Driving into Mt Cook National Park on Hwy 80
View of Mt Cook from Hwy 80.
Mt Cook from Hooker Valley
Mt Cook National Park from Mueller Hut
Lake Pukaki with Mt Cook in the background
Hiking Mt Cook National Park…
…offers routes for day hikers as well as mountaineers. Hence its enormous popularity. There is a marvelous selection of easy to moderate trails for those of us who are not mountain climbers. These trails offer a close up experience of the park’s majesty without putting ourselves in harm’s way.
Mt Cook at 12, 217 feet is New Zealand’s highest peak. As a center for mountaineering, it is Mecca. There are 23 peaks in the park over 10,000 feet. There are 17 huts in the high country. Almost 40% of the park is covered by glaciers; the Tasman Glacier is about 16 miles long!
There are two splendid visitor centers, the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center, quality lodging facilities, a hostel, and restaurants and an inexpensive DOC campground. How much more could one ask for! There are helicopter and light plane flights over the glacier; there are climbing courses and star gazing tours.
Mt Cook National Park is readily accessed by paved Hwy 80.
Mt Cook National Park is in the center of the Southern Alps of the South Island, New Zealand. Mt Cook village is located near the popular tourist spots of Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapo, and Twizel and is a 3 or 4 hour drive from Queenstown and Christchurch.
We were bicycling New Zealand for the second time. We had so much fun, we had to come back. This was also our second time hiking Mt Cook National Park. Because we were on bicycles for 4 months, we did not carry hiking boots or other technical equipment. That is why hiking Mt Cook National Park was so much fun. We didn’t need anything more than our camp shoes to hike.
We chose to hike the Hooker Valley Trail, also for the second time.
It was such a stunning trail. Following the fast flowing Hooker River, the trail hugged the steep cliffs, crossed swinging bridges, offered views from high promontories and meandered across tundra splendid with wildflowers.
All the while, Mt Cook was in various stages of view.
It is a 3-4 hour hike in and out. It culminates at the base of Hooker Glacier and the stunning lake of the same name.
Hooker Valley Trail begins near the Visitor Center.
The beginning is a board path accessible for wheelchairs.
The raised path protects the delicate tundra.
It winds across tundra for a short while. Much of the route ascends easily.
But soon, it becomes a narrow path along a steep cliff with a guard rail.
Grab the camera as photo opportunities are endless!
The entire hike offers incredible views of the peaks and Mt Cook.
Each time the trail comes around a corner, there is a new perspective to contemplate!
Crossing the swing bridge puts one right above the middle of the rushing Hooker River.
The river runs brown with sediment scoured by the glaciers.
It is possible to hear the rocks banging against each other as the force of the rushing water is like a bulldozer.
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