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A Feast For The Eyes: Exploring Hooker Valley Track, New Zealand

A Feast For The Eyes: Exploring Hooker Valley Track, New Zealand
Charlene
Charlene
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The Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie region is known for boasting the highest mountains and largest glacier in New Zealand. But this South Island beauty is not only famous for its beautiful, towering mountains, but also for the Hooker Valley Track. Imagine being surrounded by tall mountains, presented with breathtaking views over the Tasman Glacier, and facing a splendid view at every angle you turn. It’s a veritable paradise for all adventure-lovers and photographers.

More about Mount Cook

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This harsh land of rock was established as a national park in 1953, and it is a natural wonderland for cyclists and trekkers. In addition to the Hooker Valley Track, there are several other tracks opening up to spectacular visuals and peaking mountains. There area total of 19 mountains standing at over 3,000 meters (9,843 feet), with the tallest, of course, being Mount Cook (3,724 meters / 12,218 feet).

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What’s in it for you?

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The Hooker Valley Track is about a 3-hour walk, there and back. It is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) one way. But give yourself more time because you will definitely stop and take some pictures! With a spectacular background and 360-degree views, it’s just impossible not to be captivated by its natural beauty. Don’t worry if you’re short on time; while the full walk takes about 3 hours, you can always turn back at any point and adjust the journey to your needs.

The Hooker Valley Track leads towards Aoraki / Mount Cook, where you will pass three swing bridges, and ultimately reach the glacier lake where you get unbelievably scenic views. It’s a feast for the eyes, really. You will pass the Alpine Memorial and Freda’s Rock before arriving at the first swing bridge where you get to see the fresh water rushing down the stream from the mountains. The Alpine Memorial is a beautiful stone structure built in memory of many who lost their lives to the mountains, and it also serves as a good view point.

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In the surroundings

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The Hooker Valley is home to rare flower species, so don’t forget to look out for many different wildflowers along the way, such as the Mount Cook buttercup, commonly known as the Mt. Cook lily, although it is not a lily. The rounded leaves of this adorable flower can catch water in a cup-like fashion, allowing walkers/trekkers to enjoy a drink. It blooms from November to January.

After passing the second bridge, the vegetation changes to more open tussock and a wider valley floor. The third swing bridge leads to the East Hooker and the source of the Hooker River.

Finally, the track ends at a glacier lake, where you can get some of the most spectacular views of Mount Cook, the Hooker Glacier, and the Southern Alps. Now that you’ve taken your fair share of pictures on the way up, make sure to enjoy the beautiful landscapes not just through the camera lens but through your very own eyes too!

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A walk in the park

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The Hooker Valley Track has a low level of difficulty, and it’s mostly fine pebbled stones. You don’t need to be a trail blazer or expert runner to walk through the Hooker Valley. As long as you are well-equipped and dressed, it’s as good as a walk in a park.

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Traveling in the right season

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While the level of walking difficulty is low, don’t underestimate the conditions along the Hooker Valley Track. Strong winds are common here and the weather is always unpredictable. You can literally get blown away by the occasional strong gusts of wind! If you’re traveling during winter, remember to double up and wear sturdy shoes (no high-heeled boots please!). The wind will ruin the experience and you might not be able to brave through the cold weather, and the strong gusts of wind will leave your feet numb and frozen. If you’re traveling in summer, always remember to keep yourself hydrated as the alpine areas in the park are very exposed. Being exposed to the sun for several hours will leave you dehydrated and sunburnt!

See our full list of recommended Hotels near Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and also compare the prices with airbnbs near Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Be mountain-conditioned

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Ready to explore the Hooker Valley Trail? There are a few items that you really shouldn’t forget. Be smart and well-prepared with this handy checklist:

  1. Sturdy Shoes Though the path is generally easy to walk on, there are some sections that can be very rocky and dangerous if you’re not geared up properly.

  2. Cap A cap can do wonders in the summer. The alpine areas in the park are very exposed, with no large shady trees towering above you. A cap would help block the sun and at least protect your face from sunburn!

  3. Extra warm clothing The weather is always unpredictable in New Zealand. It may be hot and sunny one minute, and in the next you may experience rain and hail. It’s good to keep extra items of warm clothing as backup for these unforeseeable circumstances.

  4. Water and Food The walk may take longer than expected, and you’re not going to see a restaurant in the middle of the Alps! It’s good to have some food at hand to keep your energy levels up. Water is essential for staying hydrated, especially in the summer.

  5. First Aid Kit You never know what can happen, especially in the middle of the mountains. Should an accident occur, at least there’s something you can do while waiting for official help, which is probably going to take a long time.

  6. Sunscreen Being exposed to the sun for several hours will harm your skin. Keep yourself protected!

  7. Insect Repellent Especially in the summer, lots of insects breed here. Looks like insects know their stuff too! Keep pesky critters at bay and slather on some repellent.

  8. Camera After all, you’re here largely for the majestic landscapes, so go ahead and snap away. Make sure your battery is fully charged and that you have loads of memory space.

See our full list of recommended Hotels near Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and also compare the prices with airbnbs near Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Pack your hiking boots and explore

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The Hooker Valley is something that you shouldn’t miss when in New Zealand’s South Island. It is effortlessly beautiful in pictures, yet no matter how A-grade your camera is, photos can’t fully capture the full essence of its beauty. There’s only so much that pictures can show; you’ve got to be there to feel the numbness in your feet from too much walking, the occasional blasts of wind roughly slapping across your face, the complaints on the way up, and the contemplation to make a U-turn and head back to the car! Despite everything though, you’ll still persist, knowing that the view will be worth it at the end.

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Charlene likes to write, especially when its about her feelings and experiences. Travel has always been of her interest as she believes the world has so much more to offer her. She has travelled to...Read more

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