Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Located in the Canterbury region
IntroductionAoraki/Mount Cook National Park is a rugged land of ice and rock, with 19 peaks over 3,000 metres including New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Find things to do and places to stay Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki/Mount Cook and the other high peaks attract mountaineers from around the world. They should only be attempted by experienced climbers/mountaineers.
Guided ski trips, suitable for intermediate skiers, can be taken down the Tasman Glacier.
Helicopters can take experienced skiers to a number of locations in the park for some wilderness experiences.
Ski touring is possible around the Tasman and Kelman huts. Alpine experience is required.
Visit at night
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is one of the best places in New Zealand to view the night sky, either by yourself or with a guide. With no cities or even small towns close by, and the village with all downcast lighting, the night sky is crystal clear and ringed by mountain ranges.
Use the telescopes at the Hermitage Hotel to view Saturn's rings, Jupiter's moons, Magellanic Clouds and the various constellations that make up the night sky. Start your evening at the purpose-built planetarium at the Hermitage, before venturing out to see an amazing sparkling display.
Visit the visitor centre
Visit Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre for help with outdoor plans and to explore the artwork collection, interpretation exhibits and watching DVDs about the area.
This park is located in the central part of the South Island, deep in the heart of the Southern Alps. Aoraki/Mount Cook village lies within the park with Twizel the nearest town outside.
Avalanches can occur in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in any season. Find out about avalanche danger in Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Walks suitable for wheelchairs and buggies
The first 700 m of the Hooker Valley Track is suitable for wheelchairs and buggies.
Other tracks at Aoraki/Mount Cook have steep grades and long step sections or have very rough, rocky track surfaces and are not designed for wheelchairs or buggies.
Pack it out
Pack it in, pack it out - take all your rubbish with you.
Personal waste disposal should be used when:
- there is no hut toilet
- the hut toilet is unusable in winter months
- camping at high altitude
- day walks that may necessitate a toilet stop on the way, eg Aoraki/Mount Cook climb.
Waste in alpine areas might not ever break down. It looks bad when snow melts in summer and presents a health risk.
Leaving human waste on the mountain is also unacceptable to Ngāi Tahu, as the waters that flow from Aoraki are sacred.
The park is a harsh land of ice and rock. Glaciers cover 40% of it. There are 19 peaks over 3,000 m including New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook. The park is also part of Te Waipounamu - South Westland World Heritage Area in recognition of its outstanding natural values.
The glaciers that have helped shape the park's landscape include five major valley systems: Godley, Murchison, Tasman, Hooker and Mueller. The Tasman Glacier, New Zealand's largest and longest glacier, is clearly visible from the main highway at the entrance of the park. Its 23 km long, up to three km wide and 101 sq km. Although covered with rock material in its lower reaches, the ice of the Tasman is about 600 metres deep near the Hochstetter Icefall.
At 3,724 m, New Zealand's tallest peak is known as Aoraki by Māori. According to legend, Aoraki was a young boy in the canoe Te Waka a Aoraki, which was stranded on a reef and tilted to one side. Aoraki and his brothers climbed to the high side and sat on the wreckage. The south wind froze them and turned them into stone, creating the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana.
In 1851 Captain J. L. Stokes, sailing down the West Coast, gave the mountain its European name, Mount Cook, in honour of the English navigator Captain James Cook.
Plants and animals
There is virtually no forest in the park. Instead the park is alive with the most wonderful alpine plants. Over 300 species of plants are found in the park. Among the most spectacular of these are many varieties of mountain buttercup (Ranunculus) and daisy/tikumu (Celmisia). The famed Mount Cook lily, Ranunculus lyalli, is the largest buttercup in the world.
About 40 species of birds are found in the park, and perhaps the most distinctive of these is the kea, a mountain parrot well known for its mischievous antics. The only true alpine bird is the tiny rock wren/piwauwau, which survives the winter in high rock basins. However kea, falcons/karearea and black-backed gulls/karoro can be found soaring in higher areas.
The braided riverbed of the Tasman is home to the kakī/black stilt, one of New Zealand's rarest birds.
The park is rich with invertebrate fauna, including large dragonflies, grasshoppers, distinctive moths and butterflies. A black alpine wētā known as the Mount Cook flea is found above the snowline. The jewelled gecko lives in the region but is so secretive that it is rarely seen.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park has a rich cultural and industrial heritage. To Ngāi Tahu, Aoraki represents the most sacred of ancestors. Read about history at Aoraki/Mount Cook.