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Hiking the Tasman Glacier Track, Mount Cook National Park

Hiking the Tasman Glacier Track, Mount Cook National Park

New Zealand has glaciers, but they aren’t quite what you may be expecting. Instead of the crisp blue slabs of ice seen elsewhere in the world the glaciers in New Zealand tend to be small, far away and covered in a layer of grey sediment. The walks to see these glaciers are great though — they pass through exotic glacier carved valleys and should be on any hikers New Zealand Itinerary. The Tasman Glacier Track is a popular short hike in Mount Cook National Park — just go for the views and not to see a pristine glacier!

The Blue Lakes

There are several connected tracks on the Tasman Glacier hike. The first, and seemingly most popular, takes you up a hill to a viewpoint overlooking Tasman Glacier / Lake. About halfway up you’ll come to the Blue Lakes turnoff. It’s a nice little detour but the lakes should really be renamed — “The Toxic Looking Green Ponds” would be more accurate.

The Tasman Glacier Viewpoint

Once at the top of the hill you’ll see Tasman Glacier sitting at the end of a milky lake surrounded by a mass of rocky grey terrain. There are some icebergs floating around too. It’s a nice view, but you’d be missing out if you only went this far (which is exactly what we did the first time).

Walking to the edge of the lake

Head back down the hill and find the track to the boat landing / Tasman River. Your best bet is to walk to the boat landing place (or the ridge just above it) and then walk along that ridge and eventually down to the edge of the lake / river. There is a track along the ridge but be careful (and it might be a bit dangerous for small kids). The spot by the lake close to the river was by far our favourite part of the Tasman Glacier Track. There were some icebergs close to the shoreline and mountains all around — such a nice spot!

From there it’s an easy stroll back to the car park. All up the Tasman Glacier / Lake hike took us around 90 minutes. If you’re in a rush (or you just hate walking up hills) you could skip the first part and head straight to the lake / river section of the track.

Getting to the Tasman Glacier Track

This short hike is located down the Tasman Valley Road, an offshoot of the main Mount Cook Road. This whole area is a dream to drive through and there are several other world-class short hikes to do (as well as the much tougher Mueller Hut track). Highlights include the Hooker Valley Track, Kea Point and the Red Tarns.

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.