Mueller Hut Hike start?

Bailey at the start of the Mueller Hut Route
The start of the trail!
Steps up the Sealy Tarns to the Mueller Hut
Steps up the Sealy Tarns to the Mueller Hut

The Mueller Hut hike is in Mount Cook National Park. To get to the Mueller Hut you must start on the Sealy Tarns Track and then at the top of the Sealy Tarns Track, you continue onto the Mueller Hut.

The Sealy Tarns Track starts at the Whitehorse Hill car park and campground (the same car park as the Hooker Valley Track) only a two-minute drive from Mount Cook Village.

Related Read: Plan our your trip with inspiration from our many different New Zealand road trip itineraries.

How hard is the Mueller Hut hike?

Surrounded by snow and mountains in the Mueller Hut Trail
Surrounded by snow and mountains in the Mueller Hut Trail in Winter.

In my opinion, the Mueller Hut hike is moderately difficult.

The first half of the hike is 2,200 stairs. This part can be quite tiring but isn’t overly difficult. After the stairs, there is a section of rocks that involves some climbing followed but a couple of steep uphill sections.

In the summer, these uphill sections would be fairly easy, but in the winter the ice and snow add an extra challenge.

The Mueller Hut hike is 5.6km (3.5 miles) long one way and takes about 4 hours in the summer. But in the winter, allow up to 5 hours one way.

The hut is located 1000 meters (3280 ft) above the valley floor so it is quite a climb!

Booking the Mueller Hut

Close up of the Mueller Hut, New Zealand
In winter, it’s far too cold not to stay in the hut!

If you plan on spending the night in the Mueller Hut you MUST book it before you leave. In the summer (November to April) you must book well in advance online, but in the winter you can only book on the day of.

In the winter, arrive early at the DOC office in Mount Cook Village and buy your hut passes there.

In the summer, you need to book online on the DOC website. During peak times you may need to book several months in advance to secure a spot. If it is all booked up, don’t get discouraged, just keep checking daily as there are often cancelations (or consider camping instead!)

The hut costs $45 per person per night for adults and $22.50 for youth (5-17). Under 5’s are free.

Camping at the Mueller Hut

A group of hikers climb the Sealy Tarns Trail towards the Mueller Hut
A group of hikers climb the Sealy Tarns Trail towards the Mueller Hut

For those visiting in summer (or winter if you’re crazy) you can actually camp at the Mueller Hut. This is a great option if one, the hut is booked up, or two, you just prefer to save money and camp.

Camping at the designated sites and using the hut facilities isn’t free and costs $15 per person. However, if you’re on a budget you can camp 200 meters from the hut without using the facilities for free.

You cannot book the camping in advance and must visit the DOC office the morning before your hike to pay for your camping.

Realated Read: Hiking Roys Peak for sunrise is another greak hike to check out just 2.5 hours south from Aoraki / Mt Cook

Mueller Hut Weather

Heading down from the Mueller Hut to the Mount Cook Village
The way down was a little dangerous at times in winter!

The weather in Mount Cook National Park is unpredictable. One moment it will be hot and sunny and the next it could be snowing!

Checking the weather at the Mueller Hut before leaving on the hike is extremely important as bad weather conditions can be a safety concern. High winds are possible in both the winter and the summer and they can make hiking along the ridgeline very dangerous.

In fact, I’ve personally had 80 km/h winds that made our descent extra challenging and even a little dangerous.

In the summer, the weather at the Mueller Hut is generally milder. Hiking from November to May is the best time to get good weather. During these months, snow is highly unlikely and temperatures are warmer requiring less gear and safety equipment.

During the months of June to October, there will be lots be snow and below-freezing temperatures. Avalanches are also a risk. During these months more preparation and experience are necessary (keep reading for more info about hiking to the Mueller Hut in winter.)

No matter what time of year you decide to hike to the Mueller Hut you should ALWAYS check in at the Department of Conservation (DOC) office in Mount Cook Village before you depart to check weather conditions and warnings. Keep in mind, just because it is a beautiful day in the village, it doesn’t mean the weather is the same up at the hut.

