Jun 12, 2020

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park


Aoraki/Mt Cook


Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, in the heart of the Southern Alps, encompasses blue lakes and wide-open skies, snow-clad mountain peaks and deep glacial valleys. Standing majestic amongst the rugged mountain ranges of the park is the mighty Aoraki/Mt Cook itself. Alpine tarns and spectacular glacier views await.


Interesting facts

  • Aoraki/Mt Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain, standing 3,724m tall (12,218 feet). The mountain is of particular cultural significance to Ngai Tahu who consider Aoraki to be the most sacred of the ancestors they descended from; the mountain forms a link between the worlds of the supernatural and nature. An early translation of Aoraki is ‘Cloud Piercer’, but according to Ngai Tahu legend, Aoraki and his three brothers (sons of Rakinui, the Sky Father) were on a sea voyage when their canoe was overturned on a reef. After climbing on top of the canoe, the three brothers were turned to stone by the freezing south wind. The canoe became the South Island, while Aoraki and his brothers became the peaks of the southern alps.
  • The mountain itself is integral to New Zealand’s climbing history and early pioneering spirit. The first attempt on the summit was in 1882 when an Irishman and two Swiss had to turn back just 60 metres from the summit. The lure of the summit remained and after the first accommodation house (the Hermitage) was built near Aoraki/Mt Cook in 1884-85 making attempts on the peak easier, New Zealanders began taking up the challenge of being the first to summit.
  • Three young New Zealand men who worked at the Hermitage developed an interest in mountaineering and began climbing on their days off. These three were the first known to have been successful: on Christmas Day 1894 the summit was reached by Tom Fyfe, John Michael Clarke and George Graham. Their attempt was spurred on by reports that an American and European climber were also intending to attempt the summit with the hope of being the first. Their gear was basic – nailed boots, firewood for cooking, and twigs and branches of scrub to mark their trail across the Hooker Glacier. A tent was fashioned from ice platforms using blankets, ice axes, ropes and pegs made from chunks of ice, to provide some shelter during the cold nights spent among the ice and snow of the mountain’s flank.


Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park


Hiking opportunities

From the Aoraki/National Park village there are several fantastic walks, many of them family-friendly, which provide views of Aoraki/Mt Cook and surrounding alpine areas.

Our Picks:

  • Sealy Tarns Track (3 – 5 hrs return, 600m height gain) – a challenging walk which takes you up 2200 steps to the freshwater lakes of Sealy Tarns for rewarding views of the Hooker Valley and surrounding peaks including Aoraki/Mt Cook.
  • Governors Bush Walk (1 hr return) is a short walk along a nature trail through one of the few stands of silver beech forest in the park.
  • Red Tarns Track (2 hrs return, 300m height gain) – a steep climb (mainly stepped) leads up from the valley floor for superb views over the valleys below, the village and Aoraki/Mt Cook.
  • Kea Point Track (2 hrs return from the village or 1 hr return from the White Horse Hill carpark) – this track winds its way through subalpine grasslands and scrub to the Mueller Glacier moraine wall. A viewing platform at the end of the walk gives stunning views of Mueller Glacier lake, the Hooker Valley, Aoraki/Mt Cook and surrounding mountains.
  • Hooker Valley Track (14km/4 hrs return from the village or 10km/3 hrs return if beginning at the White Horse Hill carpark) – this track leads up the Hooker Valley towards Aoraki/Mt Cook, past alpine streams and glaciers, and between old moraine ridges and bumps. The track ends at the Hooker Glacier lake with superb views of Aoraki/Mt Cook, the Hooker Glacier and the Southern Alps.


Tasman Glacier Mt Cook


Hassle-free Hiking 

Let us take care of the planning and logistics for you on one of our South Island Adventures. 


Ultimate South Island

This 15 day journey through the South Island offers some of the most spectacular multi day hikes in the South. From coastal trails and peaceful beach camps in the Tasman region, deep canyons and limestone cliffs on the wild West Coast and majestic mountain peaks in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Challenge yourself on a hike up Sealy Tarns and on to Mueller Hut. Towering moraine walls, glacial lakes and the frequent rumbling of distant avalanches are reminders of nature’s sheer power in this dynamic landscape. 


Ultimate World Heritage Adventure

If you are short on time, this 10 day adventure will allow you to tick off a variety of incredible multi day hiking locations in the South Island. Arthur's Pass, Aoraki/Mt Cook, Mt Aspiring and Milford Sounds to name a few! 


Southern Slice

A perfect slice of the South, covering iconic trails from Nelson down to Queenstown and some hidden gems in between. Stay in the stunning Aoraki/Mt Cook Alpine lodge with views of the surrounding mountains. Enjoy a flat stroll along the Hooker Valley with up close views of the Mueller and Hooker glaciers along the way.


Southern Alps Hike and Bike

Embrace the splendour of Middle-earth like landscapes, the ice carved high alps of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, rugged high country near Lake Ohau and the grandeur of Mt Aspiring National Park. This multi-activity trip combines stunning day hikes with cycling on the famed Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. 


Hot tips

  • If planning an extended stay in the park, ensure you stock up on food and snack items before you arrive (and fuel if you are self-driving) as there are no grocery or general stores in the village.
  • There are some great dining options, from the Old Mountaineers Café Bar & Restaurant to the Chamois Bar & Grill.
  • Accommodation is available ranging from backpacker style at the YHA to various lodges. If you find these are fully booked or not your style, Glentanner Park is just 18km back down the state highway and offers a range of rooms, from motel-style units to basic units and backpacker dorms. Twizel also has a range of accommodation available.

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