Last Updated on June 18, 2022 by ashleighsatlas
Are you wondering if you can walk to the Tasman Glacier? Looking for the best Tasman Glacier viewpoint?
I’d never heard of the Ball Hut Road or Ball Hut Track before. I’d done the popular Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walk, but it’s very far away from the glacier. I wanted to know if there was another Tasman Valley walk that got closer to Tasman Glacier.
So after a lot of Googling, I found the Ball Hut Route. I had no desire to walk to Ball Hut, but I called DOC who said the first part of the Ball Hut Track was an easy walk to the best Tasman Glacier viewpoint.
So I added it to my Mount Cook bucket list and recently did it.
I have no idea how this walk has stayed such a secret, especially since the other Tasman Valley tracks are so popular. It’s one of the best walks in Mount Cook.
Keep reading for my Ultimate Guide to the Ball Hut Road:
- Honest review and how it compares to other Tasman Glacier walks
- FAQ + top tips
- How to get there
- Best Mt Cook Accommodation
- Best things to do nearby
Disclaimer: In this post I am only referring to the first section of the Ball Hut Route that goes to the Tasman Glacier Viewpoint at Husky Flat (which is an easy/moderate walk). I have not done the rest of the walk past Husky Flat to Ball Hut which is for advanced hikers only. There is avalanche danger in Winter on the Ball Hut Road, so check with DOC before you do it.
BALL HUT ROUTE REVIEW: IS IT WORTH DOING?
I couldn’t find much online about the Ball Hut Route viewpoint before I did it, so I didn’t know what to expect.
The walk to get there is extremely boring. You are walking on a poorly maintained 4WD track. There are no views of the Tasman Glacier or Tasman Lake until the very end. You are just looking at a 4WD track and moraine wall for hours.
However, once you get to the end of Ball Road, the views are incredible. It’s the closest you can walk or drive to Tasman Glacier. You can see the glacier face really clearly, and I even saw ice falling off the glacier into the Tasman Lake.
I have no idea why no one has heard of this walk. The views are a million times better than the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walks. You should definitely do it if you go to Mt Cook.
If you don’t want to walk there, you can do a 4WD tour which drives you most of the way. Unfortunately, there were no 4WD tours running when I was there. If I had the option, I would choose the Tasman Valley 4WD tour rather than walking (since there are no interesting views on the way).
The only reason I would recommend against doing the Ball Hut Walk is if you have done a Mt Cook scenic helicopter flight, because you will fly over the glacier and see similar views. But I did (and loved) both the Ball Hut Walk and scenic helicopter ride, and I would do them both again.
FAQ + TOP TIPS
Distance: 10km return
Time: 2.5 hours return
Round track or one way: Round trip via same track
Can you walk to the Tasman Glacier?
Yes, you can walk to the Tasman Glacier. The other popular Tasman valley tracks, like the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walk, don’t get very close to the Tasman Glacier. But you can walk the first section of the Ball Hut Road, which gets really close to the Tasman Glacier and has amazing views.
At the Tasman Glacier Car Park, turn left, instead of right (if you turn right you will just go to the start of the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Track). You will see a 4WD track and a sign for the Ball Hut Route. Follow the Ball Hut Road until the end (the road literally disappears because of a big slip). You will come to Husky Flat which has the best views of Tasman Glacier.
Can you drive to the Tasman Glacier?
Yes, you can drive to Tasman Glacier. Drive down the Tasman Valley Road to the Tasman Glacier Car Park. From here you can do the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walk, which is a short walk which has views of Tasman Glacier, although it is quite far away from the actual glacier.
If you want to get closer to Tasman Glacier, you can drive (or walk) along the first part of the Ball Hut Track to Husky Flat, which has incredible views of the glacier.
The road is poorly maintained and has lots of large puddles, so you will need a good 4WD to get there. If you don’t have a 4WD (and don’t want to walk), you can do a Tasman Valley 4WD tour which takes you to the viewpoint.
Can you walk on Tasman Glacier?
The only way to walk on Tasman Glacier is on a heli-hike. I haven’t done the heli-hike, but I have done a Mt Cook Scenic scenic helicopter flight and the pilot pointed out the area they walk on. I’ve also walked on the Franz Josef Glacier.
They were both one of the best experiences of my life. I’d highly recommend doing either a scenic helicopter flight or heli-hike at Mt Cook.
You can’t walk on the Tasman Glacier from any of the Tasman Valley walks. The viewpoint from the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walk is very far away from the actual glacier, which you can only just see from a distance.
You can get much closer to the Tasman Glacier if you do the first section of the Ball Hut Track, but you won’t be able to walk on it. The viewpoint is from high up on the side of the Tasman Glacier moraine wall, and you look down on the glacier and Tasman Lake from above.
How long is the Tasman Glacier walk?
There are multiple Tasman Glacier walks:
- Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walk: 2.6km/40 minutes return
- Walk to the Tasman River: 1.2km/20 minutes return
- Ball Hut Route (to the Tasman Glacier Viewpoint at Husky Flat): 10km/2.5hours return
When is the best time to do the Ball Hut Road?
The best time to do the Ball Hut Route is Summer or Autumn. I did it in early May, and there was no avalanche risk yet (but obviously check with DOC when you go).
