Hooker Valley Hike — Aoraki/Mt. Cook NP, New Zealand

One of the most popular hikes on south island New Zealand, Hooker Valley is a relatively flat and gorgeous hike past glacier lakes. The highlight of this hike is definitely is the view! Towering snowy mountains on both sides of a wide lush valley make this easy hike a must do when visiting Mt. Cook/Aoraki National Park.

 

Hike Info

Date: Nov 16
Miles: 6.8 roundtrip
Elevation Change: 813 ft
Trail Type: Out and back
Trailhead: Google Maps
Cost: Free

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The Hike

The trail starts from the parking lot at the White Horse Hill Campground, where we spotted several tents and campervans. As we set off, the trail starts off passing through grassland and Freda's Rock, which honors the first woman to ever climb Mt. Cook in 1910. What a badass! After 0.6 miles, the trail climbed to a lookout of Mueller Lake and the first swinging bridge.

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That morning, a shroud of clouds was moving quickly through the valley, and we were only able to able to catch brief glimpses of the Sealy Range and the snowy peak of Mount Sefton standing at 10,338 feet. As we crossed the bridge over the Hooker River flowing swiftly out of Muller Lake, the water looked milky turquoise from the glacial flour in the water (suspended silt-sized rock due to glacial erosion!)

After the first bridge, it was another mile to the second swinging bridge, Hooker Bluff Bridge. This one was my favorite bridge as it has looks directly towards the snowy mountains when you're crossing over. The snow on the top of the mountain looked like it was piled in enormous mounds on the steep mountain side. While hiking, we stopped several times at the sound of thunderous crashing ice and even spotted a mini avalanche rushing down on the other side of the lake.

 The epic view of the Sealy Range from the second swinging bridge

The epic view of the Sealy Range from the second swinging bridge

As the trail turns away from Mueller Lake and follows the Hooker River upstream, we started to head into the famous Hooker Valley with wide panoramic views of a gorgeous landscape bordered by impressive peaks.

The next stretch of the trail was my favorite part. A boardwalk above the swampy vegetation leads up the valley, and there's just something about a panoramic view looking at all the endless mountains that is always humbling.

These were the most gorgeous mountains we saw on our entire 10 days on the south island.

 Heading up the iconic Hooker Valley boardwalk

Heading up the iconic Hooker Valley boardwalk

After crossing the final suspension bridge and climbing up and over the moraine, we reached the lookout for Hooker Lake 3.3 miles from the start of the trail. At first sight, we were surprised by the lake's intense turquoise color and the many mini floating icebergs in the water.

 Looking out over Hooker Lake

Looking out over Hooker Lake

From the picnic tables up here, it was a short walk down to the edge of the lake where we relaxed and enjoyed a well-earned beer by the water.

From this spot we watched the clouds pass, and for a moment we were even able to spot the peak of Mt. Cook towering over the other side of the lake. I would have loved to hike this track on a clear day, as I'm sure the view of Aoraki/Mt. Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain at 12,218 ft, is a prominent and highlight of the entire hike.

We also spotted waterfalls cascading down the side of the mountain, as well as the edge of Hooker Glacier, a 7 mile long glacier, directly on the other side of the lake.

As the clouds got thicker, we decided to head back to the car. The hike back went quickly as it is slightly downhill and the trail is graveled and well maintained.

 One final look at the lake from the overlook

One final look at the lake from the overlook

 Lots of Mount Cook buttercups along the trail - the world's largest buttercup!

Lots of Mount Cook buttercups along the trail - the world's largest buttercup!

Even though this is the most popular trail in Mt. Cook/Aoraki National Park, don't let the crowds turn you off from this track! The fun suspension bridges,  glacier lakes, and spectacular views of the snowy peaks makes it one of my favorite valleys I've hiked.