A Perfect Winter Day in Mt. Cook National Park
Mount Cook (also called Aoraki in Maori), is New Zealand's tallest mountain standing at an amazing 12,218 feet (3,724 meters). It's a breath-taking mountain (with three peaks total!) surrounded by even more beautiful neighboring peaks. Back in June, at the start of the Southern Hemisphere Winter, Emmett and I set out to see as much of New Zealand's Mt. Cook / Aoraki National Park as we could.
Over the course of just one day, we took advantage of every one of the short daylight hours available to us and were lucky enough to have fantastic weather on our visit. If you've read any of my other posts on New Zealand, you'll know that it is full of beautiful natural scenery. But it is also home to tricky weather that can quickly creep in and cover those exact same views. Anyway, since we were blessed with great weather that day, we were able to see four different stunning views of New Zealand's iconic peak.
4. Mt. Cook Road / S. Highway 80
Location: The drive into Mt. Cook Village from Twizel on SH80.
The sky was a perfect blue with not a cloud in sight and, sooner than we'd thought, we were suddenly facing the iconic peak itself. Mt. Cook (Aoraki in Maori) was directly ahead. Stopping at Peter's Lookout (above), we were thrilled to catch our first glimpses of the impressive mountain that would dominate our horizons for the rest of the day. Soon Aoraki loomed closer and closer as we crossed the broad valley below and entered the resort town of Mt. Cook Village.
3. Kea Point Walk
Location: Can be started from Mt. Cook Village (1 hr return) or Hooker Valley (30 min return).
Level of Ease: Very Easy
On a boardwalk over icy grasses, we walked to Kea Point. Directly ahead of us was the mighty presence of Mt. Sefton. Though Aoraki is certainly the star of the park, Mt. Sefton is an incredible mountain in it's own right. It's face was covered in craggy, blue ice and wisps of condensation were blowing off it's top. Overlooking the end of Lake Mueller, Kea Point affords a pretty great view of Mt. Sefton behind it and Mt. Cook to the North. A kind older Japanese gentleman who was a self-professed camera lover offered to take our picture from various angles.
2. Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View
Location: Tasman Valley, accessible from SH80
Level of Ease: Easy - Steady upward incline with many steps
Duration: 40 min return
The Tasman Valley is located to the east of Mt. Cook. Leaving the visitor's center, it was just a short drive back out on SH 80 to the Tasman Valley turnoff.
1. Hooker Valley Track
Location: Hooker Valley, accessible from SH80
Level of Ease: Moderately Easy - Some steep parts, with icy patches if snow is on ground.
Time of Walk: 3 hours return
Walking the Hooker Valley Track and spending sunset on the edge of Hooker Lake is one of my favorite experiences I've had in New Zealand. It's a gorgeous three hour walk through the valley over three suspension bridges and everything about it is scenic... I couldn't stop taking photos! See for yourself.