Treading on Ice: 3 Spectacular Mt Cook Glacier Walks

Last Updated: 1st October, 2023

Nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island is the breathtaking world of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Filled with alpine grandeur and towering peaks, this is definitely one of the most beautiful and untouched areas of New Zealand. Hidden in this pristine wilderness lies a true marvel of nature – the glaciers of Mount Cook. In this article I cover the best ways to explore these magnificent rivers of ice, through three incredible Mt Cook Glacier Walks that will leave you speechless!

glacier, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

The Beauty of Mount Cooks Glaciers

The Mount Cook National Park in Canterbury is renowned for its stunning alpine landscapes and towering mountain peaks, including the iconic Aoraki/ Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand! What truly makes this national park extraordinary, however, are the numerous glaciers that adorn its landscape. These glaciers have carved out dramatic valleys and sculpted the terrain throughout the park over millions of years! Some of the most iconic glaciers in the park include the Tasman Glacier, Hooker Glacier, and Mueller Glacier. The Tasman Glacier, in particular, is the largest glacier in New Zealand and stretches over 27 kilometers (17 miles) in length! Woowza!

Tasman Glacier, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

What is the Best Way to See a Glacier?

There are a number of ways that you can explore these incredible natural wonders nestled in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park! One of the easiest (and cheapest!) way to admire these magnificent ice rivers to to go on a Mt Cook Glacier Walk, which take you to lookouts with incredible views over the glaciers!

3 Incredible Aoraki Mt Cook Glacier Walks

1. Tasman Lake and Tasman Glacier View Walk

Trail Stats

  • Walking Time: 1 hour return
  • Trail Length: 3.7 km
  • Trail Difficulty: An easy route with a short climb to the lookout over the incredible Tasman Glacier!
  • Elevation: 90meters

This is a lovely out-and-back track that takes you around the southern end of the Tasman Glacier Lake, and leads to incredible viewpoints over the magnificent lower Tasman Glacier!

Tasman Glacier View Walk Map

What to Expect on the Tasman Glacier View Walk

This short Mt Cook Glacier walk begins at the Tasman Glacier Car Park, nestled right at the southern shores of the terminal Tasman Lake. The trail heads northwards, and wanders past the Blue Lakes Shelter into beautiful alpine scrub and tussock landscape. There is a gentle incline as the trail heads towards the long, stony moraine wall that overlooks Tasman Glacier.

Tasman Lake, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

This walk is short and relatively easy, although the track is rough and rocky in places. As it nears the moraine wall, the trail turns into a series of rocky steps, leading up to the viewpoint.

Tasman Glacier Moraine Wall Viewpoint

This wall has been formed by the Tasman Glacier over hundreds of years, and marks the furthest reach of the glacier! In the 19th century, the Tasman Glacier reached all the way to where the moraine wall stands today. Boulders and rocks traveled down the length of the glacier, and dropped off the edge – creating the piles of rock fragments and debris that resulted in the formation of the Tasman Glacier moraine!

The magnificent views from the lookout are definitely worth the steep clamber up the rocks! From the viewpoint, you can look over the vast Tasman Glacier Lake, created by the melt ice of the Tasman Glacier. One of the highlights is seeing the icebergs floating in the lake!

Tasman lake mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

At the furthest end of the Tasman Glacier Lake you will see the breathtaking Tasman Glacier – the largest glacier in New Zealand! These views are truly spectacular, especially on a clear, sunny day.

Tasman Glacier Fun Facts

This glacier is a mostly grey and partly white mass of ice, nestled in the valley at the base of the surrounding mountains. It is over 23km (14 miles) long, and contains nearly one-third of all glacier ice in New Zealand! However, the Tasman Glacier is retreating (melting), and is getting smaller and shorter every year, with it being expected to have shrunk to 20km by 2027!

From the viewpoint, you can head back down along the path until you reach the turn-off to the Tasman Lake Walkway. The track meanders through the stunning alpine landscape, before emerging at the gravelly mouth of the Tasman River. The trail loops around the beginning of the moraine wall and heads down to the shores of the Tasman Lake, where you will find a small jetty.

Tasman Lake Iceberg, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

This lookout gives you amazing close-up views over the beautiful Tasman Lake and the captivating glacier icebergs, as well as offering a breathtaking vista over the distant Tasman Glacier!

Blue Lakes Track, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

If you are interested in enjoying a longer walk and exploring more of the area, you can join the Tasman Lake Walk along with the stunning Blue Lakes Loop Track!

Getting to the Tasman Glacier Walk:

This beautiful Mt Cook Glacier walk begins at the Tasman Glacier Car Park, which is nestled at the base of the Tasman Lake. To get here, you need to drive from Mt Cook Village up the wide Tasman Valley. This is a very scenic drive, with rugged, snow-capped mountains flanking each side of the lush valley and beautiful Tasman River.

This drive takes around 11 minutes (9km) from Mt Cook Village. Head out on Mt Cook Road, before turning left along Tasman Valley Road. This lovely road winds its way along the valley for around 7km before arriving at the car park.

2. Hooker Valley Track

Trail Stats

  • Walking Time: 3 – 3.5 hours return
  • Trail Length: 10 km return via the same track
  • Trail Difficulty: This is an easy walk along a mostly flat trail, with a few sets of stairs along the way.
  • Fitness Required: A low level of fitness is required

The Hooker Valley Track is an easy half-day Mt Cook Glacier walk, that winds up the stunning Hooker Valley to the Hooker Lake and the magnificent Hooker Glacier!

