Hooker Valley Track in Winter or Summer? The Ultimate Guide to the Hooker Valley Walk

Last Updated on June 18, 2022 by ashleighsatlas

Are you planning to do the Hooker Valley Walk in Mt Cook? Trying to decide if you should do the Hooker Valley Track in Winter or Summer?

I’ve been to Hooker Glacier multiple times. Hooker Lake is one of my favourite places in New Zealand that you should definitely add to your bucket list. 

Keep reading for my Ultimate Guide to the Hooker Track:

  • FAQ + top tips
  • Honest Hooker Valley Track review 
  • How to get there
  • Best Mt Cook Accommodation 
  • Best things to do nearby 

RELATED: Ultimate Mt Cook Travel Guide, 7 Best Mount Cook Walks, 9 Best Things to Do In Mt Cook

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FAQ + TOP TIPS 

Distance: 10km return 

Time: 3 hours return 

Round track or one way: Round track on same track 

Elevation gain: 124m 

Difficulty: Easy 

Can you do Hooker Valley Tracks in Winter? 

Yes, you can do the Hooker Valley Track in Winter. The Hooker Valley Walk is open year-round. It doesn’t cross any avalanche paths, so it’s safe to do in Winter if you stick to the track. 

When is the best time to do the Hooker Track?

Best time of year?

You can do the Hooker Valley Track any time of year. 

My favourite time of year is Summer or Autumn. Although the Hooker Track is open year-round, some of the other best walks in Mt Cook (like Sealy Tarns and the Ball Hut Route to Tasman Glacier) are closed due to avalanche risk. 

Summer or Autumn are also the best time of the year if you want to see reflections of Mt Cook on Hooker Lake. Hooker Lake freezes over in Winter so you won’t get to see the reflections. 

There are still icebergs in Summer and Autumn, so you should hopefully still get to see them. (If there are no icebergs at Hooker Lake, there should be icebergs at Tasman Glacier. There are usually icebergs in at least one lake). 

But the Hooker Valley Track is still beautiful in Winter. There is more snow on the mountains, so the Hooker Valley Track in Winter feels like more of a Winter wonderland (Mt Cook has snow year-round, but some of the surrounding mountains have no snow in Summer or Autumn). 

Best time of day? 

The Hooker Valley Track is very popular, so it gets very busy, especially during the middle of the day.  Go early in the morning or at sunset to avoid the crowds. 

My favourite time of day to do the Hooker Track is sunset. If you start the track about 1.5 hours before sunset, you will get to Hooker Lake as the last glow of sun on Mt Cook disappears. It’s then beautiful to walk back along the track under the stars (just bring a head torch). 

Ultimately though, the most important thing is the weather. The weather can be very changeable (there was lots of cloud last time I went), so the best time to go is when it’s clear and there’s a break in the clouds. 

How long does it take to hike to the Hooker Valley Track?

The Hooker Valley Track is 10km return. It takes around 3 hours return. 

Where does the Hooker Valley Walk start?

The Hooker Valley Walk starts at the White Horse Hill Campground, at the end of the Hooker Valley Rd. It’s a 5-minute drive from the Mt Cook Village and very well-signposted. 

You can also walk to the start of the Hooker Valley Track from the Mt Cook Village. There is a walking track that starts next to the Hermitage. It’s an extra 30 minutes each way. 

What do you wear to Hooker Valley?

The Hooker Valley Track is a very easy walk, and you could easily do it in standard clothes. You can do it in trainers and you don’t need hiking boots. I’ve even seen a girl walking it in high heels (I don’t recommend this). 

But the weather at Mt Cook is very changeable, and can be very cold. I recommend wearing lots of layers, especially if you’re doing the Hooker Valley Track at sunset, since it’s freezing once the sun goes down. 

Is Hooker Valley Track hard?

No, the Hooker Valley Track is easy. It’s a fairly flat and very well-maintained track. If you are reasonably fit and comfortable with walking 10km, you should be fine. 

I think it’s worth remembering that it’s 10km though. Although it’s a very easy track, that’s still a fairly long way if you’re not very fit. I’ve seen a lot of tourists who struggled who hadn’t appreciated how far it was. 

Are dogs allowed on the Hooker Valley Track?

No, dogs are not allowed on the Hooker Valley Track. 

Hooker Valley weather

The weather at Mt Cook is very changeable. It can be sunny and warm one minute, then cloudy and freezing the next. Make sure you have lots of layers, so you’re prepared if it does suddenly get cold. 

I also recommend staying a couple of days in Mt Cook in case the weather is bad (I saw people who only did a day trip and missed out on seeing Hooker Valley because it was so foggy, but later in the afternoon the weather cleared up and I was able to do it). 

HOOKER VALLEY TRACK REVIEW: IS IT WORTH VISITING?  

Yes, the Hooker Valley Track is one of the best things to do in New Zealand. I loved it so much I’ve done it multiple times. 

I’ll be honest, the first time I did the Hooker Valley Track I was a little underwhelmed, and preferred the Tasman Glacier. Don’t get me wrong, the Hooker Valley Walk was still beautiful. But there were no icebergs or reflections on the lake. On the other hand, the Tasman Glacier had lots of icebergs. 

This time, I preferred the Hooker Glacier. The Tasman Glacier didn’t have many icebergs, whereas the Hooker Valley had lots of big icebergs and an incredible reflection of Mt Cook. 

The Hooker Valley Track is still amazing and shouldn’t be missed, but I think it’s worth bearing in mind that you might not see the perfect photo with icebergs and reflections. 

Once you get to the picnic table at the end of the track, I recommend walking down to the actual lake. The views from there are beautiful, especially if there are icebergs in the lake. I didn’t do this the first time I visited, which may partly be why I was a little underwhelmed. 

HOW DO YOU GET TO HOOKER GLACIER? 

The Hooker Valley Tracks starts at the White Horse Hill Campground. It’s a 5-minute drive from the Mt Cook Village, at the end of the Hooker Valley Road. It’s very well-signposted and easy to find, or else you can just search “Hooker Valley Track” in Google maps. 

You can also start from the Mt Cook Village. There is a walking track from the Hermitage Hotel. It’s an extra 30 minutes each way if you start at the village. It’s a fairly boring walk through the trees, so I’d recommend just driving to the carpark instead. 

There is a free carpark at the White Horse Hill Campground with plenty of parking, although it does get busy. 

There is no public transport to Mt Cook, so the best way to get there is driving. If you need a rental car, I recommend using rentalcars.com, which I always use. It’s like booking.com and compares all the different rental car companies. 

The Hooker Valley Track is well-marked, so you won’t need a map (although there is one on the DOC website). Just make sure you turn right at the carpark, rather than left (which is where the Sealy Tarns and Kea Point Tracks start). 

When you get to the end of the track (you will see a picnic table next to Hooker Lake), you can veer off the official path and walk down to Hooker Lake, which has beautiful views. It’s a very well-worn path so you will see where to go. 

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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 HotelThe Hermitage Hotel is the best and most luxurious place to stay in the Mt Cook Village, and also has incredible food. 
  • Aoraki Court MotelI 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 RetreatBeautiful luxury boutique hotel on Lake Pukaki. 
  • Lakestone Lodge TekapoAnother 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:

Planning a trip to other places in the South Island? Read my Ultimate Destination Guides for: 

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