Discover Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

mt-cook-1.jpg

Aoraki (the Maori name for Mt Cook) is New Zealand’s highest mountain at 3754 metres or 12,316 feet. Mt Cook National Park lies in the Canterbury region of the South Island and is home to many of New Zealand’s highest mountains and largest glaciers, including its namesake. According to Maori legend, Aoraki, the eldest son of Raki (Sky) was travelling with his brothers in a waka (or canoe), when it ended up running aground on a reef and fell to one side. Aoraki and his brothers climbed to the high side of the waka and sat on the wreckage. The freezing south wind then turned them into stone, creating the Southern Alps. Aoraki was sitting higher than all the others, and if you look at Mt Cook (from a passenger jet say) it is indeed noticeable higher than other peaks in the Southern Alps.

The legend of Aoraki

 

Geologically, the mountain is higher than others because roughly the top third of the mountain has been pushed up along a major fault line (called the Main Divide Fault), creating a kind of small mountain sitting on top of a big mountain. Because Mt Cook is higher than any others, it’s often capped by cloud when other peaks are clear, hence its name ‘cloud piercer’ in Maori.

 

The peaks and glaciers of Mt Cook National Park

There are 19 peaks over 3000 metres (9840 feet) in the park (so it must have been a pretty large waka!) and most of them rise up from near sea level. Upon entering Mt Cook village, at the entrance of Mt Cook National Park, you definitely feel a sense of being dwarfed. In a valley amongst these giants is the Tasman Glacier, there to greet you when you turn off the main highway; it’s New Zealand's largest glacier at 27 kilometres (17 miles) long. Due to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park’s rugged terrain (over 40% of the park’s land surface is covered by glacier), there is almost no forest, but instead hikers are greeted with an abundance of alpine plants including the spectacular mountain buttercup (Ranunculus lyallii), which is also known as the Mt Cook Lily. Although it’s not technically a lily, it is the largest buttercup in the world. A couple of other highlights of the park include the kea, an inquisitive alpine parrot often encountered on our Active Adventures trips, as well as the jeweled gecko, a little fellow that is very secretive and rarely seen.

 

Hiking near Mount Cook

The park is most well known for its fantastic hiking opportunities that range from half-day hikes along trails that are well marked and suitable for all ages, through to steeper quite iconic New Zealand hiking routes like the Ball Pass Crossing and the Mueller Hut hike. The Mueller Hut hike is a highlight on our Rimu and Manuka adventure tours – sitting at 1800 metres (5900 feet) elevation on the Sealy Range, the hut provides a 360-degree panorama encompassing glaciers, ice cliffs, vertical rock faces and New Zealand's highest peaks. Trekking to the hut through the alpine scrub, herb fields and scree slopes is a pretty big achievement in itself, but is also a stepping stone for mountaineers who for decades have used this route to attack some of the formidable peaks in the area.

Sir Ed and the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre

Talking about New Zealand’s most mountainous national park wouldn’t be complete without reference and tribute to New Zealand’s most famous climber and ambassador, Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to summit (and successfully descend) Mount Everest. Sitting adjacent to the Hermitage Hotel is the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre an awesome facility designed to educate and entertain keen adventurers. The centre features a state-of-the-art 3D movie that doubles as a full-dome digital planetarium, photo gallery and a museum that documents the pioneering heart of the region. Also, in August 2011, the South Ridge of Aoraki Mt Cook was renamed the Hillary Ridge in recognition of Hillary’s achievements, including the fact that Hillary and three other climbers were the first party to successfully summit the mountain via this ridge in 1948.

 

Related Posts

The First Timers’ Guide to Adventures in New Zealand

Here's your first timers' guide to adventures in New Zealand!

Podcast - Rick G talks about his North Island Adventure with Kit Parks

Our guest Rick was hosted by Kit Parks, on her…

Keeping Up With Our New Zealand Guides

You’ve heard us say it before, and you’ll hear us…

Conquer the Alps to Ocean Trail, an Iconic New Zealand Bike Ride

The longest continuous bike ride in New Zealand, the Alps…

Podcast - Our Guest Ally Talks With Kit Parks About her Mighty Five 'Pika' Adventure

Listen to Kit Parks, from Active Travel Adventures, discuss with…

5 Reasons New Zealand Winter Isn’t All About Skiing

With names of ski fields like The Remarkables, you can…

Hike the Tongariro Northern Circuit

The Tongariro Northern Circuit crosses 45 kilometres through the the…

Best things to see on the West Coast of New Zealand

The West Coast of New Zealand's South Island is a…

Hike or Bike the Paparoa Track

The Paparoa Track crosses 55km of the Paparoa National Park,…

Top five things to do in Grand Teton National Park

Found yourself in Wyoming with your hiking boots? Here’s some…

The 12 Best Day Hikes in Utah

Utah is not only famous for having some of the…

Best Utah National Parks

As a mid-west state, Utah is known for its dry,…

Best time to visit Utah National Parks

The best way to experience the diverse landscapes of Utah…

Explore Punakaiki, home of the famous Pancake Rocks

Punakaiki is best known for its Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.…

Explore Okarito Lagoon, in the Heart of New Zealand's West Coast

The view from Okarito Lagoon cannot be surpassed by any…

Discover Rakiura National Park, on Stewart Island

 Where is Stewart Island? 

