Expedition South Island, NZ: Day 2: Seeing Mt. Cook

Mt Cook at the end of Hooker Valley trail (c) ABR 2017

Total distance driven: 399km
Total time driving: 5hrs

Miles hiked: 6.2
Time hiking: 2hrs

I left Christchurch around 9a, and made it up to Mt. Cook National Park around 1p. Much of the drive was through flat country, but the final section climbed up into the hills, and then opened out around some alpine lakes at the base of some insanely beautiful mountains.

Seeing Mt. Cook from far away was awe inspiring. It dominated the valley even from miles away, and its snow capped peak looked sharp and foreboding. The gravel car park at the trailhead for Hooker Valley looked full by the time I got there, although it was not hard to park. The trail itself was likewise busy but not overcrowded.

As the brochures on the NP suggest, Hooker Valley was not a difficult trail, however, it was a slight but steady climb for about 3 miles. The track follows a stream that comes down from the mountains, and there are three major bridge crossings on the way. The view from each was exceptional, and the water flowing under them was a chalky, blue color that was hard to take my eyes off of, even on the swaying bridges. The rest of the trail winds its way through grassy hills, until it ends at the edge of a light blue lake, with Mt. Cook at the other end, towering over everything else.

It was a peaceful walk, despite the crowds. I did hear some cracking ice at one point, and I found myself looking nervously up at the mountains with hanging curtains of snow. I have no idea how far avalanches can travel, but I never doubt nature. Luckily, I arrived back at my car, tired, and ready to head into town for some rest.

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