Tackling the 2,200 Stairs on the Sealy Tarns Track

Views on the Sealy Tarns Track

The Sealy Tarns Track is a challenging climb up 2,200 stairs within Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand. Although it is quite the climb for a one-day hike, the views are incredible! This blog is about everything you need to know about the Sealy Tarns Track. 

Sealy Tarns Track

Mount Cook National Park is a hiker’s dream. From more challenging overnight hikes to the classic day hike in the Hooker Valley, the national park does not disappoint! However, one hike that is easily missed is the Sealy Tarns Track.
The Sealy Tarns track takes you up the side of the Sealy Range and finishes with magnificent views of the entire valley floor including Mount Cook and the surrounding lakes. After completing the track myself I realized that this short hike needed a little more attention because it is just that spectacular!
In both summer and winter (when I did the trail) you can hike to the Sealy Tarn Track making it one of the best and most accessible hikes behind the famous Hooker Valley Track!

This is the view from the Sealy Tarns track in Mount cook National Park, New Zealand
Check out that view!


 

About the Sealy Tarns Track?

The Sealy Tarns Track is actually the first part of the hike to the Mueller Hut. The hike is sometimes nicknamed the “stairway to heaven” and climbs a whopping 2200 steps over an elevation of 600m. Once you arrive at the end of the Sealy Tarns Trail you are welcomed with stunning views of the Hooker Valley and surrounding mountain peaks including the impressive Mount Cook!
At the top of the trail there is a small picnic bench and in summer a tarn (alpine lake), hence the name Sealy Tarns. However, in winter you won’t see the tarn as it will be frozen and buried in snow!
On a clear day, the Sealy Tarn reflects the surrounding mountains and makes for one amazing photo.

The Sealy Tarn Track in winter
Playing in the snow at the top of the track

How Hard is the Sealy Tarns Track?

The most common question someone has before they embark on a hike is “how hard is it”? It’s a hard question to answer because of personal fitness levels but luckily on the Sealy Tarn Track you can put a number on it….2200. That’s 2200 steps! Yes, although this number may sound huge, with plenty of regular breaks I would rate the Sealy Trans Track as only medium difficulty.
The track takes around 3 to 4 hours to the top and back down. The steps to the top are very well maintained which makes the trail more accessible. If you hike the track first thing in the morning then you will get lots of shade as you hike up making the trail more bearable especially in summer.

This is a photo of the stairs on the Sealy Tarns Track
The steps are well made and looked after, but there are a lot of them!

Where Does the Trail Start From?

The Sealy Tarn Track starts from the same car-park as the Hooker Valley Track (the White Horse Hill Campground and car-park.) From the carpark, the area is well signposted and you can follow any sign that says either Mueller Hut or Sealy Tarn.
There is plenty of parking at the White Horse Hill Campground as well as a first come first serve campsite that costs $13 per person per night for those in campervans or tents. However, these prices are cheaper for children and students. At the carpark, there are toilets as well as picnic tables and shelters. 
 

Hiking the Sealy Track in Winter

The Sealy Track is open both in the winter and summer. I actually did the hike in winter and it was stunning. There are, however, a few other hazards in winter. The main one being avalanches. Although the track (even in the dead of winter) does not collect massive amounts of snow, the ridge above does. It is important to speak to the DOC (Department of Conservation) at the visitor center in Mount Cook village before attempting the hike in winter.
As we reached the top, the path became completely covered in snow. That mixed with the steep edges made the last part a little more hazardous. We had no crampons but if you want to be on the safer side you can rent them and an ice axe in town for $25. We used the company Alpine Guides to get our equipment for the Mueller Hut hike. They are located only a few hundred meters from the visitor center.

Sealy Tarns Track in winter
The path has been completely covered in snow!

 

Sealy Tarns Track Review: What I thought

The highlight of the Sealy Track is for sure the magnificent views of the entire valley floor, the surrounding lakes and, of course, Mount Cook. From the top, you truly realize how high you are, and even if the 2200 steps almost make you cry, the views will put a smile on anyone’s face!
The Sealy Tarns Track was my favorite hike in Mount Cook. Although hikes like the Hooker Valley end with those spectacular views of Mount Cook above a turquoise lake, for me, it’s all about getting above the clouds and looking down at everything around you. It’s the challenge that in the end makes those views so much more rewarding, and of course, getting away from the large crowds and enjoying the peace and quiet of nature!
The Sealy Tarns Track comes highly recommended by Bailey and me, and this post is written in the hopes to convince you to do the hike!

Views on the Sealy Tarns Track
One of the best views we got was only half way up!

 

Tips for hiking the Track

  • Hike in the morning – During the summer months the trail can get very hot and with no drinking water along the trail, I recommend hiking in the morning. During this time the track receives more shade.
  • Wear comfortable shoes – If you’re just hiking the Sealy Tarns Track then don’t stress about having the latest hiking boots. In summer, runners are enough to complete the trail. However, in winter, I would suggest waterproof hiking boots.
  • Bring 1L of water – As a minimum, you need to bring 1L of water however in the middle of summer I would suggest more! There are no places to fill your bottle unless its winter then you can melt snow.
  • Watch out for that NZ sun – People think I’m joking when I say New Zealand’s sun is fierce, but honestly, it is! Be sure to cover up and use sunscreen!

 

Views on the Sealy Tarns Track
From here you can see the White Horse Hill carpark below!

Accommodation in Mount Cook National Park

Accommodation is limited in the national park. There are only five options:
White Horse Hill Campground – This is the DOC run campground that’s mentioned above. It’s perfect for those wanting to be close to the Sealy Tarns Track. It cost $13 per person per night for adults but is half that for kids and students.
The YHA Hostel – The Yha is a very good budget option if you’re looking for a place to stay in Mount Cook. They have both 8 person and 4 person dorms (shared rooms) that start at around $38 a night per person depending on the season.
Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge – A great hotel that has awesome views that’s very close to the Mount Cook visitor center.
The Hermitage Hotel Mt Cook – The Hermitage is the largest hotel in the park and sits in an ideal location. The restaurant is also amazing and they make delicious pies!
Aoraki Court Motel – This smaller motel is also in an ideal location and is another great choice!
 
With the stunning views and the well-maintained path I thought the Sealy Tarns Track would be filled with other hikers, instead, I was welcomed with a quiet track where I saw only very few other hikers.
This along with the spectacular views and of course all the snow at the top made it my favorite hike in Mount Cook. I highly recommend tackling the 2200 steps, it’s totally worth it!
-Daniel

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