Where is Stewart Island?Stewart Island is situated…

A sample of the walking you can expect on our Comfort-focused trips

For over 20 years now, we’ve taken thousands of keen…

The 'Finale' by Jack Taylor

Filmed during our guest, Jack's, Ultimate South Island Adventure 'Rimu'…

Little Guide to Kaikoura, New Zealand

On the rugged east coast of New Zealand's South Island,…

Discover Franz Josef Glacier

 

Where is the Franz Josef Glacier?The Franz Josef Glacier is…

Podcast: Kit Parks talks about her adventures on the South Island of New Zealand (Part I)

Add the North Island if you are already doing the…

Podcast: Kit Parks talks about her adventures on the South Island of New Zealand (Part II)

 

Add the North Island if you are already doing the…

Podcast: Kit Parks talks about her adventures on the North Island of New Zealand (Part III)

 

Add the North Island if you are already doing the…

Discover the Tongariro National Park

It may be surprising to hear that the Tongariro National…

Discover Fiordland National Park - Things to See & Do

The largest of New Zealand’s fourteen national parks, Fiordland National…

Discover Arthur's Pass National Park

 

New Zealand's famous ArthurSir Arthur Dudley Dobson must have been…

A Family Adventure

We have trips tailored towards families in New Zealand and…

Ben Lomond

A challenging hike to beautiful vistas above Queenstown and the…

Video: Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

This national park was the training ground for one of…

Why a Bike Tour Is One of the Best Ways to Explore New Zealand

Experiencing a country by bike provides a unique opportunity to…

Our Favourite Hikes on the West Coast of New Zealand

The West Coast of the South Island is a unique…

New Zealand Glaciers You Can Easily Hike To

Many travellers to New Zealand are familiar with our 2…

Discover Queenstown, The Adventure Capital of New Zealand

Queenstown is a little town with a big personality. Nestled on…

Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise: An Experience Like no Other

Doubtful Sound, like so many places, was discovered somewhat by…

7 New Zealand Must-Sees You Can't Go Wrong With!

If you're looking for the best natural destinations in New…

Okarito Lagoon

The sleepy hamlet of Okarito is close to the sizeable…

Siberia Experience

On our 'Tui' trip we fly into a remote valley…

Ultimate North Island Adventure 'Kauri' Trip

Our 'Kauri' trip is 11 days on New Zealand's volcanic…

The 'Rimu' Trip - Through The Eyes Of Our Travellers

Their adventures took them through the heart of New Zealand's…

Video: Essence of the South Island 'Tui' Trip

Our Essence of the South Island 'Tui' trip is 8…

New Zealand Adventure Tours

Want to know what travelling in New Zealand with us…

Little Guide to New Zealand Native Trees

There’s nothing quite like standing amongst the rimu trees and…

New Zealand Historic Facts You Should Know Before Your Trip

Although there is some uncertainty as to the exact timeframe,…

Gearlists and Packing Tips for Hiking in New Zealand

We all approach the task of packing for an adventure…

All You Need to Know About Sea Kayaking in Milford Sound

Kayaking is a great way to get out there and…

Hike the Rakiura Track

Although the Rakiura Track is a 29 km tramping track,…

Multi-Day Hiking in New Zealand: How to Plan the Perfect Trip for You

New Zealand has earned itself a reputation as one of…

Hike the Lake Waikaremoana Track

The Lake Waikaremoana Track, located within Te Urewera National Park,…

Hike the Kepler Track

The Kepler Track, in Fiordland National Park, is a 67…

How to get to New Zealand

New Zealand is about as far away as it's possible…

How to Plan Your New Zealand Hiking Trip: An Easy 5 Step Guide

Not many travel companies will share these unbiased truths about…

Booking your Airline Ticket to New Zealand

Once upon a time, if you wanted to fly somewhere…

Siberia Valley Experience and Lake Crucible

If there is one thing you can be sure about,…

Hiking Safety Tips for Tramping in New Zealand

Safety’s not as hard as you may think – New…

Hike Ben Lomond in Queenstown

Ben Lomond (45°00'24.06" south 168°36'54.76" east) is an attractive mountain…

Hike Mueller Ridge and Sealy Tarns

The Mueller Ridge hike from Mount Cook village, up past…

Best Day Hikes on New Zealand's North Island

Wherever you are in New Zealand, chances are you aren't…

Hike the Queen Charlotte Track

The Queen Charlotte Track offers a spectacular trip through the…

Hiking in Nelson Lakes National Park

Without a doubt, this is New Zealand's best kept hiking…

Best Time To Visit New Zealand

Thinking of joining us here in New Zealand for an…

Hike the Heaphy Track

 

The Heaphy Track is known for its beauty and diversity.…

Hike the Routeburn Track

The Routeburn track traverses 33km of Mount Aspiring and Fiordland…

Hike the Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 51 kilometre (32…

Hike the Milford Track in New Zealand

The 53.5 kilometre (33.2 mile) Milford Track is one of…

5 Adventurous Facts About Milford Sound

Milford Sound is without a doubt one of New Zealand's…

10 Interesting Facts About New Zealand That You Didn't Know

We do things a little differently here in New Zealand…

Best Cycle Trails in New Zealand

New Zealand boasts some of the best cycling trails in…

Best Heli-Hike in New Zealand

Franz Josef Heli-HikeOn all of our summer South Island trips…

The 6 Best Beaches in New Zealand

If you have ever graced the shores of Aotearoa, New…

The 7 Most Beautiful Lakes On the South Island of New Zealand

A trip to New Zealand's South Island isn't complete unless…

Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Superlatives are inadequate to describe this outstanding one-day hike on…

Best Day Hikes in New Zealand

As a small island nation, New Zealand is an absolute…

Hike the Copland Track to Welcome Flat

The Copland Track is located south of Fox Glacier on…

Stargazing in New Zealand

The Milky Way over Mt. Cook National Park

The astronomer Bart…

2019 Southern Alps Traverse with 180 Degrees Trust

The 180 Degrees Trust is based in Christchurch, New Zealand,…