Hooker Valley Track, hikes in Mount Cook National Park

The Best Short Walks and Hikes in Mount Cook National Park

Last Updated: 29th September, 2023

Found in the heart of the South Island of New Zealand, the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is a rugged and wildly beautiful place to explore in the Canterbury region. Surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains, including the iconic Aoraki Mt Cook, this park is a hikers dream! In this article, I will cover some of the best short walks and hikes in Mount Cook National Park, so that you can plan your perfect expedition out into the alpine wilderness.

hikes in mount cook national park

8 Amazing Day Hikes in Mount Cook National Park

1. Glencoe Walk

  • Walking Time: 30-minutes return
  • Trail Length: 600 m return
  • Trail Difficulty: An easy short walk with a bit of a climb

This is an awesome short walk that begins just behind the Hermitage Hotel in Mt Cook Village, and zig-zags up through beautiful tōtara trees and alpine ferns until you emerge at the lookout.

View from the hermitage hotel, mt Cook National park

This short climb is super rewarding, offering a birds-eye view over Mt Cook Village and the magnificent backdrop of the Hooker Glacier and Aoraki/ Mt Cook! One of the coolest times to do the Glencoe Walk is during sunset, where you can watch the snowy mountains turn a dusky pink in the evening light.

Location: Behind the Hermitage Hotel, 89 Terrace Road, Mt Cook National Park

2. Hooker Valley Track

  • Walking Time: 3 – 3.5 hours return
  • Trail Length: 10 km return along the same track
  • Trail Difficulty: An easy walk along a mostly flat trail, with a low-level of fitness required
Hooker valley track, hikes in mount cook national park

The Hooker Valley Track is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful hikes in Mount Cook National Park! This is an easy half-day hike that winds it’s way up the breathtaking Hooker Valley, across suspension bridges and through alpine meadows, to the Hooker glacial lake.

3. Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View Walk

  • Walking Time: 45-minute loop track
  • Trail Length: 2.5 km
  • Trail Difficulty: An easy route with a short climb to the Tasman Glacier lookout

This is a lovely loop walk that takes you around the Blue Lakes, as well as offering incredible views over the Tasman Glacier and Tasman Lake.

Tasman Lake Viewpoint, hikes in mount cook national park

This short walk begins at the Blue Lakes carpark, and wanders past the shelter into beautiful alpine scrub and tussock. The trail then passes the Blue Lakes turnoff, and zig-zags up a moraine wall to reach the fantastic Tasman Glacier lookout! From here, you can get incredible views over the length of the Tasman Lake and the lower Tasman Glacier, with a backdrop of the surrounding mountains at the head of the valley. It is truly spectacular, especially on a clear, sunny day!

Fun Fact: The Tasman Glacier is around 22 km long, and is the longest glacier in New Zealand!

From the viewpoint, head back along the trail until you reach the turn-off to the Blue Lakes. This trail loops around the lakes, where you can pop in for a swim during the hot summer months!

Location: This walk begins at the Tasman Glacier Car Park, around 11 minutes drive (9km) from Mt Cook Village. Head out on My 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.

4. Tasman Lake Track

  • Walking Time: 50-minutes return
  • Trail Length: 2.6 km return via the same track
  • Trail Difficulty: This is an easy walk along a well-maintained track

This track also begins at the Tasman Glacier Car Park, and so can be done along with the Blue Lakes Track (above)! The Tasman Lake Track branches off to the right just past the Blue Lakes shelter, and meanders its way through beautiful alpine tussock towards the lake edge and the small jetty.

Tasman Lake Jetty, hikes in mount cook national park

This lookout gives you amazing views over the beautiful Tasman Lake and the surrounding mountains. Here, you can get up close to the vibrant blue water, and be amazed at the floating icebergs in the lake, even during summer!

Tasman lake iceberg, hikes in mount cook national park

Location: Tasman Glacier Car Park, Mt Cook National Park

5. Red Tarns Track

  • Walking Time: 2 hour return
  • Trail Length: 3.7km return walk
  • Elevation: 370 meters
  • Trail Difficulty: A steep climb along a well-formed track, moderate difficulty

The Red Tarns Track is a lesser-known track that leads to one of the most stunning views over Aoraki Mt Cook and the National Park! This walk starts at the Mt Cook Village public shelter, and begins by following the Governors Track through beautiful silver beech forest.

After a short bush walk, the track crosses a bridge over Black Birch Stream, and then begins the steep climb to the Red Tarns! This track is well-maintained and mostly stepped, but it is an short-but-steep uphill climb most of the way. Once you arrive at the top, however, the panoramic views will make up for those burning thighs!

At the Red Tarns, there is a bench where you can relax and soak up the incredible views over valley below, with Mt Cook Village and Aoraki Mt Cook in the distance making for an amazing photo!