Hooker Valley Track Map

What to Expect on the Hooker Valley Track

This beautiful walk begins at the White Horse Hill Campground, and travels up the Hooker Valley until it reaches the viewpoint overlooking the stunning Hooker Lake! Although this is a longer walk, it is relatively easy, as the track is well-maintained and easy to follow. The trail is mostly flat, and is made up of a mix of gravel path and beautiful wooden boardwalks.

Hooker valley track, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

The trail winds its way through lush alpine meadows and tussock landscape, and passes over a series of 3 swing bridges as it makes its way up the valley. These bridges are incredibly stable and solid, and offer some of the best views along the trail! From them, you can watch the milky-blue water of the Hooker River as it tumbles over rocks towards Lake Pukaki, and admire the magnificent Mt Sefton looming at the head of the Mueller Glacier Lake!

Hooker valley swing bridge, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park
Hooker Lake and Glacier Viewpoint

After crossing the third (and final) suspension bridge, it is only a short walk to the final destination – the Hooker Lake! This stunning glacial lake is nestled at the foot of the magnificent Mount Cook, and makes for a truly impressive sight (and a great photo!). At the far end of the lake, you can spot the looming mass of ice that makes up the incredible Hooker Glacier!

Hooker lake and hooker glacier, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

Although this glacier isn’t as large as its neighbour, the Tasman Glacier, at only 11km long, it is one of the most popular and accessible Mt Cook Glacier Walks in the National Park!

From the viewpoint, you can scramble down a small path to the shores of the lake, and soak up the incredible scenery. One of the highlights of the Hooker Lake are the mini icebergs floating in it, even during the warm summer months!

Hooker Valley Track, hikes in Mount Cook National Park

How to get to the Hooker Valley Track

The Hooker Valley Track is situated within the breathtaking Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island. Given its remote location and limited public transport options, the most convenient way to access this Mt Cook glacier walk is by car.

The Hooker Valley Track starts at the White Horse Hill Campground and carpark, situated at the terminus of Hooker Valley Road. It’s a brief 5-minute drive (3.2 kilometers) from the Mt. Cook Visitor Center in the village, ensuring convenient access to the trailhead.

3. Kea Point Track

  • Walking Time: 1 hour round trip
  • Trail Length:
  • Trail Difficulty:

The Kea Point Track is a lovely and short Mt Cook Glacier Walk, that takes you to a stunning lookout over the Mueller Glacier and Mueller Lake!

Kea Point Track Map

What to Expect on the Kea Point Track

The walk begins from the White Horse Hill Campground, and follows an easy, graveled track through beautiful sub-alpine grasslands and scrub. This walk is relatively flat at the beginning, with a gentle incline and occasion sections of wooden boardwalk.

wildflowers, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

The trail initially takes you through a picturesque valley, filled with wildflowers and with the beautiful Mt Sefton rising up in front of you. In the beginning, the trail shares a path with the Sealy Tarns Track, before splitting off and winding through the valley towards Kea Point.

Kea Point and Mueller Glacier

After a short walk, you will start to approach the moraine wall of Mueller Lake. There is a short climb up the wall to the beautiful lookout at Kea Point. Once you reach the lookout, you can relax and soak up the panoramic views of Mueller Lake, the Hooker Valley, and the iconic Mount Cook in the distance!

kea point, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

The Kea Point Viewpoint also gives an incredible view of the huge Mueller Glacier hanging from the sharp cliffs of Mt Sefton. This is a 13-kilometer (8 miles) long glacier that flows from high in the Southern Alps, curving around the Sealy Range and ending at the Mueller Glacier Lake.

The Kea Point Walk shares a trail beginning with the Sealy Tarns Track, a longer hike that takes you up onto the rugged Sealy Ridge. This is a fantastic day-hike that offers panoramic views over the Hooker Valley and surrounding mountains, and is one of my favourite hikes in the area!

How to get to Kea Point Track

This Mt Cook glacier walk begins at the White Horse Hill Campground, which is located a short, 5-minute drive north of Mt Cook Village at the end of Hooker Valley Road.

Other Awesome Mt Cook Glacier Walk Experiences

1. Join a Glacial Boat Tour!

One of the coolest (and most unique!) things to do in Aoraki Mt Cook is to explore the magnificent Tasman Glacier by boat! Glacier Explorers offer just that – a 2.5 long trip that takes you right alongside Mt Cooks largest glacier.

tasman lake, glacier explorers, mt cook glacier walk, mt cook national park

After a beautiful short walk to the terminal lake of the Tasman Glacier, an experienced guide will take you out in a boat onto the calm, icy waters of the Tasman Lake, towards the vast melting ice face of the Tasman Glacier. This is an incredibly special and memorable experience, surrounded by the incredible backdrop of New Zealand’s highest and most spectacular mountains, including Aoraki Mt Cook and Mount Tasman!

2. Mt Cook Glacier Guiding

If you are looking for an exhilirating glacial experience like no other, then Glacier Guiding is for you. Glacier Guiding is a thrilling and popular adventure activity that allows you to explore the icy wonders of Mt Cook Glacier walks up close!

There are a number of different tours and adventures to choose from, from heli-hiking over the Tasman Glacier, snowshoeing through incredible ice-formations or ice climbing in one of the most beautiful locations in the Mt Cook National Park! These amazing experiences are led by expert guides, and no experience is required.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *