Six Spectacular Day Walks in the Mackenzie/ Waitaki Districts
Hooker Valley Track
3 hrs return
Down SH80, the Hooker Valley Track offers the best views of Aoraki Mt Cook and Hooker Glacier. The walk is 10kms return along a well-maintained track with a few stairs at the start of the trail.
The best time to go is near dawn when the ridges of the mountain range glow and it’s not so crowded but the views are worth the journey at any time of day.
Three very sturdy swing bridges offer great photo opportunities along the way. Cross the first bridge over Mueller Lake and look toward Mount Sefton on the left if you are lucky you will spot small avalanches that echo loudly through the valley.
After crossing the Hooker River the track passes moraine ridges, piles of rock moved years ago by the glaciers. You cross the second swing bridge and the terrain opens up into a field of tussock, the signature plant of the Mackenzie. There is a third swing bridge before the end of the track. The track finishes with a spectacular view over the Hooker Lake toward the glacier with floating icebergs and up to majestic Aoraki Mount Cook and the Southern Alps. This photo was taken during winter so the lake had a layer of ice which is unsafe to walk on but skimming stones across it emits a distinct echo.
Take along a picnic to enjoy by the side of the glacier lake.
Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View
1 hour return
This one is a short 2.6km return with steps. From the carpark, off S
H80, walk past the Blue Lakes to a viewpoint at the top of the moraine wall and look over Tasman Lake toward the lower Haupapa/Tasman Glacier framed with a mountain range. Large icebergs float and turn on the lake which was formed by the glacier ice melting as late as 1989. On the way back down you can detour to the Blue Lakes which offers good swimming in summer and a chance to see New Zealand’s smallest bird, the rifleman.
2 hours return
This walk is a bit more strenuous as it is steep with steps most of the way. There is a 300m height gain which is roughly the length of the track and should take 2 hours to return via the same track but you may find yourself stopping for a breather now and then. Park by the Mt.Cook Village Public Shelter on Bowen Drive and cross the bridge over Black Birch Stream then follow the track markers. On the way up you are treated to panoramic views of the valleys, village and Aoraki Mt.Cook. The Red Tarns are coloured by the red pond weed which provides a contrast to the many blues and greens of the area. The best time to go is at sunset in the summer to make the most of the reflections on the tarns. You can have a picnic on the bench at the top and enjoy the view or continue up the unmarked track to McNulty’s Tarns if you are a true adventure seeker.
Parsons Creek to Freehold Creek Bush-Line
For this track you will drive on Lake Ohau road with scenic views of the lake and stop at the Parsons Creek carpa
rk. The track ascends through native beech forest and out along ancient glacial moraine terraces. There is a bridge crossing at Sawyers Creek then a second bridge across Freehold Creek remember to turn right after the second bridge onto an old beech logging trail. You will hear native birds chirping and enjoy the smell of native bush. This track will take 2-3 hours, mostly uphill, for a distance of 6kms. There is a rock slip near the top which makes for uneven terrain. Above the bush-line is a water pipe spurting out fresh drinkable water and a well placed enamel mug so you can sit, enjoying a cool drink while watching the view. This track has exposed sections so as with all walks it is important to wear a hat and bring plenty of water. It is part of the Te Araroa Trail (New Zealands national 3000km trail) and can be a starting point for many high country adventurers so you may meet some colourful characters along the way.
Drive down Lake Ohau Road for approximately 40 minutes and park at Temple Campsite which has a picnic area and long drop. Keep an eye on the weather for this track, don’t go after a heavy rainfall. You must first cross
North Temple Stream. I like to do this part barefoot as it can be knee deep at times. Following the track up North Temple Valley you will find it has been washed out in places from high river flow and rock slips so the terrain is challenging in places. It generally keeps to the edge of the native beech-forest and ends at an impressive cirque basin with small waterfalls. At 5km long it should take approximately 3 hours and you will return along the same track.
Pukaki Kettlehole Track
1 hour loop
This 5km track circles a distinct kettlehole formed by melting glacial ice. There are spectacular 360 degree views with sparkling blue Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook taking center stage. This track can be enjoyed at both sunrise and sunset. The track can be accessed from the carpark on SH8 or behind Lakestone Lodge.
If you are interested in spectacular views then you could stay at Lakestone Lodge 5 star luxury lodge and enjoy the view of Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook; over dinner, during a bath, in the shower, or whilst laying on your super king bed. Enjoy Mackenzie Country!