The Best Easy Walk in the World? // The Hooker Valley Track (NZ)

The Hooker Valley Track is located in The Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park on the south Island of New Zealand.


Highlights

  • Hooker Lake at Sunset
  • Walking through a mega valley
  • Suits almost all hiking abilities

We parked our camper van in the White Horse Camping Ground at about 3 pm on a beautifully clear winter’s day. I really wanted to get to Hooker Lake for some photos at sunset. The sign at the start of the track said to allow 2-4 hours – one way? Return? It didn’t clarify, so we loaded up my wife’s backpack with water and some snacks, mine with camera gear and set off along the well-maintained track.

While I say that this must be the best easy walk in the world, let me clarify a few things. I’ve done a fair bit of hiking in Australia and now New Zealand and I think that this walk would be very easy for anyone of moderate fitness and hiking experience. And no I haven’t done every walk in the world, but from the moment we climbed over the small hill behind the campground I was constantly picking my jaw up from the ground.

The scenery and views are something else! You are walking along the valley between two huge mountains – Mount Sefton (3151m) and Mount Wakefield (1740m) and the valley leads towards the base of Mount Cook/Aoraki (3724m). You cross the Hooker River, via Swing Bridge three times, with each crossing the drop down to the river below seems to get bigger.

The Highlight for me was Hooker Lake, where the track ends. This glacial lake at the base of Mount Cook/Aoraki is a beautiful greyish blue and at the time we got there had dozens of icebergs floating on the surface. They varied from the size of my backpack to the size of a small house.Whilst I was taking some sunset shots, one of the large icebergs split in half, each section tipping over creating a mini tsunami that crashed against the shore. As the light faded we were the only people left at the lake. There was barely a breath of wind, I was surrounded by giant mountains, looking over a lake full of icebergs, I was thinking to myself it doesn’t get any better than this!

Whilst I was taking some sunset shots, one of the large icebergs split in half, each section tipping over creating a mini tsunami that crashed against the shore. As the light faded we were the only people left at the lake. There was barely a breath of wind, I was surrounded by giant mountains, looking over a lake full of icebergs, I was thinking to myself it doesn’t get any better than this!

We walked back to the campground in the dark. We use good quality 200 lumen headlamps which make hiking in the dark a breeze. We were accompanied by dozens of brushtail possums (a pest in NZ) and the sounds of avalanches crashing down the mountains. The walk took roughly 1.5 hours each way – this will vary depending on how many photos you stop to take – count on that being a lot!

As I said at the start – for anyone of moderate fitness and hiking experience this is an easy walk. A good pair of hiking boots, water, food and a camera would be your essential items. But this is New Zealand – The weather will determine what else you need to carry. We went at the end of winter – It was cold! Make sure you wear adequate layers and remember that conditions can change very quickly (I left my gloves in the camper and could barely move my fingers by the time we got back). In summer make sure you take sunscreen and insect repellent.

Essential Gear

  • Water-proof Hiking boots
  • Suitable alpine clothing – Do not underestimate how cold it can get!
  • Gaiters – if there have been any recent heavy snow falls.
  • Sunscreen
  • Food and water
  • Camera!

Activities

    • Hiking (or Tramping as it is called in NZ)
    • Camping
    • Sightseeing by helicopter or plane
    • Mountaineering

How To Get There

Fly to Christchurch or Queenstown and drive to the Mount Cook National Park Via Twizel.

Skill Level

The hooker track is an easy walk, but does requires some level of fitness.
The other tracks in the area range from beginner to expert so do some research before setting off.

Distance Covered

The Hooker Valley Track is a 16km round trip.

 

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