Why the Hooker Valley Track was my favourite hike ever

The Hooker Valley Track destination: Hooker Lake icebergs with Mount Cook in the background

I mean, look at this place. Who wouldn't want to visit a location where you could get up close to icebergs, glaciers, rivers and New Zealand's highest peak? Beyond these obvious draws, there ended up being several reasons that the Hooker Valley Track would end up being my most favourite hike I've ever done. Read on to find out more! 

hooker-valley-track-new-zealand

1) Camping Convenience

We had set up camp in the DoC Campground at Mount Cook the night before we had planned to hike the Hooker Valley Track which would ultimately take us to this stunning scene, above. The terminus of the track is Hooker Lake, which is a glacial lake where in summer months,  icebergs calve off from the Hooker Glacier and float out into the lake.  The trailhead for the hike is directly adjacent to this campground which made it so convenient to get an early start on the track. The weather had been very hot and we wanted to hit the trail by 7:00 am in order to beat the heat, not to mention the crowds. The campground being so close helped us achieve the early start since we didn't have to drive to a trailhead first. Crawling out of our tent with Mount Cook towering right over us was pretty awe inspiring too! 

mount-cook-campground

2) Early start = low crowds and cool temps

When we reached the trailhead for the Hooker Valley Track, gorgeous golden light was flooding into the valley over the mountain tops. As we hiked the 5kms to Hooker Lake, these peaks provided welcome protection from New Zealand's intense sun. New Zealand lacks an ozone layer, making direct sun exposure very harsh and unforgiving. By getting on the trail early, we also beat the crowds that flood the area by 10:00am. On our way to Hooker Lake, the only other people we saw were the early morning runners who were already finishing up their workouts. By the time we were heading back to the campground, the tour buses had arrived and had dumped huge crowds of selfie-stick wielding, ill prepared tourists onto the trail to the point you had to jostle your way past them. It really pays to get there early! 

Hooker-Valley-Track-Trailhead

3) Suspension bridge views

There are a number of suspension bridges to navigate on this track offering breathtaking views of the Hooker River and various lakes along the route. Since we were on the track early, we didn't have to contend with anyone else on the bridges at the same time as us which works well if you happen to be heights afeared like myself. 


Hooker-River-Suspension-Bridge

bridge-mount-cook

4) Mount Cook Lilies

In late spring and summer, this area becomes decorated by the white blooms of the Mount Cook Lily which are unique to high altitude locations of New Zealand. Our timing for this was perfect as they seemed to be everywhere! Just stunning.

mount-cook-lilies-hooker-valley-track

5) It's a pretty easy hike

Relatively speaking, the 10km return of the Hooker Valley Track is quite easy and we were impressed to see the number of senior aged people making the trek. There aren't that many steep sections and the ones that are steep are quite short. Take your time and enjoy the views because it will be so worth your effort. The amount of beautiful scenery you will encounter in this short route is quite remarkable. Rushing glacial rivers, wild flowers, alpine vegetation, glaciers, ice bergs, and the imposing Mount Cook beckoning you around every corner. That peak is your motivation to keep going!

Hooker-Valley-Track-Boardwalk

6) The chilling sound of avalanches and waterfalls

As we made our way along the trail to Hooker Lake, we were literally stopped  in our tracks several times by the thundering sound of distant avalanches crashing down the mountain sides.  Even though these avalanches were in the distance, they echoed throughout the valley and made the hair stand up on our necks! This truly made us feel so incredibly small. We could also hear the soothing sound of running water from the numerous glacial runoffs that were forming in the warming summer temperatures. A delight for all the senses! 

Glacier-Runoff-Mount-Cook

7) Hooker Lake full of icebergs

Who doesn't love to see glaciers and icebergs? When we finally arrived at the view point revealing our much anticipated destination, Hooker Lake, we were gob-smacked at the scene before us. The sun had finally breached beyond the mountain peaks that had been providing shade, filling the lake and valley below with soft golden light. We settled in here for an hour or so to have some breakfast and take it all in. There were only a handful of other people there at the time and everyone seemed to be in as much awe as we were, like this photographer pictured below who stood for several minutes in silent contemplation. 

hooker-lake-photographer

8) Selfie worthy

I am usually the first to ridicule the selfie obsessed tourists we have to navigate everywhere we go, but we couldn't resist taking one quick selfie to prove we were here! 

There was a reason that I included the Hooker Valley Track in my top New Zealand Trip Highlights and I hope this post sheds more light on why I did. I would definitely recommend making this part of your trip itinerary if you ever get the chance. 

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Have you hiked the Hooker Valley Track? Please let me know in the comments below!

 

 

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