Sealy Tarns track looks more like a background being cast on a green screen than it does real life. The views overlooking Hooker Valley are nothing less than spectacular. The glacier views along the way are surreal. This is a must-do. But it’s not for just anyone.
The Stats: Trail name: Sealy Tarns Track Location: Aoraki/Mount Cook Village, New Zealand Distance: 3.1 miles out and back Elevation Gain: 1,765 feet Published Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult Dog Friendliness: Nope.
The first thing I’ll say is 2,200 stairs. Literally. That’s what you’re getting into when you sign up for this hike. 2,200 stairs. Talk about a booty buster!
To get to the trailhead, park at the White Horse Hill campground at the end of Hooker Valley road. The Sealy Tarns trailhead is toward the left side of the parking lot (if you’re facing the mountain) and is shared by Kea Point and the Mueller Hut trails. About 30 minutes into the hike, the trails diverge: Kea Point splitting to the right, Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut to the left.
Fun fact: Sealy Tarns is actually the first half of the Mueller Hut hike. If there are permits available, you should definitely backpack the full way to the hut and hike down the next day.
Not long after the trails split, the stairs begin. And they don’t end until you reach the Sealy Tarn.
Another fun fact: tarn = alpine lake and track = trail
The views on the way
The Sealy Tarns track offers, without question, the most incredible views that I experienced in the Aoraki/Mount Cook area. If the 2,200 stair thing scares you, try 1,100 and see how you feel. The views are spectacular even at the half-way point.
Take in the Mueller glacier, Mueller lake, Hooker lake, Tasman River, Hooker Valley and the impressive summit of Aoraki/Mount Cook. The great news is that if you need to rest, you have a phenomenal excuse. “Hey – I just need to take a quick picture of this. Again.” There ain’t no shame in the resting game. I think I heard that somewhere.
From the top
Once you reach the end of torture by staircase (I’m kidding. It’s actually really not that bad), your eyes are in for the real treat. Your legs as well.
First, you’ll come to a small bridge next to the alpine lake after which the trail is named. A short distance further is a picnic table where you can set down your pack, take out some snacks and rest. Watch out for Kea – mischievous little parrots that like to steal your things.
Walk a little further and you’ll have an up close and personal view of Mueller glacier and a birds eye view of the surrounding lakes, rivers and valleys.
If you take no other advice, at least listen to this: if you’re on the South Island of New Zealand, drive to Aoraki/Mount Cook village. Get a hotel, stay at a hostel, camp, whatever you need to do to spend the night there, and hike Sealy Tarns. And while you’re at it, hit up Hooker Valley trail as it also did not disappoint. You’ll thank me.