Location: Mt Cook Village Public Shelter, 59 Bowen Drive, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

6. Kea Point Track

  • Walking Time: 1 – 2 hour round trip
  • Trail Length: 6km return from Mt Cook Village
  • Trail Difficulty: An easy hike along well-maintained paths

Kea Point Track a lovely short hike in Mount Cook National Park, that takes you to a stunning lookout over the Mueller Glacier Lake! The walk begins in Mount Cook Village, and follows an easy, graveled track through beautiful sub-alpine grasslands and scrub, with a gentle incline and occasion sections of wooden boardwalk.

view over the valley, hikes in mount cook national park

The walk ends at a viewing deck on the Mueller Glacier moraine wall – a ridge created by the Hooker Glacier as it moved through the valley. The scenery from here is breathtaking, with incredible views over the vibrant Mueller Glacier Lake and along the Hooker Valley, with the magnificent peaks of Mount Sefton and Mount Cook creating a spectacular backdrop.

If you are keen to get to the lookout but are wanting a slightly shorter walk, you can always begin at the White Horse Hill Campground at the end of Hooker Valley Road. Just follow the signposts from the carpark, and the walk will be around 1-hour return.

7. Governors Bush Walk

  • Walking Time: 1 hour return
  • Trail Length: 1.2 km loop-track
  • Trail Difficulty: An easy short walk through the bush

This is a lovely, family friendly walk that loops around the bush behind Mt Cook Village. It is perfect for a short stroll, and is reasonably well sheltered – so it can still be enjoyed during poor weather!

alpine bush in mt cook national park

The Governors Bush Walk begins at the Mt Cook Village public shelter, and climbs gradually through a forest of beautiful silver beech. The trail is well-graveled, with only a few tree-roots to watch out for. It eventually emerges on a ridge, with an awesome lookout of Wakefield Ridge and Aoraki/ Mt Cook! There is a bench at the lookout, so you can stop for a rest while you soak up the views.

From the lookout, the path continues along the ridge, and gradually begins heading back down towards the shelter.

Location: Mt Cook Village Public Shelter, 59 Bowen Drive, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

8. Sealy Tarns Track

  • Walking Time: 3-4 hours
  • Trail Length: 5.3 km
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate difficulty, with a lot of steps!
  • Elevation: 600m

One of the best (and most challenging) half-day hikes in Mount Cook National Park is the hike up to the stunning Sealy Tarns! This hike is not for a faint of heart, however, with 2,200 (!!!) steps taking you straight up the side of the Sealy Range until you reach the iconic alpine lakes – no wonder it’s called the ‘Stairway to Heaven!

Sealy Tarns Track, hikes in mount cook national park

This incredible hike is worth every moment of burning muscles and “oh-no-not-more-stairs!”, with the top giving you spectacular views over the Hooker Valley and surrounding mountains, including Aoraki Mt Cook. Honestly, nothing could have prepared me for how absolutely beautiful it was!

Searly Tarns viewpoint, hikes in mount cook national park

Location: The track begins at White Horse Hill Carpark, and branches off the Kea Point Track.

Top Tips for Hiking in Mt Cook National Park

Your safety is super important when embarking on one of these awesome day walks and hikes in Mount Cook National Park! This stunning park is in an alpine environment, and so it is essential to be prepared and aware of potential hazards while you are out exploring. Here are some safety tips for day walks in Mt. Cook National Park:

Check the Weather

Before starting a hike, pop into the Mt Cook National Park Visitors Center and check the weather forecast for the day. Up in the mountains, the weather can change rapidly, bringing strong winds, heavy snowfall, and rapid temperature changes! The lovely team at the visitors center have the most up-to-date information, and can help advise you on your plans.

Sign in your Intentions

One of the best things you can do before beginning a hike in Mount Cook National Park is signing in your hiking intentions. This means leaving a note, including your expected return time and the trail you’ll be hiking. This information is vital in emergencies, and can be left at the Mt Cook Visitors Center.

Packing List

It’s pretty easy to be well prepared for short hikes in Mount Cook National Park, and you don’t need any special equipment! Here is a good guide for what to bring on your hike:


  • A Backpack
  • A drink bottle – at least 1 liter
  • Lots of snacks (the best part!)
  • Your mobile phone (for photos and a map)
  • Sunscreen for that strong NZ sun!


  • Comfortable Walking Shoes
  • A sun hat or a beanie (having both is best!)
  • Sunglasses
  • A long-sleeved layer
  • A wind and water-proof jacket

Getting to Mount Cook National Park

By Car:

The most convenient way to access Aoraki Mt Cook National Park is by car. The nearest towns, Twizel and Lake Tekapo, are approximately an hour’s drive away. Fortunately, this route offers one of the most picturesque journeys in the South Island, making it an exceptional choice for a day trip. The road meanders alongside the breathtaking Lake Pukaki and is well-maintained, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable drive.

By Guided Tour:

If you’re enthusiastic about experiencing the magic of hiking in Mount Cook National Park, but lack transportation, don’t worry! Several tours and transport services can transport you from major cities in the South Island, like Queenstown or Christchurch, to Mount Cook National Park.

Thank you for reading my post on the best short walks and hikes in Mount Cook National Park! This is such an incredible area of New Zealand to explore, and I really felt the best way to do that was to get out on the trail!

If you are staying and exploring the area around Mt Cook National Park, then might I suggest checking out the beautiful Lake Tekapo! This stunning glacial lake is located only an hour from the park, and is filled with a bunch of cool things to do and see, including a number of awesome day walks!

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