Mueller Hut Day Hike – Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park, New Zealand

Trail Distance: 6.5 miles Elevation Gain: ~3400′
Terrain Rating: Above Moderate (can pose a danger in bad weather).
Hike in: 9:20AM
Hike out: 2:50PM

Trailhead: Kea Point Track, White Horse Hill Car Park on Hooker Valley Road. However, I recommend that you stop by the Aoraki/Mt. Double-check the weather conditions at Cook National Park Visitor Center.

The Mueller Hut hiking is an excellent overnight or day trip starting from Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. It was a short drive from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo that we drove there a few nights earlier. There are many great campsites near Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and other areas. We noticed that many people stay at the hut overnight. However, it is only 6 hours round trip so we decided to make it in one day.

We were closely monitoring the weather before we set out on the hike. We knew that the wind at Lake Tekapo’s base was blowing 40km/h+ and it would get worse higher up in alpine conditions. We chose to hike the less windy and colder option due to the time we had. The elevation at Mueller Hut was around 70 kmh with a -7C windchill.

You will start the hike at the car park. After a short time, you’ll be on Kea Point Trail. It’s a well-maintained small stone path that you will see other tourists walking along in jeans and flip-flops, taking photos. Follow the signs to the Mueller Hut or Sealy Tarns.

Sealy Tarns is the starting point for your ascent. You will soon face 1,657 wooden stairs/steps. This was my least favorite part of the hike. The scenery is beautiful, yes, but stairs remind me of corporate/city/building life, and not the outdoors. It felt very endless, so I ran up the stairs to get as many as possible. We reached a small turning to a picnic table about an hour later. Here we stopped for a quick snack. The picnic table is an excellent spot to capture a picture of Hooker Valley.

The stairs will be over after that (yay! You will then begin to scramble. Here, the winds picked up significantly. There were some gusts that almost made me fall over but my poles helped me stay upright. Orange markers are placed throughout the route, marking the way. The route is zig-zag and ascends. Although the markers were easy to locate, I can imagine navigation becoming more challenging in poor visibility. The weather changed a bit, and we started getting ice pellets on our faces for around 30 minutes. We stopped several times to face the wind and wait for it to stop. The boulders get larger when you get close to the ridge. If you have poles, you might want to remove them. This is also the place where we saw our first snow!

For approximately 20 minutes, turn south toward the hut after the ridge. The fresh snow was half-melted and the rocks made it extremely slippery. We were able to see beautiful views of Mount Sefton, and heard an avalanche roaring across the trail. A few unprepared hikers were also encountered , who were cold and shivering from their gloves . The wind howled at Mueller Hut. The wind was howling when we reached the hut at 12:20pm. The hut is basic but functional. It has a nice red exterior which contrasts nicely with the snow. After a pleasant 30 minute lunch break, we were happy to return inside. The wooden steps were not as difficult to descend as the ones up. We were able to descend in 2 hours, compared with 3 hours going up.

If you’re in good hiking form, it’s not difficult to hike. I am not in the best of shape according to gym definitions. Although this hike is not for beginners, it’s easy enough to do. This hike requires preparation, good gear, and patience with those stairways! Choose another day if the weather is not good. You should have enough food and wind gear. Don’t be afraid of turning around.

  • Osprey 36L Sirrus pack and rain cover
  • Hiking poles
  • Salmon X Ultra Mid 2 hiking boots and Darn Tough socks
  • 1.5L water
  • 5 bars + 2 GGUs
  • Lunch with cheese and crackers
  • Lululemon yoga pants
  • Arc’Teryx Beta SL Pant
  • 2 Icebreaker Merino Wool shirts (1 long-sleeve).
  • Mid-layer Icebreaker Merino
  • North Face HyVent 2.5L raincoat
  • Gloves are essential if you plan on carrying poles!
  • Additional clothes to pack: fleece, socks
  • Emergency Gear: Headlamps, First-Aid Kits, Swiss Army Knifes, Emergency Blankets


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