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One of the Best Short Hikes in New Zealand

Updated: Mar 2

The Hooker Valley Track is 3-4 hours of amazing terrain, bridges and streams ending at Hooker Lake and its abundant icebergs, all in view of the glorious peak of Aoraki/Mt Cook

Aoraki/Mt Cook area has several great trails with varying levels of difficulty and length. The Hooker Valley Track is one of the easiest, but very satisfying. The track starts at the White Horse Hill Campground and car park at the end of Hooker Valley Road and runs for about 10km round trip. The terrain is relatively level throughout the hike with some gentle ups and downs at you make your way northwest on a nicely groomed trail, including some elevated wood walkways to make it easier in some of the rougher areas.

You follow the glacial river bed for several kilometres to the Hooker Lake, which feeds the stream. This is the 'money shot' with Aoraki/Mt Cook in the background!

Even though it's relatively short, you'll need some good hiking shoes, a back pack, some water, a protein bar or two, a hat and some good sunscreen. It doesn't take much for the sun to create some painful sunburns. The hike can be made year-round but it its most pleasant in the summer months, when shorts and t-shirts are all you need on most days. A back-up jacket is always a good idea in New Zealand, especially in the Southern Alps where the weather can change pretty quickly.

Even though it's relatively short, you still need some good hiking shoes, a back pack, some water, a protein bar or two, a hat and some good sunscreen.

You cross three swing bridges along the trail, which are a great place to view and listen to the rushing river water

There is no shortage of interesting glacial runoff, including this lake close to the beginning of the track

You wind your way up the Hooker Valley with excellent views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers. Evidence of the increased retreat of the glaciers is all around, including gentle waterfalls off the lower peaks.

A stream and waterfall off one of the peaks heading to Hooker Lake

After the third swing bridge you make your way up the hill, which is the southern edge of the glacial lake and is close to the base of Aoraki/Mt Cook. There is a lookout as you enter the lake area, which provides an excellent view of the icebergs and mountains. You can walk down to the lake's edge on a well manicured trail, that can be a bit slippery during a downpour. If you've brought some food and drinks, the lake's edge is a great place to relax before your return.

Many icebergs dot the lake and they actually will move their position constantly, including flipping over once they melt enough

As with many hikes with the return on the same track, it all looks quite different coming back! Be sure to give yourself at least 2 hours before sunset to start your return. Even in the summer months it will get cooler as the sun goes down. But keep the camera out for some amazing shots and memories in the making!

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