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Hooker Valley Track

South Island's Best Day Walk

Difficulty: moderate walk 70-minute (5 km) one-way
Hooker Valley Track
NZ Gps: 43° 42' 57.5172" S 170° 6' 10.4616" E
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On a clear day, the Hooker Valley Track is indisputably the South Island’s most scenic day walk. Indisputably!! On a grey clouded-in day, forget it. This walk is all about soaring alpine views, so if the clouds are socked-in and low, wait for another day (the Ball Flat Route is a better clouded-day option).

On a clear morning even the carpark dazzles with one of the most scenic settings on the island, and from there the excursion just gets better— WAY better! You’ll witness huge glaciers oozing down jagged ridges, waterfalls spewing from blue-tinged hanging glaciers, moraine-dammed glacial lakes with floating icebergs, chocolate-brown rivers, wispy waterfalls…all capped by Aoraki’s towering presence. Quite a track!!

A few steps into the track you’ll arrive at a perfect viewpoint over the glacial latte-brown Lake Mueller spilling its coffee-colored river under an oh-so-scenic swingbridge. Continuing, you’ll soon cross a second swingbridge over the Hooker Gorge—a bouncy fun bridge spanning scenery to die for. Then the track gets better and even more scenic as you turn a corner and Aoraki literally pierces the clouds in the valley ahead— an arresting sight! From there, the last half of the track to Hooker’s glacier moraine lake at the base of Aoraki just gets better and better as the oooohs and ahhhhs pile up. Innumerable waterfalls tumble, the coffee river roars, and the sight of Aoraki defies description. The track underfoot is fun in and of itself as it alternates rock-hopping and planked tussock boardwalks. At the final bend of the track a last surprise awaits as Hooker Lake pops into view…from its iceberg-pocked shore to its calving glacial snout, all with 3,754m Aoraki reigning above. Wow.

This track is deservedly popular, so expect mid-day crowds. If you want to shed the crowd of picnickers on the rocks at the first sight of the lake, then simply boulder-hop your way along the shoreline. If you deshoe and cross the first stream you’ll leave 97% of the normal folk behind…and if you keep rock-hopping along the shoreline another 20 minutes, not only do you leave 100% behind, but you’ll also get an increasingly better view of the twin 600m waterfalls spilling from the eastside ridge and a better close-up of the glacial snout. Keep an eye on the glacier—if you see it calve a huge chunk into a massive splash, you’ll be glad you made the extra effort to be close. How many other places feature calving glaciers, cloud-piercing peaks, and thousand-foot waterfalls all in a glance?? Gotta love 100% Pure New Zealand, Aoraki style!

Excerpt from "NZ Frenzy Guidebook" by Scott Cook NZ Frenzy Guidebook

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