Hooker Valley: Worth all the Hype!

Long before this trip was a reality, I would spend hours reading travel blogs and following the Instagram accounts of people who were in the places I dreamt of visiting.

It was on one of those Instagram accounts when I first came across the Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Aoraki is the Maori name for the mountain. I couldn’t get over how beautiful the photos were and knew we had to do it when we got to New Zealand.

After driving the prettiest stretch of road in New Zealand, we arrived at our campsite at the base of the mountains in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. The Hooker Valley Track conveniently started at the White Horse Hill Campground where we stayed.

A view of White Horse Hill Campground where we started our hike.

A view of White Horse Hill Campground where we started our hike.

On the day of the hike, we took our time waking up while the rain slowed and then headed out. The first sign we ran across advertised Freda’s Rock just a few minutes off of the trail, so we took a detour. What we found was a huge boulder sitting in a grassy area with a sign near it. On the sign was a black and white picture of a woman in a skirt standing next to the boulder that was in front of us and a paragraph of text. The woman was Emmeline Freda Du Faur, the first women to climb Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain. She summited the mountain on January 3, 1913, and she did it in a knee-length skirt!

The picture shown of Freda in her skirt. Image from Wikipedia.

The picture shown of Freda in her skirt. Image from Wikipedia.

When we finished reading about Freda, we returned to the trail, talking about how impressive she was, and excited to get closer to the mountain she conquered. Soon after, we pulled over at the Mueller Lookout which provided a view over the Hooker Valley towards Mueller Lake and Mueller Glacier. The lake was a milky grey blue color from the glacier runoff and the glacier was covered in dirt.

HookerValleyTrackLookout

The view from the Mueller Lookout.

As we continued on, we crossed the first of three swing bridges on the trail which pass over the Hooker River. On the other side of the bridge we entered the valley and were taken aback by how clear it was that a glacier created it. We had learned on our Franz Josef Glacier tour that valleys created by glaciers have a U shape, while those created by rivers have a V shape. The giant U-shaped valley was peppered with moraine, which is debris and sediment left behind from the glaciers.

The river that we crossed with the swing bridges.

The river that we crossed with the swing bridges.

We continued on to the second swing bridge and then followed the slightly elevated boardwalk across the valley floor filled with tussock and grasses. While others have described this portion of the trail as underwhelming, we disagree. Although it was winter and there weren’t many things growing on the valley floor, we were still surrounded by incredible views of the mountains (Mount Sefton and the Southern Alps) and had views of Aoraki/Mount Cook in the distance. I don’t know how you could be bored with that view.

The boardwalk to

The boardwalk on the valley floor with Aoraki/Mount Cook in the background. 

After zigging and zagging our way through the valley we got to the third swing bridge. Shortly after the bridge we reached Hooker Lake, another glacial lake, where the track ultimately runs out. From there we could also see Hooker Glacier. When we arrived, Hooker Lake had huge icebergs floating in it that had broken off Hooker Glacier. We sat on the beach of Hooker Lake, which is made up of moraine, and stared up at Aoraki/Mount Cook. Nature is an incredible thing.

Ice berg right ahead!

Iceberg right ahead! Name that movie. 

The Hooker Vally Track isn’t a long or challenging hike, just under 10 kilometers round trip with only 80 meters of height gained, but you get to see so many incredible things. I finally found a hike that was made up solely of stages one, three, and five!

Thank goodness for Instagram or we would’ve missed out on one of our favorite hikes in New Zealand!

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