Tip: You can check up-to-date Mueller Hut weather condtions here, but be sure to also check in at the DOC as they will have more information regarding the current track condition. 

Hiking the Mueller Hut in One Day

The Mueller Hut with views of Mount Cook
The Mueller Hut with views of Mount Cook

To me, the purpose of the Mueller Hut hike is to stay the night in the hut and enjoy sunset up in the mountains. But to my surprise, when we did it lots of hikers were actually going on just a day hike.

If you are fit and leave in the morning there is no reason why you couldn’t make it to the Mueller Hut and back in one day.

Hiking to the Mueller Hut on a day hike is a great option if you’re short on time or just genuinely don’t want to spend the night in the hut.

Be sure to check weather conditions with the DOC before you leave, bring plenty of water (2-3 liters per person), and some snacks or lunch for the trail. You can use the cooking facilities at the Mueller Hut for a gold coin donation if you’d like too!

Related Read: There is no other experience quite like a Mount Cook helicopter ride.

Hiking to the Mueller Hut in Winter

an ice pick on the way to the mueller hut from Mount Cook Village
We had to rent ice picks to get to the hut in winter!

As I said before, hiking to the Mueller Hut in winter adds extra challenges and even dangers. In the winter, there can be severe avalanche risks in the area. It is important to check with the DOC before you leave about the avalanche risk for that day.

In the winter, you also need to bring crampons and an ice ax with you in case it gets icy. If you have no experience using these then it may be wise to hike with a guide or at least someone who knows what they are doing.

If you need to rent crampons and ice picks then visit Alpine Guides in Mount Cook Village. They have all the equipment you could possibly need available for rent for reasonable prices (we paid $25 for the 24-hour rental of crampons and an ice pick.)

In winter, many of the streams freeze so ensure you bring enough water with you to get all the way to the hut. I would recommend at least 2 liters per person. Once at the hut, there is no running water in winter so you must melt snow. The hut has gas so you just need to make sure you bring a pot.

Also, in the winter, hiking to the hut generally takes longer. Hiking through the snow is more challenging and will definitely slow you down. The days are also shorter so make sure you leave early enough that you give yourself plenty of time to reach the hut before dark.

Preparing for the Mueller Hut Hike

Inside the Mueller Hut common area
Inside the Mueller Hut common area
Mueller Hut bunk beds
Mueller Hut bunk beds

The weather up at the Mueller Hut can change with a moment’s notice. Even in the summer, it is possible to get snow! So, make sure you prepare properly and that means bring the right things.

Warm clothes

Make sure to pack warm clothes and plenty of layers. Waterproof clothing and shoes will also come in handy. When hiking, my number one rule is to always pack more socks than you think you’ll need as having warm and dry feet will be a lifesaver!

Food, water, and cooking equipment

Bring a large bottle of water, pots and cooking equipment, as well as plenty of food! Lightweight meals such as freeze-dried meals are great. Other hiking foods to bring include nuts, chocolate, instant noodles, oats, and even pasta.

Sleeping bag

If you’re spending the night in the Mueller Hut make sure to bring a sleeping bag. You don’t need to worry about a mat as the hut already has sleeping mats available for use.

Related Read: Wondering how to get around the country? Here is everything you need to know about a Motorhome hire in New Zealand!

Facilities at the Mueller Hut

looking at the view from inside of the mueller hut
The view from inside the Mueller Hut is awesome!

The Mueller Hut is a really nice hut. It is large and sleeps up to 28 people with a huge kitchen!

At the hut there are sleeping mats, plenty of gas cookers, drop toilets, and running water (the water freezes in the winter though.) You can also find large dining tables and chairs. Seriously, the Mueller Hut is a nice hut and aside from the people who snore, it’s a comfortable place to stay.

In the summer there is a hut warden who stays there permanently to take care of the hut. In the winter you must sign in yourself and one person needs to check in via the radio at around 5 pm (the DOC will tell you the exact time.)

