Mt. Cook New Zealand

If you’re following along with our New Zealand South Island adventure you’re in for a treat today – our journey to Mt. Cook….the highest peak in Australasia! We drove over from Lake Tekapo where we were staying for a day trip to do some serious hiking. When we arrived unfortunately the peak was hidden behind a thick layer of clouds but in looking at the weather they said there was a good chance it would clear later. We had done a little research on tramps in the Mt. Cook area before we arrived but ended up going to the visitor’s center and purchasing (for $1!) their map which detailed the options – well worth it!

Despite the clouds we set out along the Hooker Valley Track (~3 hours return) to the terminal face of the Hooker Glacier (where there’s a lake). Despite the clouds there was beautiful scenery along the way.

This was probably the place that had the most people but it didn’t feel touristy in the way that many places in America do – people were just there to enjoy the scenery and kind of kept to themselves.

Here we are all bundled up at the beginning of our hike!

Couple poses on Hooker Valley Track Mt. Cook


Stream along Hooker Valley Track Mt. Cook New Zealand

I really dislike heights so going over any swingbridge was an exercise in bravery. My strategy was to keep my eyes focused a few feet in front of me, hold on, and walk very quickly. Thankfully this one was skinny enough that nobody tried to pass me – I think I may have passed out 😉

Woman crosses swingbridge at Mt. Cook

The summit of Mt. Cook is hidden behind the clouds – the path took us along the left side of the stream towards the glacier

Rocky stream at Mt Cook New Zealand

This is one of my favorite shots from the trip – my Hubby with his trusty orange backpack 🙂

Man hikes Hooker Valley Track Mt. Cook New Zealand

We reached the glacier lake – in the background you can see the terminal face of the glacier – light blue. Most people were sitting right on the shore of the lake so we hiked up to a stream created by a waterfall – Jeff LOVES waterfalls and the rushing sound of water was nice as we ate our snack 🙂

Cairn in front of glacier at Mt. Cook New Zealand

As we were returning to the visitor’s center (it’s an out and back hike that took us about three hours) the clouds parted and we got our first view of the summit of Mt. Cook – stunning

Rushing stream along Hooker Valley Track Mt. Cook New Zealand


Mt. Cook summit visible from Hooker Valley track New Zealand


Man walks towards summit of Mt. Cook New Zealand

We ate lunch at the Old Mountaineer Cafe which is right next to the visitor’s center and very charming…..yummy food too! After lunch we set off on the Kea Point track (~1 hour return). This hike is basically on the opposite side of the valley – in the morning we were hiking behind what we were looking at now

Mt. Cook Summit visible from Kea Point Track New Zealand

After returning we did one final small hike – the Tasman Lake walk (drive down Tasman Valley Road). Here there is another glacier (below the white capped mountains on the left side of the photo – just looks like dirt which does cover the top) – you can notice an iceberg towards the right side of the photo in the water – pretty incredible!

Tasman Lake Aoraki Mt Cook New Zealand

Since we weren’t at the lake Jeff did his New Year’s Polar Bear plunge one day early……this is a glacier fed pond so it was also pretty chilly 🙂

As we drove back to Lake Tekapo we made a few stops to look back at Mt. Cook – a very different site than driving in that morning with everything covered in clouds!

Approaching the Mt. Cook summit

Mt. Cook from across Lake Pukaki

Mt. Cook summit visible across Lake Pukaki

Our guide book had advised not to stay at Mt. Cook because it was expensive but in retrospect we wish we had done two nights in Tekapo and then done a night at Mt. Cook. This would have saved two hours round trip driving and let us do more hiking. We had originally planned to do the Sealy Tarns Track which is a 3-4 hour return but straight up. After a 3 hour hike in the morning I wasn’t really up for such an extreme after lunch adventure so we skipped it 🙁