Last Updated: 19th January, 2020
Guest Posted: By Samantha Samuel.
Mount Cook Insider Travel Tips in 2020
Aoraki/Mt. Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain topping out at at a whopping 3,724 meters (12,218 ft) located in the center of the South Island in Canterbury, one of my favorite regions. And trust me, she’s a beauty. With a bold, super iconic peak, there’s no mistaking Mt. Cook when you are within a hundred miles of it. It stands out above and beyond the surrounding Southern Alps.
Mt. Cook village is a little town 12km from the base of the mountain, and it’s a tiny little town that I love to just hanging out in. Population – 250 on a good day. 2.5 hours from Wanaka, it’s a great weekend getaway or easy day trip
How hard is it to climb Mount Cook
Climbing Mount Cook is a serious undertaking. Do not underestimate the difficulty because of the relatively low summit elevation. There are no walk-up or non technical routes up the mountain. The standard route on the mountain, Linda Glacier, is signifcantly more difficult than Liberty Ridge on Mount Rainier. Do not attempt this climb without very good skills in glacier travel, creavase rescue, protective systems, steep snow climbing, and ice climbing.
Due to often unstable weather, figure on 6-7 days for a summit attempt.
A climb of Aoraki Mount Cook takes at least three climbing days. To book a guide for less than 6 days is unrealistic as it allows no flexibility in case of bad weather, and reduces your chances considerably of a successful climb.
Check out this Amazing Video on YouTube
Accommodation in Mount Cook National Park
Mount Cook village is a tiny place for the amount of visitors it gets each summer. I won’t be surprised if in future they limit access to the road.
If you are camping you can stay at the Whitehorse Hill campground operated by the Department of Conservation. It is few kilometres away from the village and it’s a great starting point for many trails I have mentioned in this post. The campsite operates on a first come first serve basis. There is a self registration station and you will need cash.
Being in a national park certainly has its drawbacks with regards to planning permission but thankfully, it means there aren’t loads of hotels ruining the views. With limited options though booking competition is tough.
If you want to overnight directly in the village and camping isn’t your thing make sure you book your accommodation well in advance. At least few months!
Best activities in Mount Cook
Scenic helicopter flight is a prime choice for those wanting to see the mountains from above. They range in price depending on duration and amount of landings but will give you better views than you can get on any hike. If you were planning on taking a heliflight in New Zealand, Mount Cook is one of the best places for it!
Our top pick is The Glaciers Helicopter Flight.
SKI PLANE TOUR
Ski Plane Tours are arguably even better than helicopter tours, as the ride tends to last longer. The downside is that planes are much less manoeuvrable and exciting. Saying that, there is a great combo deal allowing you to experience both!
MOUNT COOK MAP
When is the best time to visit Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki
Because Mount Cook is so high, it often tends to “hide” in the clouds. So any day with little to no clouds or with high clouds (cirrus or altocumulus) would be perfect to visit Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki.
You can visit Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki in any season and see snow on the mountain.
However, in early spring, late autumn, and winter, the snow on Mount Cook tends to be lower down the mountain than at any other time of the year.
In winter however, you can get bonus views of a snow-covered Ben Ohau Range with Lake Pukaki in the foreground from Hayman Road, which lies west of Lake Pukaki.
Keep in mind, though, that because Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki are located at a higher elevation than, for example, Christchurch, the region can occasionally get snowed-in in winter.
Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand, viewed from the shores of Lake Pukaki
Lake Pukaki Spillway Release
Lake Pukaki – Canterbury, New Zealand
3 Aoraki Mt Cook Must-Dos (apart from Helicopter & Ski Plane Tours)
1. Walk The Hooker Valley Track
It’s stunning, it takes about three hours, and it’s free. That’s why the Hooker Valley Track tops our list of Aoraki Mt Cook must-dos! No matter what your budget is, you can enjoy this easy-going 3-hour return walk through the Hooker Valley toward the vibrant and glacial Hooker Lake. Soak up the views of several impressive glaciers and New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook.
Location: Start the Hooker Valley Track from the White Horse Hill Campground car park at the end of the Hooker Valley Road, 2km from Mt Cook Village.
2. Heli-Hike On The Tasman Glacier
Explore the ice caves and walk on top of New Zealand’s longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier! Take a scenic helicopter flight with captivating glacier valley views and land straight onto the ice. Your guide will show you the unusual features of this ever-changing alpine environment, often including ice caves, stepping over deep crevasses and more.
3. Go Boating On The Tasman Lake
The Tasman Lake is where the Tasman Glacier terminates, releasing huge ice burgs into the lake. Get up-close to these ice giants on a boating tour of the Tasman Lake! Tours involve a drive and short walk to the lake where you’ll then board a small boat for a trip on the vibrant turquoise glacial lake which is ever-changing! In fact, the lake only formed in 1989 and has been expanding ever since. Kayak tours on the lake are also available on the lake. Be aware that lake activities are seasonal and are only available between early September and late May.
Location: Trips depart from Mt Cook Village in various pick-up locations.