Winter transforms Aoraki/Mount Cook into a wonderland of snow-dusted peaks, glistening glaciers, and serene landscapes. 

While summer often steals the spotlight, venturing into this snowy paradise during the colder months unveils a unique charm and tranquillity. For those seeking an adventure amidst the icy beauty, winter hiking in Aoraki/Mount Cook offers unforgettable experiences. Here's our guide to embark on this enchanting journey.

What tracks to hike in winter

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park boasts an array of trails suitable for all abilities and plenty that are great for families. During winter, some tracks may require additional caution due to snow and ice, but with proper preparation, they can be navigated safely. Here are some winter-friendly tracks to explore for casual hikers.

  • Hooker Valley Track: This iconic trail remains accessible year-round, offering awe-inspiring views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and surrounding glaciers. During winter, the track is often adorned with a blanket of snow, creating a picturesque setting perfect for family adventures. The relatively flat terrain makes it suitable for children, and the round trip can be completed in approximately 3 hours.
  • Tasman Glacier View Track: Providing glimpses of the stunning Tasman Glacier terminal lake, this track rewards hikers with breathtaking panoramas. While the track may be icy in winter, proper footwear and caution can make it an enjoyable outing for all. Allow around 1.5 hours for the return journey.
  • Kea Point Track: Offering stunning views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the surrounding peaks, Kea Point Track is an easy walk suitable for all ages. In winter, the track may be dusted with snow, adding to its enchanting allure. The round trip typically takes around 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • Sealy Tarns Track: A hugely popular track in summer, a bit more caution, and experience is required when hiking in winter. The 2,200 steps take you straight up to the freshwater lakes of Sealy Tarns. In winter the track can be very icy and crampons may be required to complete the track.

Where to Stay

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park provides a range of accommodation options to suit every traveller's needs and budget.

The Hermitage Hotel

Situated within Aoraki/Mount Cook Village, the Hermitage Hotel offers comfortable accommodation with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Choose from a range of rooms, including rooms suitable for families. Unwind after a day of exploration in front of the fire at Snowline Bar and indulge in a delicious buffet at Alpine Restaurant.

Mt Cook Motels

Nestled in the breathtaking landscapes of New Zealand's South Island, Mt Cook Motels offer cosy self-catering studios and spacious family units, catering to diverse traveller needs. Enjoy the convenience of preparing your meals while soaking in the stunning views. Situated close to the iconic Hermitage Hotel, guests have easy access to its amenities and activities, ensuring a memorable stay amidst the beauty of Mt Cook.

Where to Eat

After a day of winter exploration, satisfying your hunger pangs is essential. Fortunately, Aoraki/Mount Cook offers plenty of options where you can refuel. Grab a quick bite and a coffee at the Sir Edmund Hillary café, relax with a cocktail at Snowline Bar or indulge in a delicious buffet dinner at Alpine Restaurant.

What You Need to Take With You

Proper preparation is key to ensuring a safe and enjoyable winter hiking experience in Aoraki/Mount Cook. Here's a checklist of essential items to bring along:

  • Warm Clothing: Dress in layers to stay warm and dry, including thermal base layers, insulated jackets, waterproof outerwear, gloves, hats, and sturdy footwear with good traction.
  • Safety Gear: Carry essential safety gear such as a map, compass, or GPS device, first aid kit, headlamp or flashlight, and a fully charged mobile phone.
  • Food and Water: Pack high-energy snacks and plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout your hike.
  • Sun Protection: Even in winter, the sun's rays can be harsh at higher altitudes. Don't forget to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and lip balm with SPF protection.

Hiking any track in winter can have risks, we recommend calling into the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre in Aoraki/Mount Cook for advice on conditions before setting off. But if you come prepared a winter hike in the National Park can be pretty special. Embrace the tranquillity of snow-covered landscapes, marvel at towering glaciers, and immerse yourself in the magic of winter in this pristine alpine paradise.