Where to Stay Near the Mueller Hut Hike

The Hermitage Hotel in Mount Cook National Park
The Hermitage Hotel in Mount Cook National Park

There are only a handful of places to stay near the Mueller Hut Hike inside Mt Cook National Park, most of them being in Mount Cook Village so if you want to hike in this area it’s best to book them ASAP as they book up fast (especially in the summer)!

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!

Related Read: Don’t forget! Take the famous Mount Cook road photo while near the park.

Other Things to do in Mount Cook

View of the Southern Alps as seen from a helicopter tour in mount cook National Park
What a view!
Museum at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre
Museum at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre

There are PLENTY of other things to do in Mount Cook but here are a few more ideas to look into!

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Bailey takes a selfie with a JUCY campervan
Ready to hit the road!
Bailey stands infront of a JUCY campervan in New Zealand
JUCY is another favorite!

The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)

You can search for rental cars online here in advance to compare car models and prices.

You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!

JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.

We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! What a good deal!

You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.

Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.

Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie in Mount Cook National Park
Thanks for reading!

The Mueller Hut hike is one of my favorites in New Zealand! The views from the hut are absolutely incredible. Climbing in winter also made this all the more rewarding as it was our first winter alpine hike!

The hut itself is comfortable and makes for a great place to spend the night. While it isn’t an easy hike, it is totally worth it! And the challenge limits the number of people who go (especially in winter) so you have the trail almost all to yourself!

I would highly recommend the Mueller Hut hike to anyone who is up for the challenge!

If you found this guide to the Mueller Hut Track useful, then chances are you will like our other New Zealand guides as well! Some that might interest you are:

Where to take the best photos in Mount Cook National Park

Tasman Lake viewpoint guide

Christchurch to Queenstown road trip

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the ulitmate guide to the mueller hut pinterest

Julie Goris

Wednesday 21st of December 2022

Hi! Thank you for this post and information, it's very helpful! I was wondering if you could also hire a sleeping bag in the hut as I'm not planning on taking one with me? Thanks!

destinationlesstravel

Thursday 22nd of December 2022

Hey Julie!

Glad you liked the blog. You CANNOT hire one in the hut but yes you can from Alpine Guides in Mount Cook Village. Just be sure to contact them and book it in and pick it up just before starting the hike.

Thanks Daniel

Ari Procopiadis

Thursday 14th of July 2022

Hey, Im thinking of attempting this hike mid November, how much snow do you think will be around, I'm assuming it won't look like how it does in your pictures since you went in the middle of winter. Thanks, Ari.

destinationlesstravel

Saturday 16th of July 2022

Hey Ari,

November is late spring in NZ and there will likely be very little snow. Still, the hike is beautiful! If you plan to stay in the nut, you need to book in advance during this time.

Thanks Daniel

PauliC

Monday 14th of September 2020

Kia Ora .... again :) LOL. Also found this and had a good read of it. One question from me, you refer to people being reasonably fit, at its steepest part was it quiet scary?

destinationlesstravel

Monday 14th of September 2020

Hey Pauli,

In the summer the trail is steep but not scary, however, in the winter it is a little scarier due to the snow.

Also, I would check the wind conditions prior. If it is really windy (50kmph+) I would consider hiking another day.

I hope this helps Pauli!

Thanks Daniel

Kevin

Sunday 1st of September 2019

We attempted to rent equipment for this hike in September 2019, but were highly discouraged from doing so by the DOC and Alpine Guides unless we had alpine mountaineering experience. Make sure you know how to use an avalanche transceiver as well!

destinationlesstravel

Monday 9th of September 2019

Oh really?

The day we went the avalanche risk was very low and there was actually a large guided group hiking near us so we felt pretty safe.

It's true though if you don't have experience then there a lot of added risk!

Thanks Daniel

Tom

Saturday 27th of July 2019

Hey! Thank you so much for sharing!

When were these pics taken? Thanks!

destinationlesstravel

Monday 29th of July 2019

Hey! Glad you liked the blog!

They were taken at the very start Spring in September.

Are you planning on hiking the trail? It's so amazing when the snows around!

Thanks Daniel