There are large avalanches that cross the track from June to November. Make sure you check with DOC for avalanche warnings before you attempt to do the track.
Can you walk the Ball Hut Route in Winter?
Generally, you can’t walk the Ball Hut Track in Winter. There is a large avalanche risk on the Ball Hut Route from June to November. Check with DOC before you go.
How difficult is the Ball Hut Track?
If you only want to do the first section of the Ball Hut Track, from the carpark to the Tasman Glacier viewpoint at Husky Flat, it’s an easy/moderate walk.
You are just walking on a 4WD track the whole way. It’s poorly maintained and quite uneven. There are a few large puddles that take up the whole track. People have made tracks that go around them, but you’ll need to squeeze through prickly bushes.
I was very nervous to do the walk because the DOC website says the Ball Hut Route is dangerous and for advanced hikers only. This is only if you go past the Tasman Glacier viewpoint at Husky Flat. If you have reasonable fitness, the first part of the walk is fairly easy and you will be fine.
Just be careful not to get too close to the unstable cliffs and check with DOC for avalanche warnings.
By way of comparison:
- It’s much harder than the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walk, which is very easy and basically a short stroll from the carpark.
- It’s slightly harder than the Hooker Valley Track, because the track is uneven and there’s more elevation.
- It’s easier than the Sealy Tarns Track and Red Tarns Track, which have a much higher elevation gain.
Best places to take photos on the Ball Hut Road?
There is only one place to take photos on the track, which is at the Tasman Glacier viewpoint at the very end of Ball Hut Road. The rest of the walk is very boring and has no views (but the views at the end are worth it).
Can you take dogs on the Ball Hut Track?
No, you can’t take dogs on the Ball Hut Route.
HOW DO YOU GET TO TASMAN GLACIER?
The Ball Hut Route starts in the Tasman Glacier Carpark. This is the same carpark where the other Tasman Valley walks start, like the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Track.
Find the Ball Hut Road 4WD track on the left side of the carpark. There will be a DOC sign for the Ball Hut Route. Follow the Ball Hut Road until the end. You will know it’s the end because there’s a big slip, a sign saying don’t get too close to the edge, and the road then literally disappears off a cliff.
This is Husky Flat, which has the best viewpoint of Tasman Glacier.
TASMAN VALLEY 4WD TOUR: The best way to get to the viewpoint is the Tasman Valley 4WD tour. Unfortunately, these weren’t running when I was there, but if I had the option I definitely would have done this. The walk is extremely boring so it’s better to drive.
DRIVE: You can drive most of the way on the Ball Hut Road. You will get to a barrier where you can’t drive any further. There is a small gravel area you can park there. You will need to walk the rest of the way. The track is very badlymaintained, so only attempt to drive if you have a very good 4WD.
WALK: If the Tasman Valley 4WD tour isn’t running, you can walk to the viewpoint (this is what I did). You will be walking on the same 4WD road (the Ball Hut Road). There is a large free carpark where the Ball Hut Road starts at the Tasman Glacier Carpark.
There is no public transport, so the best way of getting to Mt Cook is driving. If you need to rent a car, I recommend using rentalcars.com, which compares all the rental car companies and finds the best deal. The nearest airports are Queenstown and Christchurch, and you can pick a car up from there.Mt-Cook-Travel-Tips-2
MOUNT COOK ACCOMMODATION
I recommend staying in the Mt Cook Village. The accommodation is very expensive and there are only a few options, but it’s worth it.
The weather in Mt Cook is very changeable, so it’s worth staying in the village so you can see when there is a break in the weather (and have somewhere to hang out when you’re waiting for the clouds to leave). There are also beautiful views of Mt Cook from the village.
There are also a few beautiful luxury boutique hotels with amazing views of Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook. Just be aware they are about a 40-minute drive from Mt Cook Village.
You could also stay in Twizel or Lake Tekapo. Personally I don’t love Twizel (it’s a fairly uncharming small town), but Lake Tekapo is one of my favourite places in New Zealand.
Looking for the best places to stay in Mt Cook?
- Hermitage Hotel: The Hermitage Hotel is the best and most luxurious place to stay in the Mt Cook Village, and also has incredible food.
- Aoraki Court Motel: I stayed here on my last trip, because the room had a spa bath and I wanted cooking facilities. It was a lovely modern apartment, and I would definitely recommend it and stay again. It’s in the Mt Cook Village.
- Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat: Beautiful luxury boutique hotel on Lake Pukaki.
- Lakestone Lodge Tekapo: Another beautiful luxury boutique hotel on Lake Pukaki.
BEST THINGS TO DO NEARBY?
Looking for other things to do in Mt Cook? Read my guides to find the best things to add to your bucket list:
- Ultimate Mt Cook + Tekapo Destination Guide
- 9 Best Things to Do In Mt Cook
- 7 Best Mt Cook Walks
- Mt Cook Helicopter Flight
- Hooker Valley Track
- Sealy Tarns Track
- Tasman Glacier Boat Trip
- Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walks
- Red Tarns Track
- Kea Point Track
Planning a trip to other places in the South Island? Read my Ultimate Destination Guides for: