Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is located in the South Island of New Zealand, just 65 kilometres (40 miles) from a town called Twizel. The park is home to 23 mountain peaks, one of them being New Zealand's highest mountain at over 3,000 metres, as well as the country's longest glaciers.
The National Park is absolutely beautiful and walking one of the tracks within the park is the best way to experience this untouched land - the Hooker Valley Track being the most popular short walking tracks. The walk is only 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) long, which leads along Hooker River towards the base of Aoraki/Mount Cook, and gains only about 100 metres (330 feet) in height - so it is suitable to be walked by people of a range of fitness levels.
Around 40% of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park area is covered with glaciers, and borders with Westland Tai Poutini National Park along the Main Divide. Together they form part of Te Wahipounamu South Westland UNESCO World Heritage Site.
All of the pictures I have seen of Aoraki/Mount Cook on a clear day have been absolutely amazing. We were there in summer and it was overcast and a little chilly – typical! Nevertheless, I wanted to do the walk - and I am so glad that we did. The scenery and views were stunning – even with the low hanging clouds covering the peak of the mountains. The walk takes you along the valley between two impressive mountains – Mount Sefton (3,151 metres) and Mount Wakefield (1,740 metres) heading towards the base of Aoraki/Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand which stands at 3,724 metres.
The track crosses the Hooker River by Swing Bridge three times, and with each crossing the river below seems to get larger and wilder.
The Hooker Valley Track ends at a lookout point over the glacial lake, Hooker Lake, and is the closest any walking track comes to Aoraki/Mount Cook. The lookout point gives you unobstructed views of Mount Cook – that is of course if there isn’t a giant, low hanging cloud in the way! Annoying!
The lake is a oddly beautiful greyish colour, which I’m assuming is bluer in colour in the winter months because of the fresh snowfall. But there, in the middle of this oddly beautiful lake, were blue and white iceberg bobbing on the surface. I could not believe my eyes! They varied from the size of a small car to the size of a small house. In the winter months the lake freezes over completely.
The track returns the same way, enjoying different views down valley and across to the Sealy Range and out to Lake Pukaki, a glacial lake filled with the most beautiful turquoise waters you will ever see! 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!
The goal now is to head back in winter to see it in all it’s glory - and minus the clouds!
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