Hooker Lake Walk

Accessibility: MODERATE
The Main Divide, with Mt Sefton and Footstool, J.Thomson / GNS Science
A view deep into the heart of Aoraki Mount Cook's glacial landscapes.
Hooker River and Mt Cook, J.Thomson / GNS Science
All around you are the landscape features that result from rapid mountain uplift along with erosion by fast moving glaciers, rivers and gale force winds. The Alpine Fault reaches the ground surface only 23 kms to the northwest and slopes deep under these mountains at an angle. Another active fault (the Murchison Fault) passes close by the end of the Hooker Lake. This means that major earthquakes have affected these mountains over the last several million years, with uplift and erosion gradually changing the topography completely over time.
The glaciers are in rapid retreat at present. The Hooker Lake, like all the other valley glacier terminal lakes in the Southern Alps, is very new as it only started to form in the 1970s. Once the lake was established, the ice has been eroded more quickly by the undercutting effect of the water in an accelerating process, and the expanding lake is now well over 2 kms in length.
Extreme weather conditions and precipitation levels that are very high on a global scale (roughly 10m to 12m water equivalent per year on the Main Divide), create very dynamic erosion with fast moving glaciers, and frequent ice avalanches and rockfalls on the surrounding slopes.
Glacial retreat over the last 150 years has left bare moraine walls on the sides of the glacier valleys. As the buttressing effect of the ice is removed, the slopes are further destabilised and eroded.
Glacial erratic boulders dotting the landscape, J.Thomson / GNS Science
As you enjoy your walk to the lake, look out for all the classic erosion features that you may have learnt about at school such as U and V shaped valleys, glaciers, ice cliffs, terminal and lateral moraines, erratic boulders, rockfall scars, and debris fans.
Try to imagine that only 150 years ago the ice was higher than the top of the now exposed moraine walls of both the Mueller and Hooker valleys, which shows how much it has retreated since then. At the peak of the last glaciation, 20 - 25,000 years ago, the ice was several hundreds of metres over your head!

Start from the White Horse camping area about 2 kms north of Mount Cook village.

Weather can change rapidly - check for info at the Mount Cook Visitor Centre before you set out.

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Accessibility: MODERATE

Hooker Lake can be reached all year round in about an hour's walk from the White Horse Hill camping ground. The Hooker Valley Track is well indicated and ends at a viewpoint by the lake. You can easily descend from there to the edge of the lake if you wish.

Sedimentary Metamorphic Landform Active Erosion
Geological Age
The immediate landscape features are largely from the last few hundred years, but the large scale topography has been established over much longer timescales.
Zealandia Evolution Sequence
Pākihi Supergoup: 5 million years ago – present