• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    10 Miles

Easy Parking
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Take in views of the tallest peaks in New Zealand: Aoraki/Mount Cook. This hike is best experienced at sunrise.

Once in Mount Cook Village follow the signs to the White Horse Hill Campground where you'll find the start of the Hooker Valley Track. Alternatively, you can camp in the campground and begin the hike before sunrise for the best experience. The sign says that the one-way hiking time is 1 hour and 35 minutes, however, Hooker Lake can easily be reached in 1 hour or less. The path is extremely well maintained and easy to travel in the dark. Once at the viewpoint for Hooker Lake (the dead-end of the track) follow a small track that leads down to the water's edge for the best vantage point for photography.

Enjoy the stunning 360 degree mountain views as the first rays of dawn illuminate the face of Aoraki/Mount Cook - New Zealand's tallest peak. If you're lucky you may arrive on a calm morning to experience an incredible reflection. However, even with strong wind the lake is a gorgeous subject to photograph. The floating glacial ice adds a special touch of frigid beauty. This hike is an absolute must-do for any visit to Mount Cook National Park.

Pack List

  • Warm layers
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Day pack
  • Water
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Reviews

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Maybe my favorite part of my trip to New Zealand's south island, the walk is absolutely stunning. It is a good idea to get a fairly early start before the tour buses start showing up with their hordes of people, but if you have a chance to do this hike, do it. The tallest snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps surround you as you cross the Hooker River multiple times on bridges. You'll probably hear intense cracking or 'booms' from avalanches off in the distance and if you're lucky, you'll see one.

10 months ago
10 months ago

The walk up to hooker lake is pristine. The walk itself is easy, very level and following a clear path. All along it the views of the mountains, rivers, waterfalls and valleys are amazing and there's a picture op around every turn. Hooker lake is beautiful as well and the view of MT. Cook is worth every step!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Crystal Brindle Explorer

I'm Crystal, a park ranger for the National Park Service in the United States and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand - you'll find me floating between hemispheres as the seasons change. I am an avid landscape photographer and wilderness explorer committed to capturing the scenes and moments that inspire me and require dedication to experience. Living in national parks throughout my life, I've developed a deep appreciation for the natural world. This appreciation drives my passion for protecting wild places today. My first job as a ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park inspired me to spend my time exploring the depths of the park’s wilderness and instilled a sense of adventure that extends into all areas of my life. I now actively seek backcountry recreation that takes me into remote corners of mountainous regions all over the world. I have had the opportunity to live and work in some of the most intriguing places our world has to offer - from the high places of Colorado, to the South Island of New Zealand, to the rugged Alaska Peninsula, and many locations in between. I feel that the only way to truly get to know a place is to meet it on its own terms and to embrace its challenges through which its beauty is revealed. To me this is the definition of wilderness and the foundation of my photography. Since I began this journey of photography three years ago, I have honed my interests to focus on high-alpine mountain landscapes inaccessible to all except those who travel on foot. These are the landscapes that captivate me. I feel drawn to share their remarkable qualities through the visual narrative of photography and short stories of personal experience. This is a craft that I am refining daily and my photography is only a work-in-progress but I feel that this effort is worthwhile as I strive to let the landscape tell its own story and act as a vector for its message. What's next? After a summer of living with brown bears and climbing mountains under the midnight sun in Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula, I'm heading back to New Zealand to further explore the wonders of the South Island and work as a Hut Warden on the Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park.

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