The Top 9 Free Walks in Aoraki/Mt Cook Village
At 3764 metres, Aoraki/Mt Cook is the highest of the country’s 27 mountains over 3000 metres. It is higher by more than 1500 metres to Australia’s highest peak, Mt Kosciusko at 2228 metres. Aoraki/Mt Cook sits at the heart of New Zealand’s Alpine country, within the 700 square kilometres of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. It has been climbed by New Zealand explorer and mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first man to scale Mt Everest. The 700 sq metre area that was designated to national park in 1953 includes 19 peaks over 3000m and glaciers cover 40 percent of the park.
Translated from Maori to English, Aoraki means ‘Cloud Piecer’
Aoraki/Mt Cook Village is home to a huge range of walks so you can explore this special place. Our mates at Mount Cook Ski Planes have been flying in this region for 58 years (and counting) so they know a thing or two about the best walks to do. Here’s their list of the Top 9 Walks in Aoraki/Mt Cook!
1.Hooker Valley Walk
Renowned one of the greatest day hikes in New Zealand, this walk will take you around 3-4 hours return. The grade is easy and the track is well maintained by DOC. You’ll enjoy the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana on this spectacular walk – wind up the Hooker Valley, past alpine streams and glaciers in the humble shadow of Aoraki/Mount Cook. If you want to see the glaciers up close and personal be sure to check out the multiple Aoraki/Mount Cook experiences here.
2. Tasman River Walk
This easy, flat walk is pushchair friendly and only 1-hour return. Icebergs can usually been seen floating in the lake in summer, in winter this lake freezes over. At the far end of the lake, you’ll see the terminal of the Tasman Glacier – NZ’s longest. If you’re after the experience of a lifetime you can book a ski plane tour that lands on the Tasman Glacier here.
3. Red Tarns Track
A favourite of Mount Cook Ski Planes & Helis Base Manager Lisa Chambers, this steep track rises 300m above the village and will take you 2 hours return. The vegetation changes as you ascend from the valley floor to a superb panoramic viewpoint of the valleys below, the village and Aoraki/Mount Cook. The tarns are named for the red pond-weed that grows in them. An aptly placed seat allows you to recover your breath and enjoy the views. This is a magnificent spot to view the sunset in summer.
4. Sealy Tarns
This track rises 600m and is 3 hours return – faster if you run it! The Sealy Tarns isn’t for the faint-hearted, steep in some places but the hard work is worth it. From the top you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Hooker Valley. The track passes through some popular nesting areas. Therefore, if the stars align you may even spot some Keas, a native New Zealand bird.
5. Mueller Hut
This steep, untracked walk will take 3-5 hours one way. But at the top of the 1000m gain (similar to the Tongariro Crossing), you’ll find the iconic Mueller Hut – the most incredible views you can observe without being in the sky. A favourite of Mount Cook Ski Planes & Helis Customer Service Manager Hannah James, be sure to take plenty of water, and make a booking for the hut so you can stay the night and enjoy the incredible sunset and sunrise. You might even get lucky and see the Aurora Australis / Southern Lights!
6. Kea Point
A cruisy 1.5 hours return track, this walk gently winds its way through subalpine grasslands to the Mueller Glacier morarine wall. You’ll be greeted with stunning views of Mt Sefton, Mueller Glacier lake and Aoraki/Mt Cook.
7. Governors Bush
A short walk that will only take you 30 minutes return, a gradual climb leads to a lookout point of Wakefield Ridge and Aoraki/Mt Cook. This popular walk offers birdlife, a great view of the mountains and a sheltered place to experience the outdoors in poor weather.
8. Blue Lakes & Tasman Glacier View
A 40-minute return walk, with a few steps but overall relatively easy. This walk leaves from the same place as the Tasman River walk. Meander up the track to the morarine wall for views of the Tasman Glacier and the terminal lake with icebergs!
9. Glencoe Stream Walk
An easy paced walk, shaded by some of New Zealand’s beautiful bushland. The final destination being a viewpoint which overlooks the Hooker Glacier and Aoraki/Mt Cook. If you’re after an even more special experience be sure to embark on the stroll at sunrise or sunset for spectacular views.
The tale of a mountain – Aoraki and his three brothers who were the sons of Ranginui, the Sky Father. Came down from the heavens to visit Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother. The waka that they were travelling on was stranded after striking a reef in the ocean. Aoraki and his brothers climbed on the top side of their canoe. As they did this, the cold south wind hit them, froze them, and turned them into stone. Aoraki, the tallest of the brothers, gave his name to the highest peak. His brothers and members of his crew became the mountains of the Southern Alps.
Aoraki/Mt Cook is an incredible place to explore by foot, but it’s even more incredible to explore by air. When you’re in Aoraki/Mt Cook, the best way to experience this National Park & World Heritage Area is with a Ski Plane or Helicopter flight with Mount Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters.