Hooker Valley Track facts for kids

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Hooker Valley Track
Stocking Stream Shelter in Hooker Valley in front of Aoraki Mount Cook Range.jpg
Typical view from along the track - an old shelter at Stocking Stream, in front of Aoraki / Mount Cook
Length 5 km (3.1 mi)
Location Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand
Designation Walking track
Trailheads White Horse Hill camping ground, Hooker Lake
Use Tramping
Elevation
Highest point Hooker Lake 877 m (2,877 ft)
Lowest point 760 m (2,490 ft)
Hiking details
Trail difficulty Easy
Season All year
Sights Wide glacier valleys with tussock vegetation, glaciers and glacier lakes, moraine ridges, clear views of Aoraki / Mount Cook and other snow-covered peaks (weather permitting)
Hazards Sunburn
Surface Fine gravel, well-formed
Website Department of Conservation

The Hooker Valley Track is the most popular short walking track within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand. At only 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) length and gaining only about 100 m (330 ft) in height, the well formed track can be walked by tourists with a wide range of level of fitness.

The track is maintained by the Department of Conservation and has views of Aoraki / Mount Cook and access to the proglacial Hooker Lake, typically with icebergs floating in it. Hooker Valley Track has been named one of the 'best day walks in New Zealand'.

The lookout point at the end of the Hooker Valley Track is the closest any walking track comes to Aoraki / Mount Cook, and reveals completely unobstructed views of the highest mountain in New Zealand, with Hooker Glacier in the valley below. There is also access to the shore of the glacial lake. The vegetation around the track is open alpine tussock, and as such the track offers clear views of the mountains surrounding the wide valley floor of the Hooker Valley.

Description

The Hooker Valley Track starts at the White Horse Hill camping ground, which can be reached from Mount Cook Village by either a 4 km (2.5 mi) sealed road, or a walking track of similar length connecting Mount Cook Village with the camping ground. The walking track starts near the Hermitage hotel. Adjacent to the camping ground, there is a car park, toilets, and a large modern shelter with informative panels.

In winter, the access road to the White Horse Hill camping ground can sometimes be closed to vehicles following snowfall, but can be walked along from Mount Cook Village to get to the start of the track. Alternatively, the connecting track from The Hermitage Hotel across the valley to the starting point of Hooker Valley Track is usually passable.

The start of the Hooker Valley Track leads through open grassland, as it passes close to the Alpine Memorial, a memorial to the mountaineers who have died in the Mount Cook National Park over the years. The memorial site overlooks the proglacial lake of Mueller Glacier.

Footbridge over Hooker River
Suspension bridge over Hooker River upstream of Mueller Glacier lake

Shortly after the memorial site, the track crosses Hooker River downstream of the Mueller Glacier lake on the first of three solidly built large wooden suspension bridges that were upgraded in 2015. As the track leads around the moraine wall damming Mueller Glacier lake, it crosses Hooker River again, this time upstream of Mueller Glacier lake. After this second bridge, the track continues north further into the wide Hooker Valley, gradually revealing an open view towards the peaks of Aoraki / Mount Cook, which remain visible for the entire second half of the track.

The vegetation in this section of the track changes to snow tussock, spear grass, large mountain daisies, and Mount Cook Lily. All of these alpine plants flower in the summer months between December and February.

Bridge over Stocking Stream with snow
Bridge over Stocking Stream in winter

At times, the track leads close to the Hooker River, its water a bluish light grey colour due to the suspended glacial rock flour in the meltwater. At Stocking Stream, crossed by the track on a small footbridge, there is the concrete base which is the only remains of a previous hut at this location, as well as two self-composting toilets, the only toilets along the Hooker Valley Track.

North of Stocking Stream, the wide flat valley floor becomes swampy and the track continues on a wooden boardwalk before it reaches the last of the suspension bridges. The track crosses Hooker River a third time, just below the moraine walls of Hooker Lake. A short track leads off the main path to small tarn, before the track skirts around the moraine wall as it climbs gently to the height of the moraine wall, reaching a lookout point with picnic tables, overlooking the proglacial Hooker Lake. From the lookout, a small path leads down to the shore of the lake.

Icebergs in Hooker Glacier Lake in front of Aoraki Mount Cook
Icebergs floating in Hooker Lake in summer

During the summer months, icebergs can be seen floating in the lake, and the lookout also offers views across the lake to the terminus of Hooker Glacier.

Broken ice on frozen Hooker Glacier Lake in winter
Frozen lake in winter with broken ice around a small iceberg remnant

In winter, there can be snow and ice on the track, and the lake regularly freezes over. The walking track is not cleared of snow, but since it is relatively flat for its whole length and not close to avalanche-prone mountain sides, it presents no danger to walkers of at least average fitness. The wooden steps between the memorial and the first suspension bridge can become icy and slippery following frosty nights, but may be bypassed by walking through the snow on the side of the steps.

In the coldest months of the year, it can even be safe to walk onto the ice of the frozen Hooker Lake once the icesheet is thick enough, but care must obviously be taken. Icebergs that had already been in the lake at the time of freezing are then frozen in place, but the slight movement of these floating icebergs breaks up the ice surrounding them - these areas must be avoided.

Because the track is exposed, there is no protection from the strong sunlight, and wearing sunscreen is advised. There are no boat tours on the lake, unlike at the nearby Tasman Lake.

No permit or fee is required to walk the Hooker Valley Track. Dogs or bicycles are not allowed on the track.


Hooker Valley Track Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.